Tampa is the commercial center of the West Coast, with a busy seaport and fiancial centre, it bring visitors from all over the world. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Florida. Many of the original buildings have been replaced with skyscrapers but the old Cuban quarter of Ybor City still holds a colourful history for visitors to see. The Great Depression brought a period of decline in Ybor City, which lasted until the 1980s.
Tampa’s famous cigar industry developed from the 1880s around the same time that Henry Plant extended the railroad here. You can easily explore Downtown Tampa on foot due to its compact size. Alternatively a there are many cruises on the Hillsborough River to enjoy. Also consider renting an eboat - a virtually silent, easy to operate, environmentally friendly, comfortable and a unique way to enjoy Tampa.
The TECO Line Street car is a way of travelling from Ybor City to downtown Tampa, through the Channel District. Or make use of the free Uptown Downtown Connector - a rubber wheeled trolley from Harbour Island to Tampa Street.
Henry B. Plant Museum (401 W Kennedy Boulevard). This is Tampa’s most famous historic landmark, with its Moorish silver minarets visible from all over the city. It was commissioned by Henry Plant in 1891 as a hotel for the wealthy passengers on his railroad. At that time construction cost $3million and furnishings another $500,000. The hotel did not fair well and fell in to disrepair shortly after Henry Plant’s death in 1899. It was bought by the city and eventually became part of the University of Tampa in 1933. Only the ground floor of the south wing was preserved as a museum.
Tampa Museum of Art (2306 N Howard Avenue). A small collection of modern art work. The only permanent collection is of Greek sculpture and pottery, with the remaining galleries changing three to six times a year. There is a large outdoor sculpture garden in the ground, which overlook the Curtis Hixon Park and river.
Close by you will find the Glazer Children’s Museum – this is crammed with a huge range of interactive activities and displays for youngsters such as flight and cruise ship simulators or house design areas.
Tampa Theatre (711 N Franklin Street). In its day, the Tampa Theatre was one of America’s most elaborate move theatres. Designed in 1926 by john Eberson, he fitted the ceiling with lights which tinkled like stars to create an illusion of an outdoor location. You can still see the original Moorish arches, gargoyles and Wurlitzer organ which rises from the orchestra pit fifteen minutes before each screening or concert. Either see a movie or book the Balcony to Backstage tour to gain access to the restored theatre.
Florida Aquarium ( 701 Channelside Drive). The enormous aquarium is found on the waterfront, you cannot miss the blue, shell-shaped dome. With displays of Florida’s fresh and salt water habitats, springs, swamps, beaches and corals reefs. The exhibits are laid out following an easy trail so you can follow a drop of water from its appearance in an underground spring to arriving at the sea. Arrange your route around the aquarium by checking the daily show roster so you do not miss a show or demonstration.
Next to the Aquarium you will find SS American Victory, a museum ship moored in the Channelside. It is a fully restored warship from WWII and the Vietnam War, now housing exhibits on maritime history.Finally take the Riverwalk from The Tampa Bay Times Forum on Old Water Street around the edge of the Hillsborough River, heading west back toward Tampa Museum of Art.
Two places of interest further afield are the museum of Science and Industry (4801 E Fowler Avenue) and Lowry Park Zoo (1101 West Slight Avenue).
Ybor City runs in a block between 13th Street and 19th Street and 7th Avenue and 9th Avenue. Don Vincent Martinez Ybor moved his cigar business from Key West to Tampa in 1886, bringing 20,000 migrant workers with him. What were once cigar factories are now shops, restaurants and clubs. You can take a walking tour between the streets mentioned above and visit Ybor Historic Inn, State Museum, La Tropicana, El Sol Cigars and Masquerade at the Ritz movie theatre.
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