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American Victory

Beat the Heat at These Distinctive Museums

Slip indoors this summer to check out unusual exhibits in Hillsborough County

Don't limit your summertime experiences to swimming, barbecues, and sunburns. There are lots of cool things to see and do at unique local museums.

Here are a half-dozen mostly off-the-beaten-path places for children and adults to explore during the hot summer months. They're fun, informative, and cooler than a playground or beach.

  • Henry B. Plant Museum transports visitors to America's Gilded Age, the beginning of Florida's tourist industry, and the early years of Hillsborough County and Tampa. The museum is in the south wing of the former Tampa Bay Hotel, 401 W. Kennedy Blvd., which now is on the University of Tampa campus.

  • American Victory Ship and Museum is one of few fully-operational World War II ships remaining in the United States. Visitors may tour the 455-foot vessel docked at 701 Channelside Drive and reflect on the merchant mariners who played vital roles aboard the steamship in WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

  • Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center highlights the history and nature of the surrounding community. The museum, at 1101 East River Cove St., recalls the area's heyday as one of Florida's premier tourist destinations, with an arcade and hotel, dance pavilion, swimming pool with a huge slide, alligator farm, gazebo, and landmark water tower.

  • Ybor City Museum State Park chronicles the rich cultural heritage of this cigar-centric community settled by Cuban, Spanish, and Italian immigrants on the outskirts of downtown Tampa. Housed in the former Ferlita Bakery, the museum at 1818 Ninth Ave. also has a Mediterranean-style garden and a recreated casita, or cigar worker's home.

  • Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum is in the Historic Train Depot in Plant City. It features railroad memorabilia, including a restored Seaboard Air Line caboose. The museum, at 102 N. Palmer St. in Plant City, is adjacent to the Train Viewing Platform, which offers a track-side panorama of passing locomotives. Admission to both is free.

  • Florida Museum of Photographic Arts showcases historic and contemporary art by nationally and internationally known photographers. It has an outreach program for children and adults that includes classes, hands-on workshops, field trips, and camps. The museum is in the Cube building at 400 N. Ashley Drive in Tampa.

These museums, and well-travelled ones such as Tampa Bay History Center, Glazer Children's Museum, and Tampa Museum of Art will inspire adults and excite young minds during long summer days away from classrooms.

Photo information: American Victory, pictured underway, is one of the unique museums in Hillsborough County. Its permanent berth is in downtown Tampa.

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