Exterior Henry B Plant Museum Tampa Bay
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The University of Tampa’s historic campus, once Tampa’s premier hotel in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, now houses the Henry B. Plant Museum. Experience the grandeur of its past with our essential tips for visiting this renowned Tampa museum.

The building and its surrounding area have changed over the years as the university has grown, but the city has ensured that the building and all its glory still lives on to honor the history of Tampa’s past. On certain days the admission is free, making it one of the best free things to do in Tampa Bay.

Keep reading to learn more about this iconic Tampa landmark and how you can experience part of Tampa’s past.

The History of the Tampa Bay Hotel

Built in 1891, the Tampa Bay Hotel was built by railroad tycoon, Henry B. Plant who founded the Plant System of railroads and steamboats. The lavish hotel hosted thousands of guests during its time, including celebrities and political figures. Theodore Roosevelt, Clara Barton, Winston Churchill, and the Prince of Wales are just a few of the names who stayed in one of the 511 rooms. Babe Ruth even signed his first baseball contract in the Grand Dining Room!

Autographed Babe Ruth baseball on display.

Tampa Bay Hotel regularly held tea parties, balls, and organized hunts. Guests were able to socialize while playing golf, tennis, shuffleboard, or croquet. There was even a casino on the property, along with a spa, headed indoor swimming pool, a music room, and a Grand Salon. It also installed the first elevator in Florida, which is still in use today.

Unfortunately, the hotel had to close its doors to the public in 1930 during the Great Depression. In 1933, the building was acquired by the Tampa Bay Junior College, which used its rooms as classrooms, laboratories, and administrative offices.

As the school grew, it eventually became The University of Tampa. The City established the Tampa Municipal Museum to preserve the hotel as it coexisted with the university. In 1974, the museum was renamed to the Henry B. Plant Museum to honor the late founder of the hotel.

What You Can Expect to See at the H.B. Plant Museum

The museum is open to the public year-round, with special operating hours during the month of December because of the wonderful Christmas light displays and events.

Their permanent collection includes artifacts from the hotel’s original collection including ceramic pieces, furniture, and paintings.

Throughout the museum, you’ll get the chance to view pieces from and learn about the lifestyle of the Gilded Age, the development of Tampa in the late 19th century, the Cuban Campaign, and the Spanish-American War.

See original pieces from the Tampa Bay Hotel

Step into a Parlor Suite, set up exactly as a guest of the hotel would have experienced it. Stroll the halls of the Grand Hallway, pass through the old Solarium, and see the benches that once graced the Tampa Bay Hotel Gardens.

Visit the Writing & Reading Room that looks just as it did in 1898 when Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Clara Barton, and others stayed there.

The Writing & Reading Room, photographed in 1893.

After you’ve perused the museum’s collection, head outside to explore the Henry B. Plant Park -Tampa’s oldest and largest public botanical garden. Located along the Hillsborough River, the park once hosted grand celebrations, events, and more.

It’s also the perfect place to pack a picnic and take in the scenery of Downtown Tampa after wandering around the museum.

Events at the Museum

The museum also hosts regular events throughout the year. Some of the events that you can experience include annual picnics in the park, An Eerie Evening at the Tampa Bay Hotel in October, and their Annual Victorian Christmas Stroll in December – one of the best places to see Christmas lights in Tampa Bay.

Check their calendar for their Upstairs/Downstairs events where you can step back in time with single-character performances that bring previous hotel guests and staff members back to life.

During the second Saturday of every month, the museum offers “Free Saturday” where the museum is free of charge to all guests.

Tickets and Details

Website: Henry B. Plant Muesum
Location: 401 W. Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33606


Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Saturday: 10 am-5 pm
Sunday: 12 pm-5 pm
December: Hours vary due to the Victorian Christmas Stroll.

Admission: Adults: $12, Seniors (65+): $10
Youth (4-18): $9, 3 and under: free

Second Saturday of every month is free admission.

Parking: Parking is available in front of the museum. There is free parking in the Thomas Parking Garage, located on the university’s campus at 820 W. North A. Street (a 5-minute walk to the museum).

Group transportation is also available through CharterUp. Visit their website for more details.

Please note: food, beverages, strollers, or large bags/backpacks are prohibited in the museum.

Looking for more things to do around town? Check out 40+ Best Things to Do in Tampa Bay this Week

All images courtesy of H.B. Plant Museum.