Known for its bars and restaurants, Ybor City has a deep history that goes back to the 1800’s. A city within the city, Ybor was a place to work and live for those in the cigar industry. The Ybor City Museum State Park tells the history of those workers and others who lived in this 1 square mile district of Tampa, FL.
Cost and Hours
It’s $2 per person to tour the museum and one of the worker’s homes, or casita. The Ybor City Museum State Park is only open Wednesday through Sunday from 9am to 5pm.
Those with a Florida State Parks pass for individuals get entry for themselves. Those with a Florida State Parks family pass get entry for themselves and eight guests.
Things To Do
The Ybor City Museum is not very large so you only need to allocate about 1.5 hours if you are enjoying the museum and taking a tour of the casita. There is plenty to do in the area to accent your trip including seeing some of the modern cigar making businesses in Ybor so you can make visiting the museum part of a trip to the downtown Tampa area.
There are two parts of Ybor City Museum – the museum itself and the tour of the casita.
Inside Ybor Museum
The museum is the first part of the Ybor City Museum you’ll visit. After paying your entrance fee, you can watch a 20 minute video about the history of Ybor City. It provides some interesting insights into how the city came to be. After the video you can walk around the museum at your own pace.
There are no tours inside the museum and it’s not very large. However there is a lot of interesting information such as how the cigar industry in Ybor developed, the history of the bakery that the museum is now housed in, the social clubs that Italians, Cubans, Germans and Spaniards had within a few blocks on one another, how Ybor fits into the Spanish-American War and how José Martí fits into the Ybor City narrative.
There is also interesting information on the multi-cultural aspect of the neighborhoods and how segregation infiltrated those neighborhoods based on the darkness or lightness of someone’s skin no matter their nationality.
Cigar Rolling in Ybor City
Did you know that it took 1.5 to 3 years to become a master cigar roller? Men were the cigar rollers and the women stayed home. That is until World War I when the men went off to war. The cigar factories hired women to replace them and found that due to the their smaller hands, women could roll the cigars tighter. When the war ended the factories tried to keep women but the men wanted their jobs back. Eventually cigarette rolling machines sent the cigar industry into decline.
You can still see some people rolling cigars in Ybor City though – just head over to 7th Avenue where modern day cigar businesses operate on a smaller scale.
The museum is housed in an old bakery that existed for over 70 years. The building is now a historical site.
Being small is a benefit at this museum because you can easily access the park ranger to ask any questions and there is a docent or two there each day. All are very knowledgeable about the history of the city. They’ll even give you some good recommendations on where to see unique things and places to eat in the neighborhood.
Make sure you take a tour of the casita, or little house, that the workers lived in. Located right next door to the museum, you can only access the restored casita with a tour guide. Tours are given at the top of the hour and depending on your tour guide can take between 30 and 45 minutes. The houses now have electricity because air-conditioning has been added to help preserve the antiques inside.
These houses were located around Tampa but moved to their current site in the 1980’s to help preserve them. The majority of the casitas in the area area now gone.
The living room is preserved as if it’s the 1920’s. You could tell what religion the family was by looking at the religious pictures hanging on the wall. The living room has high ceilings and windows across from each other for cross ventilation.
The bedrooms and kitchen are setup to replicate the late 1800’s. The house you get to tour is a 2 bedroom home. There were also 4 bedroom houses – they were build shotgun style with bedrooms on either side of the hallway.
You’ll find out a lot of interesting information such as why there’s a nail on the side of the front door (hint: bread and ice deliveries), how cramped the house could be and see some of the tools the wife used to prepare their meals.
Interested in learning about their bathrooms? Head out back. Most of the houses used outhouses. You’ll also find a garden area where the families grew their vegetables.
Only service animals are allowed in the Ybor City Museum.
They’re not pets but you will see a lot of roosters and chickens roaming around outside of the museum. These feral roosters and chickens are direct descendants of the roosters you’ll see in Key West. They were brought to Ybor when the cigar workers immigrated from Cuba, stopped in Key West and then made their way to Tampa.
Places To Stay in Ybor City
There are no accommodations on site. However Ybor City has several hotels within walking distance of the museum.
How to Get To Ybor City
Ybor City is located just outside of downtown Tampa. If staying downtown, take the Tampa Streetcar southbound to the Centennial Park stop in Ybor and walk over one block to the museum. If driving, there is 2 hour free parking on some streets or public parking garages located within walking distance to the museum. The closest parking garage is the one for Centro Ybor.
Want to learn more about My Cornacopia’s quest to visit all 175 Florida State Parks? Search our archives for a list of Florida State Parks we’ve already visited!