If you spend any time in Tampa Bay during the summer, chances are you will get caught in an afternoon thunderstorm. On average, the Tampa Bay area has about 100 rainy days throughout the year. Storms typically last no longer than an hour, but the question of what to do while you wait out these summer showers can become a daunting task. To avoid wet shoes and soggy shirts, I’ve created a list of places to seek refuge from the torrential downpours in the Tampa Bay area.
Downtowns Tampa and St. Peterburg are home to numerous world-class museums. Everything from modern art to the surrealism of Salvador Dali can be found in the bay area. Many museums also feature special collections for short periods to keep guests coming back for more. If you’re looking for a museum to seek refuge from the rain, here are a few of my personal favorites:
The Dali – Featuring works from throughout Salvador Dali’s career, The Dali Museum is home to over 2,400 pieces of art. Visitors can see many of Dali’s most famous paintings, such as the Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man and the Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea. Time will seem to melt away as you wander through the labyrinth of gallery walls, each painting becoming more wondrous than the last.
Tampa Museum of Art – Centered in downtown Tampa along the Hillsborough River, the building’s minimalist square structure and futurist metal facing is in sharp contrast to the Tampa Bay Hotel (now known as the University of Tampa). Mostly filled with modern and contemporary art, there is a permanent collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. A constant rotation of art flows through the Tampa Museum of Art galleries.
If you’re exploring the city with kids or significant others who can’t be trusted around priceless art, the Glazer Children’s Museum is next door. With over 150 interactive activities to explore, there are hours of fun to distract you from the gloomy weather lurking outside.
Tampa Bay History Center – This three-story history center doesn’t just cover the most recent two-hundred years of Tampa heritage. The Tampa Bay History Center spans over 12,000 years, from the first settlers in Florida to the present day. As you explore each floor of the history center, you’ll travel through time, learning the history of Florida’s first people; the Tocobaga and Timucua, a tribe, living in the Tampa Bay area from 900 – 1500 AD. Fast-forward to the European exploration; conflict turns to bloodshed in the Seminole War in the 1830s. By the late 1880s, thousands of immigrant cigar workers from Cuba, Spain, and Italy moved into the Tampa area to create a booming cigar city.
After climbing through history, stop by Columbia Cafe for lunch. Offering Spanish-Cuban cuisine, visitors can experience the food that symbolizes the flavor and flair of the Tampa bay area.
Henry B. Plant Museum – Formerly the Tampa Bay Hotel, this was an oasis for wealthy Northerners to vacation during the winter of the 1890s. Henry B. Plant, a railroad tycoon, and builder of the Tampa Bay Hotel, opened the floodgates for visitors to travel by railroad to the swampy untamed Florida landscape. No expense was spared in the building of this hotel. Furnishings from around the world adorned each room, and opulent ten-course meals were served during lengthy dinner parties. Guests were meant to feel as if they had been transported to an exotic destination.
Today, visitors can experience a small glimpse of what life would have been like during the gilded age. A self-gilded auto tour is available for visitors to listen through their smartphones. Each room is filled with treasures and unexpected history. Famous visitors such as Babe Ruth would grace the halls, and today a signed baseball sits profoundly on the mantel of a fireplace as a reminder of the greats that graced the halls.
Chihuly Collection – Glass blowing is mesmerizing to watch. A molten blob of liquid sand is transformed into fragile pieces of art. The Chihuly Museum features large chandeliers of individually blown tubs of glass. The vibrant colors suck you in as glass flowers delicately swirl from color to color. A video of Dale Chihuly creating his pieces allows visitors to see the strength and tolerance for the heat needed to create such immaculate works of art.
Note: This museum is small. When planning a day avoiding the rain (or heat), pair this museum with another nearby museum such as the Dail or the James Museum.
The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art – This is the newest museum to open in the Tampa area. The James Museum brings the West to the Gulf Coast with life-size Native American statues, jewelry, and paintings. Immediately upon walking into the museum, the sandstone walls make you feel as if you’ve been transported to the bottom of a wind-swept canyon. In contrast to other museum collections, many of the art pieces in the James Museum were crafted by still living Native American artists from the Southwest.
The Florida Aquarium – I love the Florida Aquarium for two reasons. First, the habitats and animals featured within the aquarium are found throughout Florida. Whether visitors are native to Florida or from out of town, there is always something new to learn. The second reason is the animals at the aquarium, such as jellyfish, stingrays, and birds, are awake. Unlike animals at the zoo hiding in the shade from the oppressive summer heat, aquatic animals are in constant motion. My favorite area within the aquarium is the touch tanks. Sea urchins, snails, and starfish are just a few visitors can experience hands-on learning.
Fun at the Florida Aquarium doesn’t stop after you leave. There are currently four turtles traveling along the East Coast with a second chance at life because of the conservation efforts at the Florida Aquarium. Rehabilitated sea turtles released back into the wild can be tracked through GPS monitoring on the Florida Aquarium website.
The Clearwater Aquarium – The Clearwater Aquarium was made a household name after the movies Dolphin Tale, and Dolphin Tail 2 were filmed here. Although there are some big names in these films (like Morgan Freeman), the real stars are the aquarium’s dolphin residents, Winter and Hope. The story centers around the true story of Winter losing her tale when she sustained an injury from a crab trap. Through great ingenuity, the medical staff and prosthesis were able to give Winter a new life at the aquarium. Wondering what a “prosthetist” is? It’s a medical professional that specializes in artificial limbs; how cool!
Sadly, Winter passed away in late 2021. Her inspirational story touched so many lives. The work of the Clearwater Aquarium to rehabilitate animals is still an ongoing effort. Winter’s story was one of many success stories from the dedicated staff committed to helping our ocean animals.
Take Me Out To The Ball Game
Tampa Bay Rays Game – A baseball game might not come to mind as a rainy day activity. However, the Tampa Bay Rays have a unique indoor stadium allowing them to “play ball” despite the rainy afternoon showers. There’s more to a day at the ballpark than an air-conditioned stadium and a cool beer; make sure to stop by the touch tank to pet the team’s swirling pool of stingrays.
Baseball season is typically April thru September. Check the season schedule for home games HERE.
Vertical Ventures – Florida is known for its flat landscape and white sand beaches. Rock climbing may not come to mind as an afternoon activity. Vertical Ventures offers intro classes to teach first-time climbers how to belay and gain access to different routes along the climbing wall. Visitors can also opt for a one-day pass, which allows climbers access to the auto belay station along a 30-foot climbing wall and the bouldering wall where climbers do not need ropes.
Bet Big, Win Big
Hard Rock Casino – Looking for a place to lose track of time? The clockless and windowless casino is like entering a portal of unknown time and space. Is it 10 am or Tuesday? Your guess is as good as mine.
Gambling is the obvious choice for passing the time within the confines of the Hard Rock Casino. I stick to the slot machines as my game of choice. Card tables with a dealer are too intimidating for me to approach, but I enjoy being a spectator while others play blackjack or roulette.
The Hard Rock is more than a casino. It’s a AAA Four Diamond-rated hotel featuring all the best there is to offer in restaurants and entertainment. The day’s stress will melt away when booking a day at the spa. Luxurious pampering from head to toe is provided in their 26,000-square-foot Rock Spa & Salon. Evening entertainment from world-class bands and comedians rotates through the main stage all year. Whether you’re at the Hard Rock to live life like a rock star or to see them on stage, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Breweries and Distilleries
The Tampa Bay area has a lively culture of local breweries and distilleries. Each is unique in its taste and temperament, striving to produce the best beer or spirit by sharing the process with each passing tour group. Even if it’s not a rainy day in Tampa Bay, stopping in to learn about the process used in brewing or distilling is an excellent way to spend an afternoon.
Florida Cane Distillery – Located in Ybor, Florida Cane Distillery produces award-winning hand-crafted spirits. For $15, visitors will enjoy a one-hour distillery tour followed by a tasting. Rum Day Cocktail Classes are also available for visitors to learn how to create two cocktails with their award-winning El Encanto Rum.
Cigar City Brewing – This is arguably the most popular local beer in the Tampa Bay area. For $8, visitors can experience a 40-minute tour that combines Tampa beer, Florida history, and brewing technology. Not only will visitors be able to taste four freshly tapped beers, but they will also take home a collectible tasting glass as a souvenir.
3 Daughters Brewing – This is a tasting room, not a tour of the brewing facility. I’ve included it because they offer a large variety of beer, cider, hard seltzer, hard soda, sangria, and non-alcoholic CBD seltzer. The atmosphere of the 3 Daughters tasting room is to relax and enjoy the space you’re in. There are no TVs to watch the local game, but there are plenty of board games and live music.
Just because it’s a rainy day doesn’t mean it has to be boring. There are so many indoor activities to fill your day when visiting the Tampa Bay area. It may not always be sunshine during the summer months, but it is always an entertaining place to come and hang out!
The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm rates and details when planning your trip by following the links in this article. If you find out-of-date or inaccurate information, I’d love to hear about it to update the article. Use the comments section below. Thanks!
All opinions are my own, and I do use affiliate links. As a customer, you do not pay any more or less because of an affiliated link. A small percentage of the sale will go to the person who generated the link. Making purchases through the links above shows love and support for the content I’ve created. Thank you for your support of my blog!