From a WWII ship to the motherhood experience, and from the Beatles to the history of the pinball machine, there are some amazing museums tucked right in our very own back yard!
American Victory Ship & Museum
Location: 705 Channelside Drive, Tampa
Cost: Adults $ 10 | Children $ 5 (plus discounts for seniors, veterans, and students with ID)
The American Victory was a cargo ship that was built for World War II and also served in the Vietnam and Korean Wars. It is one of five fully functional World War II ships in the country. It was built in 1945 and brought to Tampa in 1999 to be converted into a Memorial and Maritime Museum.
“We really let people explore the ship,” said Bill Kuzmick, president of Victory Ship Inc. “They can go into just about any room and explore just about anything … and they love that.”
Guests can step back in time to the 1940s by browsing through artifacts, seeing the soldiers’ bedrooms, and even playing on the ship’s wheel. Choose from a self-guided tour or an instructor tour, usually led by one of the museum’s knowledgeable volunteers. But make sure you wear comfortable shoes – there are plenty of steep steps to climb!
“I want to say that (the ship) is still in service today,” said Kuzmick. “We train a lot with the FBI, law enforcement, and firefighters.”
American Victory also has year-round events such as July 4th private rentals and Undead in the Water, a haunted ship experience for Halloween. The ship hopes to dry dock early next year so it’s ready for its Relive History cruises, which will see guests experience the American Victory on the waters of Tampa Bay.
The museum is open Mondays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“It’s a phenomenal step into the past and … we have to adjust to what we have,” said Kuzmick. “We are losing such elements of our nation, and I think that is something that we … need to keep close to our hearts.”
Museum of Motherhood
Location: 538 28th St N, St. Petersburg
Cost: Recommended donation
The Museum of Motherhood explores the art, history, science, and experience of motherhood.
In the 1990s, the museum director and founder Martha Joy Rose became interested in the topic of motherhood. “As an artist in New York City who was a musician and singer, I noticed that there was no artistic place or artistic expression for mothers at the time.”
From there, she wanted to create a genre of art and music about motherhood with her major music festival, Mamapalooza, and opened her first maternity exhibition in her New York store. She now runs the museum from her home in historic Kenwood.
The Museum of Motherhood is all about education. Guests can sit in the library and choose from nearly 800 books, play an educational board game about what to expect during childbirth, try on a weighted pregnancy bump, and browse art that shows the ups and downs of motherhood. There is also additional literature on maternity experience studies and mother activists.
“We’re small and powerful, people always love it,” said Rose. “Half of the exhibits here are in the USF Women’s and Gender Studies Division right now, so let’s get around.”
The museum is only open by appointment. Call 877-711-6667 or email [email protected] to schedule a visit. Rose is usually on hand to answer questions and provide a unique insight into the history of the mothers.
“Women haven’t seen their day and … I want them to,” said Rose. “I want everyone to do it. I celebrate women and mothers everywhere.”
Penny Lane, Beatles Museum
Location: 730 Broadway, Dunedin
One of the largest Beatles collections in the US is here in Downtown Dunedin! Discover a range of memorabilia – posters, signed guitars, Ringo’s drumsticks, John Lennon’s glasses, hairpieces, samples of hotel leaves the Beatles slept on – while listening to classic Beatles hits.
“The Penny Lane Beatles Museum is a collection of … Beatles memorabilia from the past 60 years,” said Colin Bissett, curator and CEO of the museum. “It’s a collection from a private person in town … that has been collecting for over 40 years.”
The collection consists of almost a thousand pieces (only about 2/3 of which are currently on display) that can be traced back to Quarrymen posters. This was the name of the Beatles when they started out with Pete Best as the original drummer in Liverpool.
“They always remember the first time they saw the Beatles,” Bissett said of the guests who visit the museum. “Everyone has a personal attitude that is wonderful to hear. And they come from all over the world.”
The museum is open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Although the museum is free, they take donations and also sell Penny Lane shirts, mugs, signs, and other souvenirs. The museum is perfect for Beatles fanatics and those just discovering their music.
“The pieces are pretty historical,” said Bissett. “So this is a wonderful keepsake, and it’s a great experience for people.”
Replay Amusement Museum
Location: 119 E Tarpon Ave, Tarpon Springs
Cost: Adults $ 14 | Children $ 8
Replay is a handy museum where you can see the development of pinball and arcade games. Try 120 games, including pinball machines up to 50 years of age.
“Replay looks like an arcade, but it’s a generation and decades of games,” said Bobbi Douthitt, the museum’s special events coordinator. “You can see the evolution of the game, changes in graphics, and the impact of technology on everything.”
CONNECTION | Play vintage pinball and arcade games at the Replay Amusement Museum
In between games, guests can read the info toppers on each pinball machine to learn when it was built and who made it, as well as reference books on pinball and arcade games. Replay is also home to the largest pinball machine in the world – Hercules, made by Atari in 1979. Less than 400 have ever been made, and the pinball machine is so big it uses a cue ball from a pool table.
The museum offers an interactive and family-friendly way to experience the development of the pinball machine. “I see ages 5 to 85 coming through my door,” said Douthitt.
The Replay Amusement Museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and open 7 days a week during the summer break. Tickets are good to play all day, which means you can go and come back as you want. There are several games to choose from, all of which are set to “free play” so no quarters are required.
“Really, if you don’t like a game that’s in here, you don’t like games,” said Douthitt.