If you think Tampa is only about the Super Bowl and warm weather, you haven’t taken the Ybor City Walking Tour in the historic Latin Quarter on a brisk Florida winter day. For $6 this is literally one of the best priced deals in Tampa. It’s right up there with a movie at the old restored Tampa Theatre.
Carl, our guide, really knew his local history and shared it clearly and succinctly. He could answer all questions and was patient even when two cell phones went off at once. We were a group of 20 adults of varying ages and backgrounds wearing comfortable shoes. Many on the tour were surprised how cold a day it was for Florida. The group met after purchasing tickets in the eclectic museum store alongside the yellow-bricked Ybor City Museum at 1818 9th Ave.
The museum, once a bakery, is part of the state park system. The charming park services specialist, Douglas “Alex” Kinder, was on hand to greet folk. After a brief video Carl took us on a tour of the museum pointing out things we might have missed had we been our own (really). I don’t want to give too much away but the reason parts of 7th Avenue Ybor are reminiscent of a street in downtown New Orleans is because some Romanian Jews migrated from New Orleans to Ybor bringing some of their style with them. They were just a part of the influx.
Of course we saw a cigar worker in the museum demonstrating hand rolling cigars the old way. He seemed surprised none of our group spoke Spanish. Although Ybor is a Latin community, English is usually spoken wherever tourists tread. The population mix of original Ybor was not only Cuban but Spanish, German, Sicilian, and Jewish. Add to that Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders who spent some time here and you have a fascinating conglomerate of society. Next, the tour takes you to the cigar making area (and did you know the first cigar roller here was not Cuban?), the Cuban Club, the Italian club, the old hotel which was said to house an elegant brothel, theaters, the old water supply shed, restaurants, and back to the museum and shop.
With our guide we walked on original brick roads to enter one of the casitas, the houses sold to the cigar workers so they would have community ownership and stay. Curious to know why cigar workers were sometimes considered to be the best-educated
blue-collar workers in the country, why the all-wood pine houses had alternating planks of wood and to find out the one thing you can’t escape from in Florida (no, not hurricanes)? Interested in the dual role the iceman played aside from the block of ice for the icebox. I can’t spoil everything! You’ll have take the tour to find out.
Would I take the tour again? Definitely, and I have lived in Tampa for over 2 decades… so surely you too will enjoy it. It lasted about 2 hours.
Walking Tour Sat 10:30am Museum & Visitor Center Daily 9am-5pm 813-247-6323 http://www.ybormuseum.org/
The Columbia Restaurant – a Florida tradition since 1905. http://www.columbiarestaurant.com/ybor.asp
2117 East 7th Avenue Telephone: (813) 248-4961
Tampa, Florida 33605
Open 365 days of the year.