15+ places to stay cool in Tampa Bay for $15 or less


As we endure a scorching summer, the pool and the heat of the Gulf of Mexico don’t even offer relief. So if you just want to submit to the joys of this sweet and gentle air conditioning, here are our favorite addresses to take a break without breaking the bank.

For kids

MOSI: The Tampa Museum of Science and Industry lets kids and parents play with science experiments like pedaling a bike on a cable suspended 30 feet above the ground, lying on a bed of nails, and designing a lunar base. The museum was overrun with dinosaurs this summer thanks to a successful animatronic exhibit. Dinosaurs Around the World, which has broken attendance records at science museums in the United States and Europe since its launch in 2017, features more than a dozen realistic animatronic dinosaurs that provide a paleontological journey through time. It runs through Labor Day and is included with admission. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. $12.95, $10.95 for seniors, $7.95 for ages 2-12. Parking is free. 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. 813-987-6000. mosi.org.

Children’s museums: The Tampa Bay area is blessed with some great interactive museums. And membership gets you unlimited tours and often free parking and discounts on shopping and food. Check out the Glazer Children’s Museum in downtown Tampa at 110 W Gasparilla Plaza. There is also Great Explorations, next to Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, 1925 Fourth St. N.

Ice skating: You can forget about the blistering heat outside at one of Tampa Bay’s skating rinks, including one inside a mall. Tampa Bay Skating Academy has two rinks – Clearwater Ice Arena, 13940 Icot Blvd., 727-536-5843; and the Tampa Bay Skating Academy, 255 Forest Lakes Blvd. N, Oldsmar, 813-854-4010 – and also runs the one inside Countryside Mall, 27001 US 19 N, Clearwater, 727-723-7785. TGH Ice Complex (formerly Ice Sports Forum) is a two-lane figure skating and hockey rink that has leagues but also public skating, laser tag, a restaurant and an arcade. 10222 Elizabeth Place, Tampa. 813-684-7825. tghiceplex.com. Extra ice cream is a hockey rink designed to give players of all ages more practice time and teach game skills to beginners. 6910 Asphalt Avenue, Tampa. 813-888-7161. xtraicehockey.org. At Wesley Chapel, the Advent Health Ice Rink has many public skating sessions. 3173 Cypress Ridge Blvd., Wesley Chapel. ahcenterice.com.

This exterior image of the Tampa Theater shows how the owners insisted the theater was air-conditioned, which was rare in 1942. [ Times ]

To see a film

Movies got their start in the first air-conditioned spaces in the 1930s.

The Tampa Theater was built in 1926 when movie theaters were lavish. And this one was more lavish than most, with statues of gargoyles and exotic birds and a realistic night sky above, as well as twinkling stars and ornate architecture designed to make you feel like you’re in a moonlit courtyard. Tampa Theater is hosting a Summer Classics movie series that will include “The Godfather” and “Blazing Saddles,” which you can enjoy on the big screen in the air conditioning with some popcorn.

Movies cost $10 at the box office, $12 online at tampatheâtre.org. 711 N Franklin St., Tampa. Open from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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Admire art

An exterior view of the Imagine Museum, 1901 Central Ave., in St. Petersburg.
An exterior view of the Imagine Museum, 1901 Central Ave., in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Soak up the culture and fresh air simultaneously. While it’s true that museums can be expensive, there are a few gems that are free, including the one in Tarpon Springs. Leepa-Rattner Art Museum at St. Petersburg College (leeparattner.org), USF Museum of Contemporary Art in Tampa (usfcam.usf.edu) and the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College at Lakeland (polkmuseumofart.org).

Many museums also offer discounts. Saint PETERSBOURG Imagine Museum, which has a stunning collection of contemporary glass, is offering $7.50 admission to Tampa Bay residents for the summer. Residents of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties are eligible and can purchase admission using code IMLOCAL at imaginemuseum.com. They also offer $5 admission after 5 p.m. on Thursdays.

Here are some other offers:

The Dali Museum$12.50 adults, $8 youth after 5 p.m. Thursdays (thedali.org); Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg: $10 adult admission after 5 p.m. on Thursdays (mfastpete.org); The James Museum of Western and Wildlife ArtAdmission: $10 adults, $5 youth admission all day Tuesdays (10 a.m.-8 p.m., thejamesmuseum.org).

Tampa Museum of ArtAdult admission is still $15 and free for local college students.

Fairground museum: Exploring the legacy of American carnivals, with exhibits, memorabilia, and antique rides, this one is set in a town where many ex-carnies reside. Admission is $12, children $7, under 10 free. Open from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. 6938 Riverview Drive, Riverview.

There is also the next cool art show, a St. Petersburg staple born out of the need for a comfortable place to display artwork. It returns to the Colosseum on July 23 and 24 and is 100% free (yes, even parking). Produced by the Professional Association of Visual Artists (PAVA), the crafts and fine arts fair also includes artist demonstrations and activities for children. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 23 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 24. 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. pava-artistes.org.

Circus art and memorabilia hang on the walls and display cases at the Showmen's Museum in Riverview.
Circus art and memorabilia hang on the walls and display cases at the Showmen’s Museum in Riverview. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times (2017) ]

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