Time Machine

Most tourists visiting Ybor are sweetly oblivious to the historical charms of the town, largely because said charms are either being vomited on by drunken students or having the vomit cleaned from them. For those willing to put in a little footwork, however, there is at least half a day's worth of entertainment to be had traipsing around Ybor's two museums.

Your first stop is the Centro Ybor Museum on Eighth Avenue, a place that could be overrun by a horde of rampaging pensioners on a day trip from Largo at any moment, but nonetheless offers a good half-hour of aimless browsing. Mostly a collection of odd trinkets, the exhibit includes a promotional video as well as the inevitable cigar gift shop (two words: don't inhale). The museum and gift shop are sadly lacking in celebrity endorsements (unless you count News Channel 8, which we don't), so I suggest dropping a note in the recommendation box urging an invitation to Bill Clinton, which should liven things up.

Moving onward and upward from the museum, you'll find the much fuller-featured Ybor City State Museum and Ybor City Museum State Park on Ninth Avenue. In spite of its best efforts to supply nothing but the oldest, scariest curators and the occasional room full of white haired patrons watching a 30-year-old video about the good old 1920s, the museum is only two-thirds scary (complete with flickering lights and terrifyingly decrepit mannequins) and almost completely engrossing, in a 30-minute kind of way. Included are stories of prominent Cuban immigrants whose families and histories form the roots of modern-day Ybor, and the occasional "this is an interesting but irrelevant artifact but we thought we'd include it anyway" exhibit.

The self-guided Ybor tour is ideal for anyone with loose change and an afternoon to spare. If you don't have at least a passing interest in local history, one will be provided for you. And who knows; if enough excited Planet readers head down there, the whole museum scene could be rejuvenated and we'll have a historical renaissance right on our doorsteps.

The Centro Ybor Museum is at 1600 E. Eighth Ave. (813-242-4010). Admission is free. The Ybor City State Museum is at 1818 E. Ninth Ave. (813-247-6323). Admission costs $2, and you can visit it on the Web at www.ybormuseum.org.

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