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  1. Life & Culture

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

Here are some options for beating the heat without breaking the bank.
Beat the heat in air-conditioned venues that won't break the bank.
Beat the heat in air-conditioned venues that won't break the bank. [ SERGIO MONTI | Dreamstime ]
Published Jul. 12|Updated Jul. 12

As we endure a sizzling summer, the pool and that warm Gulf of Mexico don’t even offer relief. So if you just want to submit to the joys of that sweet, sweet air-conditioning, here are our favorite spots to take a respite without breaking the bank.

For the kids

MOSI: Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry lets kids and parents alike play with science experiments like pedaling a bicycle on a cable suspended 30 feet above the ground, lying on a bed of nails and engineering a moon base. The museum has been invaded by dinosaurs this summer thanks to a blockbuster animatronic exhibit. Dinosaurs Around the World, which has broken attendance records at science museums in the U.S. and Europe since it launched in 2017, features more than a dozen lifelike animatronic dinosaurs that offer a paleontological journey back in time. It runs through Labor Day and is included with admission. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. $12.95, $10.95 seniors, $7.95 ages 2-12. Parking is free. 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. 813-987-6000. mosi.org.

Children’s museums: The Tampa Bay area is lucky to have some pretty great hands-on museums. And membership gets you unlimited visits 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’s also Great Explorations, next to Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, 1925 Fourth St. N.

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

This exterior image of Tampa Theatre shows how the owners pushed the fact that the theater was air-conditioned, which was a rarity in 1942.
This exterior image of Tampa Theatre shows how the owners pushed the fact that the theater was air-conditioned, which was a rarity in 1942. [ Times ]

See a movie

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

Tampa Theatre was built in 1926 when movie houses were palatial. And this one was more palatial than most, with its statutes of gargoyles and exotic birds and a realistic night sky above, plus twinkling stars and ornate architecture designed to make you feel like you are in a moonlit courtyard. Tampa Theatre is running a Summer Classics film series that will include “The Godfather” and “Blazing Saddles,” which you can enjoy on the big screen in the A/C with some popcorn.

Films are $10 at the box office, $12 online at tampatheatre.org. 711 N Franklin St., Tampa. Open noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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Take in some 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 ]

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

Many museums offer discounts, too. St. Petersburg’s Imagine Museum, which boasts 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 the code IMLOCAL at imaginemuseum.com. They also offer $5 admission after 5 p.m. on Thursdays.

Here are more deals:

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

Tampa Museum of Art’s adult admission is always $15 and free to local college students.

Showmen’s Museum: Exploring the heritage of American carnivals, with exhibits, memorabilia and antique rides, this one is located in a town where many of the ex-carnies reside. Admission is $12, $7 kids, under 10 free. Open noon-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 6938 Riverview Drive, Riverview.

There’s also the upcoming Cool Art Show, a St. Petersburg staple that was born from the need for a comfortable place to show artwork. It returns to The Coliseum July 23-24 and is 100% free (yes, even parking). Produced by the Professional Association of Visual Artists (PAVA), the fine craft and fine art show also includes artist demonstrations and kids’ activities. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. July 23 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. July 24. 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. pava-artists.org.

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