Many attractions boast that they have “something for everyone”, but in the case of the South Florida Museum it is absolutely true. This mega museum attraction in Bradenton includes the South Florida Museum, the Bishop Planetarium and the Parker Manatee Aquarium all under one roof and all included in a single admission price.
The South Florida Museum is the largest cultural and natural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast, covering prehistoric history from the Pleistocene period to an Environmental Wing dedicated to Florida’s eco biodiversity The entrance brings you into the main South Florida Museum and the Planetarium at one end is a good place to start your visit. Although the planetarium itself may not light up the imagination of younger visitors, the scheduled performances certainly will. Check your daily timetable to catch some of the excellent movies and documentaries presented.
Take a Trip Through Space in the Bishop Planetarium
Short movies and shows in the Planetarium dome change regularly. They include some fascinating topics such as Life: A Cosmic Story. Told by Jodie Foster, this past-paced presentation uncovers the history of the earth right back to where the start of life on earth began. Perfect Little Planet allows visitors to fly over Pluto, encounter lightning storms on Jupiter and dive through the rings of Saturn. Passport to the Universe is an exciting virtual tour through the Milky Way. It’s enough to make any young visitor want to work at NASA!
Back to earth, visitors can explore the main South Florida Museum exhibits which are laid out on two floors. The first floor explores prehistoric mammals and marine life that existed in and around the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Fossils and archaeological finds give a fascinating insight into our ancestry, particularly in the Tallant Gallery collection of artifacts of Florida natives.
The second floor galleries include exhibits on medical history while the Environmental Hall displays Florida’s past, present and future through three separate geological exhibits on Riverine, Pine Uplands and Estuary environs.
Visitors can look behind the scenes at some of the 20,000 objects in the drawers and illuminated cases of the Visible Storage Gallery or explore Spanish Colonial history in the Spanish Plaza. Changing exhibits occupy the Curator’s Choice Gallery which currently has a display of Little Buildings, from doll houses to Lincoln Logs buildings.
See a Manatee at Parker Manatee Aquarium
One of the most talked-about areas of the South Florida Museum is the Parker Manatee Aquarium. Visitors can meet manatees in the huge rehabilitation facility. With above and below-water viewing areas, visitors can get up-close to these slow-moving creatures and see them feeding and swimming.
Manatees are frequently injured around the coast of Florida and this medical pool provides care and a temporary home for injured manatees that will later be returned to the wild. Snooty was the oldest known manatee in the world. He was born in captivity in 1948 and lived at the Parker Manatee Aquarium until his death in July 2017.
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