There are lots of things to do in the Bradenton/Sarasota area, a visit to the South Florida Museum is a must. A great indoor activity that appeals to all ages, it is a perfect place to spend the afternoon. Founded in 1947, the museum is one of the largest in the area boasting the biggest selection of natural and cultural history on Florida’s gulf coast. Have you ever wondered why there were no dinosaurs in Florida? Learn about Florida’s environment and first inhabitants exploring the exhibits. The museum has life-sized casts of Ice Age mammals, a vast collection of fossils and offers educational programs promoting scientific and cultural knowledge of Florida. With permanent exhibits and constantly changing temporary exhibits you will see evidence of Florida’s earliest marine mammal inhabitants and archaeological materials.
The South Florida Museum recently introduced a new phone application called Pathways, allowing museum visitors to explore exhibits in all new ways. The app which took seven years to develop, weaves exhibits and objects together to tell interactive stories. The app makes it easy to navigate the South Florida Museum with personalized programs and the adventures provided can be customized to just about any subject. The staff plan to release a new Pathways tour on the public version of the app at least every two months. A massive library of tours covering geology, history, anthropology and others will be built over time.
Pathways is available in the Apple and Google Play stores by searching for “Pathways SFM.”
Another part of the museum is a fully functioning planetarium, The Bishop Planetarium. The planetarium offers a huge schedule of events including shows for small children. We thoroughly enjoyed our show and suggest that you check the schedule when you arrive for show times and programs. The planetarium features an astronomy educational facility with a multimedia theatre for films, lectures, live and digital art performances. The theatre offers guests unidirectional stadium style seating and the Digistar 5, one of the most advanced projection systems in the world which gives a phenomenal experience. The system allows for exploration of Earth through the use of 200 continually updated satellite datasets of our planet’s land, ocean, atmosphere and climate.
When you are finished wandering through the museum exhibits and have watched the astronomical adventures under the Planetarium dome, head over to the Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Aquarium and say hello to the endangered resident Florida manatees. The aquarium holds nearly 60,000 gallons of water, including a medical pool. Manatees are slow moving creatures so you will have plenty of opportunity to watch them swim and see them feed. The facility offers above and below water viewing and can meet the manatees in the huge rehabilitation facility. The main pool offers both deep and shallow water, which allows the manatees to engage in a wider variety of natural social behaviour and maintain natural feeding behaviors. The medical pool can be used to isolate a manatee and lower the water level which makes veterinary exams and procedures easier to accomplish and less stressful for the animal. After many years of frequenting Anna Maria Island, we have learned Manatees are frequently injured around the coast of Florida and this medical pool provides a temporary home and care for those sick and injured until they are healthy enough to be returned to the wild. You will find an exhibit area within the facility with lots of information to learn about manatees, and Manatee Care Specialists at the facility provide presentations about manatee habitat, nutrition and physiology. To date the Museum has cared for 36 rehabilitating manatees since 1998, including 3 being cared for at this time.
South Florida Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 am – 5 pm and Sunday noon to 5 pm
For information and tickets call 941-746-4131 or visit southfloridamuseum.org.
TripAdvisor Reviews:
  1. Variety of a Sights and Educational Too! Took our 10 year old grandson who was captivated the entire time. Learned a lot and had fun too! Would recommend it to adults, and families of all ages.
  2. Wonderful Experience. Rainy day in Florida, what better than to visit a museum with the visiting grandchildren. Turned out to be a pretty good place. The kids enjoyed walking around seeing all the different things. The planetarium was really nice and I think they actually learned something. I loved the visiting manatees, but sad to remember this was were Snooty died. But than again it was a really fun day.
  3. Manatee Show and Astronomy-Excellent shows with price of one small admission. There is a beautiful manatee educational presentation. These manatees have been rescued, and are currently being rehabbed to return to Florida waters. It is not a “show”, it is do much more!!! There is a wonderful museum which houses and showcases Native American artifacts here in Florida. And then, enter the theater and be part of an amazing star and planets show. You will love it! This is in a wonderful downtown location,easy free parking. Stroll the waterfront, shops and cafes close by. A one stop destination for everyone in the family.
  4. Wonderful teacher led planetarium shows, manatees fun too. We had a great day at the South Florida Museum. For me, the Planetarium shows were the best part, particularly the ones that were described as “live.” Howard, the scientist who conducted the live shows and introduced/explained the pre-recorded ones, is absolutely amazing. I’m not even particularly interested in astronomy and science, but he had me totally engaged with the easy ways he presented complicated scientific information and theories, and he let audience members ask questions. There are planetarium shows throughout the day, and your general admission includes as many as you want to attend. We went to 3 of them, and each was different and interesting. The manatee presentation was also interesting, even for someone from Florida who has seen multiple manatee exhibits and visited several viewing centers with educational information. The museum’s actual exhibits are a mixed bag, depending on what your interests are. Some were about Florida pre-history & early natives, some were about nature, and others were just plain old nostalgia … like a small collection of old cameras, a Model T Ford car, and a collection of interesting sea shells. Most were typical exhibits with objects behind glass or behind ropes, with signs providing the information. There are a few interactive exhibits scattered in each area, but for the most part, the exhibits are hands off. There’s a nice little gift shop with typical museum gift shop offerings, mixed with some touristy/souvenir products. There’s no restaurant or cafe, but there are a couple of places to eat within a block or two walk. Overall, this museum is a great way to spend the large part of a hot, sticky summer day, rain or shine, and it’s likely to have something everyone will enjoy… from young children to grandma and grandpa.Look at their website for parking instructions. There are some 3-hour-limited spaces right in front of the museum, but we used a parking garage about 2 blocks away that offered parking for up to 10 hours, at just 50 cents per hour. BUT… you’ll need quarters to feed the meters … no credit cards and no garage attendant.
  5. Outstanding natural and cultural museum! I must admit that while it was on our list of possibilities when visiting Bradenton/Anna Maria Island, we probably would not have gone to the museum if it had not been raining at the beaches. When we finished at the museum we were so glad it had been raining! This is a fantastic museum. So much information about local nature, flora/fauna, and history. The prehistoric history exhibits are particularly interesting. You can almost feel the anxiety of the boy in the prehistoric hunters diorama as he drops his spear and alerts the giant bison that the early men are hunting. We learned a lot about manatees in the aquarium, but the planetarium shows were most informative of all. Well worth a visit.
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Note: Anna Maria Island Condo Rentals – 601 Gulf Dr. N. Anna Maria Island, Florida 34217 offers the above company names and affiliated links as suggestions only. We are not receiving commissions from the above and are listing only to assist our guests. We recommend services that we or close friends and family have experienced.
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