If you’re looking for something to do with the kids during these dog days of summer, a visit to South Florida Museum, which includes Bishop Planetarium and Parker Manatee Aquarium is a great option. Not only do you have the ease of a quick drive to Bradenton, you also have a place that might appease the interests of all your kids;
astronomy presented with brilliant images provided by 200 continually updated satellite feeds, Florida relics and fossils explaining our world in a unique way, and Snooty, the oldest known manatee on the planet. Under one roof, and for one ticket price, you and your family can have an adventure, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you slipped in a learning opportunity. Don’t worry, they’ll be having too much fun to notice.
The South Florida Museum, who is proud to claim the title of “largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast” is a casserole of enlightening historical information and relics. Featuring fossils of Florida’s first mammals and marine life, along with artifacts depicting the medical, economic and social aspects of the first settler’s lives, the glimpse into past days is fascinating. At the River Heritage Hall, you can learn about the government and geography of the area, and over at the Visible Storage Gallery, you can peruse priceless collections that are frequently rotated, giving you a feel for what everyday life looked like for our Floridian Forefathers.
The Parker Manatee Aquarium holds 60,000 gallons of water, including a medical pool, and is designed to house three adult manatees. Offering both deep and shallow water basins, the manatees can live in an environment that replicates their natural homes. A concerted effort to educate the public on the dangers boating poses to manatees has helped these gentle giants survival rates. An initiative which provides signs to kayakers and canoers in the area, telling boaters to “Please Slow, Manatee Below” is one of on-going programs the facility oversees in the plight to help manatees. And, as most people know, the Manatee County’s mascot, and the oldest known manatee in the world, Snooty, resides at The Parker Manatee Aquarium. If you haven’t met Snooty yet, you can check out the live Snooty Cam every day of the week, just click on their website and there is a link.
The third part of the pie at this “one stop” destination for learning fun Is The Bishop Planetarium. With unidirectional stadium seating, a 25,000 watt Dolby surround sound system and indescribable views of destinations around the world which would seem trivial as seen on a phone or laptop, but in this theatre-dome, the vivid details and enormity of the visuals are extraordinary. These stunning visual attractions are the culmination of work by over 40 leading American and International scientists, NASA, astrophysicists, and other experts throughout the world. Your children will be exploring the universe in an intense learning session, but they will feel like they are at the latest Star Wars flick. I call this a parental victory.
Some of the shows you can enjoy at the planetarium include Perfect Little Planet where you can slide through the rings of Saturn and explore our long-lost brother planet, Pluto. Journey to the Stars allows visitors a glimpse into the life and death of stars, including our own Sun. For thrill-seekers, Space Park 360 allows the butterflies to swarm in your belly as you swing on a giant pendulum, or raise your hands in defiance as you race down a roller-coaster track. And, if you want to rock out, join The Rock Hall of Fame where the Doors, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd will provide ear candy to the fabulous visuals you’ll get from the computer-generated animations that accompany the music. This is just a taste of the shows you can see at the planetarium, the lineup is impressive and the shows are generally around 30 minutes each, so you can see several.
In addition to what you can do on a typical day, South Florida Museum offers many public, educational, community service and family-centered programs. They are open Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., Sunday noon to 5:00 P.M., and closed on Mondays. For ticket prices, including a number of specials, please visit www.southfloridamuseum.org
Photos courtesy of South Florida Museum Facebook page