South Florida Museum and Parker Aquarium

Mastodon at South Florida Museum
Mastodon at South Florida Museum

Recently I visited the South Florida Museum and Parker Aquarium in Bradenton for the first time. This museum, aquarium and the neighboring Bishop Planetarium have been on my list of things to do for quite some time. As a kid, my mom used to take me to the planetarium for a rock laser light show when we would come to town to visit. Sadly, although the museum is only five minutes from my house, it has taken more than 15 years of me living here to finally get there.

South Florida Museum

The South Florida Museum focuses mostly on the history of the South Florida area. From pre-historic times with a model mastodon and fossils from several extinct species. There are areas of the museum that concentrate on the wildlife with displays of several different ecosystems with animals that inhabit each. Other sections are primarily exploring the history of the discovery and development of the South Florida area.

McKechnie Field history
McKechnie Field history
Mickey Mouse camera from 1950
Mickey Mouse camera from 1950
Walt Disney World groundbreaking
Walt Disney World groundbreaking
Snooty on deck
Snooty on deck
Snooty Time Line
Snooty Time Line

Parker Aquarium

Accompanying the South Florida Museum is the Parker Aquarium, which is home to Snooty the manatee, the world’s oldest known manatee who was born in captivity. Snooty is somewhat of a celebrity here in Bradenton at 65 years old. He has even made national news and has his own Snooty cam! While at the South Florida Museum I had an opportunity to see Snooty getting fed and a question and answer session with one of his trainers. I highly recommend this to anyone who gets a chance to catch this as it is great fun to watch Snooty and the other two manatees get fed and the Q&A session is very informative and interesting.

Bishop Planetarium

The Bishop Planetarium is the one section of the South Florida Museum that I had visited previously, but it had probably been a good 15 – 20 years. Since I had been last there was a fire and the planetarium had been renovated. Just after I visited, the planetarium closed for another refurbishment, which I understand is to upgrade the projection software. The renovation is scheduled to be finished in a few weeks with a current date listed as “mid-October.” I finished touring the South Florida Museum and Parker Aquarium, so before the rock hall of fame show in the planetarium I was able to catch a star show. This show was interesting as it highlighted what we would see in the night sky specifically in our geographic location at this time of year. I’d like to go back and see this again at different times of year to see the different constellations and planets that may be visible.

In peak season (January – April) the South Florida Museum is open 7 days a week. The rest of the year the museum is closed on Mondays. Hours are 10am – 5pm, except on Sundays, which are from 12pm to 5pm. Other than the aforementioned Mondays, the museum is only closed New Year’s Day, the second Monday in March, the first Saturday in November, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Regular admission is $15.95, $13. 95 for 65+, $11.95 for children 4-12, children 3 and under are free with paying adult. Active duty military with id are free. Family Night is the first Saturday of each month and offers everyone half price admission after 4pm with extended hours until 8pm. Family Night also usually includes screening of a family friendly (often Disney) movie. Currently since the Bishop Planetarium is closed, there is a $4 discount off admission.

I’m so glad I took the time to discover the South Florida Museum. It is a fantastic way to spend a few hours for kids and adults alike. You can go just for the laser light show with a discounted admission, but then you’re missing out on some of the best of what this complex has to offer. I hope to soon take advantage of one of the other great features of the museum, Film Fridays. Almost every Friday night the museum offers a $5 movie. The films range from classics like Meet Me In St. Louis and Some Like It Hot to Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. The upcoming series, “Greetings from Florida,” features movies set in Florida. This is a great way to catch classic films and re-releases up on the big screen.

If you find yourself with an extra day, or even an afternoon, take the opportunity to come explore the South Florida Museum, Bishop Planetarium and Parker Aquarium in Bradenton. It is a great value and a fun day trip. Have you been to the museum? If not, Snooty is waiting to meet you. Come on down!

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