Tag Archives: Museums

What’s a Family to do in Bradenton, Florida on a Saturday night?

Attend South Florida Museum’s family night!

Now, this is only an option the first Saturday of the month–but, it’s one of the best Saturdays nights our family has had in a while. And did I mention it’s half price after 5pm?

The South Florida Museum is in downtown Bradenton and is home to Snooty, the oldest manatee in captivity.  Learn about local history, as well as Florida’s archaeological and paleontological past. They have tons of local memorabilia and artifacts that you just won’t find anywhere else. The museum incorporates sound and video into many exhibits and did a great job of varying the height of displays–which is perfect for children. The entire museum is spiffed up, compared to years past, and the displays and exhibits are quite modern.

I’ve been there many a time, but never had a visit as enjoyable as this with Snooty the Manatee. Snooty was a real ham, making noises and gestures and practically crawling out of the tank. Perhaps we were lucky or he’s just frisky on Saturday nights–but the manatee presentation was extra fun this time around. The presenter for the manatee show was informative and very good with questions. We went away having learned quite a bit about manatees.

The current rotating exhibit is about Silver Springs and the photos of Bruce Mozert.  It looks like that exhibit is about to change–so maybe the next family night will have something new. But we really liked the old pictures of Silver Springs and especially enjoyed the  up-close look at the equipment Mr. Mozert used.

In addition to the regular parts of the museum, they opened up the planetarium for star talks and a rock-n-roll laser show. These are real treats. Right before you go into the planetarium they have craft stations for the little ones, which really spices up this Saturday night adventure. Since it was mermaid night this time, you could get your picture taken with a mermaid. I saw dads and kids alike take part in this photo session. 🙂

Why not give it a try? Learn more about the specifics at: http://www.southfloridamuseum.org/ThingsToDo/FamilyNights.aspx.


Leave a comment

Filed under Bradenton, Florida, Our Town

Ca’ d’Zan Mansion at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida

This is the last post in a series on the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida

Did you ever see Great Expectations with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke? Then you’ve seen the Ca’ d’Zan mansion at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The movie portrayed it in quite a state of disrepair, but the real thing is gorgeous! It simply must be on your itinerary list if you come to Sarasota, Florida.

The Ca’ d’Zan represents Venetian Gothic architecture and sits right on Sarasota Bay. It’s an impressive sight with its beautiful orange hue and gorgeous colored windows. There are 56 rooms (41 rooms and 15 bathrooms), all with lovely furnishings and artwork. The construction on the “House of John” began in 1925 and the home was modeled after many sketches and photos that Mable Ringling had saved over the years. In 2002 it was carefully restored to its original splendor. There are tours at various times of the day, but you can always step onto the back terrace to catch a glimpse (unless there is a private party). The view of the bay is also wonderful from the home and they’ve spiffed up the area surrounding the house so you can sit on a bench or take a stroll near the bay.

Leading up to the mansion is the fragrant rose garden, always filled with lovely blooms. (At one time they held the Medieval Fair on the grounds of Ringling Museum, and I always fondly remember that the rose garden was a meeting spot during field trips.)  None of the original plants from 1913 survive, but there have been many wonderful varieties planted in their place. There are beautiful reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, and purples bursting all over it! It’s definitely a fun trip to walk in the rows and read the funny names of some of the roses.

I note that the website mentions the Secret Garden. I’ve never noticed that specifically, yet another thing to take a look at in another trip. I hope our series on the museum entices you to visit soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Family travel, Sarasota, Travel

Beyond Bling at Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida

This is the first post in a 3-part series about the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. 

The Ringling Museum is another one of those places I’ve been to a lot. I went there for field trips in school and then my family and I started going on Monday holidays (since there is free admission on Mondays to the art museum). I wanted to write a series about this historical place since it’s such an important attraction in our area. I should probably start with a post that talks about the Museum in general, but I can’t stop myself from first writing about the new exhibit, Beyond Bling. This  is a big change from the usual exhibits of wonderful paintings and sculptures from the past.

In a word, the atmosphere is electrifying. I’ve never been so interested in seeing a particular show at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art before. They really step out of their comfort zone with this one and I think it’s worth it. The art, the movie, the books, the music…it all gels into a total experience. The art is bright and shiny (literally since a lot of it has rhinestones or something similar in it). They have iPods you can use to listen to rap music while you see the exhibit–three different playlists to choose from too, I believe. At the end they have a movie and lots of books to look through. It’s a media explosion!

The hip-hop culture really comes alive for visitors through the art and its descriptions. I love the piece of the speakers with rhinestones, where the description says the artist is trying to convey something that is visually loud. I’ve been thinking about that ever since. It’s really powerful.

The movie is from the beginning of the hip-hop movement and definitely gives you an inside look at what the youths were doing to express themselves. There’s one part where they talk about graffiti being a way to play a game–who can do something faster, higher-up, bigger. Then there’s this part about how the graffiti is personal and tells a story. I thought the break dancing scenes were pretty nifty too.

In researching this post, I came across the Facebook page for the event. I think the page, along with the subject of the exhibit, really shows how the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is evolving. Beyond Bling is a terrific way for the Ringling Museum to mix the old and the new–it creates a little something for everyone. It runs through August 14th.

Leave a comment

Filed under Family travel, Our Town, Sarasota, Travel

Historic Spanish Point, Osprey, Florida

This weekend I visited Historic Spanish Point in Osprey, Florida. Having grown up in this area, it’s not the first time. I must say though, this was one of the best visits. They have improved the site and their brand dramatically. The website is terrific and really makes you want to visit:


Once we got to the site we stopped off at the Visitor’s Center, where the friendly staff gave us a gorgeous map and told us about the tour starting soon. We then drove down to the beginning of the attraction. On the drive, I read about the four P’s at the site. (I think this is the best thing they have going now—it really cements the idea of the site and the way they have organized it makes lots of sense.) They have divided the site into four P’s: Prehistoric, Pioneer, Palmer, and Plants. This cohesive idea resonates on the maps, in the signage, and I’d assume on the tours. I’ve been there many times, but this time I felt like the P’s concept gave me a firm idea to grasp about what was going on at this historic place and why it was so important to the area. As you go along, you find out what all the P’s mean.

You can go two different ways once you get there. We opted not to take the tour this time and started on our way toward the Guptill House, part of the Pioneer section. This house has a gorgeous view and is staffed by a knowledgeable guide. Before you get there you run across the butterfly garden, one of the Plants sections of the four P’s. It touts itself as one of the largest in Florida and we saw lots of gorgeous butterflies. Spanish Point is great for plant lovers. We visited the aqueduct and the jungle walk in this area also. Down here you also see one of the prehistoric middens that gets explained more later. The Webb packing house is pretty cool–gives you a great sense of how orange grove commerce ran back then.

The Prehistoric section of the site was next. You actually step into the middle of a shell midden!!! How cool is that? They have a great video and display about the life of the early people in the area that is a must-see.

Moving on, we visited the Palmer part of the four P’s. Bertha Palmer is legendary in this part of Florida. The house is a museum and display area that really illustrates all she did for the area and how important she was.

We finished up our tour at Mary’s Chapel which is so quaint and has a really peaceful feel to it. You can walk around inside and visit the cemetery located right outside of it.

Historic Spanish Point is a gem of an attraction and perfect for families. It is a little warm there in the summer though, so stock up on water. Take your time traveling through, as there are some beautiful views to experience from the shade!

Historic Spanish Point made this video for YouTube:

Leave a comment

Filed under Family travel, Sarasota, Travel

The Ernest Hemingway Home in Key West, Florida

In honor of the release of the trade paperback of Hemingway’s Cats by Carlene Brennen, I wanted to mention The Hemingway House in Key West, Florida.

I’ve visited there twice. It’s a real pleasure to stroll through the gardens and visit with the six-toed cats. You get a definite feel for Hemingway’s life in the Keys during his time there. The house is also a nice stop between any bar-hopping or touristy shopping you might be doing. Take a minute to stop in and visit this landmark site.

I thought this video really captured the essence of the home.

1 Comment

Filed under books, Family travel, Travel

Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Florida

My last post was about the fabulous cowboy and ranching exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Florida. But I couldn’t exclude the rest of the museum, so I wanted to tell you a bit more about the displays. I’ve been to this museum quite a few times in the past. They have terrific displays that are really kid-friendly, yet well-liked by adults. There are vast collections of information about Florida’s native people and animals. We couldn’t get enough of the cave and their other exhibits with interactive sound and lighting. They have this really cool one where the crabs are robotic and “dance” around too. I didn’t make the Butterfly Rainforest: Where Science Takes Flight! exhibit though, which was disappointing, because I could spend hours there. You are more than likely going to have an up-close encounter with a butterfly there so bring your camera!

A partial list of their exhibits includes:

Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life & Land

Northwest Florida: Waterways & Wildlife

South Florida People & Environments

Dugout Canoes: Paddling through the Americas | Nov. 13, 2010 – Nov. 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under Family travel

Florida Cattle Ranching and Florida Cowboys exhibit

It’s not too late to catch the cowboy and ranching exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Florida. The exhibits detail both the past and present ways of life of Florida cowboys and ranchers. You’ll learn about their gear, their horses, the materials they work with, and about their daily life. You’ll catch up on the history of this industry and gain a lot of knowledge of Florida’s history in general.

They have fabulous displays of barbed wire, whips, brands, saddles, and more. You can’t beat the awesome photos on display either. It’s a must-see!

Leave a comment

Filed under Family travel