Chronicling the natural and cultural history of Florida’s Gulf Coast, the South Florida Museum in Florida is one of the largest of its kind. Through its exhibits and educational programs, the museum aims to provide visitors with an understanding of the ecology and history of the area. Visitors can get insights into how Florida went from a land teeming with pre-historic microorganisms to the nation’s third most populous state. The museum includes an aquarium and a planetarium, making it a fun and educational destination for visitors with a variety of interests.


Founded by civic leaders in 1947, the museum originally displayed archeological remains of Florida’s first inhabitants. As its collection of artifacts and exhibits grew, the institution moved to its present location in 1966. That same year the Bishop Planetarium was added to the museum. The planetarium’s mission was to allow visitors a way to connect the past to the emerging realities of space exploration. Later in 1993, the Parker Manatee Aquarium was added.

The Museum Collections

Focusing on natural and cultural history of the area, the South Florida Museum offers visitors an inside look into the Gulf Coast from all angles. The River Heritage Hall displays artifacts and information to do with local maritime history. Through this, visitors gain a deeper understanding of the impact of geography and economics on Florida’s unique culture.

By visiting the Environmental Hall, guests can acquire some background on the ecological history and future of the Gulf Coast. Featuring three exhibits titled Estuary, Riverine, and Pine Uplands, this portion of the permanent collection focuses on promoting awareness of the region’s biodiversity.


Featuring a multimedia theatre for film viewings as well as an educational facility, the Bishop Planetarium is able to offer visitors unforgettable educational experiences. Among these are film screenings, lectures, and digital art as well as live music performances. In 2013, the Bishop Planetarium installed the Digistar 5 dual projection system, which drastically improved its guests’ viewing experience. The theatre’s new and improved equipment gives visitors access to images that are three times brighter and 12 times crisper than before. This innovative technology allows visitors to explore the planet’s oceans, atmosphere, climate, and land by way of more than 200 constantly evolving data sets, which are gathered by satellites. In addition, the theatre at the Bishop Planetarium also has a Dolby 5.1 surround sound system and stadium-style seating, ensuring an immersive viewing experience for its audiences.

One if the planetarium’s most celebrated shows is titled The Dark Universe. This 25-minute-long film was created by the American Museum of Natural History, the Hayden Planetarium, and the Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space. Narrated by renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the film offers exquisite renderings of cosmic phenomena. Through this film, guests can get better acquainted with cutting edge research concerning the mysteries of Jupiter’s atmosphere as well as previously unobservable dark matter.

Rock and roll enthusiasts are sure to flock to the planetarium’s Rock Hall of Fame show. In this 45 minute show, viewers can immerse themselves in the scintillating sounds of such greats as Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, and The Doors. The music emerging from the powerful surround sound speakers is accompanied by an equally impressive computer generated animations projected onto the dome of the theatre.

Those visiting around the holiday season are sure to enjoy the Let it Snow show, which pairs holiday classics sung by Chuck Berry, Frank Sinatra, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with thematic animation and special effects.

The Parker Manatee Aquarium

Holding nearly 60,000 gallons of water, the Parker Manatee Aquarium is designed to house three adult manatees. Visitors to the aquarium can enjoy both above and below water views of the animals. The facility is a Stage Two rehabilitation center for manatees that are arriving from critical care hospitals. Over the course of its existence, the aquarium has provided care for 33 ailing manatees. For this reason, the aquarium includes a medical pool, where the injured animals can receive further care before being released into the wild. Visitors can learn more about manatee nutrition, physiology, and habitat through the presentations delivered by the manatee care specialists at the aquarium.

One of the most notable chapters in the history of the aquarium was that it was home to Snooty, a manatee who had been under the museum’s care since birth and who became the official mascot of Manatee County.

201 10th St. W, Bradenton, FL 3420, Phone: 941-746-4131

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