Museums in Cape Coral

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The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum's colorful exhibits and collection of rare specimens entertain and educate visitors on a wide range of nature's shell-encased organisms. The multi-chambered museum houses about 150,000 lots of mollusks from all over the world and 28 exhibits that give museum goers a glimpse at notable shell collections, fossilized shells from Florida, and humans' use of shells throughout history. Inside the exhibit Calusa: the Original Shell People sits a life-sized statue depicting a father showing his son how to use tools fashioned from scavenged shells. A short walk across the building takes patrons to the Children's Learning Lab, where interactive displays, games, and a live shell tank prove to youngsters that shells don't only exist in mermaids' underwear drawers.

3075 Sanibel Captiva Rd
Sanibel,
FL
US

The Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida traces its origins back to a middle-school classroom exhibit curated by teachers and their students. More than a decade since its opening, the museum’s modest initial exhibit has expanded into a permanent collection of more than 1,000 artifacts and original photos from the Holocaust and World War II, arranged chronologically from Nazism's rise to the Nuremberg Trials. In addition to these historical artifacts—a majority of which have been donated or loaned by local survivors and liberators—the museum regularly hosts special exhibits and tours.

On loan to the Museum from the Nortman Family is a 10-ton railway boxcar from the Holocaust era, which travels to local schools as part of an exhibition known as the Boxcar Transportation & Education Project. Additional educational programs include talks from survivors and liberators, teacher training, and a film lecture series.

4760 Tamiami Trl N
Naples,
FL
US

At Crowley Museum and Nature Center, a pioneer museum set up like a general store, historic structures, and a sugar-cane mill depict a Florida homestead as it would have existed between 1850 and 1920. At the heart of the homestead is the Tatum-Rawls House, which was built as a single-story house between 1888 and 1892, and is the oldest example of rural architecture in Florida. Over time, it was expanded to accommodate the Tatum clan, by the addition of a second floor, consisting of William Tatum and his wife and eight children, and was recently restored to its original glory with a wide front porch. Elsewhere on the 185-acre expanse, the Crowley Farm continues to pluck away at the land with pigs, cows, and a horse named Sugar who pulls the cane press to make the juice that is later boiled to syrup crystals. Boardwalks and nature trails traverse the delicate swamp, flat woods, and Tatum Sawgrass marsh that contain a variety of wildlife species including white pelicans, swallowtail kites, and eagles.

16405 Myakka Rd
Sarasota,
FL
US

Florida has long been a source of fascination for scientists and explorers, who have searched the Sunshine State for everything from fossilized mammals to gold. The state's natural riches are rivaled only by the cultures that have sprung up around them, and both are on full display at South Florida Museum.

The museum's first floor starts at the very beginning, with fossil evidence of Florida's earliest marine and mammal inhabitants. These fossils eventually make way for archaeological material from cultures that predate European contact. Special exhibits often fill out the museum with unique artifacts ranging from prehistoric artifacts to Penny Hardaway's fossilized high tops. As if that weren't enough, the museum also shares a campus with the Bishop Planetarium and the Parker Manatee Aquarium, where guests can observe and learn about the beloved sea cow. And the museum is also home to Snooty, the world's oldest known manatee.

201 10th St W
Bradenton,
FL
US

The Experience

Inside a building in St. Petersburg, works of art from around the world gather like good friends. Georgia O'Keeffe's Poppy hangs not far from Paul Cézanne's A Corner of the Woods, Pointoise. Claude Monet's Houses of Parliament gives a glimpse of faraway lands, while Thomas Moran's Florida Landscape stays closer to home.

With a range of permanent and rotating exhibitions, the Museum of Fine Arts seeks to engage visitors with art while preserving the pieces in its care. Much of the collection resides in an original 1960s building, but an adjacent modern gallery draws in visitors with special exhibitions, an art library, and interactive educational facilities—ensuring they have plenty of ways to experience art or at least overcome a fear of informational plaques.

The Highlights

  • Permanent collection houses pieces from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, as well as classical and modern American art
  • Daily events include docent-led tours, hands-on workshops, classical concerts, and lectures
  • MFA Café overlooks the waterfront

Who They Are

Even before the Museum of Fine Arts opened to the public in 1965, founder Margaret Acheson Stuart saw its galleries as a space where diverse audiences could explore art "from antiquity to the present." Architect John Volk had designed the original museum wing to instill visitors with a feeling of solidness and permanence. Decades later, the museum sought to expand, and conducted a nationwide search for a worthy architect. They were rewarded with designer Yann Weymouth, who completed a second building in 2008—a two-story, modern glass conservatory.

255 Beach Dr NE
Saint Petersburg,
FL
US

Since opening in 1987, Great Explorations Children's Museum has sparked a love for learning for visitors of all ages with a constantly rotating lineup of interactive exhibits that fill 18,000 square feet with touch, light, and sound. Whether they're learning about nearby sea life at Beth's Beach, honing their knowledge of textures on a crawl through the Touch Tunnel, or exploring arachnids in the Critter Cave, kids benefit from each exhibit's emphasis on interactivity. Visitors can find friendly professionals and their orange polo shirts bouncing between exhibits while performing science experiments, dancing, and playing music.

In addition to visiting the museum's permanent exhibits, kids can also take extend their learning journeys through the museum's lengthy list of camps and programs. The museum even takes its show on the road, with the Express Yourself Art Mobile bringing creative craft opportunities to neighborhoods around St. Petersburg.

1925 4th St N
Saint Petersburg,
FL
US