The Wolfsonian of Florida International University displays an eclectic, singular collection of more than 120,00 North American and European artifacts from 1885 to 1945, all of which demonstrate how design has been influenced by cultural factors. Experience the collection as often as you choose with the unlimited admissions granted by membership. Members also receive invitations to members-only previews, 10% off museum shop purchases, and a variety of other benefits.
Contrary to the belief that Jewish immigrants began populating Florida in the aftermath of World War II, the very first Jewish settlers in the state arrived a bit earlier—almost 200 years earlier, in fact. Spanish-controlled Florida banned all non-Catholic religions, but England's 1763 purchase of the land was followed shortly by the arrival of Alexander Solomons, Joseph de Palacios, and Samuel Israel—and a new heritage was born. Today, the Jewish Museum of Florida – FIU celebrates this rich legacy and its impact within the larger Jewish community with a core exhibit brimming with more than 500 artifacts that span over 250 years.
In "Mosaic: Jewish Life in Florida," visitors will find relics such as a pocket watch owned by the first known Jewish boy born in Florida, a Purim party dress made for the Jacksonville YMHA in 1918 out of Floridian seashells, and the ketubah from the marriage of Margaret Fishler and Joel Fleet in 1940. Family photographs, immigration papers, and travel documents record the rich tradition of immigration, and images from wars dating back to 1815 evince the ongoing role Jewish residents have played in American history. In the building's community section, guests learn about more than 250 mayors, legislators, judges, and activists, including David Levy Yulee, the first Jew elected to Congress and the man who ushered Florida into statehood. Elsewhere in the museum, temporary exhibits might spotlight contemporary Jewish artists, Jewish rituals, or profile a prominent family. The museum is housed within two refurbished synagogues connected by the glass-roofed Bessie's Bistro, which serves snacks in the cheerful spirit of its namesake, Miss America 1945, Bess Myerson.
As they observe the vibrant exhibits of aquatic life inside the Miami Seaquarium, many guests don't realize that they are walking through a movie set and a hospital. In the onsite lagoon, bottlenose dolphins swim through waters once traversed by Flipper, who filmed several television episodes and films at the venue. The Seaquarium is also recognized as a manatee critical care facility. Its staff has accomplished several historic treatments, including monitoring the conception and arrival of the first manatee born under human care and conducting the first manatee neurological surgery.
These facets of the Seaquarium—along with its many conservation efforts, educational programs, and shows—underscore a united commitment to wildlife consciousness. The animal attractions enable visitors to witness the allure and fragility of oceanic fauna up close, whether they are petting the back of a stingray or washing a dress shirt on the rough back of an 8-foot nile crocodile. Special encounters decrease the distance even further, sending patrons on underwater Sea Treks through the reef display or helping them to lead marine-mammal training routines.
It's hard to pinpoint the biggest personality inside the Seaquarium tanks, but Lolita the killer whale—who performs daily alongside pacific white-sided dolphins—claims the title of heaviest, period. On the other end of the scale, macaws and cockatiels perch around the Tropical Wings section of the park, and endangered sea turtles lounge at Discovery Bay. Elsewhere, a watery playground and three-story ropes course keep legs from growing too wobbly after a trip to Shark Channel or a smooch from a sea lion.
Located in the heart of the city, Watson Island sometimes feels like a tropical paradise—complete with a leopard lurking in the undergrowth. Luckily, this jungle cat is safely within the confines of Jungle Island, which has inhabited the isle for more than a decade. And yet the story of this themed park, which houses everything from exotic birds and primates to rare plants and trees, began more than 75 years ago.
Jungle Island got its start in 1936 as Parrot Jungle, a small South Miami roadside attraction where the exotic birds could soar uncaged. In the following decades, the aviary hosted a wide array of noteworthy occupants, including Pinky—a high-wire bicycle-riding cockatoo—and several pink flamingos that appeared in the opening credits of Miami Vice. When Jungle Island's current owners purchased the company in 1988, they introduced new mammals and reptiles—but after Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, they made plans to relocate. They settled on Watson Island, and in 2003, finished construction of the animal habitats and 18 acres of tropical gardens, renaming it Jungle Island.
Jungle Island is currently home to rare white tigers and a white lion, a high-wire bicycle-riding cockatoo, one of the only tame cassowaries in the world, a set of orangutan twins, a rare occurrence. Animal shows and presentations allow visitor to experience Jungle Island's residents in many ways, and a VIP safari tour is available for the very curious. Jungle Island's latest addition is a floating aqua park.
From its humble beginnings in 1949, the Miami Science Museum has expanded into a sprawling facility that includes informative exhibits, the Planetarium, and the Wildlife Center. Many current exhibits teach kids about scientific principles using interactive elements. Visitors literally light up the dance floor at the Energy Tracker exhibit— boogying down helps power neon lights underneath the glass floor. At Moving Things, youngsters can learn about the physics of moving objects by dropping objects of different shapes into flowing water, or they can challenge their spatial reasoning skills by packing blocks into perfect cubes.
The four-story dome at the Planetarium has a daily schedule of stargazing shows. Some of these take audiences on informative expeditions through the solar system and various constellations they might not typically see, such as the elusive Medium Dipper.
The Wildlife Center, meanwhile, is dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of raptors; here, guests can encounter an owl, falcon, and eagle.
Giant toy soldiers clothed in thousands of colored lights wave at passersby as glowing reindeer take off into the dusk. Towering Christmas trees topped with stars glimmer and glisten with blue and green fiber optics. At Santa's Enchanted Forest, one of the world’s largest Christmas-themed amusement parks, holiday spirit and festive music fill the air long before the end of December. Visitors laugh and shriek on a multitude of carnival rides, including whirling swings, bumper cars, tower drops, and roller coasters, whipping through the air until their cheeks are as rosy as old Saint Nick’s. Traditional carnival games are also on hand, such as dart tosses and soccer-ball kicks, to complement more unconventional carnival amusements such as giant plastic balls to roll around in and a rock-climbing wall to scale. Wee visitors, meanwhile, can make the acquaintance of small livestock in a petting zoo or draw a portrait of their favorite goat in royal costume on a wall-size coloring-book mural. Carnival food, such as barbecue, pizza, and cinnamon donuts, fuels guests as they conquer rides or take in the Cats of the World Tiger Show, the Cirque Equinox, or the Sea Lion Splash Spectacular.