Kids learn with all five of their senses—that's literally what puts the V in the name of Explorations V Children's Museum. Spread across three floors, the museum brims with hands-on activities in a range of permanent exhibits. And the organization's interactive approach to learning has helped it earn accolades, such as a grant from Disney's Helping Kids Shine award program.
On the lower floor, an exhibit charting the journey of the Florida orange begins with local history and ends with a look at global ecosystems. On the first floor, the exhibit Marvelous Me! teaches about the human body with an interactive skeleton and memory tests; Water Matters teaches water conservation with interactive stations. At the top of the museum, check out the temporary exhibits and the Dragon of Toys, a colorful sculpture of plastic trinkets. It's also here that instructors conduct daily programs ranging from open art studio sessions to nutritional cooking classes.
Though the creatures on display at Dinosaur World don’t need much space to roam, plenty of care has been taken to furnish them a comfortable habitat. They peer imposingly from the hillsides of Kentucky, crane their necks up through native trees, and stomp through prairie fields. Although a life-size mammoth or T. rex might be hard to miss, little visitors might still jump with delight at noticing a baby dino suddenly appear from behind a bush. Giant brachiosaurus necks arch high above treetops, while toothy meat-eaters and spiny stegosauruses roam the world below. The fiberglass, steel, and concrete models reach up to 80 feet in length, and are built according to the latest scientific discoveries about what dinosaurs looked like and what styles were trendy in the Mesozoic era.
The first Dinosaur World location was a former alligator farm in Florida and five years later another one was opened in Kentucky. As Swedish-born Christer Svensson began to fill it with statues, he consulted with experts around the world to not only create realistic reptiles but to surround them with fun, educational activities. Kids can sift through sand to find shark’s teeth, gastropod shells, and trilobites in a fossil dig, get to know some lizards a little better on the playground, or examine ancient eggs and raptor claws in the museum.
Once the balmy winter retreat of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, the Edison & Ford Winter Estates now lets visitors roam through 20 acres of gorgeous gardens, historical buildings, and fascinating scientific exhibits. In the course of an hour, a fact-filled science sherpa will lead groups through the environment that incubated some of America's greatest inventions, including the light bulb, the modern automobile, and the fruit tree. Hands-on exhibits spark wide-eyed excitement in adults and offspring and grand-offspring alike as they hear the ghostly sounds of an original phonograph, pick up a short shift on a Model T assembly line, or create a bouncy, stretchable polymer to take home and use to cover the sinkhole in the kitchen. Finally, each party will be set loose with an orientation session, map, and self-guided audio tour to explore the entirety of both homes, the gardens, and the Edison Botanic Research Laboratory at its own pace.
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.
Almost 70 years ago, the first U.S. Navy frogmen began underwater demolitions training in the waters around Fort Pierce. Commissioned through an act of Congress and the signature of the president, the National Navy UDT–SEAL Museum now stands where these first training sessions began and documents the evolution of the first volunteers into today's Navy SEALs. Exhibits honor the predecessors to the SEAL program and display artifacts and equipment from combat, including Apollo training vehicles, a Vietnam-era ”Huey” helicopter, and the SEALs' unique water vehicles powered by hardworking seahorses. Also on display are all 10,000 pounds of the fiberglass lifeboat from the 2009 hostage rescue of Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama following its hijacking by Somalian pirates. Visitors can also view WWII training obstacles rescued from the ocean floor or take in the names of fallen heroes as they walk on memorial bricks donated by the friends and family of former SEALs. In addition to documenting and honoring past soldiers, the National Navy UTD–SEAL Museum also reaches out to living veterans through their reunions and their partnership with the Wheelchairs for Warriors program.