The earliest history museums had little actual history to draw on, and instead padded exhibits with wildly speculative displays about how dinosaurs would be elected to Congress by the year 2000. See how far we've come with today's Groupon: for $25, you get a family four-pack of admissions to the Butterfly Rainforest and Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway exhibits at Florida Museum of Natural History (up to a $52 value).
The Florida Museum of Natural History enriches minds with rotating and permanent exhibits that invite visitors to explore the multifarious natural world. In the Butterfly Rainforest, families trek through a 6,400-square-foot outdoor enclosure rife with waterfalls, tropical plants, and hundreds of vibrant butterflies. Stations throughout the exhibit pepper minds with edifying tidbits on butterfly behaviors, explaining how a butterfly flapping its wings in Florida can lower the production budget for Twister 2 in California. The newly opened Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway exhibit features thirty prehistoric fossils, including complete skeleton casts of a Triceratops and an Albertosaurus, the first dinosaur to posit the theory of relativity. Visitors glean insights into the aesthetic of the dinosaur world through large-scale murals and observe scientists preparing fossils in a functioning paleontology lab.
Florida Museum of Natural History
Standing still in a cloud of free-flying butterflies, exploring the depths of a limestone cave, and gazing at the 14-foot bones of a 16,000-year-old Columbian mammoth skeleton—visitors can do all of this in just one afternoon at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Since starting in 1891 as a professor’s teaching collection of fossils, minerals, and human anatomy models, the museum has transformed into the home of more than 40 million specimens, creating a library of life that features one of the world’s largest collections of butterflies and moths.
Reflecting the museum’s impressive collection of winged beauties, some of its exhibits focus on the butterflies and moths that, unlike humans, can survive long flights without eating a single package of peanuts. At the Butterfly Rainforest, more than 1,000 butterflies from 60 to 80 species take to the air among tropical trees, orchids, bromeliads, and waterfalls cascading into a pond that bustles with fish and turtles. Feeding stations with freshly cut fruit dot the 6,400-square-foot screened enclosure, letting guests get up close as the butterflies feast. Live butterfly releases daily at 2 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. let onlookers watch them fly into an outdoor butterfly rainforest, and among the indoor butterfly exhibits, curious audiences can peer into a rearing lab where staff unpack and sort newly arrived pupae.
Rounding out the museum’s focus on Floridian biosystems, the Northwest Florida: Waterways & Wildlife exhibit invites visitors to wander through a full-scale recreation of a hammock forest, and the South Florida exhibit takes guests down the peninsula with a mangrove boardwalk and a palm-thatched Calusa leader’s house. The museum's internationally acclaimed fossil collection includes highlights such as "shark jaw row," extinction dioramas, and full skeletal mounts and sculptures. Meanwhile, outside, petals unfurl in the wildflower and butterfly garden.
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SW 34th St. and Hull Rd.
Gainesville, Florida 32611