Commemorated and Preserved
Manatee County is home to a number of distinct museums, offering patrons an entertaining educational experience. The area's railroad history can be discovered at the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum. The museum also houses displays of antique autos and historical memorabilia. Car enthusiasts can revel in the 60,000-square-foot Sarasota Classic Car Museum, highlighting a collection of more than 100 automobiles representing over 100 manufacturing years.
The South Florida Museum, the state's largest museum of its type, interprets the history of the region through dioramas, exhibits, fossils and a wealth of artifacts that date from the Pleistocene era to today. The museum is also home to the Parker Manatee Aquarium and the area's manatee mascot, Snooty, the oldest living manatee to be born and raised in a protected environment. Bishop Planetarium is part of the Museum as well.
Marine life can also be accessed through the Mote Marine Laboratory, which features a 135,000 gallon shark tank and a number of exhibits including one that provides for a hands-on aquatic experience.
Children and families delight in the interactive fun and education available at the G. WIZ - The Hands-On Science Museum. The modern 33,000 square foot museum is packed with a multitude of permanent and traveling exhibits, as well as an assortment of great programming for children and adults.
Other museums not to be missed include the Family Heritage House Museum, which celebrates the history and cultural achievements of African Americans; the Crosley Museum; and the Manatee County Agricultural Museum, which offers a glimpse into the robust agricultural industry of the county, past and present.
The people of Manatee County take pride in maintaining the area's deep heritage and have established a multitude of preserved historical sites allowing patrons the chance to step back in time. The Madira Bickel Mound State Architectural Site is an ancient Native American site that boasts of successful excavations revealing at least three periods of related culture dating back 2,000 years.
Travel along Hernando DeSoto's original expedition route at the DeSoto National Memorial. Be sure to stop at the Visitor Center to view the 21-minute film on the DeSoto story, as well as numerous artifacts from that specific era.
Local history buffs can learn more about Bradenton's heritage at the Cortez Historic Fishing Village and the Palmetto Historical Park, while Manatee Village Historical Park is the ideal place to visit to gain knowledge on the county's heritage. Such structures as a "Cracker Gothic"-style home, a single-room schoolhouse, a barn and smokehouse and a church dating back to 1889 bring to life the history of Manatee County.
The Gamble Plantation stands as the county's oldest building, dating back to 1884 when Major Robert Gamble constructed the home on this 16-acre park. The plantation was once one of the country's most lucrative sugarcane plantations, and is now the only remaining plantation of its kind in the state.