A few weeks ago, the family and I packed up and decided to head to Gainesville to see some friends. We were fortunate enough to check out Mill Creek, but when the weather took a turn for the worst, we were in search of an indoor family friendly entertainment option. Thankfully we were with a group of local folks and they knew of just the place: The Florida Museum of Natural History! Located right on the university of Florida campus, this museum was indoors, offered free parking on the weekends, and the best of all: It was FREE!
We didn’t just go to the Florida Museum of Natural History on a free entry day or anything, it’s FREE al the time. With no out of pocket expenses this seemed like a great way to spend a wet afternoon. Never having been there before we didn’t quite know what to expect. I was a bit confused as we went inside, as there was a ticket counter and you could purchase tickets. The Florida Museum of Natural History is a rather large location and features traveling exhibits as well as a Butterfly Rainforest. These exhibits do charge for admission but they are optional.
The first area we checked out was a small kids area called the Discovery Center. Remember, this isn’t a kid’s museum so to speak, but there were some great hands on things for the little ones in our group to check out. In fact, it seemed each exhibit area had something that the little ones could get into. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I tend to think it was very well thought out by the Florida Museum of Natural History. My little guy loves to open drawers and he was in heaven checking out lots of stuff in the bone drawers. Don’t worry, it’s all on lockdown! In addition he was able to check out how parachutes work and even got hands on with a fake alligator.. Fitting since it’s UF!
The natural exhibit flow of the Florida Museum of Natural History takes you though time starting in the ancient past where you can learn about the Native American population of the area and see how they lived. These were very well done displays and included some very life-like mannequins. I thought my lithe guy would be freaked out but he seemed to take it in stride. There was a walk in display where there was thunder and lightning which did get to him a bit, but overall he still seemed to be having a great time.
Since we were visiting the Florida Museum of NATURAL History, there was certainly an emphasis on the natural part. If you follow my posts, you know we are quickly becoming an outdoor loving family. What we found amazing was that great attention was paid to subtle details. Many of the displays are designed to make you feel like you are in the middle of a natural setting such as a slat marsh or swamp. Small details such as surround sounds of animals and insects were pretty cool to experience. This is especially true if you have experience them in the real outdoors. If you spend enough time there, you might actually forget you are indoors! Well, I suppose the cool air conditioning could reminder you, but you get my point.
In one of the most amazing exhibits, there were examples, and in some cases specimens of actual extinct animals. It was pretty impressive to see how the animals of our Florida past have evolved. My favorite was a display of what appeared to be a gigantic armadillo! The darned thing was the size of a Volkswaggon! All of the kids in our group really seemed to enjoy this. In some of the museums that we visit, the text explanations are written at almost a college level, but these were easy to understand, illustrated, and some of the older kids were enjoying reading them to the younger ones.
Remember I told you that the Florida Museum of Natural History features a Butterfly Rainforest? Although this is a separate admission charge, you can still enjoy some entomology with the family. Right before you get to the rainforest, you can get face to face with many of the beautiful specimens that have been collected, butterflies and bugs alike! Once you get to the entrance, you can still enjoy checking out the caterpillars as they an in their cocoons. It was pretty cool to see all the difference varieties and patterns that you may not get to see throughout your neighborhood. The butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History is reasonably priced at $6 for kids, and $9 for Florida adult residents, students, and seniors. If you have school aged children who have good grade in science, (either E or A) they get free admission to the Butterfly Rainforest with a paid adult admission. If you really would like to checkout the Butterfly Rainforest, you can apply for a scholarship of sorts. There is an application process and if you can prove financial need and provide documentation you may be granted free admission as well. Check their website for an email link and they will email you an application. You need to file this at least two weeks prior to your anticipated visit, but if you’re really in need this is a great program.
The Florida Museum of Natural History again is a FREE place to explore and spend time with your family. Kids of all ages should find something to enjoy so please consider making a donation on your way out. The suggested donation is $6 for adults and $4 for children. We thought it was a pretty good family value so we dropped a few dollars into the donation bin. We had a great time and look forward to a return trip to the Florida Museum of Natural History to see the butterflies when our little guy gets older.
Florida Museum of Natural History Details:
|Date(s):||M-Su||Time(s):||M-Sa 10am-5pm / Sun 1-5pm|
|Address:||3215 Hull Road Gainesville Fl 32611-2710|
|FREE||FREE$9 Butterfly||FREE$6 Butterfly||FREE||N.A.||N.A.|
|Estimated Cost For A Family of 4:||FREE|