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Friday, August 29, 2014

Fun with a Little Education on the Side - The Florida Museum of Natural History

Dinosaurs at the FloridaMuseum of Natural History
Dinosaur Exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History
While Gainesville, Florida may be best known as the home of the Florida Gators, there are much older reptiles to be found at the University of Florida - Dinosaurs! Well, technically they are dinosaur skeletons, but they are just as cool to look at!

Obviously, dinosaur fossils are not the only thing you will encounter at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Various permanent and temporary exhibits exist that delve into the state of Florida's historical inhabitants - both animal and human. The museum includes permanent exhibits on Florida fossils, waterways and animals of Florida, a Florida people and cultures exhibit as well as an area devoted entirely to energy and the environment - something very important to the Florida region.

Perhaps the most popular thing at the Florida Museum of Natural History is the rainforest and butterfly garden. Children and adults, alike, love seeing all of the beautiful butterflies flitting about
Butterfly at the Florida Museum of Natural History
Butterflies at the Museum's Rainforest
and letting them land on them. The kids are absolutely thrilled by the resource room, too. It has all sorts of interactive exhibits that children can touch, play and interact with.

Quite often on the weekends, local science teachers and university professors give free guided tours of the place. If you're lucky enough to visit when that happens, definitely take advantage of it - and don't be shy about asking questions; they love to answer them!

A little under a two hour drive from Orlando, The Florida Museum of Natural History is housed in three different buildings on the campus of Florida University with an additional research facility in Pine Island, Florida - near Fort Myers. Only two of the museum's buildings are open to the public in Gainesville - Powell Hall, which houses the main exhibits and McGuire Hall, which is the world’s largest center devoted to Lepidoptera collections-based research and education, as well as a living butterfly vivarium.

Admission to the public is free for the museum but there is an extra charge to visit the butterflies in the rainforest and various temporary exhibits, such as the one currently appearing - "Wolf to Woof," the evolution of dogs from wolves - sometimes charge a little extra for admission, as well.

If you've done all there is to do in the Orlando area or just happen to be heading up to Gainesville for a Gators game, it's definitely worth your while to stop by the Florida Museum of Natural History. Not huge, most folks cover it in 2-3 hours but some say they could spend all day there. Few things in Florida have a better rating from Trip Advisor and why not? The museum has a little bit of something for everyone and you sure can't beat the price!

You may not believe it, but you'll likely have to drag your kids out of this place. Who knew education could be so fun?

Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "Most of us spend too much time on the last twenty-four hours and too little on the last six thousand years." - Will Durant

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