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Whether you’re lucky enough to live here or you’re on vacation, a day exploring one of the kid-friendly museums in Manatee County is a day well spent. Kids will have fun while learning about our beautiful local area and the world we live in.

1. The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature

Explore the past and present through The Bishop Museum’s fascinating exhibits. From the first floor featuring fossils of Florida’s earliest animals to the Digital Full-Dome Planetarium, there’s a lot to see at the largest natural and cultural museum on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

What Kids Will Love About It

What kid doesn’t love a giant Mastodon skeleton? The Mosaic Backyard Universe is all about hands-on exploration for kids and their parents. Say hello to the resident turtles! 

Location: 201 10th Street West in Bradenton. See The Bishop Museum’s website for admission prices and hours.

2. Gamble Plantation Historic State Park

The only surviving plantation house in South Florida as well as the oldest building in Manatee County, The Gamble Plantation Historic State Park features a plantation restored to resemble its original beauty during the mid-1800s. 

What Kids Will Love About It 

The Operation Exploration Kids Geo-Tour takes younger visitors on a mission of finding one of six possible Nature Cards. Sign-up is free at 

Location: 3708 US Highway 301 in EllentonVisit the Gamble Plantation website for hours. Admission is free.

3. Florida Maritime Museum

Discover old Florida through the history of Cortez Fishing Village. Explore the traveling exhibits such as the current attraction, Caught in the Storm, 100 Years of Florida Hurricanes. Permanent exhibits feature an expansive shell collection, ship models, and more.

What Kids Will Love About It 

Kids can explore the inside of a Seminole chickee hut replica; see Florida Maritime Museum’s mascot, Pip the Pelican; and visit the Folk School with hands-on classes teaching traditional Florida maritime skills. 

Location: 4415 119th Street West in Cortez. See the Florida Maritime Museum website for hours. Admission is free.

4. Manatee Village Historical Park

Pick up your self-guided tour map and explore historic buildings from Manatee County’s pioneer days, including a one-room schoolhouse, farmhouse, boathouse, and church.

What Kids Will Love About It 

The first thing kids will notice is the 1913 locomotive. A replica of an old general store houses items most children have never seen. Be prepared for questions! A train-themed playground is in the back corner. 

Location: 1404 Manatee Avenue East in Bradenton. Visit the Manatee Village Historical Park website for hours. Admission is free. 

5. Manatee County Ag Museum

Learn about the history and future of agriculture in Manatee County through artifacts and exhibits. Explore a typical farm shop and garage including a Model 1925 Ford Model T pickup truck.

What Kids Will Love About It 

In the Vegetables and Fruits room, kids can guess which tools are useful to farmers and learn about vegetables that are still grown in Manatee County, like celery and tomatoes. 

Location: 1015 6th Street West in Palmetto. Visit the Manatee County Ag Museum website for hours. Admission is free.

Want to learn more about old Bradenton while getting some exercise? Check out Florida Stories Walk: Old Manatee, Bradenton for a 12-stop walking tour including Manatee Mineral Spring Park and the 1887 church. Learn more at Florida Stories on Cell.


Kelly Stilwell is a local writer and photographer with a focus on travel and food. Visit her website, Food, Fun & Faraway Places, at

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