ATTRACTIONS: Places for thrills, chills and enlightenment

Area attractions run on a rotating basis as space allows.


Braden Castle Village: One Office Drive, 27th Street East and Manatee Avenue, Bradenton

The castle was once the heart of a rambling sugar plantation built by Joseph Addison Braden and his brother Hector in the 1840s. The ruins can still be seen in Braden Castle Park. Admission: free. Information: 746-7700.

Cypress House Military Museum: Palmetto Historical Park, 515 10th Ave. W., Palmetto

The Cypress House Military Museum contains military artifacts and local veterans’ war memorabilia. Hours: 10 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and the first and third Saturdays of every month. Admission: free. Information: 723-4991.

DeSoto National Memorial: North end of 75th Street West

The park includes a half-mile, self-guided nature trail that winds through a display of native plants. Admission is free. Hours: 9 a.m.-5p.m. daily at the visitors center. Park grounds are open from sunrise to sunset. Information: 792-0458.

The Ellenton Ice and Inline Sports Complex: 5309 29th St. E., Ellenton (just north of Prime Outlet Mall)

A 115,000-square-foot facility featuring two NHL-size ice rinks and one USA Hockey inline rink, with seating for 500 spectators per rink. Figure skating, ice hockey and inline hockey. Indoor paintball now offered. Beginner programs for all ages. Public ice and inline skating sessions: admission $7, $5 seniors 55 and older, free for children 3 and younger; skate rental $3. Information: 723-3663.

Felts Audubon Preserve: 4600 24th Ave. E., Palmetto

The Felts Preserve, owned and operated by the Manatee County Audubon Society, is open 8 a.m.-noon the first Saturday of every month. Come watch birds from the bird blind. Hike natural paths to view native flora and fauna. Parking is inside the fence. An Audubon Society member will be on hand to answer questions. Admission: free. Information: 729-2222.

Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez: Cortez Road and 119th Street West, Cortez

The museum houses exhibits including replicas of ships, a Navy uniform, handmade mullet net and a Native American canoe that could seat a large family. The museum complex consists of the newly restored 1912 Cortez Schoolhouse and the 1895-era Burto/Bratton store, which housed the community’s first post office, and will now be home to the Cortez Family Life Museum along with the museum offices. The museum store is open for sales of books and shirts, and docents are being scheduled. Call Jeff Moates to volunteer, at 708-6120. Hours: 9 a.m.-4:30p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Information: 708-6120.

Florida Railroad Museum: 12355 U.S. 301 N., Parrish

Enjoy a 1950s train excursion featuring air-conditioned lounge cars, cabooses and open-window coaches. The round trip to Willow lasts 75 minutes. Trains depart from 83rd Street and U.S. 301 at 11a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Fare: $12 adults, $8 children ages 3-11. Tickets must be purchased at the office. Information: (877) 869-0800 or www.FGCRRM.org.

Gamble Plantation: 3708 Patten Ave., Ellenton

The 1850s antebellum mansion is open for guided tours at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. and hourly 1-4 p.m. Thursday-Monday. Learn about the challenges of living on a 19th century Florida frontier sugar plantation. No tours Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Admission: $5 adults, $3 ages 6-12, free for children younger than age 6. The park grounds are open 8 a.m.-sundown daily. Information: 723-4536.

Manatee Village Historical Park: 1404 Manatee Ave. E., Bradenton

Come explore what life was like for the early pioneers of Manatee County. Park buildings include a chapel, a general store, a “cracker” house and the first courthouse in Manatee County. Hours: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and the second and fourth Saturday of each month. Admission is free; complimentary guided tours by request. Information: 749-7165.

Mixon Fruit Farms: 2712 26th Ave. E., Bradenton

Mixon Fruit Farms offers more than just oranges. Ride the Orange Blossom Express Tram through the grove 11 a.m., 1 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Cost is $7 adults, $3 children. You’ll travel past the Gazebo Oasis, wetlands and make a stop at the Justin Matthews Wildlife Preserve. The gift shop has plenty of great gifts and gourmet items. Mixon’s Deli offers salads, sandwiches, soups and bakery goods. Hours: Summer hours are 10a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays and July 4.Information: 748-5829 or www.mixon.com.

Palmetto Historical Park: 515 10th Ave. W., Palmetto

The Manatee County Agricultural Museum, within the Palmetto Historical Park, features commodities, equipment and photographs that reflect the rich agricultural heritage of Manatee County. Site includes the Carnegie Library (built in 1914), Palmetto’s first post office (built in 1880), one-room schoolhouse (built about 1920), Cottage House Museum (built about 1913) and a Heritage Chapel (built in 1999). Park hours: 10a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and the first and third Saturdays of every month. Guided tours are available by request. Admission is free. Information: 723-4991.

South Florida Museum: 201 10th St. W.

Bishop Planetarium: Shows include “Infinity Express,” “Secret of the Cardboard Rocket” and “Cosmix II: Inner Landscapes, Outer Spaces.” A state-of-the-science, all-digital full dome planetarium/theater features astronomy presentations, sound and light shows, and wide-screen large format programming. Check Web site for show schedules and ticket prices. Tallant Collection, Land of Change, Archaic Man, new dioramas, Ice Age skeletons and more. The Great Hall houses a 19-foot-tall mastodon discovered in the Aucilla River. The Spanish Plaza features replicas of a 16th-century chapel, manor house and typical village home. Parker Manatee Aquarium: See Snooty in the museum’s 60,000-gallon, multilevel manatee aquatic refuge. Admission (museum, aquarium and planetarium): $15.95 adults, $13.95 senior citizens, $11.95 ages 4-12, free for children 3 and younger with adult. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5p.m. Sundays. On the first Saturday of each month the complex will be open until 9 p.m. Information: 746-4131 or www.southfloridamuseum.org.

Village of the Arts: Between 14th and Ninth streets west, south of Ninth Avenue, to 17th Avenue West, Bradenton

The village features more than 40 galleries and studios exhibiting all forms of art from cookies, jams and pizza to ceramics, jewelry, paintings, photos, sculptures and more. Art walks are held the first Friday and Saturday of each month. Most galleries are open each Friday and Saturday. The streets come alive with art lovers and shoppers visiting 1920s-style bungalows that showcase an eclectic mix of artwork. Information: www.villageofthearts.com.


Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary: 7101 Palmer Blvd.

A safe haven for exotic cats, bears and native wildlife, the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary provides educational programs to the public about the animals and encourages their appreciation. The habitat now includes fun and enlightening educational demonstrations at 1:30 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are required. A minimum donation of $12 per adult, $10 per senior/military and $5 per child is requested. No charge for active military. Information: 371-6377 or visit www.bigcathabitat.org.

Crowley Museum and Nature Center: 16405 Myakka Road

Self-guided tours on regular basis include Pioneer History Museum, a boardwalk through 2,000 feet of swamp and an observation tower. Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday; 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays. Admission: $7, $3 for children ages 5-12 and free for children younger than 5. Information: 322-1000 or www.cmncfl.org.

G.WIZ: The Hands-On Science Museum: 1001 Boulevard of the Arts

Saturday Happenings, 11a.m.. Call for ticket price information: 309-4949, ext. 102. G.WIZ, the Gulfcoast Wonder and Imagination Zone, is a hands-on science museum with more than 85 interactive science exhibits. The museum presents “The Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci” through Sept. 7. The exhibit explores da Vinci’s scientific and technical drawings that have captured the imagination for centuries. The exhibit includes the flying machine, helicopter, parachute, printing press and odometer. Admission for the da Vinci museum, which includes admission to G.WIZ, is $16 for adults, $14 for seniors, $11 for children ages 3-18. Children younger than 3 are admitted free. For a full list of the monthly activities, call the museum. Admission: $9 adults, $8 seniors 65 and older, $6 children ages 3-18. Children younger than 3 are admitted free. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Information: 309-4949 or visit www.gwiz.org.

Historic Spanish Point: 337 N. Tamiami Trail, Osprey

Historic Spanish Point is a 30-acre archaeological, environmental and historical museum on Little Sarasota Bay in Osprey that connects you with 5,000 years of human history in southwest coastal Florida. 2007 marks the museum’s 25th anniversary open to the public. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday with guided tours at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Tram tours are available at 1:30 p.m. for an additional $2. Sunday hours are noon-5 p.m., with guided tours at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. (no tram Sunday). Admission is $9 adults, $8 seniors or Florida residents, $3 children ages 6-12. Members admitted free. Information: www.historicspanishpoint.org or (941) 966-5214.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens: 811 S. Palm Ave.

Discover an open-air and under-glass museum of more than 20,000 tropical plants, including a living collection of more than 6,000 orchids, in this 81/2-acre botanical garden on Sarasota Bay. Botanical art and photography exhibits in the mansion. Garden and museum hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission: $17 adults, $6 children ages 6-11, free for children younger than 5 and for garden members. Information: 366-5731, ext. 221, or visit Web site www.selby.org.

Mote Aquarium: 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, City Island

Displays at the aquarium spotlight the work of Mote scientists and encourage people to appreciate local marine life. Exhibits include two manatees, Hugh and Buffett, sea turtles, a 135,000-gallon shark tank, touch pool and giant squid specimen, “Molly Mollusk.” Hours: 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. daily. Admission: $17 adults; $16 seniors older than age 65; $12 children ages 4-12; children age 4 and younger and Mote Marine members are admitted free. Information: 388-2451.

Myakka River State Park: 13207 S.R. 72

Myakka River State Park has made its famous Birdwalk viewing area even more wheelchair friendly, and nature lovers can enjoy the beautiful nature views they could not before. The Bird Interpreters program, 9a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday. Volunteer bird interpreters will be stationed at bird-viewing locations, where they will share their spotting scopes, field guides and knowledge with visitors. Admission: $5 park entrance fee per vehicle.

Sarasota Classic Car Museum: 5500 N. Tamiami Trail (corner of U.S. 41 and University Parkway)

Home to the nation’s third-oldest automotive museum, the museum exhibits a world-class collection of more than 75 vehicles depicting the evolution of automotive history over the past 100 years. The museum is also home to “Circus King” John Ringling’s Automotive Collection, John Lennon’s Mercedes Roadster, a DeLorean “Back to the Future” car and a 1947 Triumph. Hours: 9a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Admission: $8.50 adults, $7.50 seniors, $6.50 ages 6-12, free children ages 5 and under. Information: 355-6228 or www.SarasotaCarMuseum.org.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens: 3701 Bay Shore Road

Ten acres of beautiful gardens and nature trails make this tropical adventure a perfect setting for leisurely strolls and great picture taking. This true Florida jungle features flowers and shrubs from all over the world. Seven educational and exciting bird, mammal and reptile shows daily. Visit the gift shop, Kiddie Jungle and Flamingo Café. Hours: Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Admission: Adults $14; Seniors $13; $10 children ages 3-12 and children age 2 and younger admitted free. Information: 355-5305 or visit www.sarasotajunglegardens.com.


BayWalk: Second Avenue North, between First and Second streets

This block-long complex offers movies, dining, shopping, theater and live entertainment, inside and out. Swing and Latin dancing, 8-11 p.m. Tuesdays in outdoor plaza area, (lessons 8-8:30 p.m.). Shows are 5:30-9:30 p.m. Admission: free. Information: (727) 895-8558 or (727) 895-9277.

Boyd Hill Nature Park: 1101 S. Country Club Way

An interpretive tram tour takes visitors through a variety of eco-systems at 1 p.m. daily; $1 plus admission. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission: $2 adults; $1 children. Information: Hermann Trappman, (727) 893-7326.

Great Explorations Hands-on Museum: 1925 Fourth Ave. N.

Great Explorations offers special museum shows suitable for children age 6 and older. Hours: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Information: (727) 821-8992.

The Pier: 800 Second Ave. N.E.

Shopping and entertainment along the pier daily. Hours: 10 a.m.-8p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10a.m.-9p.m. Friday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. Aquarium hours: 10 a.m.-8p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Aquarium admission: $5, $4 for students ages 7 and older and seniors 65 and older. Children ages 6 and younger are admitted free. Admission is $2.50 for everyone noon-6 p.m. Sundays. Information: (727) 821-6443.

Pinellas Pioneer Settlement: 2900 31st St. S.

Continuous exhibits and demonstrations include antique flywheel engines and tractors, model table with air hook-ups, hayrides, unique machinery and equipment, a swap meet and an operational 1920s sawmill. Information: (727) 866-6401.

St. Petersburg Museum of History: 335 Second Ave. N.E.

Five themed exhibit areas take visitors on a journey through St. Petersburg and the Pinellas peninsula, from prehistoric times to the present. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Information: (727) 894-1052.

Science Center of Pinellas: 7701 22nd Ave. N.

The center features a hands-on marine touch tank, wetlands exhibit, 30 species of live mammals, birds and reptiles, a 16th century Indian village, an African-American scientists and inventors exhibit and other science-related activities. The Spirit of Columbia Theater and Planetarium, Carol Samuels Observatory and Laser Odyssey Theater shows are included with Saturday admissions only. Planetarium shows: 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays. Laser show: 1:30p.m. Saturdays. Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday; $1 (self-guided tour only). 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays; $5 includes shows. Information: (727) 384-0027 or www.sciencecenterofpinellas.com.

Sunken Gardens: 1825 Fourth St. N.

Come explore the gardens in the heart of St. Petersburg. Hours: 10a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-4:30 p.m. Sundays. Admission: $7 adults, $5 seniors (62 and older), $3 children. Information: (727) 551-3100.


Busch Gardens: 3000 Busch Blvd.

Busch Gardens is a 335-acre African-themed family entertainment park featuring a combination of thrill rides, live entertainment and one of the country’s premier zoos, open 365 days a year. Set in the Congo area, the 4-acre attraction Jungala will invite guests to discover exotic creatures, explore a village hidden deep in the jungle and connect with the inhabitants through up-close animal interactions, multistory family play areas, rides and entertainment. Adventure Island, a 30-acre water park, is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Call for admission prices. Information: (813) 987-5280 or www.buschgardens.com.

The Florida Aquarium: 701 Channelside Drive

Special event: “Explore-A-Shore,” a 2.2-acre outdoor aquatic discovery zone for kids that features sea life models, live animals and a water slide. A 24-foot pirate ship allows kids to fire water cannons from the deck, climb across cargo nets, view a shipwreck through a telescope and follow a map to buried treasure. Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Tickets: $17.95 adults, $14.95 seniors age 50 and older, $12.95 children ages 3-11, children younger than age 3 admitted free. Information: (813) 273-4000 or www.flaquarium.org.

Lowry Park Zoo: 1101 W. Sligh Ave.

Lowry Park Zoo features more than 2,000 animals on 56 acres of natural habitats in seven main exhibit areas: Asian Gardens, Primate World, Manatee and Aquatic Center, Florida Wildlife Center, Free-Flight Aviary, Wallaroo Station children’s zoo and Safari Africa. Also at the zoo: water play areas, rides, educational shows and restaurants. Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Regular admission prices: $18.95 adults, $17.95 seniors (60-plus) $14.50 children ages 3-11. Parking is free. Information: LowryParkZoo.com or (813) 935-8552.

Museum of Science and Industry: 4801 E. Fowler Ave.

“Body Worlds & The Story of the Heart”: tickets $25.95 for adults, $19.95 for children 2-12, $22.45 for seniors 60 and older; MOSI members $16 adults, $12 children and $13.50 seniors; Body Worlds After Hours (5-9 p.m.) $18.95 adults, $14.95 children and $16.45 seniors. The Saunders Planetarium features a new GOTO Space Simulator Chronos projection system that can display the sky in any time — past, present and future — within 20 seconds or less. MOSI, a nonprofit educational institution, is the largest science center in the southeastern United States and home of the only IMAX Dome Theater in Florida. Visit www.mosi.org for show times. Free telescope viewing is offered Saturdays after sunset, weather permitting. Museum is wheelchair accessible. MOSI admission: $23.95 adults; $21.95 seniors; $19.95 children ages 2-12; children younger than 2 admitted free. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Parking is free. Information: (800) 995-MOSI or www.mosi.org.

Tampa Bay Ghost Tours: Various locations

Tampa Bay Ghost tours gives visitors a one-of-a-kind opportunity to visit the area’s most notable haunts and happenings. Each tour lasts one and a half hours; days and times vary between locations. Tours are the “Maritime Mysteries and Pirates of the Pass” tour at Hubbard’s Marina in John’s Pass, “Haunted Halls and Horrifying Hermits” at St. Petersburg Beach, “Gulfport Guy and Ghouls” in Gulfport, and the “Dark Side of the Sunshine City” in St. Petersburg. Admission: $14 Adults, $10 children 11 and younger. Information: (727) 398-5200 or www.allthebesthaunts.com.

Ybor City State Museum: 1818 Ninth Ave.

The museum depicts the cultural, political and social influences that formed Ybor City. Guided tours, by appointment, of a cigar worker’s cottage, adjacent to the museum, show a slice of life in Tampa’s Latin quarter in the early 20th century. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission: $2 a person 6 and older. Information: (813) 247-6323.