MUSEUMS IN FLORIDA

By  Mike Miller  Updated August 25, 2022

There are museums in Florida for just about any interest you might have.

From fine Tiffany art to the bizarre collections in a Believe it or Not museum, you name it and it is probably somewhere in the state. 

Ripley's Odditorium, St. AugustineRipley's Odditorium, St. Augustine

Museums range from the serious, such as the state museums of history and natural history, to the sports themed and the automobile-oriented museums, to some of the most interesting artifacts in Florida such as recovered buried Spanish treasure.

For a relatively young state, Florida has museums for many different interests. Here are some of them. 

Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, Winter Park
Cade Museum for Creativity & Invention, Gainesville
Dali Museum, St. Petersburg
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, Ocala
Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers
Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville
History Miami Museum, Miami
Jacksonville Museum of Science and History, Jacksonville
John Gorrie State Museum, Apalachicola
McLarty Treasure Museum, Vero Beach
Morse Museum, Winter Park
Museum of Florida History, Tallahassee
National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum, Fort Pierce
Orange County Regional History Center, Orlando
Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Museum, St. Augustine
The Lightner Museum, St. Augustine
The Revs Institute, Naples
National Comedy Hall of Fame, New Port Richey



Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens
633 Osceola Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789
Tel: 407-647-6294

Albin Polasek (1879-1965) was one of America’s foremost sculptors.  He retired to Winter Park in 1950 and designed his home with a functioning sculpture studio. 

A few months after retirement, he suffered a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair. 

He was still able to complete 18 major works here before he died.  In 1961 his home and gallery were first opened to the public. 

This is the most comprehensive collection of his works.  One of the best things to enjoy here are the sculpture gardens.

They are colorful and lush with many native Florida and subtropical plants and various sculptures.    


Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention
811 S. Main Street
Gainesville, FL 32601
Tel: 352-371-8001

This museum hopes to transform communities by inspiring future visionaries, inventors, and entrepreneurs.  It is named for Dr. James Robert Cade, the inventor f the popular drink Gatorade.

The museum opened in 2018 and thousands of visitors have enjoyed its unusual hands-on programs for kids to help spark their imaginations and inspire their creative impulses.

The Cade’s programs also help provide access to the innovation economy for low-income families and others needing assistance to access education and begin a career.

The museum has many exhibits that are changed frequently, and have opportunities for trying new experiments 



Dali Museum
One Dali Boulevard
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Tel: 727-823-3767

This is one of the most impressive art museums in Florida.  It is a great place to marvel at the genius and versatility of the great artist, Salvador Dali.

The museum's modern architecture reflects the artist's creative vision, and is loaded with paintings, sculptures, and unique exhibits.

It is located in downtown St. Petersburg



Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing
13700 SW 16th Avenue
Ocala, Florida 34473. 
Tel: 352-245-8661


If you love drag racing, this is the perfect place for you to visit.

”Big Daddy” Don Garlits is a legend in the world of drag racing.  His series of 34 hand-built race cars propelled him to 144 national event wins. 

The Garlits museum has 90 race cars on display as well as 50 other cars in the Antique Car collection. 

The museum is also home to the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame and includes cars and memorabilia from other famous names in the sport of drag racing.

Sometimes “Big Daddy” himself is on the property showing people around.


Henry Ford and Thomas EdisonHenry Ford and Thomas Edison


Edison & Ford Winter Estates
2350 McGregor Blvd
Fort Myers, FL 33901.
Tel: 239-334-7419


Thomas Edison and Henry Ford had side by side winter homes on the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers. 

The combined 23-acre property includes Edison’s botanical garden and his experimental rubber laboratory.  The Edison Ford Museum contains the inventor’s research laboratory and library of over 1,000 books. 

There are also many displays outlining the biographies of the two men.  The entire site is a Florida Historic Landmark, and is home to many events including weddings, corporate meetings, and educational programs.


Florida Museum of Natural History, GainesvilleFlorida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville


Florida Museum of Natural History
University of Florida Cultural Plaza
3215 Hull Road
Gainesville, Florida 32611.
Tel: 352-846-2000


This museum has free admission and is on the campus of the University of Florida.

It is the official natural history museum of the state.

The permanent exhibits focus on the flora, fauna, fossils, and historic people of Florida.  An example of the size of this museum is the butterfly and moth collection that contains 10 million specimens.

The mammalogy collection has 30,000 specimens.  There are more than 2 million fish specimens. 

Admission to the museum is free, and one could easily spend a week or a month and not be able to see everything.



History Miami Museum
101 West Flagler Street
Miami, Florida 33130
Tel: 305-375-1492

This museum is one of the finest in South Florida and is located in downtown Miami.

It has many collections, including 37,000 three dimensional artifacts that feature objects from prehistoric times and native people up until modern times.

The museum features both permanent and temporary exhibits covering 10,000 years of South Florida history.



Jacksonville Museum of Science & History
1025 Museum Circle
Jacksonville, FL 32207.
Tel: 904-396-6674


Known locally as MOSH, this is Jacksonville’s most visited science museum and is one of the most unique museums in the state.

It specializes in science and local history exhibits.  The main exhibit changes quarterly, and the museum is also home to the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium. 

Interactive exhibits help you learn about your own body’s systems.  There are also interactive energy exhibits and several animal encounters. 

An unusual feature of this museum are its science and history boat tours on the adjacent St. Johns River.



John Gorrie State Museum
46 6th Street
Apalachicola, Florida 32320. 
Tel: 850-653-9347


The museum is a Florida State Park.  Its main exhibits feature the history of the Apalachicola area and especially focus on the life and inventions of John Gorrie. 

This museum should actually be a shrine worshipped by all Floridians as Dr. Gorrie was a pioneer in the development of air conditioning. 

John Gorrie was a physician, scientist, inventor and humanitarian.  He received the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851.

It was the result of his search of a way to cool his patient’s sick rooms.



McLarty Treasure Museum
Sebastian Inlet State Park
13180 North A1A
Vero Beach, Florida 32963.
Tel: 321-984-4852

The McLarty Treasure Museum is part of Sebastian Inlet State Park. 

The small facility takes you back in history to the days of the Spanish treasure fleet voyages from the Caribbean to Spain more than 300 years ago. 

Eleven ships were lost in a hurricane in 1715.  The museum features artifacts, displays, and an observation deck that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.

Even today, salvagers work to recover gold, silver, and jewels that were lost to the sea and its sandy shores from the Spanish treasure fleet.



Morse Museum
445 North Park Ave
Winter Park, FL 32789.
Tel: 407-645-5311


The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is home to the world’s most comprehensive permanent collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933). 

These include his jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps and windows. 

The chapel interior he designed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago is displayed. 

Other objects are from his Long Island country estate. The collection also includes American art pottery, paintings, graphics, decorative art.



Museum of Florida History
500 South Bronough
Tallahassee, FL 32399.
Tel: 850-245-6400

This is the official history museum of the State of Florida and is one of the best museums in the state. 

It focuses on artifacts and eras unique to Florida and on roles Floridians have played in national and global events. 

Exhibits change frequently and sometimes include Florida artists, information about beaches, lives of Florida cowboys, and Seminole Indian historical events. 

The museum also operates the Knott House where the Emancipation Proclamation was read in 1865 declaring freedom for all slaves in the Florida panhandle.



National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum
3300 N. A1A, North Hutchinson Island
Fort Pierce, Florida 34949
Tel: 772-595-5845


The National Navy SEAL Museum has an unusual collection of artifacts and exhibits dedicated to the famous warriors of the U.S. Navy SEAL teams and their predecessors, the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT). 

Exhibits include special operations boats, helicopters, weaponry. 

There is even a display about Barry, a famous canine who bears the title of Naval Special Warfare Group Two’s “first dog” who served in over 225 combat missions. 


Orange County Regional History Center, OrlandoOrange County Regional History Center, Orlando


Orange County Regional History Center
65 East Central Blvd
Orlando, FL 32801.
Tel: 407-836-8500


This museum is in downtown Orlando and focuses on the history of central Florida. 

Among exhibits are those chronicling African American history, aviation, cattle and citrus.

Also featured is the Florida tourism history, history of the Spanish era, and the Native American tribes who existed in Florida before the arrival of the Europeans in the 1500s.

The region’s flora, fauna, and geography are explained along with the area’s transformation by theme parks.  A 19th century furnished pioneer cabin is on display.



Ripleys Believe It Or Not! Museum
19 San Marco Ave, St. Augustine, FL 32084.
Tel: 904-824-1606

https://www.ripleys.com/staugustine/

This is a museum you must see to believe. 

It specializes in bizarre events and objects that are so strange as to defy belief. 

All told, the Ripley collections includes 20,000 photographs, 30,000 artifacts, and more than 100,000 panels from the original Ripley's Believe It or Not cartoons. 

You will enjoy a closer look at some of the strangest things in history.  From shrunken heads to the world's tallest man, you will see it here. 

This is one of several such Ripley Museums, but I like this one the most.

Even though most of St. Augustine is a national historic landmark, this place is still fun to visit.



The Lightner Museum
75 King Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084.
Tel: 904-824-2874

https://lightnermuseum.org/

The Lightner Museum is in the former Alcazar Hotel built in 1888.  It has a large collection of fine and decorative 19th century art, much of it from the Gilded Age. 

The first floor houses a Victorian village with shop fronts representing period stores selling period goods. 

There are examples of cut glass, stained glass, and period furniture pieces.  There is even a small mummy, a model steam engine, a player piano, and a golden elephant carrying the earth on its back.



The Revs Institute
2500 S. Horseshoe Dr., Naples, FL 34104.
Tel: 239-687-7387

https://revsinstitute.org/

This museum was only recently opened to the public.  It houses the formerly private Collier Collection, one of the world's premier auto collections.

The collection is home to more than 100 beautiful automobiles manufactured between 1896 and 1995. 

Each car is in the collection because it is rare and historically significant.  They even have a rare Model J Duesenberg formerly owned by movie star Gary Cooper.  



National Comedy Hall Of Fame ®
2435-US Highway 19 North
Holiday, Florida 34691
Tel: 727-541-7876

There is now a rarity among Florida history museums, the first museum of Comedy History in the United States.

It started at the LA Friars Club over 3 decades ago by a group of comedian greats. 

The official National Comedy Hall of Fame, a non-profit museum, has thousands has thousands of comedians, many personal artifacts, and an amazing puppet collection.

The museum is the official home for the famous Comedy Wall of Fame with dozens of famous comedians that have been inducted on national television. This is the highest honor in comedy!

Comedy celebrities stop by from time to time and do a meet & greet! Much to the excitement of museum attendees.

The theater shows rare moments of comedy for no extra charge, with one of the foremost experts on comedy history stopping in from time to time to answer questions. The only museum of its kind in Florida!



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