The South Florida Museum, Bishop Planetarium and Parker Aquarium are a great way to engage in local history, relax in a state of the art planetarium and meet “Snooty”, the oldest living manatee born in captivity. A relative of the elephant, these herbivores spend most of their time grazing in shallow, marshy riverbeds and the Gulf of Mexico. Snooty often has rehabilitating playmates in his pool.

Families will surely enjoy Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, located at the south end of Longboat Key. Featuring sharks, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and 100 other species of marine life, staff members are there to educate and answer your every question. It’s good to plan for a Monday, Wednesday or Friday… if you want to see sharks being fed.

After visiting the Mote Aquarium, take an interactive science expedition with the Sarasota Bay Explorers. Offering sea life encounter cruises, guided kayak tours and a nature safari, the staff is friendly and informative on the history and wild life of the bay. The nature safari is (hands on, find your own creatures) while the sea life encounter is for those less inclined. The biologist led experience provides interesting information and a cruise on the bay is a spectacular way to spend an afternoon.

Across from Mote Marine is “Save Our Birds”, where recovering shorebirds are up-close and personal. Travel the boardwalks on two waterfront acres and see “endangered” brown pelicans with their famous throat pouches. Unlike most birds, which warm their eggs with their breasts, pelicans incubate their eggs with their feet. They hold the eggs in their webbed feet and essentially stand on the eggs to warm them. This peculiar incubation method made them vulnerable to the effects of the pesticide DDT. Eggshells were thin, and the incubating parents frequently cracked their own eggs. Fortunately, the brown pelican is making a rapid recovery as DDT is no longer in use.

Explore our Vacation Planner for more ideas, attractions and things to do.