Get behind the scenes of the American space programme or visit the home of a Nobel Prize winning author, Florida has a variety of museums and galleries for you to choose from.
National Naval Aviation Museum
As the largest museum of its kind in the world, theNational Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of flight. Home to over 150 carefully restored aircraft ranging from World War I bombers to modern-day lunar modules, the museum also features exhibits on the people and conflicts associated with the craft, featuring medals, uniforms and other intriguing artefacts. With several exciting flight simulators and an IMAX theatre showing a selection of flight-related films, this is an educational day out that the entire family will enjoy. Try to catch the famous Blue Angels flight squadron during one of their practice sessions, too – you can also meet the crews afterward.
The Dali Museum
Located in sunny St. Petersburg, The Dali Museum is a celebration of the life and career of the famous surrealist artist Salvador Dali, all set within a stunning glass and concrete building that makes the most of the area’s natural light. The permanent collection includes 96 oil paintings by Dali, as well as a large selection of drawings, prints, photos, sculptures, manuscripts and other documents, and the building itself was designed to evoke one of Dali’s works, with a geodesic glass bubble structure called the “enigma” on one side, and a striking helical staircase inside. The spacious galleries also host a series of temporary exhibits by both Dali and related artists, and the gardens outside are a wonderful place to relax and spend some time contemplating the creative genius of this intriguing artist.
Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex
Get a behind-the-scenes look at America’s fascinating space programme at the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex. Take a bus tour of the facility to see launch pads, giant rockets and the launch countdown clock, then venture inside one of the control centre rooms to see mission control in action. You can also get a taste of what it’s like to launch into space at the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Experience, with an ultra-realistic Shuttle Launch Experience that astronauts say is thrillingly close to the real thing. There’s also an IMAX theatre showing breathtaking video footage taken in space, as well as the opportunity to meet veteran NASA astronauts and get an insider’s view of space travel. What’s more, if you time your visit right, you may even get to witness a live rocket launch!
Museum of Fine Arts
With an extensive permanent collection featuring works from antiquity right up to the present day, plus an ever-changing selection of travelling exhibitions, the Museum of Fine Arts is a must-see for those interested in history, art and culture. Founded in 1965 by Margaret Acheson Stuart as a place where visitors can enjoy examples of world-class art in a relaxed, welcoming setting, the original Palladian-style building and its modern extensions are a wonderful place to explore and learn. Here you’ll find everything from paintings by renowned artists such as Monet, Renoir and Cézanne, to rare antique objects and a huge photography collection – be sure to visit the lovely sculpture garden and glass gallery, as well. The museum also hosts a number of special events for all ages, including talks, musical performances, yoga and workshops, and there’s a café and shop if you fancy refreshments or a souvenir.
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Visit the former home of one of Key West’s most famous residents at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where the Nobel Prize-winning author lived for over a decade and wrote some of his most respected works. Learn about Hemingway’s life and career on a guided tour of this elegant, Spanish Colonial-style home, noted for its stately architecture and lush gardens, which also feature the first in-ground swimming pool to be built in Key West. The rooms are filled with furniture and other mementos once belonging to Hemingway and his second wife Pauline, and visitors are often enchanted by the more than 40 cats that inhabit the grounds – many of which exhibit the distinctive six toes which mark them as descendants of Hemingway’s own cat. This is a charming place to gain insight into the mind of a great writer and imagine yourself living in days gone by.
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Built in 1910 as the private winter residence of wealthy agricultural industrialist James Deering, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens are modelled on a traditional Italian villa and filled with European antiquities and other valuable artefacts. With 34 elaborately decorated rooms and ten acres of exquisite gardens filled with many rare and exotic plants, the estate is truly awe-inspiring, with a stunning location on Biscayne Bay. Each room is inspired by a different Italian city, and features an artful blend of elegant furniture and historic artwork to create a whimsical, romantic scene. Outdoors, the formal gardens include a variety of antique fountains and sculptures, a swimming pool and a striking artificial breakwater called the Barge. Keep an eye out for special art-related events and moonlight garden tours at the estate for an even more fascinating look at this intriguing estate.