Merrick House in Coral Gables, Miami
By: Ginger Harris
Here’s where to go for a dose of culture, history and science while you’re in Miami.
With a vast array of museums, Miami has plenty of educational activities for the whole family. Whether you're into art, history or science, have just a few hours or a few days, Miami has the perfect museum to provide you and your family with insight, engagement and inspiration. From the Children’s Museum to HistoryMiami, there’s plenty to see, do and learn at Miami’s best museums. Here’s where to go and what to do while you’re there.
History & Culture
One of the largest private, regional history museums in the southeast U.S. and part of the prestigious Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program, HistoryMiami in Downtown entertains and educated with more than 13,000 artifacts dating back to pre-Columbian times. Immerse yourself in the permanent and temporary exhibits, ranging from immigration to tourism to development and technological advancement in South Florida. Be sure to make a stop at the Visitors Research Center, to take in some one million photographs, drawings and documents.
Once a police and fire station, the Coral Gables Museum, located in Coral Gables, is a restored 3,000-square-foot gallery and 5,000-square-foot public plaza that centers around permanent and traveling art and design exhibits, lectures and concerts. Renovated and reopened in 2011, the museum also offers guided Saturday morning walking tours so you can get to know even more of the city.
The building itself, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a stunning 1936 Art Deco masterpiece with 77 stained glass windows, a Moorish copper dome, Art Deco chandeliers and marble bimah. Inside, explore more than 250 years of Jewish history at the Jewish Museum of Florida, as well as its permanent exhibit MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida. Through audio-visual presentations, films, photos, documents and artifacts, discover how the Jewish people have maintained their history, tradition and culture.
For the history buff, make your way to Vizcaya in Coconut Grove. The European-style estate was built in the early 20th century and has a spot on the U.S. National Historic Landmark list. With 34 rooms, more than 2,500 works of art and 10 stunning acres of gardens, which include 25 acres of endangered growth forests and 2,000 orchids, you’ll feel like you’ve escaped to a beautiful castle in Europe. Tour the fountains, garden-lined walkways and statues, all also enjoyed by Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II.
Want to storm the castle? Do so at the Coral Castle Museum in Homestead. One of Miami’s greatest mysteries, Edward Leedskalnin used more than 1,100 tons of coral rock over the course of 30 years 1923-1951) to created a the castle without using any modern conveniences to do so. How? It’s a mystery he took to the grave.
Science & Discovery for All Ages
Opening in 2016 and snatching headlines across Miami, the Patricia & Phillip Frost Museum of Science will set a new standard in museums at Museum Park. The $300 million new facility will feature a planetarium, an Innovation Center, the Exploration Center (where’s there’s even talks of exhibits with space shuttles) and the Living Core. That last one is worth the trip alone, considering it will feature sharks, as well as wildlife, habitats and an aquarium. Think of it as connecting five ecosystems that feature South Florida’s indigenous flora and fauna. Keep this when on the agenda for when it opens.
For the little ones—and the little ones at heart—head to the Miami Children’s Museum. Located midway between downtown Miami and Miami Beach on Biscayne Bay along the MacArthur Causeway, the Miami Children’s Museum is filled with activities that emphasizing art, culture, community, communication, imagination and creativity. Miami Children’s Museum is home to a two-story sandcastle of dreams, a 30-foot rock climbing wall, a life-sized cruise ship and an outdoor playground.
Have a thing for the Little Engine that Could? The Gold Coast Rail Museum, is a must-see for train enthusiast and collectors. With more than 40 passenger cars, freight cars, locomotives and antique railway equipment, it’s something you’ll want to hop aboard. Ride one the many historic railway cars (offered most weekends), view "Ferdinand Magellan," the private railroad car built for President Franklin Roosevelt and explore the vast array of model trains. There’s even Thomas the Tank Engine tables for the little ones.
If your heart goes vroom vroom when you see classic cars, put it into drive and head straight to the Miami Auto Museum at The Dezer Collection, located in North Miami. This two-building auto museum features 1,200 vintage to classic automobiles including the "Time Machine" from Back to the Future, Batmobiles, as well as a collection of James Bond automobiles, motorcycles, submarines, airplanes, helicopters and gadgets. In addition to the American automobiles, there are a number of foreign cars and an amazing display of Hollywood memorabilia.
Ready for take off? You will be upon visiting Wings Over Miami Museum, a tribute to veterans, aviators and aircraft history. See the evolution of flight at the museum's location in Kendall, as well as restored and maintained military and classic aircrafts, some of which even take off into the wild blue yonder on weekends. Be the pilot of your own aircraft after a visit to the gift shop, which features model kits, videos and clothing for adults and children.
Insider Tip: Make the most of your museum excursion with the GoMiamiCard. See more for less by choosing a one, two, three or five day card and save up to 55 percent off of full retail admission. Gain access to 34 amazing attractions, including Jungle Island, Hop On Hop Off Bus Pass and Everglades tour. The card can even be delivered instantly to your smart phone.
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