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    De Soto National MemorialDe Soto National Memorial Bradenton, Florida
    the memorial lies west of Bradenton, Florida, some five miles, and commemorates the 1539 landing of Hernando De Soto and the first organized exploration of the southern region of the United States by Europeans. De Soto would land with an army of more than 600 soldiers, armed with modern weapons, in the Tampa Bay area, in nine ships that were filled with supplies, a herd of pigs, two hundred and twenty horses, armor, rations, tools, war dogs, matchlock muskets and cannons. The group was following the orders of King Charles V to sail to La Florida and to begin conquering, populating and pacifying the land and natives. The expedition would not discover the gold that they believed to be hidden here, but did go from village to village, taking their food and enslaving the indigenous peoples so they could be used as guides and porters. The trek would cost hundreds of lives as they journeyed four thousand miles in four years. The expedition would change the face of the American southwest forever, creating some hesitation on the part of Spain in her role in the new lands; but in the end, it would be the first hand accounts of the survivors that told of native cultures and the beauty of the land that would become its enduring legacy. In 1948, the national memorial would be created with all the historic areas to be run by the National Park Service, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. The purpose of the memorial would be to preserve the controversial story of that adventure and try to interpret its importance to the history of America and visitors can enjoy living history demonstrations, walk the nature trails through the Florida landscape like the ones encountered by the conquistadors some five hundred years ago or even try on a piece of armor to see how difficult it would be to travel or do anything within its confines.

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    South Florida MuseumSouth Florida Museum Bradenton, Florida
    this museum that is situated in Bradenton, Florida specializes in the cultural and natural history of the state's gulf coast, housing exhibits that showcase the history of Florida from the prehistoric period to the present, and includes the Bishop planetarium and Parker Manatee Aquarium; where Snooty the manatee lives. The planetarium opened in the mid 1960s and has just been restored and rejuvenated with technical upgrades. It began in 1946 when community leaders realized that they needed a museum like this to preserve their history and other interesting legacies, finally opening in 1947 on the city's Memorial Pier. It would open with the Montague Tallant collection of Florida's First Peoples pre and immediate post contact archaeological relics and collections that pertain to the cultural and scientific history of southwest Florida and Manatee County. Snooty, the oldest manatee in captivity came to the museum in 1949, and in 1966, it would be moved to its current location, as well as adding the Bishop planetarium. A magnificent Spanish plaza would be constructed in 1980, with a copy of a 16th century home and chapel built as well around a centerpiece fountain that had a sculpture of De Soto on horseback. In 1993, the Parker Manatee Aquarium would open and complete the plaza, and contain above and below the water viewing of manatees, a medical pool, exhibit area and 60,000 gallon tank for Snooty. First floor galleries house fossil evidence of the state's earliest mammal and marine inhabitants and archaeological items from the Paleo-Indian, archaic and pre-contact cultures. Second floor galleries include the Visible Storage gallery, Environmental hall, River heritage hall, Medical history, the Patrons gallery and the curator's choice gallery.

March 30, 2014