Delve into Manatee County’s rich arts and culture scene at museums in and near Bradenton, Sarasota, and Anna Maria Island. Admire the dozens of impressive collections at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, learn about the area’s storied connections to the sea at the Florida Maritime Museum, and check out fossil evidence of the state’s earliest animal inhabitants at The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature.
No matter what your interests are, there’s a museum that will satisfy your curiosities. Add one (or more) of our favorites below to your list of things to do near Brandenton and Anna Maria Island.
Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum Complex
Located on historic Pine Avenue in Anna Maria City, this quaint complex featuring multiple historic buildings is a great place to spend an afternoon. Dive into the island’s past at the small museum, take a selfie at the Old City Jail and enjoy views of indigenous plants and Lake LaVista on the Mangrove Walk.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
The extensive collections of John and Mable Ringling, which include European paintings from the late Middle Ages to the 19th century, are exhibited alongside contemporary works at the State Art Museum of Florida at Sarasota’s John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The 66-acre complex—which is about 25 minutes from the hotel—also includes the Circus Museum, where you investigate the origins of “The Greatest Show on Earth;” Ca’ d’Zan mansion, the Ringling family’s Venetian Gothic revival palace; and Bayfront Gardens, the state’s oldest continuously operating rose garden.
The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature
This must-see destination is the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast, which highlights a diverse array of scientific topics through engaging permanent and temporary collections. View prehistoric archaeological artifacts; venture to a galaxy far, far away at full-dome planetarium; and don’t miss the Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat, where you can see and learn about the majestic creatures—all just 15 minutes away from the Compass hotel.
Florida Maritime Museum
The Sunshine State’s vibrant nautical history is on display at the Florida Maritime Museum in Cortez (currently open for visits by appointment only). Just 10 minutes from the hotel, here the attractions include a gigantic shell collection, made up of specimens collected in the Gulf of Mexico by local fisherman Blake Banks, and miniature boat models, tools and other equipment that interpret the area’s fishing heritage.
Sarasota Classic Car Museum
From Alfa Romeos and Bentleys to Fords and Ferraris, get a close look at more than 75 stunning vehicles at the Sarasota Classic Car Museum, the oldest continuously operating institution of its kind in the United States. Gain knowledge about the evolution of the automobile, from its invention by Karl Benz in 1885 to present-day innovations, and learn about major car manufacturers and how they impacted the machines we drive today.
Manatee Village Historical Park
This open-air museum (check hours before arriving) in Bradenton is 15 minutes from the Compass hotel boasts a collection of authentic and replica buildings that preserve and share the heritage of Manatee County’s founding period, 1840–1918. The designated National Historic Site offers visitors the chance to view a 1913 steam engine known as Old Cabbage Head and explore structures furnished with period artifacts, including a general store, boat and blacksmith shops, a pioneer farmhouse and a smokehouse and grill.