If being back at a university has put you in the mood for learning, a science museum can be just the place to get your group out of the box and in the mood for trailblazing and problem-solving.
Science museums span the state, from Miami to Jacksonville and across to Pensacola's new MESS Hall, with most offering space for group events. Here's a small sampling of some unique options.
A new EcoDiscovery Center is the latest scientific wonder to hit Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Discovery and Science, sending guests on airboat rides through the Everglades and into hurricane-force winds at the Storm Center. While visitors also enjoy an IMAX 3-D theater and exhibits that explore everything from sharks to outer space, groups of up to 200 can stage after-hours receptions and other events.
"Our food and beverage is scattered throughout the exhibits, so there's a lot more opportunity for interaction among the attendees," says Marlene Janetos, vice president of visitor services, marketing and communications at the center. "We had one group in and at the end of the night when the buses came, some people were having so much fun they wanted to stay. They ended up taking a taxi back."
With more than 200,000 square feet of exhibit-turned-event space, Orlando Science Center, has hosted some diverse gatherings, from speaking engagements in the state-of-the-art Digital Adventure Theater: A National Geographic Experience to a dinner reception amid giant replicas of dinosaur fossils. Home to what is touted as Florida's largest refractor telescope, the museum's Crosby Observatory also doubles as event space, as guests enjoy dazzling views of downtown Orlando and the night sky. "Wow factor" alert: You can purchase stars through their adopt-a-star program to recognize attendees.
One of the largest scientific centers in the Southeast, Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry boasts more than 450 hands-on activities and immersive experiences, including Mission: Moonbase, which creates the environment of a lunar outpost; and Disasterville, showcasing extreme weather conditions. By night, though, this science playground morphs into a center for special events, with facilities that can host from 50 to 500 attendees, including space at a new welcome center.
"We do it all here," says Samantha James, assistant coordinator of special events at the museum.
In Northwest Florida, the Emerald Coast Science Center may be geared toward kids, but many adults also appreciate its colorful exhibits. Located in a waterfront park just west of Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, the center offers indoor and outdoor settings for private events.