In a state with so much coastline, it makes sense that Florida would have plenty of experiences that connect aquatic creatures with visitors. The greater Tampa area is blessed to not only have the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which focuses on rehabilitation, but also the Florida Aquarium, located downtown, which focuses on education.
The aquarium is well located near the Riverwalk, attractions, and the cruise terminal, so you can visit during a quick stay in the city. It’s also included in the Tampa Bay CityPASS.
What to See at the Florida Aquarium
You will enter on the first level, but start on the second level and work your way down. The Wetlands Trail, pictured both above and below, is an open-air exhibit featuring some of Florida’s most well-known species, namely alligators, birds, and otters. They even have pythons, which are an invasive species, to discuss the problem they’ve created the past few years.
Next up is the Journey to Madagascar, a treetop display with the favorite ring-tailed lemurs. This area also features geckos, chameleons, and even hissing cockroaches as big as your hand.
Bays and Beaches has larger tanks for fish like the grouper and also artificial reefs. Here you can also gently touch a stingray. No Bone Zone is another hands-on experience with invertebrates like sea cucumbers and sea stars.
Coral Reefs, Dragons Down Under, and Ocean Commotion all have panoramic windows for prime viewing opportunities. You may also find employees here giving talks about different creatures.
Back on the lower level are a water park for young kids, cafes and the picnic pavilion. There’s also a horseshoe crab touch display. The space itself isn’t as large as other aquariums, even Clearwater, but the Florida Aquarium is much more small child-friendly.
Once they’ve had their fill of creatures, they can play on the playground or grab a snack. You can also plan your visit around the show schedule and book optional excursions like the tank scuba diving, dolphin cruises, and behind-the-scenes tours.
Tips for Visiting the Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium is located at 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa, Florida 33602. It’s open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Standard tickets are $24.95 for adults, $20.95 for seniors, $18.95 for children 3 to 11, and free for those under 3.
Tickets are discounted if you purchase online or in combination with other attractions (like the Tampa Bay CityPASS) and vary in price by date and time. Alternatively, you can book a skip-the-line ticket before you go if you’re short on time.
Parking is $6, but you can find alternate methods of transportation. It’s an easy bike ride down the Riverfront from downtown Tampa and an even shorter drive. Bus 30 and streetcar 200 both run close to Channelside as well.
Where to Eat Near the Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium has its own restaurants, including Cafe Ray, which has the American Grill and a Dippin Dots cart. Sandy’s Shack is open on weekends and has ice cream and other treats. Corona Cove is an outdoor cantina overlooking the water.
If you’d rather venture outside of the aquarium, the Channelside area has many options. There’s an outpost of the Columbia Cafe at the Tampa Bay History Center, complete with Cuban sandwiches. Fabrica Pizza is known for its wood-fired pizzas, along with beer and wine on tap. Victory Coffee provides a much-needed caffeine boost.
Where to Stay Near the Florida Aquarium
The Channel District has a wide range of accommodations and is also convenient to the downtown and Ybor City hotels. Home2 Suites by Hilton Tampa Downtown Channel District has large suites with the amenities of home, including kitchenettes and a pool overlooking the city. The JW Marriott Tampa Water Street offers incredible views, concierge services, and stylish rooms.
Research for this post was made possible by Visit Tampa Bay.