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.
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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.
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.
If You Go
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.
Research for this post was made possible by Visit Tampa Bay.