Believe it or not, we take our own advice seriously and decided to hit #1 on our Spring Break List, taking the adventures of mom (kids and grandparent too) to the Gulf Coast city of Tampa to check out the Florida Aquarium.
It has been a while since we’ve been to the Florida Aquarium, but smack dab in the heart of Channelside downtown, we figured not much could change. My son has been gobbling up episodes of Fish Tank Kings, a show based on Living Color Aquarium builders in Florida, and one episode featured them devising a special tank for the folks at the Florida Aquarium, so we hunted it down…..and got waylaid by some really cool sharks….
The Florida Aquarium is indoors- great for a hot and humid (typical) Florida day, and it also has an outdoor splash zone for little kids- water cannons, a pirate ship, small slides & sea critters on which to climb. Littler kids, I’ll say, as I have memories of my own kids running around like crazy- but this time we took a tour of it, determining whether to return to the car for swim suits, and both (yes both!) turned their nose up at it, wanting to return to the cavernous tunnels inside the Aquarium to check out the sea dragons and jelly fish instead.
You could easily spend 3 hours in the Aquarium: there’s a mangrove swamp with giant fish (my son could name them from his fishing adventures with dad), and stingrays, and a cypress swamp, with which was reminiscent of Grandma White’s house, with the gators, turtles, gar fish and blue gill. After I posted some pics on facebook from our Aquarium adventure, a friend commented: Isn’t all of Florida an aquarium? And yes, yes it is. But this one wasn’t so hot, sticky and humid!
My daughter was fascinated by the penguins and the hissing cockroaches in the new Madagascar exhibit (she was never the unicorn and rainbows adoring type). Oh yes, and the sea horses! We were lucky to see some newborn seahorses.
Rocking chairs lined a hall near one of the large tanks, and viewing benches in front of another- room sized tank, with sharks, eels and other fascinating sea critters. There was a place upstairs where you could touch a stingray- my daughter said it felt slimey, and yes they do cut the barbs off (it was a stingray barb in the heart that killed awesome Croc Hunter Steve Irwin)- but the barbs grow back apparently (like our fingernails).
Another touch tank was filled with sea anemone- that funky like plant thing that littler fish hide in to save themselves from larger predators, and another tank downstairs, where you can touch horseshoe crabs (they look like cockroaches with hard shells).
The Florida Aquarium has an indoor cafeteria (outdoor and indoor seating) and an outdoor cantina-tiki bar, over-looking the splash zone.
Though this could easily be a half-day adventure, fish are meant to be enjoyed, so slow down, stay a while, sit and find your zen- kids are fascinated by fish! The Aquarium offers a dolphin cruise in Tampa Bay, a dive with shark and a backstage pass adventure, (additional charges) along with other shows throughout the day.
What You Need To Know Before You Go:
1. Tickets are cheaper on their website. You can also purchase tickets at AAA before you go.
2. Parking is $6.
3. Bring a swimsuit, towels and sunscreen (and swim diapers for the babes) if your kids might go to the splash zone. There’s a gift shop where you can purchase these items if you forget them.
4. Go early to avoid crowds.
5. Oh yes, and have fun!
6. Get the younger kids in the mood pre-or post event with Finding Nemo, Shark Tales or Penguins of Madagascar.