The Florida Aquarium in Tampa is a day-longs’ worth of adventure, wonder, fun and learning. All under one roof and encompassing 220,000 square feet, you can fill your mind with a true sense of what the underwater world really is like.
With exhibits featuring fish and sea life from Florida and other parts of our blue planet, this, one of the top Tampa Florida attractions, outdoes itself with its high level quality exhibits and animals, featured in their natural environments, as well as plenty of information, if you like to read as well as observe.
Yes there’s a lot to learn here if you so choose! And learning can be a lot of fun in this place.
The one early piece of friendly advice I will provide you is to make sure that you alot plenty of time to go though the aquarium, especially if this is your "thing."
And you don't want to bring along anyone who is in a hurry who might push you along. You want to be able to spend your time enjoying this special place; not being coaxed to "hurry up!"
This "water world" features 8 distinct areas in which you can not only learn about the environment highlighted, but also witness the creatures of these environments in their natural states.
Featured areas and environments are: Wetlands, Aquariumania, Bays & Beaches, No Bone Zone, Coral Reefs, Dragons Down Under, Sea Hunt and Explore a Shore.
Wetlands: Your tour starts on the second floor of The Florida Aquarium. Housed under a glass dome, this area or “environment” features a menagerie of inhabitants of Florida’s wetlands.
From free-flying birds to alligators, owls and otters, if it lives in the Florida wetlands, you’ll find it in this area of the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.
There’s also a live show on the Wetlands Animal Stage. It was at 11:30 a.m. when we were last there. Check your program schedule that you receive when you enter the building.
Aquariumania: This part of your tour features aquariums! If you’re just nuts about fish, you’ll get some great ideas here for building your own home Aquaraium(s). If your desire is to keep fish in tanks, don’t miss Aquariumania.
Bays & Beaches: Highlighted in these exhibits you’ll find many of the creatures of Florida’s coastal areas. You’ll see snook, sharks, lobsters, sea horses and a giant 200 pound Goliath grouper, which is so well camouflaged that you might not spot him in his natural environment at first. That’s how well he blends in. But when you do spot him, you’ll scream, “Oh my gosh that fish is huge!”
No Bone Zone: Sea Stars, urchins, crustaceans and mollusks; otherwise known as invertebrates, or without spines, are featured here. You’ll also find sea shells, including one you can try on! Among interactive exhibits you’ll find a touch tank here in the No Bones Zone where you can have an up close, hands-on experience with live rays.
Coral Reefs: As your tour through the Florida Aquarium
Tampa continues you’ll definitely want to spend some time here, as the
Coral Reefs exhibit is a beautiful panoramic view of a coral reef.
You’ll be able to witness hundreds of colorful fish, sharks and other creatures swim by as you sneak a peek into their undersea world.
Dragons Down Under: This exhibit area focuses on sea life around Australia. Why Australia? Perhaps because of the unique kinds of sea life found there: Sea Dragons, which are somewhat ‘weedy and leafy’ appearing and among the world’s most unique animals. You’ll also find a variety of sea horses and pipefish here (no, they’re not pipe smokers!).
Sea Hunt: This is “predator corner!” You’ll find the hunters of the deep here. Deadly and/or poisonous, they each have a special way of killing their prey. Among the notorious found in this tank are: sharks, groupers, rat fish, moray eels, lion fish, octopus and clown fish.
Explore a Shore: This outdoor play area for kids is filled with fun and water. There are water jets, a wave water slide, climb-on animals, a pirate ship with water cannons and “Shipwreck Shore,” a place for the toddlers. There are changing rooms and restrooms in this area for your convenience.
If you get hungry around lunch or dinner time there’s a wonderful dining area on the grounds outside on the lower level, a sort of Caribbean Cantina with a hut-style roof, where we stopped for a break and for lunch.
In fact, it was a pretty good lunch in a fun setting, with the water park for the kids nearby. The menu was varied and they even had a bar that served adult beverages, if you so choose. There is also Cafe Ray, another place to stop for lunch along your way. But we liked being outside at the Caribbean Cantina just fine.
There are also featured programs throughout the day with some pretty incredible sights. One of which is watching real live human divers in the tank with sharks at what is called “Shark Bay.”
The other is also an interactive dive presentation; at the Coral Reef, twice daily, also featuring divers in the “Coral Reef,” whom you can view from the panoramic window.
(You’ll receive a program schedule of the days’ events upon your entry to the Florida Aquarium so you know when these interactive presentations take place.)
Special Weekends: On weekends certified divers may dive with the sharks (ages 15 and up) and/or swim with the fishes (ages 6 and up – no experience required) To take part in either of these special weekend only interactive events see Guest Services in the lobby of The Florida Aquarium for more information.
Additionally, there is an excursion you may be interested in taking. We didn’t know about this before we arrived, but you might like to know ahead of time so you can budget for it.
If you have the time, there is also a Wild Dolphin Eco-Tour on which you board a 64 foot, 49 passenger catamaran and head out on to Tampa Bay to spot dolphins, other fish, birds, manatees and more.
Limited capacity - 49 passengers per tour. Limited access - Passenger must be able to transfer to the boat deck.
There is a lot to see and learn at The Florida Aquarium. There’s a good days' worth of activities and adventures within the confines of clean and comfortable surroundings and facilities, easy-to-get-around-to-exhibits and a fine Caribbean style restaurant.
Plus there's an outdoor water park for the kids and a great little gift shop where you can find all kinds of related materials that make learning about the undersea world a fun experience.
This is definitely one of our region's top Florida tourist attractions and one that you'll want to consider putting on your "must see" list.
(Admission prices and hours of operation are subject to change without notice)
Directions to The Florida Aquarium Tampa from Sarasota: Take
I-75 North to I-275 North. From I-275 Northbound - coming from St.
Petersburg Take DOWNTOWN EAST (Scott Street) EXIT 44 (Old 25). Continue
straight on Scott to Jefferson. Right on Jefferson Street to Twiggs.
Left on Twiggs to Channelside Drive. Right on Channelside to Washington
Street. Left on Washington Street to Aquarium Parking. Parking is $5.00.(Price subject to change).
Mileage and driving time from Sarasota: About 60 miles, 70 minutes.