A Must-See in Downtown Tampa: The Beautiful Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa is an expansive facility home to more than 20,000 beautiful sea creatures. A visit to Tampa would not be complete without a visit to this top notch aquarium, frequently rated amongst the best in the country. At The Florida Aquarium, you will find an assortment of both common and unique sea life including: tiger sharks, massive sea turtles, stingray, jellyfish, seahorses, leafy dragons, and even a Grouper Goliath.
The Wetlands Trail is a beautiful leisurely trail where you will find: alligators, pythons, otters, and all different types of birds. As you stroll along, you will pass beautiful cypress swamps and mangrove forests. A great place to take a leisurely stroll (that is if you come on a slower weekday!).
Journey to Madagascar allows you to get an up close view of lemurs, geckos, and chameleons. Here you will also find a gorgeous Indian Coral Reef.
One of the more unique exhibits features a 300 pound Grouper Goliath. The fish can easily be mistaken for a statue as it rarely moves.
I was able to capture this unique picture of a Green Moray with its’ mouth open. Green Morays are part of the eel family. Even though the eel appears green, it is actually brown. The combination of the yellow tinted mucus covering its’ body and the background color gives it the trademark green color.
The highlight of the aquarium is a 500,000 gallon Coral Reef tank filled with over 100 species, including sand tiger sharks and green sea turtles. There is a seating area to sit back and relax as you watch all the beautiful fish swim before your eyes.
This is also the location of many of the daily shows, including the Penguin Promenade. We were lucky enough to visit just in time for the promenade. A neat experience to see the penguins up close – check it out if you visit falls during a show. Also be sure to check the daily schedule of feedings and other encounters (you will be given a brochure when check in).
All the tanks are very colorful and attractive. You must check out the Seahorse and Leafy Dragons tanks. They are absolutely beautiful creatures. Seahorses are found in shallow tropical waters, while leafy dragons are found in Australia. Both beautiful creatures get their name from their dragon like resemblance.
A very bright Jellyfish tank
A Clown Fish (as seen in the movie “Finding Nemo”)
A unique tank filled with translucent fish
Check out this strange looking fish!
In addition to the exhibits mentioned above, you can also check out the numerous hand on experiences available featuring: stingray, starfish, and horseshoe crabs. Here’s your chance to touch these beautiful creatures with your own hands!
For an extra fee, you can purchase special additions. Here’s a listing of the various options available.
Backstage Penguin Encounter – A 30 minute experience where you will get to pet penguins and observe them in a close setting.
Dolphin Cruise – A 75 minute cruise with plenty of opportunities for sightings.
Stingray Feeding – A tour providing additional information on stingrays with the opportunity to hand feed one yourself.
Swimming with the Fishes – Swim with the fishes in the Coral Reef Gallery.
Diving with the Sharks – Certified scuba divers can swim with the sharks in the Coral Reef Gallery.
Behind the Scenes Tour – See what happens after hours in the aquarium, including food preparation and feedings. You will also get to observe areas traditionally closed to the public.
A visit to the Florida Aquarium is a must-see for those who are interested in sea life. Although it is not the best aquarium I have visited, it is definitely worthy of a visit if vacationing in the Tampa and surrounding areas. It’s a great place to take an hour or 2 out of your day to leisurely stroll around observing the beautiful natural plants and animals of the sea.
Visit on a weekday for fewer crowds and a more relaxing experience. There are several rocking chairs and seats set up to relax and enjoy the tanks, however, on the insanely crowded weekends in can be hard to walk around, let alone relax.
Check Groupon, Living Social, and Amazon Local for deals. You can save as much as 50% by using these sites. Or pick up a brochure with a coupon for $3 off each admission (available in the Tampa Visitors Center).
Bring with your camera. There are plenty of unique photography opportunities.
Plan your visit around special shows and encounters. Seeing one of these lively, informative shows will make your visit a much more memorable experience.
Purchasing tickets online will save you a few bucks.
Location, Hours & Pricing Information
The Florida Aquarium is located at 701 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602. Adult admission is $23.95 ($21.95 online). Senior admission is $20.95 ($19.95 online) and children aged 3-11 are $18.95 ($17.95 online). Check the Aquarium website for special combo tickets.
The Aquarium is open 7 days a week from 9:30am-5:00pm
Parking is $6 per vehicle.