Florida Aquarium is a showcase of the region’s colorful wildlife, with more than 20,000 aquatic animals and plants. Wander through wetlands, swim with fishes and get close to sharks.
Start your journey in the Wetlands Gallery under the giant three-story glass dome. Encounter alligators, otters, turtles and more than 30 species of birds flying freely overhead. Move onto Bay and Beaches to observe aquatic animals native to Florida. These include the aquarium’s largest fish, the goliath grouper, which weighs in at more than 300 pounds (135 kilograms).
The Coral Reef Gallery is a replica of the coral formations of the Dry Tortugas off the Florida Keys. It’s housed in a 500,000-gallon (2 million-liter) tank and contains more than 2,000 animals from 100 species. Look through the gallery’s huge panoramic window to see the exotic grotto that includes sand tiger sharks, moray eels and green sea turtles. There are also viewing windows at different depths of the tank that look out onto a different micro-habitat.
Get amongst the sea life with the Swim with the Fishes program. This is for people who are six years or older. Put on a small scuba tank, regulator and flotation device, and spy fish from the surface of a tank. Certified divers aged 15 years or over can get close to some massive predators of the deep with the Dive with the Sharks program. Both of these close-encounter experiences are ticketed. For prices, schedules and restrictions, check the aquarium’s website.
Take a Wild Dolphin Cruise. This 90-minute boat trip through Tampa Bay seeks out some of the 500 bottlenose dolphins that live there. Cruises cost extra and depart daily from the aquarium.
Take children to Explore a Shore, the aquarium’s water park. It has slides, pools and water jets, and a replica of a pirate ship. Entry to the park is included in the aquarium admission price.
Florida Aquarium is located in Channelside in downtown Tampa. It’s open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Pay parking is available on site.