Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Thousands of fish and animals, a great wild dolphin-sighting boat ride, close views of alligators, birds, and otters contributed to our fantastic day of strolling around viewing sea life at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Florida.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Easy Arrival

When we arrived, although there was a line to enter the Florida Aquarium, the staff has portable devices and checked us in and whisked us on our way into the aquarium.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

There is parking across the street in a paid parking tower, or paid aquarium parking a short block away. Either access is quick and easy.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

If you are touring Tampa by Coast Bike Share, the nearest hub is just to the left of the entrance to the Florida Aquarium, against the main building and next to the gardens area.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Garden space at the Florida Aquarium – you can see the covered parking across the street.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Wild Dolphin-Sighting Boat Tour

As soon as we arrived, it was time for the next dolphin tour. We headed past a battle ship that had been entirely built by women, and queued up for the dolphin boat ride. We had no idea what to expect. The additional fee for the boat ride is so low that even if you don’t get to see dolphins, it’s a great way to get on the water and see Tampa from a different angle.

Busman’s Holiday

Although I work as a boat captain, any time I can get out on the water is a great experience. I’m happy to let someone else give the safety brief and drive us around!

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

We departed the aquarium dock, and headed south in the channel.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

The dolphin tour boat fits snugly in that short spot in front of the bow of the American Victory. Departure gave us a great view of downtown Channelside, our hotel, the aquarium, and the waterfront area.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Searching for Dolphins

We were told that dolphins don’t normally come up into the channel, and that we probably would not see any until we reached the large bay.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

However, once we were along some of the container ships in the area, dolphins were sighted. A great spiel about dolphin habits was broadcast over the speaker system, and the photographers on board took lots of shots trying to capture one with a dolphin – and that’s pretty hard to do!

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Industrial activity along the channel is always interesting to view. We saw loading, unloading, departing, arriving, and repositioning vessels.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Great Skyline View

The views from the dolphin tour are great – you get to see the business district skyline, residential areas, and industrial areas.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Local Knowledge

The dolphin tour started up where you can just see “Tampa” on the photo on the left. In the middle, you can see the Bay Spirit we were on as she heads into Tampa Bay. Back to the view on the left, you can see where the Tampa Causeway divides Tampa Bay from the ocean.

On the right, to orient yourself where in Florida we were, you can see all the ships around Florida and Cuba as well as our Tampa area.

I use the Marine Traffic app, and several others regularly. You can read more about those here: Sailing Apps For Your Phone. They actually aren’t only sailing apps, but general boating applications as well.

Best Photo Opportunities

Getting out on a boat in Tampa Bay probably yields one of the best opportunities for some great photography.

There are the other vessels, the passengers on board, the dolphins, the birds, and all sorts of interesting and intriguing views to photograph.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Snack Bars and Lunch Options

There are a couple spots in the Florida Aquarium where you can order some basics – burgers, pizza, fries. Portions were generous and the food was hot. Beware; cheeky squirrels will nearly pull fries from your fingers!

Also, there are a couple bars closer to the waterfront where you can have an adult beverage while you watch the commercial vessels transit the channel.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Interactive Displays

When we visited, the interactive displays were open. As of May 2020, as part of their precautions due to Covid-19, the touch displays are viewable but not touchable. You can watch their video about their current adaptations, We’re Excited to SEA You Soon.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

The next interactive experience we visited was the ray and shark tank. Often, the rays would purposely come close and initiate contact, other times, they would swim by just out of reach.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Huge Grouper

Cleatus the grouper was at the Florida Aquarium 25 years since 1995. He died May 4, 2020, likely of old age. He was estimated to be around 30 years old, about five an a half feet long, and weighed about 200-300 pounds.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Sea Life in the Dark!

Fabulous tanks full of anemones, jellyfish, sea horses and more were hard to pass by quickly. We found ourselves gazing in wonder at these examples of the undersea world.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Reflections of Fun – Otter Time!

We had a lot of fun capturing – well, attempting to capture – action shots of the playful otters. They zoomed about recklessly, splashing and waddling and zipping around their tank.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Amphibian World

We wondered at the amazing colors and camouflage of the alligators, with their mosaic of armor and webbed feet with claws.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Bill was using his new Olympus Waterproof Tough TG Camera for the first time at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, and he had fun learning the controls.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Close-up shots of the alligators was possible with tanks full of specimens swimming right at eye level. Literally! Eye-to-eye.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Fabulous Fowl in the Florida Wetlands Trail

Again, getting those really great close-up photos of birds on the Florida Aquarium’s Wetlands Trail was easy – they stood right next to you and posed!

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

THE BIG TANKS

We visited every section first, saving the very best for last – the big saltwater tanks at the Florida Aquarium.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Spending hours is possible at these large displays. From morays to sharks to sting rays, the movement and flow of fish going by was constant.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

See – this child knows exactly how to enjoy a display! Lie down and take your time watching the fish go by. You wouldn’t want to miss anything!

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

The scene changed every couple moments.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Scuba Diving at the Florida Aquarium

Our original plan was to scuba dive while we were at the aquarium. I had just finished writing an article on 24 Reasons to Dive in an Aquarium, and even a video of Reasons for Diving Aquariums, and realized it’s a real “thing.”

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

These were the tanks we might be able to dive, so we were even more exited upon seeing them. For months, I’d watched the reservations – there are two spots on the weekends, and one was taken. If that person cancelled… we could both go!

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

It wasn’t meant to be – the son of the aquarium dive master was the one reservation. It seemed greedy for one of us to take the second spot and dive without our partner as well as deprive the father and son of a chance to dive together alone. So, we still have that to look forward to another time!

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Sharks

Watching the sharks at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa is amazing. It seems like they try to slide by as slowly as possible while still “making way” – moving forward with just enough speed to maintain steerage.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

I was never sure if they were just conserving energy, or were they watching the smallest children for the longest time possible…

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Tank Talk

A really great presentation on conservation and pollution captivated the audience as did the divers. Many visitors had their photos taken next to the divers – who were behind several inches of glass.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Silly Sting Ray

This silly sting ray would swim straight up the side of the tank, then “let go,” and fall to the bottom. And then do it again. Then again. I think he was showing off for the child next to me who giggled with glee the entire time.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Doesn’t it look like the sting ray has an underneath face? A smiley one!

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Coral Restoration Trees

The net to the last tank on our visit was the one with examples of the propagation trees. Small bits of coral can be divided to grow more, like other plants.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

So Much to See

We had trouble leaving the Florida Aquarium – there was just so much to see! These tanks of anemones fascinated us with their brilliant colors and micro life.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

The anemones and clown fish looked like fireworks displays!

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Gift Shop at the Florida Aquarium

We lingered at bit in the gift shop at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. There were plenty of interesting-looking books, and plenty of the usual selections you see at venue gift shops.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Always, I’ve preferred to gift wood toys for children. This display caught my eye, though, since all the toys were constructed of recycled milk jugs. What more appropriate use – children, milk, toys…

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Two Stories of Exhibits

The Florida Aquarium can be viewed in a couple hours. However, we found that we really would have been able to spend an entire day there. Or even two.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

With such a variety of exhibits, we really wanted to linger. Longer times looking through all the tanks and listening to the presentations appeals to us.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida
Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

The Florida Aquarium

Address: 701 Channelside Dr. Tampa, FL 33602.

The Aquarium parking lot is adjacent to the Florida Aquarium and is located at the corner of Channelside Drive and York Street. Parking is $10.

Phone: (813) 273-4000, Email: moreinfo@flaquarium.org

Open daily 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day

Food and Drink

Cafe Ray is in First Floor Lobby. It’s open daily 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and is currently offering grab and go options. 

Due to the nature of the facility and the safety of its animals with open exhibits, The Florida Aquarium isn’t able to allow outside food and drink into the Aquarium. This does not include bottles or baby food for infants.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

Some Tips for Visiting the Florida Aquarium in Tampa

On their Visit Page, it says The Aquarium will hold luggage for cruise passengers scheduled to leave for a cruise or returning from a cruise at no charge as they visit the Aquarium.

Purchase tickets online to get the lowest price with Plan Ahead Pricing and bypass the ticket windows and enter straight through the main entrance (present confirmation information on mobile device or on paper.)

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

I Don’t Go Anywhere Without

  • Stream2Sea Reef Safe SPF 20 or 30 mineral, regular or tinted sunscreen, mask defog, shampoo, conditioner, rash guards and more reef-safe supplies. Use my code “DeepWH” for 10% off.
  • Crisis Medicine Tactical Casualty Care Course knowledge so we can help ourselves. With code “DeepWH” you save 20% on the TC2 course
  • MyMedic Individual Bleeding Control Kits, this link and my code “DeepWH15” will save you 15% on your purchase. We take ours everywhere.
  • North American Rescue CAT tourniquets. Use code “MAY25” for 20% off through midnight on 5/31/20. This is a huge savings!
  • Airbnb, “Kimberly gave you up to $55 off your first trip.”
  • Airbnb says, “Deep gave you up to $415 off your first adventure.
  • Uber gives you $2 off your first three rides.
  • Travelex is our trip insurer – click for a free quote.
  • Girls That Scuba – members discount card for all things diving.
  • REI Co-op for great sports equipment and travel clothes.
  • Sailo for $100 off your next boat rental! Discount Code: “KimWa1”
  • PierShare to rent your dock out or rent a dock.
  • BoatUS for your boat towing insurance! Code: “HEWAF88”
  • RoadId for $5 off your cycling/running/kayaking/travel id.
  • Thank you for using my links – your price does not change, but they may gift me a small percentage of your sale in return for my mention, which allows me to continue to bring to you fun content.
  • AD: affiliate links used.

Updated June 2, 2020.

Florida Aquarium Tampa, Florida Aquarium // Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

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