The Florida Aquarium 701 Channelside Drive Tampa, FL 33602

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In a city known for its theme parks and attractions, the Florida Aquarium offers a perfect respite from the chaos, while still providing lots to do and lots to learn. Located in Tampa, and a short drive from Orlando, the aquarium is a perfect place to observe sea life and also to learn more about the environment.

The aquarium is neatly divided into different sections, or galleries, so that exploring can be done easily. One feature that Florida Aquarium has is its thriving Wetlands Trail. Here, birds, animals, and fish local to Florida can be seen in realistic habitats. These swamps are the perfect home for the many alligators, stingrays, and sharks. There is also a vast display of local birds.

A newer exhibit at the aquarium is the Journey to Madagascar. Here, visitors can experience a part of nature they might never get to see in person. It’s filled with exotic creatures, like the enthralling but equally terrifying hissing cockroach. There are also cuter things to see, like the adorable lemurs and camouflaging chameleons.

The Coral Reef Gallery offers an experience unique to Florida Aquarium. Here, you can see an ocean habitat at varying depths, from the surface down to 60 feet below. This is something usually only experienced divers get to see and is both informative and thrilling for the entire family.

The Bays and Beaches Gallery has over 20,000 different types of plants and animals on display. Here you can observe stingrays being fed. A favorite area for the kids, though, are the sea turtle exhibits. Here, you not only get to see several turtles in their little habitats, you can also touch and feel turtle shells and eggs. Children are allowed to climb on giant replicas of sea turtles. Perfect for a photo op, they can also climb into giant turtle eggs!

There are several stations throughout the aquarium where, through multimedia or on location professionals, you can learn more about the sea and its inhabitants. There are amazing videos and clips that are both informative and entertaining. The blending of observing nature and being informed can be seen perfectly in the penguin exhibit, where you can learn about their habitats and lifestyle, but also get an up close and personal experience with them.

The Florida Aquarium is different than most others because it offers some amazing hands on activities. One of its most popular is its outdoor water parks that is unique in its offering an opportunity to swim with the fishes. Here, anyone over the age of six can truly experience sea life as they float and dive among over 2000 different species of fish. For those a little older, there’s also a shark swim, where people can swim among turtles, sting rays, and, of course, sharks. There are also special swims that can be arranged for those who are scuba certified.

For more information, please visit the The Florida Aquarium website.

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