Florida Aquariums Your Family Will Love
By Carrie McLaren
Florida aquariums offer opportunities to learn about sea life and have a fun outing at the same time.
Whether you’re hoping to learn about fish and fauna, swim with dolphins, or just have some hands-on fun, aquariums are a place of exploration and excitement for all ages.
Located across the street from the beach, Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City Beach features a sting ray touch tank, a reptile show and an indoor area with walking trails featuring beautiful birds. Within the park, you’ll also find penguins, alligators and flamingos on display at the park. The park also offers "meet the dolphin" experiences for families and there are opportunities to swim with the dolphins, too.
The Bays and Beaches exhibit at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa explores more than 20,000 plants and animals native to Florida and surrounding areas. "The Penguins: Backstage Pass" offers families a look at the aquarium and marine life. Led by a penguin biologist, this experience is available as an add-on to your aquarium admission. Be sure to bring your little one’s swimsuit; the Florida Aquarium also has a large splash park.
Located in Key West's Mallory Square, families can explore sea life, learn about conservation, coral reef tanks and animals native to Florida at the Key West Aquarium. Don’t miss putting your hands in the Touch Tank to see live conchs, sea stars, sea urchins and even giant hermit crabs.
Home to Winter the dolphin, from the hit movies "Dolphin Tale" and "Dolphin Tale 2," the Clearwater Marine Aquarium was used in the making of the movies. Families can explore the same places they saw on the big screen. Don’t miss Sawyer’s Passage, built specifically for the movie. Go underneath to see moray eels and sea turtles through the underwater windows.
At Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Panacea, you begin to get a better sense of what’s really out there. On a quiet back street between the highway and the bay, the lab houses a collection of sea water tanks and aquariums. Unlike most big public aquariums that emphasize porpoises and big fishes, the lab focuses on creatures such as seahorses and hermit crabs, emerald eyed spiny box fish, electric rays and red and white spotted calico crabs – just a few of the endless living treasures of north Florida’s still shining coast.