Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Florida Aquarium

Last week was spring break for my kids, so we decided to have a “staycation” and explore some local sites.  Our first stop was the Florida Aquarium located in Tampa.  My daughter is obsessed with anything to do with fish, so she was excited as soon as she saw the entrance sign.  I highly recommend purchasing your tickets in advance online.  Not only will it save you money, but it will save you time standing in line.
Navigating around the aquarium is simple.  The self-guided tour starts on the second floor.  When you walk into the lobby/atrium of the aquarium, you will see a set of escalators.  I had to use the elevator since I was pushing a stroller.  The adventure starts in the Wetlands Trail exhibit.  It is housed in a beautiful glass paneled dome with plenty of various aqua life to see.  The walkways are wide and could easily accommodate my double stroller.  Aquariumania is upstairs, so I had to park the stroller as we headed up to check out more exhibits.  My kids especially loved the glass bottom floor that looks down into a tank of sharks and sting rays.  It’s a small floor, so only a handful of people at a time can look.  The exit stairs lead down to the opposite side of the Trail, so I had to go back through and pick up my stroller.

The No Bone Zone on the second floor is great for adults and kids.  It is a touch tank filled with starfish, creepy sea urchins and crustaceans.  My son really enjoyed getting a feel for sea life.

The Coral Reef, my favorite section, is home to the Coral Reef Tunnel and the Panoramic Window.  It is a floor to ceiling view of some amazing creatures including giant sting rays and sharks.  LOVE!

We were back on the first floor and exiting to the sting ray touch tank.  Honestly, this is my least favorite part.  It’s not particularly large and it’s difficult for the kids to get in deep enough to actually touch a sting ray.  There is a small section of the perimeter with a step for smaller kids, but even then, it’s almost impossible to get a chance at the rays swimming by. 

Outside is Explore A Shore, a 2-acre water play area with a pirate ship in the center complete with water guns.  I changed the kids into their swim suits, lathered on the sunscreen and set them loose.  This area is great for all ages!  For the little ones, there is a dry play area with a small pirate ship with a slide and a wheel, because what little kid doesn't love a wheel?  The covered sand play area is awesome.  There are pails, shovels and sifters for your enjoyment and plenty of seating for adults to watch.  The water is shut off on colder days, so the sprayground turns into a playground.

Hungry for lunch?  There are two dining options: inside at Café Ray or outside at Caribbean Cantina.  Café Ray is a self-service cafeteria with many options like pizza, burgers, chicken strips and some local specials like Cuban sandwiches and pulled pork with rice and beans.  The prices are decent and you get a lot of food.  My kids can split a chicken finger kids meal with plenty of food left over. 

Outside is Caribbean Cantina, an open-air sit down restaurant with a full-service bar.  This is a great option if you plan on letting your kids run around in Explore A Shore.  You can see the whole play area from the restaurant.

We had such a great day that we became members AND booked my children’s birthday party for this summer. 

See ya under the sea!

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