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A Beginner's Guide to Visiting The Florida Aquarium

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Whether you are a Tampa resident or a visitor to the area, The Florida Aquarium is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in marine life and conservation. In this blog post, we will guide you through all the exhibits and attractions that you will encounter during your visit so you can make the most of your time at The Florida Aquarium. So, let's dive in and explore all that this fascinating aquarium has to offer!

Indoor First-Floor Activities

As you enter the main floor, you are greeted with beautiful artwork to the left and Moon Bay in the center. Moon Bay is a moon jelly touch habitat, a.k.a. a place where you can touch and learn more about jellyfish! This experience was extraordinary - one of my favorites at the aquarium. Moreover, to the right of the entrance, you will find the gift shop full of unique gadgets and souvenirs. To the right of Moon Bay is Rocky and Tango's Beach House, where we met Tango and later ran into a demonstration involving a recuperating bird.

Outdoor First-Floor Activities

The Florida Aquarium is home to one of the most memorable splash pads we have encountered outside of a water park, so bring a bathing suit or extra clothing for the kiddos to enjoy! There is also a playground right next to the splash pad. To the right of these, you can find African Penguins - they were adorable! Another neat feature outside was the 4Ducks Theater, which combines a 3-D film with a variety of built-in sensory effects.

Food Options

On the first floor (inside and out), you will see Café Ray, Sandy’s Snack Shack, and The Cove. Café Ray is a quick-service restaurant that offers starters, tenders, burgers, pizza pies, greens & grains, sandwiches, kid's meals, and beverages. Some of the unique finds on this menu are the smoked fish dip, a Morrocan burger, a smoky mushroom pizza, and a ponzu bowl. They also have regular food court items like chicken tenders, a Plain Jane burger, pepperoni pizza, and a kid's hot dog. At Sandy’s Snack Shack you can enjoy desserts like ice cream and donuts! Do not worry, parents - The Florida Aquarium is thinking of you too - they have The Cove, which offers alcoholic beverages like pina coladas, daiquiris, and beer.

Activities above the First-Floor

The majority of the exhibits are on the second floor, while Journey to Madagascar is on the third. You can take the escalator from the first to the second floor, located in the center of the first floor to the left of Moon Bay. Additionally, there are stairs and elevators available.

Wetlands of Florida

As soon as you step off the escalator, you will see the entrance of the Wetlands of Florida exhibit. This area is warmer than the other parts of the museum because it is housed in a glass dome like a greenhouse. This exhibit is immersive and impressive since there are not many enclosures for the animals. The birds are free to roam and fly around. You'll also see turtles and ducks up close since their tanks are only partially enclosed to keep the water in, not to fully shield them from humans.

Journey to Madagascar

This exhibit is above the Wetlands of Florida you can take the stairs or elevator to explore this part. In this section, you will find lemurs, frogs, insects, tropical coral reefs, and fish!

Shorelines

In this exhibit, you will encounter various animals that settle on the Florida coasts. We saw some animals we had never seen before, such as the Garden Eel, which looked like plants sticking up from the sand. We also saw various fish ranging from small to gigantic.

Stingray Beach

Stringray Beach is a touch tank where you can feel the slippery and velvety wing tip of a cownose ray. Fun Fact: A group of cownose rays is called a fever! As an aside, this section got full fast and was crowded most of the day.

No Bone Zone

The No Bone Zone is a touch tank where you can feel sea stars, anemones, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and more! Though it was super cold, it was an amazing experience that I recommend everyone try.

Coral Reef

Panoramic Window at the Coral Reef Exhibit at The Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Florida
The Coral Reef is the largest habitat at The Florida Aquarium with over half a million gallons of water. As you go through the habitat, you will see sand tiger sharks, giant sea turtles, Atlantic stingrays, and tons of fish! This habitat is so breathtaking, especially at the ginormous panoramic window.

Reef Secrets

Near the panoramic window at Coral Reef, you will find Reef Secrets. The exhibit is home to a diverse range of seahorse and pipehorse species, ranging from pot-bellied to dwarf. You will need to get close to the glass to see those dwarf seahorses - they are that small!

Waves of Wonder

In the Waves of Wonder habitat, you can witness a diverse array of colorful marine species, including jellies, clownfish, anemones, and even a Great Pacific octopus! We were amazed by the flattest fish we had ever seen in this exhibit, but it was difficult to get a picture as it was too fast. Also, don't miss the Heart of the Sea gallery, which showcases Florida's beloved ocean animals such as loggerhead sea turtles, hogfish, spotted eagle rays, and bonnethead sharks.

CityPASS

This blog post is a continuation of our use of the Tampa Bay CityPASS. This ticket allowed us to visit The Florida Aquarium, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, ZooTampa at Lowry Park, and two other attraction visits of your choice (from a listing). The listing comprises the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, The Tropics Boat Tours Dolphin or Sunset Cruise, the Museum of Science & Industry, and the Glazer Children's Museum. Adult ticket prices are $139, and Children (3-9) ticket prices are $124.

Screenshot of the Tampa Bay CityPASS details

In purchasing the CityPASS, we saved money on these 5 visits, skipped the ticket counter, and increased our flexibility as we did not have to reserve a spot for most of the attractions. Everywhere we go, even when we are local, we search for discounted ticket packages like CityPASS to get the greatest bang for our buck and visit the most well-known attractions in that area!
Disclaimer: As an affiliate of CityPASS, I may receive monetary compensation if you purchase through the links in this blog post. However, I want to make it clear that this will not come at an extra cost to you. Your use of the links will help support my blog and allow me to continue creating high-quality content for you. Thank you for your support! Want to purchase the Tampa Bay CityPASS to visit these amazing attractions and save over 50% at 5 Must-See Attractions? Click the below image to do so!

Check out our monthly tip blog post regarding CityPASS (and Go City) here for more details on what they are, what's the difference between them, where you can use them, and how to use them!

Seas the Day!

Front of the The Florida Aquarium building in Tampa, Florida
This was our first visit to The Florida Aquarium, and we were blown away! Our favorite sections were Moon Bay, the Wetlands of Florida, and the enormous panoramic window at Coral Reef. We hope this blog post has prepared you to take on the aquarium and make the most of your visit. We recommend arriving early to explore most of the place without crowds. However, the day we went, it wasn't too crowded except for Stingray Beach.

Have you been to The Florida Aquarium? If so, what was your favorite part? Let us know in the comments below. If you haven't gone when you do, share your experience on social media and tag us on our Dale, Let's Travel! pages. Speaking of social media... don't forget to follow us! 😊


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* This article is not sponsored by The Florida Aquarium or any of the other businesses mentioned above or their affiliates. However, as previously mentioned, Dale, Let's Travel! LLC is an affiliate of CityPASS and may receive monetary compensation if you purchase tickets using the above affiliate link. *
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