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Aquariums in Florida offer a glimpse into the beauty of our underwater ecosystem, where you can get up close and personal with fascinating marine mammals of all shapes and sizes. Perfect for a rainy day activity or a retreat from the sunshine, you can get lost in the exhibit halls and participate in hands-on interactions with the exotic species, as these aquariums offer a family-friendly, educational experience that appeals to visitors of all ages. Feel the excitement of marine life exploration in one of these top aquariums in Florida.
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Consistently ranked as one of the top aquariums in the country, the Florida Aquarium in Tampa offers more than 150,000 square feet of educational fun, featuring over 7,000 animal and plant life species. Meander through the aquarium’s maze of aquatic life to get an intimate look at some of the sea turtles, moray eels and stingray exhibits, or venture off to see the ring-tailed lemurs, playful otters and colorful chameleons. The shark tank area is a popular exhibit, while the alligator-infested waters offer you the chance to get an authentic Florida experience from a safe distance.
One of the best things to do in Panama City, Gulf World Marine Park features animal encounters, a variety of live shows, and a walking trail featuring beautiful birds. Observe penguins, alligators and flamingos throughout the park, while the Shark and Turtle Feeding, Penguin Encounter and Harbour Sea Encounter offer an educational look at the animal’s unique personalities and characteristics. There’s also a program to swim with the dolphins, offering a great chance for little ones to learn more about these intelligent creatures.
With over 5,000 animals at SEA LIFE Orlando, you’re sure to find an array of intimate animal encounters. The aquarium on International Drive holds over 2 million gallons of water and is home to magnificent sharks, colorful clownfish and inquisitive sea turtles. Many of the creatures here are on the endangered list or have been rescued, but one of the biggest highlights at this aquarium is the unique 360-degree underwater tunnel where you can soak up stunning views of life underwater.
Nestled in Mallory Square, the Key West Aquarium is a family-friendly aquarium where visitors of all ages will delight in learning about sea life, conservation, and have a chance to explore coral reef tanks. See animals native to Florida at the Touch Tank, including live conchs, sea stars, sea urchins, horseshoe crabs, and giant hermit crabs. Touch a live shark on the tail in the shark exhibit, or visit some of Florida’s other fierce creatures at the alligator and jellyfish displays.
Famously home to Winter and Hope, the dolphins from the hit movie “Dolphin Tale,” Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a top family attraction in Florida that provides an array of educational activities. Shipwreck Alley is an underwater viewing tunnel, the Stranding Deck is for sick and injured dolphins, while the Otter Oasis is home to North American river otters. Visit nurse sharks Thelma and Louise in Shark Pass or say hello to Cocoa the sea turtle. You also can visit the contemporary theater that shows documentaries, or hit the water and go on a kayak or boating excursion.
Home to a Shark Zone exhibit and touchable rays and reef animals exhibit, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota offers an array of hands-on amazement the entire family will enjoy. Highlights of the attraction are the two touch tanks and the 135,000-gallon shark habitat, but there’s also a chance to see Mote Marine’s scientific research in viewable working laboratories firsthand. Say hello to Hugh and Buffett, the resident manatees, or Hang Tough, the adorable sea turtle, as there are more than 100 species of marine life that call this place their home.
The city’s premier facility for marine life, Miami Seaquarium is a fun place for the kids, with designated splash zones and animal interactions. See the African penguins at Penguin Isle or visit friendly dolphins at the Dolphin Encounter, while the VIP Tour allows you to get personal with iguanas and feed manatees, stingrays and sea turtles. Those looking for thrills will want to sign up for the Sea Trek Reef Encounter, where you can go on an underwater walking journey through the 300,000-gallon tropical reef, while animal enthusiasts will enjoy the Seal Swim with harbor seals and the Trainer for a Day program.
Entertaining marine life enthusiasts since 1955, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach is a historic aquarium that features a variety of memorable animal encounters. Watch Atlantic bottlenose dolphins from a submerged platform, feed an African penguin or say hello to gentle seals and spunky sea lions. The little ones will marvel at the stingrays, while a Kids Reptile Safari offers a gentle introduction to turtles, lizards, snakes and alligators. To learn what life is like as a marine mammal trainer, sign up for the VIP Trainer experience to get a behind-the-scenes look at the aquarium.
Get your hands wet at the aquatic touch pool at Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, where you can admire cownose stingrays and hermit crabs as they swim by in the 1,400-gallon pool. Filled with a variety of ecological wonders, you’ll find a wide range of exhibits that feature marine life in addition to a scenic nature trail, while those who want a bird’s eye view can climb the tower to see panoramic views of Ponce Inlet. Home to hospitals that treat and rehabilitate sick and injured birds and sea turtles, visit the turtle hospital pools and learn how to conserve Volusia County’s rich environment.
A perfect destination for those looking to immerse themselves in the magic of the ocean, the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters in Marathon is home to a vibrant collection of fish species local to the Florida Keys and the Caribbean Sea. Take a guided tour with a professional marine biologist, admire colorful schools of fish in the Coral Reef Tank, or observe sand tiger, blacktip and bonnethead sharks in the Predator Reef Tank. Those looking for a thrill can go on the Coral Reef or Lagoon Snorkel Encounter, where you’ll get an up-close look at the thriving Florida Keys coral reef ecosystem in action.
*Due to Hurricane Irma, this attraction is currently closed for rehabilitation. Visit the Facebook page for updates.