Things to Do in Tampa Bay: Florida Aquarium

Happy New Year! I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday and are enjoying a prosperous 2017. The year holds great things for us!

One thing is that the first quarterly ATFT newsletter comes out next week to all the subscribers for free – so sign up if you haven’t already!

On a side note, I published my second English-language workbook this week. It goes along with my podcast for English learners. If you know someone who is learning English and wants to practice listening, please point them to my podcast, which is free on iTunes and also at www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. The workbook is available via Amazon – click here for the new 2016 workbook, the 2015 workbook, all my cookbooks and my photography book.

For this first blog post of 2017, I’m presenting one final item in the Things to Do in Tampa Bay Florida series. Just in case you have some relatives hanging around after the holidays. Of course, this won’t be the last Florida thing I’ll write about, but I’m flashing back to Europe for the next couple of weeks and maybe even giving you some new recipes.

My last post was about the Tampa Bay History Center Museum, and right down the street in the same Channelside area near Port of Tampa is the Florida Aquarium, which is today’s topic. I’ve always been impressed with this place. I love fish and have kept many aquariums in my day, and visiting here always makes me want to stop by the Marine Warehouse Aquarium store on the way home and get me a big saltwater setup again.

But there aren’t just fish there. After you buy your ticket at the outdoor box office, you go into a lobby area where you can even pet some sea creatures such as sharks and stingrays swimming by in a shallow pool. There’s an enthusiastically attended invertebrate area, too, and a gift shop.

What you should do first, though, is exit through a door that looks like it’s leading to the outdoors. However, it’s actually an enclosed area like a giant terrarium under a glass-and-steel dome. Under that dome feels totally like the real outdoors except it’s air-conditioned and comfortable even on the hottest days, and you stay dry on rainy days.

This “outdoor” area is well-done, planted with local Florida flora and fauna.

Lots of native birds flit about, like this juvenile heron:

…and this roseate spoonbill (NOT a flamingo, you tourists!):

And, news flash, you CAN end up with bird poop on your shoulder or worse because the birds are not in cages!

Here I must apologize for the picture quality of some of my photos – it’s very dark inside the aquarium, and I didn’t have my tripod on me.

Anyway, you can see mangroves with fish swimming by their roots, plus lots of other native water denizens:

There are even some animals who have invaded Florida from other places:

For some reason there is also a cage area housing lemurs from Madagascar (no relation to the movie, I don’t think):

And they also have reptile and amphibian exhibits:

Once you complete the circuit of the “outdoor” area, you’re back inside with lighted tanks of other wonderful swimmers.

The requisite jellies:

“That’s a moray.”

This guy’s name is Cleatus, a goliath grouper, and he is over 300 pounds! I believe he’s been at the Aquarium since the beginning. I saw him in 2007 for the first time.

This gives you some scale for him:

Then there are the freak fish:

And a stingray tank where you can watch the staff feed the animals:

The main attraction is the giant tank where dozens of types of fish all live together, swimming around and around. Sometimes you can see divers in there cleaning or feeding the fish.

Doesn’t this stingray look like he’s pleading with you to get him out of the shark tank?  Here’s Toothy up close (it’s his good side): It’s easy to spend hours here. And it’s fantastic for kids, too.

My ticket to the Florida Aquarium cost $24.95, but you can get a discount if you buy it online or if you are a senior or student. Kids two and under are free. Check their website for other types of tickets, such as annual passes, combo passes, behind-the-scenes tours and critter encounters. You can even take a wild dolphin cruise. There is parking just across the street in a big parking garage for about $6 a day.

Behind the Florida Aquarium, you can tour an actual warship, The USS Victory, which served in WWII and Korea. I didn’t tour it, but I got the picture:

There was also a cruise ship docked nearby that turned out to be a special cruise ship for people on dialysis.

I guess you can do just about anything you want, no matter what! Remember that and have a good week!

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

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