Updated: Aug 25
After 9 months of avoiding any indoor attractions, we decided it was time to dip our toes back in the water and we honestly couldn’t have picked a better place to try than The Florida Aquarium in Tampa! Join us as we take you on our safely distanced aquatic adventure.
We moved to Florida from Massachusetts back in August 2019, filled with enthusiasm for our new way of life, we began exploring. Little did we know then this would come to an abrupt halt. From March 2020 we scaled back our adventures to only nature parks and gardens that were completely outdoors, with barely a passerby. As months went by, the deadly coronavirus was surging in our new home state. With air traffic grounded, theme parks were reducing staff and eventually closed with no guarantee of a reopening date. Our beautiful sunshine state was looking very gloomy.
Jump forward to January 2021 and we had a burning desire to highlight places that we have safely experienced ourselves and The Florida Aquarium hit it out of the park. Firstly, we must point out no member of staff was aware we were going to be writing this feature and we were treated as any member of the public would be.
From the moment we arrived in front of The Florida Aquarium we were greeted by a masked and friendly member of staff checking we had our tickets and allocated entry time slot. After a quick bag check and no lines, we were in. Masks are required by everyone over 3 years, no exceptions and we felt comforted by that. As we walked in the main lobby, we felt the perfect balance of welcome, safe, and surrounded by so many interesting things to see.
Stunning aquatic art forms, made from trash picked up on the shoreline, hung from the ceiling as we made our way up the escalators to the 2nd level. There were also many other standing and wall exhibits on both levels, from an impressive tsunami wave to a Great White Shark, this exhibit may have a limited time.
We then headed to the Wetlands of Florida, as we meandered through the mangroves, we had the real sense of being transported out into the wild and loved seeing so many natural inhabitants, some of them have become familiar to us now that we live on a lake. One of our favorites was the Roseate spoonbill, who was happy to pose for a photo and actually wanted to get more friendly, as it strolled up and down alongside the waters edge.
If you’ve ever dreamed of a Journey to Madagascar, then you can get a taste of what to expect here. We enjoyed seeing the cute Lemurs and colorful Indian Ocean Reef but decided we didn’t want to crawl inside the tree with hissing cockroaches, if you like insects then go for it and let us know!
You can safely get touchy feely at Stingray Beach or just watch these elegant cartilaginous fish swim around before heading to the Coral Reef Tunnel.
Our favorite part of The Florida Aquarium was most definitely the Coral Reef and Heart of the Sea. At every twist and turn there was something magnificent to see, and even though we were now more enclosed the social distancing was very professionally managed. Keeping with the fish theme they used fish and flippers to indicate the appropriate distance to keep, no big crowds gathered in front of the floor to ceiling glass windows.
We were in awe standing and watching schools of fish swim right by us, followed by sharks, turtles, and more stingrays.
Members of staff were extremely informative about all the exhibits and gladly chatted to us answering all our questions. They told us a great deal of thought had been put into deciding the numbers of people allowed in the aquarium at any one time and we can say from our experience they got it right.
Visit our online shop to purchase our one-of-a-kind handcrafted pieces of art
Although we adore seeing the bigger fish and sea creatures the smaller fish hold a special place in our hearts and there were so many to see here. The Moon Jellies are so mesmerizing as they gently swim around, with their delicate fringe like tentacles, they can grow up to 12" in diameter and only give a very mild sting.
Then there are the seahorses which amazed us, did you know these creatures’ pair up for life and it is the only male species on earth that bears babies. They look like tiny dragons as they swim around. Sadly, they are under threat around the world being harvested for medicinal purposes and souvenirs.
We wrapped our day up with lunch from the Café Ray, although there was ample safe seating inside it was a beautiful day, so we sat outside taking in the waterfront view. Funnily enough they have a bar called Corona Cove, named after the beer, not the virus. As we sat enjoying the warm Florida sun, we reflected on what an excellent day we had, and we would happily recommend this experience to anyone who is ready to venture safely back out.
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Look for some more safe places to explore, then check out our botanical garden recommendations.
For more information about The Florida Aquarium please visit their website.