The Florida Aquarium - Tampa, FL

Labor day weekend was a wash out here in Kissimmee. I attempted shopping some sales out the outlets, but not only was it extremely busy, but also extremely wet.

The weather for Monday was not looking any better, so if we wanted to do something, it would have to be indoors. I figured there would be a lot of people in town for the holiday, so to avoid a lot of the crowds we decided to go out of the Orlando area. In theory this was a good idea! We headed West for Tampa to The Florida Aquarium. It seems a lot of other people had the same idea we did - when we got there the parking lot was full and there was a line out the door for tickets!

We parked in the parking garage across the street and got in line to buy tickets. Here is where my first two tips come in...
1. Park in the parking garage instead of the aquarium parking lot. You have to pay for both anyway, at least the parking garage is covered from the elements.
2. Buy your tickets ahead of time. All you need is the email confirmation code. We had already been in the line to buy tickets at the door for about 10 minutes when I noticed an empty line for online ticket sales. I actually stepped out of the line and purchased tickets right there on my phone and we walked right in!

There are five exhibits over two stories in the aquarium.

We started out in the Wetlands Trail.

There was lots to see here, lots of native Florida wildlife which is always fun to learn about. There was even some no so native species in the form of these two foot burmese pythons!

Then there is The Journey to Madagascar, with lemurs, coral reefs and tortoises.

Bays and Beaches and the coral reef showcased some of the local sea life. I loved the stingrays, the always look like they are smiling!

There are also three interactive exhibits where you can touch starfish, sea cucumbers, stingrays and horseshoe crabs

By the time we had gotten half way round the aquarium, it got very busy. We couldn't really get a good look at the rest of the exhibits as it was so crowded, but at this point we were hungry and ready to call it a day. On the way out, we actually upgraded our tickets to an annual membership, it was only another $40 total and would give us free parking! We also get a bunch of discounts on other area attractions, so it will give us lots of other places to explore!

Another tip for the aquarium - bring the kids swimsuits! There is a large splash pad area in the aquarium courtyard. There is a cafe within the aquarium that serves breakfast and lunch and then Cantina Bar and Grill outside that serves lunch, entrees run between $8-12 each. The food smelled and looked good, but we had lunch in the cooler in the car - maybe next time!

Overall, it was a fun day. I look forward to going back more when it's a little less crowded!

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