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My kids love animals and are always up for a zoo, farm or aquarium visit. On our recent trip to Clearwater Florida, we were so excited to be able to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Marine Life Rescue Center– not just to see all the great sea life, but to learn about how they rehab animals! That’s right, the Clearwater Aquarium is more than just a place to go and look at marine animals – it a working sea animal rehab facility!
Momma To Go would like to thank the Clearwater Aquarium for hosting us on our recent visit. As always, all opinions are all my own.
The Best Aquarium in Florida
Plan a Visit to the Clearwater Aquarium
If you are looking for something really special to do in the Tampa/Clearwater/St. Pete area, I highly recommend a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. On our recent visit not only did our kids have so much fun, we learned a ton about sea life! This is definitely the best Aquarium in Florida!
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick and injured marine animals, as well as public education, and animal-assisted therapy and research. This aquarium is very interactive, from their long list of presentations offered throughout the day, to the many helpful docents walking around ready to educate patrons about all things marine life. At several points we were able to talk with the knowledgeable staff and have ALL our many questions answered!
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is probably best known for being the home of Winter the Dolphin – the star of the Dolphin Tale movie! Even if you have not seen the movie, you will enjoy learning about her rescue and amazing recovery at the Clearwater Aquarium.
Where is the Clearwater Aquarium?
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is located on Sea Island, between Tampa and Clearwater Beach, just north of St. Pete Beach. This Aquarium is only 90-minutes from Orlando, so the perfect day trip from Central Florida.
At the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, there is a large parking garage for your convenience ($10 per car). Inside the parking garage, you will find the ticket booth as well. After purchasing your tickets, it’s about a 2-3-minute walk to the Aquarium entrance.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is open daily from 10am to 6pm, with extended hours at certain times of the year.
How much is the Clearwater Aquarium?
Admission to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is $24.95 for adults and $19.95 for kids with a discount for seniors and children under 2 are free. The Aquarium is a non-profit and all of the revenue goes directly to helping the animals.
Before your visit – download the free Clearwater Marine Aquarium app, which is a great way to plan your trip!
Visiting several Tampa attractions? Then consider the Tampa City Pass – a great way to see multiple attractions, including the CMA, at a deep discount!
Exhibits at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has both indoor and outdoor exhibits. When we first arrived, we went right to the Sting Ray Touch tank, where kids can touch these beautiful creatures. Around the time we arrived, a staff member was giving a presentation all about the sting rays.
Next, we headed to Mavis’s Rescue Hideaway – which is the large tank where we could see sea turtles, fish, and more sting rays. (PS Mavis was the rescuse sea turtle in Dolphin Tale 2). One of our favorite parts of the day was the “Meet Our Divers” presentation where divers entered the tank, with trivia questions on water proof paper. The kids in the viewing windows were given whiteboards and markers to write their answers! This was super fun, educational and interactive! I’ve never seen anything like this – what a great way to engage young learners.
Our kids loved this, writing many of their own questions on the whiteboards, which the scuba divers could answer with their magnetic white boards!
After checking this all out, we headed upstairs and outside for a Resident Dolphin Talk on the Dolphin Terrace. Here we learned all about Nicholas, one of the three rescue dolphins at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. In addition to seeing Nicholas do some fun tricks, we learned all about how dolphins live at the CMA, and why they can no longer be released back into the wild.
After these three presentations, we explored the rest of the aquarium on our own. We checked out Rufus Beach, to see the enormous pelicans! Apparently, their wing span is way bigger than ours!
Upstairs is where you can see the movie star dolphins Winter and Hope, in addition to some sea turtles, sharks and otters! Along the perimeter, there were great exhibits explaining Winter and Hope’s journey to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Our kids spent quite a bit of time walking through this corridor and reading all the information! They were fascinated by their rehab, and of course the movie tie in!
In addition to Winter and Hope, the upstairs has a sea turtle tank, an otter tank and a tank with two sharks – aptly named Thelma and Louise! We loved watching the otters swim and glide, they are so cute!
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After viewing the animal tanks from above, we headed down to the underground viewing area! Here you can see the dolphin and shark tanks from the lower part of their tanks. Additionally, there was a touch tank, where you could touch sea urchins! This area was also staffed by an aquarium worker, teaching the kids about the various fish and marine life that live in the shallower waters.
Lastly, we took a tour of the animal rehab facility. There are several room dedicated to their treatment and along the walls, the stories of successful animal rehabilitations. Many sea turtles that were rescued were then able to be released back into the wild.
At the time of our visit, we could see a sea turtle and a sting ray in the rehab tanks – it was just so amazing to see humans helping sea life and thinking more about ways we can be good friends to animals.
Is Winter still at the Clearwater Aquarium?
I’m sure everyone who visits wants to know – Is winter still at the Clearwater Aquarium? Yes, she is! Winter is the star of the movie, Dolphin Tale, a 2011 movie based on the true story of dolphin Winter who lost her fin in a crab trap and was rehabbed at this rescue center. She was ultimately given a prosthetic fin, to enable her to swim again! This is all based on the real-life experience of Winter the dolphin and her rehabilitation at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where yes, she still lives and thrives!
The 2014 sequel, Dolphin Tale 2 is a movie about finding a CMA companion for Winter, after her pal Panama dies. Panama really did live at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium – and lived a very long life being cared for by the aquarium. Enter Hope, the perfect friend for Winter, who yes, is still living alongside her dolphin mate!
Clearwater Aquarium Review
If you are visiting the Tampa, Clearwater or St. Pete Beach area, I highly recommend a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. We spent about 3 hours at the aquarium, seeing several presentations and then exploring on our own. Again, my kids loved the interactive presentations, seeing the animals, and learning all about them.
PS When you first walk over to the Aquarium Entrance, they take some photos of you with a green background. They come out so cute and I highly recommend you buy them all! Here are some of ours:
I know they are super excited to go home and watch both Dolphin Tale films!
Have you been to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium? Do you love the Dolphin Tale Movies? What are educational things your family likes to do while traveling?
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