Florida Aquarium – Fun for the Littlest Explorer

As a still new mom to a 16 month old, my husband and I often find ourselves wondering how to spend a Saturday afternoon. Where can we take our daughter to get her out of the house, stimulated, and having fun? She’s still too young for many places, but now that she’s walking, more options are finally opening up.

A few weeks ago, we took advantage of a Groupon for tickets to the Florida Aquarium. It was the best use of a Saturday afternoon we’ve had in a long time! We went with friends and their 10 month old son. Both kids absolutely loved it. The Horseshoe Crab Lagoon was great. While Bailey wasn’t quite ready to touch them, the floor-level underwater window gave her a front row seat of the action.

Dad and Bailey sharing their excitement.

From penguins to the tiniest seahorses we’ve ever seen, the Florida Aquarium provided a wonderful atmosphere for learning, stimulation, and fun. Even the corridors offered excitement with their dry ice and moving sea life pictures.

They have sharks, dolphins, jellyfish – even a wetlands exhibit featuring alligators, otters, and more. Of course, my little explorer was just happy to see her current favorite animal: ducks. Even though we didn’t experience it this time, I’ve heard great things about the water fun zone.

Bailey exploring the exhibits.

Many times, I debate whether to spend the money to visit certain places since Bailey is still so young. While I love amusement parks, for example, the prices these days are just too high when she won’t be able to get the most out of the experience yet. The Florida Aquarium was definitely worth it, though.

Toddlers enjoying the view!

While busy, it wasn’t overly crowded and the exhibits were filled with families and young children. She felt right at home among the other kids and even made some friends. On the other hand, one bold 7 year old made me a bit nervous when she attempted to physically pick her up. Scooping up my tiny sack of potatoes, I had to wonder where her parents were as I politely whisked Bailey away. I guess it was time to move from one kind of shark to another (albeit this one was much sweeter).

Aside from the usual fun activities, they also host birthday parties, sleepovers, camps, and more. Check out their Calendar for upcoming events for both youngsters and adults. The Aquarium is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets are $21.95 for adults ($19.95 online), $18.95 for seniors ($17.95 online), $16.95 for kids under 12 ($15.95 online), and kids under 2 get in free. They also offer reasonably priced annual passes. Visit their website at www.flaquarium.org for more information.

What are some other great Tampa Bay places to take young kids? Tell us in the comments!

Katie is a children’s book author, freelance copywriter, and legal assistant still waiting for the parenting manual to arrive. She lives with her husband, Ryan, and their two kids in the Riverview area of Tampa. Katie received her BA in English from the University of South Florida and has published two children's books. In her “spare” time (you know, those found minutes between work, family, and sleep), she writes about her experiences as a new mom in her blog, Babies, Boobs, and Blowouts: A New Mom’s Journey. Find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.