If you’re looking for a family-friendly activity that will keep you entertained for hours on end, look no further than Florida’s best aquariums!
These top-rated aquariums are home to some of the most amazing sea creatures on the planet, and they offer visitors a unique opportunity to see them up close and personal.
From small local aquariums to sprawling marine parks, Florida has something for everyone when it comes to aquatic life.
So if you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, be sure to check out one of these amazing aquariums!
1. Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, located in Sarasota, Florida, is a world leader in marine research and conservation. Founded in 1955 by noted scientist Dr. Eugenie Clark, Mote has grown into a premier research institution with a mission to “advance the global understanding of our oceans.”
This is a working marine lab that researches sharks, sea turtles, and dolphins. They have an amazing variety of fish on display as well as manatees, sea dragons, and stingrays. You can also take a glass-bottom boat tour or go on a behind-the-scenes tour to learn more about their work.
Mote is home to over 200 scientists and staff members who are engaged in cutting-edge research on a wide range of topics, from dolphin cognition to red tide ecology. The laboratory also operates an accredited public aquarium that provides educational opportunities for visitors of all ages.
The aquarium features exhibits on shark biology, coral reef ecology, and ocean conservation. In addition, the facility offers hands-on opportunities for guests to interact with some of the resident animals, such as stingrays and sea turtles.
Whether you’re interested in learning about the latest marine science breakthroughs or getting up close and personal with some amazing creatures, a visit to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
2. The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, publicly opened in March 1995 as the fifth major attraction in the Tampa Bay area. The facility is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
In addition to being a major tourist destination for the region, the aquarium also serves as an environmental education and conservation resource center. As of 2018, over 20,000 schoolchildren had participated in its educational program.
The Florida Aquarium features over 200 species of aquatic animals from Florida and around the world. It is one of only four accredited facilities in the U.S. to exhibit a 500-gallon collection of living coral reefs.
Other exhibits include a freshwater wetlands habitat, an outdoor Splash Pad play area, and a Bays and Beaches gallery featuring creatures that live where freshwater meets saltwater. Visitors can also take part in behind-the-scenes tours, animal encounters, and animal feedings.
The Florida Aquarium is committed to protecting and restoring the environment, particularly the aquatic ecosystems of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.
Since its opening, the facility has rescued and rehabbed over 500 animals, including sea turtles, stingrays, pelicans, and manatees.
The aquarium also participates in data collection and research projects to help further the understanding and conservation of Florida’s aquatic ecosystems.
The best way to enjoy the Florida Aquarium is by taking one of their behind-the-scenes tours. For an additional fee, you can go on a tour led by a knowledgeable guide who will take you places most visitors don’t get to see.
You’ll learn all about the animals and the work that goes into caring for them. The tour is a great way to get an up-close look at some of the most popular exhibits, like the 500-gallon coral reef tank.
3. Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit marine life rescue center and aquarium located in Clearwater, Florida. CMA specializes in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of marine life, as well as educating the public about ocean conservation.
The organization was founded in 1977 by Hugh and Rosemary Daniels. CMA is best known for its work with Winter, a bottlenose dolphin who was rescued in 2005 after becoming entangled in a crab trap.
Since then, Winter has become an ambassador for her species and has helped to raise awareness about the dangers of ocean pollution.
CMA also cares for stingrays, river otters, sharks, pelicans, and other aquatic creatures in addition to dolphins. The organization offers educational programs for all ages, including behind-the-scenes tours, animal encounters, and classroom presentations.
CMA is accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA) and is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).
4. Miami Seaquarium
The Miami Seaquarium is a 38-acre oceanarium located on the island of Virginia Key in Miami, Florida. Founded in 1955, it is the oldest oceanarium in the United States and the largest in the world.
This world-class facility is best known for its killer whale shows, but it’s so much more than that. With over 30 acres of land and sea to explore, the Miami Seaquarium has something for everyone.
Dolphins, manatees, sea lions, penguins, alligators, reptiles, and tropical fish are just some of the many animals that call this place home.
The best part about the Miami Seaquarium is that it’s not just an aquarium; it’s also a marine mammal park, animal rescue center, and educational facility all rolled into one.
And if you’re looking for something truly unique, they even offer swimming with dolphins programs.
The Seaquarium houses a variety of marine mammals, including dolphins, killer whales, sea lions, seals, and turtles. It also has an extensive collection of fish, sharks, and rays.
In addition to its animal exhibits, the Seaquarium also features shows and educational programs.
The “Flipper Show” is one of the most popular attractions at the Seaquarium, and it tells the story of the television dolphin who captured America’s heart in the 1960s.
The Miami Seaquarium is one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations, and it provides visitors with an up-close look at some of the most amazing creatures on Earth.
5. Gulf Breeze Zoo and Garden of the Seas Aquatic Conservatory
The Gulf Breeze Zoo is a momentous place that has something for everyone in the family, from exotic animals to lovely gardens. They even have an aquatic conservatory with sea turtles!
The Garden of the Seas Aquatic Conservatory is a must-see while at the zoo; it houses many different types of sea life such as sea stars, anemones, and even sharks!
A couple of other great places to explore are the exceptionally Exotic exhibit which has zebras, and the Critter cove where you can find otters. The zebra exhibit is one of the newest additions to the zoo and offers a close-up look at these beautiful animals.
The Otter Exhibit is always a big hit with children because who doesn’t love otters? They are so playful and full of energy!
Lastly, be sure to take a stroll through one of the seven different gardens located throughout the zoo; they are gorgeous and make for a nice break from all of the walking. With all that the Gulf Breeze Zoo has to offer, you’re sure to have a fantastic time!
6. Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is a must-see for any nature lover.
The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is home to over 50 different species of butterflies, as well as a variety of birds, turtles, and fish.
Visitors can stroll through the indoor gardens and see the butterflies up close. There is also a gift shop on site.
This unique facility is home to hundreds of butterflies, as well as a variety of other exotic creatures. Visitors can stroll through the butterfly garden, getting up close and personal with these beautiful creatures.
In addition, the conservatory houses several birds, reptiles, and plants, providing a fascinating glimpse into the natural world.
The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is more than just a tourist attraction; it is a center for education and conservation.
The staff offers educational programs for all ages, and the facility is involved in research to help protect endangered species.
If you are looking for an amazing experience that will stay with you long after you leave, make sure to add the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory to your list of places to visit.
7. Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Southwest Florida.
This zoo is home to over 250 different species of animals and has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals, including lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, and rhinos.
The Naples Zoo also offers many educational opportunities, such as behind-the-scenes tours, keeper talks, and animal encounters.
Visitors can also see alligators, crocodiles, snakes, and turtles. In addition to the zoo animals, the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens also has a botanical garden with more than 10,000 species of plants.
The gardens include a butterfly garden, a rainforest garden, and an African garden. The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens also offers educational programs for children and adults.
These programs include animal encounters, behind-the-scenes tours, and overnight camping adventures.
The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is open 365 days a year from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is $22 for adults and $15 for children ages 3-12. Children 2 and under are free.
8. Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens
The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is a 115-acre not-for-profit facility located just north of Orlando, in Sanford, Florida.
The Central Florida Zoo is located in Sanford and is a great place to visit if you have kids.
The zoo has over 400 animals that represent different ecosystems from around the world. There are also educational programs available for children of all ages.
The Central Florida Zoo is one of the best aquariums in Florida because it offers a variety of activities for children and adults alike.
There are also several different exhibits that you can visit, which makes it a great place to learn about different ecosystems and animals.
The zoo’s animal residents include tigers, lions, panthers, and bears, as well as more exotic creatures like red pandas and Komodo dragons.
In addition to its impressive animal collection, the zoo also features a botanical garden with more than 2,000 different plant species. The garden includes a butterfly garden, a Citrus Center, and an Herb Garden.
Visitors can also take a stroll through the Wetlands Walkway and see native Florida plants and animals in their natural habitat.
The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is open 365 days a year and offers a variety of educational programs for all ages.
9. Manatee Lagoon
Manatee Lagoon is a saltwater lagoon located on the Atlantic coast of Florida, just south of West Palm Beach. The lagoon is home to a variety of plant and animal life, including manatees, dolphins, pelicans, and seagrasses. The lagoon is also a popular spot for swimming, kayaking, and fishing.
The lagoon was created in 2016 as part of the rehabilitation of the aging Florida Power & Light power plant. The power plant had been in operation for more than 50 years, and its cooling canal system needed repair.
To improve water quality and habitat for fish and other wildlife, FPL teamed up with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a plan to remove harmful pollutants from the canals. The resulting project created a 56-acre lagoon that is now home to more than 200 manatees.
Manatees are gentle giants that can grow up to 13 feet long and weigh more than 3,000 pounds.
These slow-moving marine mammals are fascinated by humans and often approach swimmers and kayakers in the lagoon. As you paddle around the lagoon, keep your eyes peeled for these friendly creatures!
10. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is located in Jacksonville, Florida and first opened its doors to the public on October 2, 1914. The zoo is home to over 2,000 animals, representing more than 350 species, and covers over 110 acres of land.
The zoo’s facilities include a veterinary hospital, an animal care center, and a variety of educational programs. In addition to its animal inhabitants, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens also boasts a wide variety of plant life.
The gardens include a butterfly garden, an herb garden, and a rainforest garden. Visitors can also enjoy a scenic view of the St. Johns River from the garden’s observation deck.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is committed to providing excellent care for its animals and plants while also educating visitors about wildlife conservation.
11. Butterfly World
Butterfly World is an indoor butterfly conservatory and zoo located in Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek, Florida. The attraction includes a 3,200-square-foot (300 m2) glass-enclosed butterfly enclosure, aviary, rainforest, and honeybee exhibit.
There is also a retail store selling butterfly-related items, as well as a café. As of 2015, Butterfly World was home to over 80 species of butterflies, as well as birds, reptiles, and other animals.
The facility is open year-round and offers educational programs for school groups, camps, and birthday parties. Butterfly World was founded in 1984 by Ronald Boender with the mission of “conservation through education.”
The attraction has been featured in several films and television shows, including “The Crocodile Hunter” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” In 2018, Butterfly World was named the Best Zoo or Aquarium in Florida by USA Today.
12. Lion Country Safari
Lion Country Safari is a drive-through safari park in Loxahatchee, Florida. The park features more than 1,000 animals, including lions, tigers, giraffes, and rhinos.
Visitors can explore the park from the comfort of their vehicles, or take a guided tour on an open-air bus. Lion Country Safari was founded in 1967 by Jerry and Rose Connect to provide a natural habitat for endangered animals.
Today, the park covers over 700 acres and is home to more than 30 species of animals.
In addition to its drive-through Safari, the park also features a walk-through exhibit called Monkey Island, where visitors can interact with primates up close.
Lion Country Safari is a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike and is a great place to learn about different species of animals from all over the world.
13. SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld Orlando is a marine zoological park located in Orlando, Florida. The park is owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, a subsidiary of Blackstone Group.
The park opened on December 7, 1973, and features eight themed areas, including the Oceanarium, Shamu Stadium, Penguin Encounter, TurtleTrek, Adventure Island, Aquatica Orlando, Discovery Cove, and SeaWorld’s waterpark.
The park has a total of 32 rides, including roller coasters, water rides, and dark rides. In addition to the rides, the park also offers live shows, educational demonstrations, and animal encounters.
SeaWorld Orlando is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is home to more than 200 species of animals.
The park’s signature attractions include Shamu Stadium, where guests can watch killer whales perform tricks; Penguins Encounter, where guests can meet and interact with African penguins; and TurtleTrek, an educational exhibit that features turtles from all over the world.
14. Discovery Cove
Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort in Orlando, Florida, where guests can interact with dolphins, rays, and other marine animals. The park also features a freshwater lagoon, a beach area, a river swim, and a variety of other land and water-based activities.
Discovery Cove is one of the only places in the world where guests can swim with dolphins in a natural setting. The dolphin experience is limited to 30 guests per day to ensure that each interaction is personal and meaningful.
Other animal encounters at Discovery Cove include swimming with stingrays and snorkelling with tropical fish. The freshwater lagoon is home to thousands of exotic birds, and the river swim gives guests the chance to explore a serene rainforest environment.
Land activities include walking trails and relaxation areas. Discovery Cove is the perfect place for animal lovers of all ages to enjoy an unforgettable day.
15. Aquatica Orlando
Aquatica Orlando is a water park located in Orlando, Florida. The park is owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, and it features a variety of attractions, including slides, rivers, and an aquarium.
Aquatica Orlando first opened to the public in March 2008. The park is home to several animal species, including dolphins, flamingos, stingrays, and turtles.
In addition to its animal inhabitants, the park also features a variety of plant life, including palm trees and flowers. The park offers a variety of attractions for guests of all ages, making it a popular destination for families and groups.
Aquatica Orlando is committed to providing guests with a safe and enjoyable experience, and its staff receives ongoing training on safety procedures and animal care.
Closing Thoughts | Best Aquariums Florida
If you are looking for an aquarium that is both educational and entertaining, the Florida Aquarium is a great option.
With exhibits featuring animals from all over the world, this aquarium is perfect for people of all ages. From kids to seniors, everyone can learn something new at the Florida Aquarium.
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