Back in January, we took a day to visit the Florida Aquarium in Tampa because we are all about aquariums…seriously, we go to every one we possibly can, including the ones here in Oklahoma, which are obviously few and far between…
Our visit coincided with a rare cold spell in south Florida, but it was still warmer than Oklahoma. The first full day we planned to check out the aquarium in Tampa then make our way to our hotel in St. Pete Beach that afternoon. It was COLD. A really good day to be inside somewhere–and lots of other people must have agreed because the place was packed. There was a pretty good line of people waiting to get tickets when we arrived. We finally got our tickets and made our way inside. I took some pictures but they don’t really do things justice. It’s a very beautiful facility with oodles of amazing animals.
Sand eels are so cool!
The duck above is watching all the strollers closely so it can snatch up dropped kiddie snacks…”Pay no attention to that sign behind me!”
We went through the whole place in around two hours; keep in mind my boys are 20 and 16 so they weren’t interested in the hands-on or outdoor play areas (they have an outdoor splash pad playground which was not open during our visit, go figure!); families with smaller kids might want to allow more time. And if you go when it’s warm, which is apparently almost always, you will want to bring swim gear, towels, and sunscreen so your kids can play out there. They have a place to change in and out of swim gear right next to the playground.
There is a snack bar on site but since we had seen everything we wanted, we walked about a block down the street and found a New York style pizza place which was really good. It had a New York police precinct theme. It is called, appropriately, Precinct Pizza. Check it out if you are in town!
We were thinking about heading to the rental car and finding our hotel, but had noticed a sign on the way into the aquarium mentioning something about a historic victory ship nearby…so we followed the signs and found this:
The SS American Victory Maritime Museum is one of only four working WWII era ships in the country. My older son is a major history buff, so of course we had to spend the rest of our day exploring the massive ship.
They take this old merchant marine cargo ship out on a Relive History Cruise twice a year, and we were bummed that we missed that. Perhaps another time. There are nine decks to wander, including 3-story cargo holds, galleys, crew cabins, mess halls, officers’ quarters, and lots more. They also have medals and many historic artifacts.
Above you can see the dazzle paint scheme that helps to break up the shape of the ship.
Both places are definitely worth a visit if you are in the Tampa Bay area! If you decide to include the ship on your itinerary, keep in mind it has nine stories to go through and it is a ship…so expect lots of walking, and lots of steep metal stairs. To give you an idea, I had 10,975 steps on my Samsung phone for that day. 😀