The Florida Aquarium and families go together like fish and water. That is why it is the perfect place to take the family for Father’s Day. Plus, you can learn how seahorses are the Mr. Moms of the marine world and how they take fathering to a whole new level: pregnancy.
That’s right, male pregnancy is a complex process unique to pipefish, seahorses and sea dragons —a fish family known as syngnathids. Male seahorses incubate their eggs in womb-like pouches on their bellies, while females vie for their attention. During a romantic courtship, females dance around the male, often glowing or changing colors and intertwining their tail with his before the chosen female deposits her eggs in the male’s pouch.
Want to know more? Make sure to stop by The Florida Aquarium’s Dragons Down Under habitat to see these incredible Mr. Moms and learn more about how these males care for their babies.
But first, you can start your visit on the Florida Wetlands Trail. Winding through a vast mangrove forest, you’ll encounter river otters, free-flying birds and native fish. Continue to the second floor of the Wetlands gallery and enter Journey to Madagascar. Filled with Ring-tailed lemurs, hissing cockroaches, and colorful chameleons, these animal habitats capture the unique Island of Madagascar and the diverse animals that call it home.
The next part of your journey will take you through Bays and Beaches, where you will discover a goliath grouper and other species that call Tampa Bay home. Be sure to make a stop at Stingray Beach, where you can touch stingrays and sharks.
As you travel onward, you’ll descend deeper into aquatic environments and discover stingrays, reef fishes, moray eels, sea turtles and massive sand tiger sharks in a coral reef ecosystem encompassed by 500,000 gallons of natural seawater.
The family that likes to get wet can actually swim with the fishes or sharks in this habitat. This in-water reef experience gives guests (age 6 and older) a unique snorkel adventure above a replica of the Dry Tortugas, one of the Florida Keys’ most beautiful coral reef dive sites. SCUBA certification is not required. This experience is recorded using small action cameras, and guests will receive a copy of this footage after the experience, which makes for a good Father’s Day gift to take home.
A swim with the sharks experience is available for those 9 and up in the coral reef habitat, and certified divers 15 and up can enjoy an opportunity to dive with the sharks in the coral reef habitat. All in-water program participants receive video footage of their experience.
Special behind the scenes experiences like “Penguins: Backstage Pass” are unique and exciting, allowing you to come face to beak with adorable African penguins. Led by an experienced penguin biologist, a typical visit may include a chance to touch the penguins, see them waddle, swim, shake their tails, jump in and out of their interaction pool, and get your picture taken with them. While there, a biologist will describe and answer any questions guests might have about these remarkable birds and their specialized care.
The Aquarium’s “Behind the Scenes” tour is a chance to see the inner working of the Aquarium and what it takes to operate it every day. Also available is a “Close-Up Critters” tour, particularly good for smaller children, which includes opportunities to meet and learn about some of the Aquarium’s animal ambassadors.
After exploring all the animal habitats inside, beat the summer heat at The Florida Aquarium’s outdoor water adventure zone, the rainforest-themed Splash Pad, where children can splash away while parents relax with views of the Bay and enjoy numerous food options at Café Ray and a cocktail at Fins Cantina.
You can also take the family on a Wild Dolphin Tour on board the Bay Spirit II, a 72-foot powered catamaran, for a 75-minute excursion around Tampa Bay to observe and learn about wild dolphins and seabirds in their natural habitat.
One thing is for sure, a day spent at The Florida Aquarium is a memory that will last forever.
Fathers receive free admission to the Aquarium on June 16 and 17 (Saturday and Sunday) with the purchase of any full price paid admission. For more information, call 813-273-4000 or visit flaquarium.org.