We love the Florida Aquarium! We’ve been pass holders since our toddler (now 15 months) was 6 months old and love it for many reasons but one of the biggest being that it’s a great place to take your kid regardless of the weather. Yes – that means it is a go-to for the super hot summer months, as well as rainy days. We also love it because it has so much to offer kids (and adults) of ALL ages.
As we’re currently in the throes of transitioning from babyhood to toddler, with all the joys (hint of sarcasm) that comes along with that, I’ve put together some tips for those of you in the same boat. If you’re planning to visit the Florida Aquarium with your toddler, here are a few things to do when there and tips for making the most of your visit:
Timing it right:
This is a two-fold tip. By time it right, I am first of all referring to your toddler’s precious nap schedule. Every parent knows that a tired toddler is not a cooperative toddler. I always try and go when Ellie is well rested, long before she’s going to need a nap. We are in the midst of transitioning from 2 naps to 1 so this can be a challenge but I also will us an aquarium outing to “keep her going” until her new nap time. The aquarium is open daily from 9:30am-5pm so there is plenty of time to work around your kid’s nap schedule.
Apart from your own schedule, I highly recommend considering the Aquarium’s “peak times” – and trying to avoid those if you have a toddler. Weekends, especially rainy weekend days, can get busy, with the middle of the day being the busiest in our experience. Same with school holidays. While there is plenty to do and room to roam even when it’s busy, an ideal visit anywhere during these sometimes challenging toddler years is when we have a bit more elbow room.
I’m not talking about transportation to and from the aquarium. I’m talking about transporting your wiggly toddler once in the aquarium. Definitely bring a stroller, which you may end up using to stock your stuff when they inevitably want to get down and walk. A stroller is obvious but I also like to bring a carrier (I use the LilleBaby still) that I can put Ellie in forward-facing for looking at the tanks and exhibits. She gets the benefit of a better view and the closeness of being held, and I get to save my back as well as my sanity because I’m not chasing her around. When we go, I always bring the stroller (I like bringing our easy-to-maneuver BoB which I can steer with one hand) but wear her in the carrier most of the time, and then by the time she’s finally begging to “get down,” we’ve at least covered some ground.
Two Words: Splash. Pad.
If it’s not raining, the aquarium’s splash pad is a favorite activity. We save this for the end of our visit for very obvious reasons, but if you have a season’s pass to the aquarium, you might find yourself going just for the splash pad some days. They even have a section of the splash pad that is dedicated to toddlers, so you can take your little wiggle worm without having to worry too much about them being run over by big kids.
Make sure you pack: sunscreen and sun hat, swim suit and water shoes for your kid (or clothes you don’t mind getting soaked), and a change of clothes for them for afterwards. I like to stash a change for myself as well just in case I end up getting soaked (read: I always end up getting soaked).
The splash pad is wonderful but can definitely get busy, especially in the summer months, so I recommend planning a week day visit if you are able.
Most activities with toddlers are not relaxing. I find the Florida Aquarium to be about as “chill” of an activity as I can find with Ellie. She is so content to gaze at their glowing coral reefs in the beautiful Coral Cave and excited by the sharks, rays, jellies and larger fish in the Waves of Wonder and Heart of the Sea areas. Happy, entertained toddler = happy, relaxed mom!
We opted to get the family pass which includes up to 4 people over 2 years old. This is a great option if you have multiple kids OR if you’d like to bring grandparents or guests with you. Since Ellie is still under 2, we’re easily able to bring family members or friends for a fun outing (note that when visiting with the family pass, one member of your group needs to be a passholder). Plus – we get reciprocity and discounts at SO many other attractions, from Glazer Children’s Museum, to the Zoo, to restaurants, and more!
What’s your favorite thing to do with your toddler at the Florida Aquarium?