Clearwater Aquarium, Florida

Who else loved the Dolphin Tale Movies? As one who studied marine biology in college, I have a passion for everything under the sea. I feel at home whenever we visit a beach and I love sharing all things marine with my children. We were able to visit the Clearwater Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida, which is the home of the stars from the Dolphin Tale Movies. We had the best time and would recommend this place to anyone of any age.


The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a large recently remodeled Aquarium situated on Clearwater Bay, in Florida. This is a nonprofit that believes in preserving our environment while inspiring the human spirit through leadership in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of marine life. The Aquarium focuses on environmental education, research, and conservation. The majority of the marine life have been rescued by fisherman, park rangers, and even visitors to the area. The volunteer team responds to wildlife calls along the western coast of Florida. The Aquarium boasts some amazing statistics including 1200+ rescued sea turtles since 2010, 1700+ nests monitored since 2010, 600+ animals released since 2010, and 91,000 volunteer hours since 2019. What an amazing place right?!

I learned of the Aquarium from the movie and assumed that the Aquarium received money from the movie. I was actually wrong, as the majority of Aquarium’s funding comes from private donations. The $80 million aquarium expansion was generously paid for by several families in the Clearwater area. This expansion tripled the tank area that the dolphins previously had. The new tanks allow for optimal observation, with 9 large viewing windows, plenty of space to social distance. Our children loved to sit in these large window wells and just watch the dolphins play. Winter, Hope, and Nicholas were hanging out in the tanks when we visited and boy could they put on a show. They were able to swim over (on their own) and seemed to pose for pictures. We had a blast trying to time the perfect selfie. I have been around sea life since I was a young child and I have never seen such fun and friendly dolphins. We laughed and sat with these beauties for what seemed like forever. The only reason we left the tanks, was that we began to hear several rumblings, aka hungry tummies.

We of course could not wait to see Winter and Hope, but there were so many other exhibits to explore as well. When we entered, we bought tickets to feed the stingrays. This experience is roughly $7 per person. Our kids ran to the tank’s edge and our youngest was so excited, we thought he was going to jump in. We found out that our youngest and oldest loved to feed stingrays, we also found out that our middle child hated it. The volunteers were so helpful and enthusiastic about the stingrays. They explained that the stingray’s mouths were under their belly and how the kids should hold the fish for optimal feeding. Our whole family had a blast with this activity and would recommend this. After feeding the stingrays, we heard it was time for Bailey the green sea turtle’s feeding. This special guy is a permanent resident, as he suffered a spinal cord injury from a fishing accident. We watched as volunteers fed him lettuce and kale. They also explained a really cool recycle program that entails growing the Bailey’s food next to the tank.

We continued to explore the aquarium seeing various fish, pelicans, and my favorite the sea otters. These little guys are hilarious. They are in the water, out of the water, playing on their slide, up in their pool, always having a blast. We all need to live like the sea otter. After exploring all the exhibits, our three kiddos were starving. We made our way to Shark Bites Café. This is located next to the main entrance of the Aquarium and offers cheeseburgers, flatbreads, fresh salads and several kids’ menu meals. There are plenty of tables inside the air-conditioned dining room or several table available outside on the Dolphin Terrace with views of Clearwater Bay.

I thought I would mention the COVID restrictions as well. There are timed entry tickets that can be bought online. We visited on a Friday and arrived at opening, in which we were second in line. The line was roughly 30 guests deep with markings for social distancing. The line moved fast and they also took amazing professional shots of your family for mementos. The staff and volunteers wore masks the entire time. Children ages 5 and up are also required to wear masks and the majority of guests followed these guidelines. We would take our masks off occasionally to take pictures, but placed the masks back on after immediately after. There were guests who did not attempt to wear masks and staff did not tell them to place them back on, we just maintained our distance from them. Overall, we felt safe visiting the Aquarium. We appreciated the markers and signs for social distancing and mask reminders. We also thought the timed entry was well done and allowed for decreased crowds.

Overall, the Clearwater Aquarium cannot be missed. We love their mission and dedication to conservation. We appreciated their determination to follow all COVID guidelines and protect their staff and guests. We will forever keep the marine life forever in our hearts; 5/5 Perfect Stars.