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My return from Hawaii was a brutal awakening — in the six weeks that I had been island-hopping, it had gotten cold back on the mainland! While I was thrilled to be spending the holidays at home before my big departure back to Thailand, I was not so enthralled with the gray skies and temperatures too low to enjoy being outside.

But you guys know me — I never stay put for long. First, I jetted off to Vegas for five days of birthday bliss and slightly more lovely weather. A few weeks later, I flew down to Florida for a week of fun and family. I hadn’t been down to visit my Tampa-based aunts and grandmother in years, and finally had the push to go when I signed up the (which you’ll read more about this week!)

Despite having been to West Florida many, many times in my youth I felt I hadn’t really ever explored ample number of Tampa attractions. There are so many that I’ll have new ones to see on each of what I hope are my more regular visits in years to come, but here’s a rundown of three I got to visit on this trip!

The Florida Aquarium

Over 15,000 boxes of live fish are flown out of the Tampa Aquarium each week — the most monetarily valuable cargo that comes and goes every year. Additionally, Florida fish farmers breed more than 800 species of aquarium fish and aquatic plants, making them a major player in the global industry. All of this to say, what’s a better place than Tampa for ?

The Florida Aquarium

Tampa
Tampa

I’m somewhat of an aquarium aficionado, and while it’s not going to make any top ten lists anytime soon, The Florida Aquarium is a nice way to spend an afternoon. It sits appropriately right on the waterfront downtown, so a genuine sea breeze is never far away.

The Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium

In addition to the usual suspects — a stingray touch tank, a tunnel where sharks shimmy overhead, and a special exhibit on the local aquatic flora and fauna (in this case, The Wetlands) — this aquarium has unique features like an outdoor water-based play area for kiddos. There are also chances to get up close and personal with the animals by taking part in the dive with the sharks program or going on a wild dolphin cruise in the bay.

The Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium

Aquarium_013

My personal favorite exhibits were the same they are anywhere — jellyfish and seahorses. Both are creatures I don’t get to see nearly enough in my underwater diving adventures — so I’m really grateful to see them in places like this. Bonus! I got to spend the afternoon with my Aunt Linda, who ducked out of work to hang out with me.

The Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium

Info: Adult tickets are $21.95, seniors are $18.95, and children are $16.95. You can get $2 off per person by booking online or $3 off per person by presenting the coupon in the . The Florida Aquarium, , 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa.

Dali Museum

Over the bridge in St. Petersburg lies one of America’s newest and most exciting art museums. Having opened it’s doors in 2011, The Dali Museum houses the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s work outside of Europe. As a former art major and forever art lover, I knew I had to go.

Tampa
Tampa

The Dali Museum

The museum has works from every stage of Dali’s artistic career, from his masterworks to sketches he completed while doing his studies. Most people are familiar with Dali’s famous works like , so what I found fascinating was seeing his early work from before he developed his signature surrealist style. He was a talented painter and sculptor who could have chosen many paths.

Tampa
Tampa

Photos were not allowed inside the galleries, but I was okay with that — what impressed me more than anything was the building itself. The helical staircase leading to the galleries reflected Dali’s obsession with the DNA reminiscent spiral shape, while geodesic domes are nod’s to Dali’s museum in Spain.

Tampa
Tampa

The Dali Museum

Tampa
Tampa

Info: Adult tickets are $21, seniors are $19, children and students over 13 are $15, and children 6-12 are $7. After 5pm on Thursdays, the price drops to $10 for everyone. The Dali Museum, , One Dali Blvd, St. Petersburg.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Just thirty minutes from Tampa lies the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a non-profit organization specializing in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick or injured marine animals.

Clearwater Marine Institute

Recently, Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) was the setting and filming location for the movie , based on the true story of Winter, a CMA dolphin with a prosthetic dorsal fin. They are definitely capitalizing on this new claim to fame as there was Winter-mania in every direction.

Tampa
Tampa

Clearwater Marine Institute

This place is a bit different from your typical aquarium as all the animals are there because they suffered a severe illness or injury in the wild that required rescue. While they will attempt to release all animals, some have lost the ability to protect and feed themselves, and thus they become permanent residents at CMA.

Clearwater Marine Institute

Clearwater Marine Institute

While I admire the work the CMA does, I found the facilities to be in dire need of a facelift, and I thought the dolphin tanks seemed to small for such grand and intelligent creatures. The CMA seems to agree, as they are currently fundraising for that would include much upgraded habitats for all the animals.

Clearwater Marine Institute

Clearwater Marine Institute

Info: Adult tickets are $19.95, seniors are $17.95, and children are $14.95. You can get $3 off per person by presenting the coupon in the . Clearwater Marine Aquarium, , 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater

Have you been to this area, or any of these Tampa attractions? Any I missed and must return for?

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14 Comments...
  • Don
    January 28 2013

    What?!? You were in Tampa this time of year and did not participate in any of the month-long pirate festivities of Gasparilla?!? I’m disappointed Miss Baackes! 😉

    I do give you kudos on the Dali museum and the aquarium; however, I would have added Gasparilla and Ybor City to your must-do list.
    Don recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 30 2013

      Actually, this trip was back in December 🙂 But you just gave me a great idea for a return trip some January! And I love Ybor City, just didn’t make it on this trip sadly!

      • Don
        January 30 2013

        Definitely try to make it down for the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion / Day Parade downtown, or the Knight Parade through Ybor. The day parade is typically near the end of January, while the knight parade is usually early February. I lived in Ybor City for 3 years before moving to DC; it’s a fun area. 🙂
        Don recently posted..

  • I love Tampa! I lived there when I was really little. Great shots!!!!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 30 2013

      I never knew that Andi! Clearly we need to have a few more layovers together 🙂 By the way, did you get my Cayman email? No pressure to respond anytime soon, just hope it went through!

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad
    January 28 2013

    Thank you for sharing the Dali Museum- growing up in Michigan we visited the Tampa area every winter but I have never really explored the attractions. And yes, Dali does have a fascination with eggs- I went to Figueres and saw the museum, eggs everywhere!
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 30 2013

      Its funny how sometimes you visit a place so many times you get lazy and forget to even look into the attractions. That’s why I’m glad I have this blog to make me a bit more accountable 🙂

  • Melissa
    January 28 2013

    I visited the Dali museum right when it opened. I thought it was a great museum in a rather odd location (I’ve never thought of Tampa as a hub for the arts), but our guide gave a rather interesting explanation. I don’t remember it all, but what I did come away with was that the state of Florida (and all its residents) are the owners of all the artwork in the Dali museum. Floridians apparently have good taste ; )
    Melissa recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 30 2013

      Believe me Melissa, I had the same reaction! But I noticed a few other art museums in the St. Pete area that I’m planning on visiting next time… I guess it’s a little hidden gem of the art world!

  • Jenna
    January 29 2013

    It’s always fun to rediscover places you’ve been before 🙂 I’ve been wanting to go to the Dali museum–I’ll have to check it out next time I’m in the area!
    Jenna recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 30 2013

      And family in the area is the perfect excuse to keep going back again and again!

  • Camels & Chocolate
    January 30 2013

    You REALLY need to go to the GA Aquarium if you haven’t already–it is SO awesome. Also, I am always drawn to the seahorses and jellies, as well!
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 1 2013

      I visited when I was much younger and before I was a diver! I’m thinking of road tripping from New York to Florida this summer — believe me, both “visit Kristin” and “go to Georgia Aquarium” are definite stops!