Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Florida

From the Florida Aquarium to ZooTampa, what’s new in Tampa Bay attractions

Attractions and children’s museums in the Tampa Bay area also have new play areas and special parties planned this summer.


The kid-friendly aquarium in downtown Tampa showcases aquatic animals and ecosystems. And opening just in time for the summer vacation season, a chance to pet jellyfish at Moon Bay in the first-floor lobby of the aquarium. Translucent moon jellies, named for their moonlike circular bells, can be touched, but don’t worry — their nematocysts are too small to pierce human skin, an aquarium biologist said. The grand opening of Moon Bay will be on World Oceans Day on June 8. Also new is Heart of the Sea, a renovated 100,000-gallon habitat with more than 400 animals including endangered sea turtles, sharks, coral reef fishes and underwater coral trees.

The new Moon Bay exhibit at the Florida Aquarium will open June 8. Courtesy of Florida Aquarium


$27-$31 depending on the day, $23-26 for children, 2 and younger free. (In 2018, the aquarium switched to a fluctuating price structure based on the day of week and attendance patterns.) Go online to see what the prices are the day you plan to visit. 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 273-4000.


Florida’s only spring-fed water park has been running live mermaid shows for more than 70 years. But renovations have put the mermaids in dry dock this spring. The historic Mermaid Theatre interior was gutted and the seating refurbished. The mermaids were set to return June 15, but they showed up early with shows starting late last week for their version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Renovations still mean parts of the show park are closed, but the swimming area and kayak rentals are open daily. Water slides are open weekends only.

Mermaid Whitney blows a bubble-filled kiss to the audience in 2016 at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. BRENDAN FITTERER | Times


$13, $8 ages 6-12, 5 and younger free. 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee. (352) 592-5656.

THEME PARK GUIDE 2019: What’s new at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and more


It isn’t just the name that has changed at the place previously known as Lowry Park Zoo. The zoo spent more than $6 million for a three-story plunge ride called Roaring Springs that opened last June. The David A. Straz Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center reopened in March after a $3 million upgrade. The tanks can now hold two dozen manatees for care before being returned to Florida waters.

Roaring Springs is a ride and realm set up like an Old Florida town, with a new water raft ride, a food stand, play ground. Photo courtesy of ZooTampa


$36.95, $27.95 ages 3-11, 2 and younger free. Save $3 by ordering tickets at least one day in advance online. The “pay for a day” pass gives you unlimited admission through Dec. 31 (block out dates apply) for the cost of one-day admission. 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. (813) 935-8552.


The water park across the street from Busch Gardens is spread across 30 acres with a family-friendly lazy river, kids’ play areas and lots of slides. College students can get admission this summer for $29.99, a 50 percent discount. The park also has a $29.99 weekday ticket for everyone else. That ends Sunday, but the weekday ticket is valid through June 21. Go to

Kids play at Adventure Island. Photo courtesy Adventure Island


$59.99 ($20 off if you order your ticket online at least one day in advance). 10001 N McKinley Drive, Tampa. (813) 884-4386.


The hands-on science museum will be heading to downtown Tampa in a few years and has closed off half the building, but it still has a big exhibit space. Earlier this year it opened a new permanent exhibit called the Dinovations Lab, starring the museum’s 31-foot tall Diplodocus skeleton as well as some new hands-on exhibits. Also new is One Small Step: The Exhibition in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. MOSI will have a celebration on July 20 to mark the 50th anniversary.

MOSI has opened a new Dinovations Lab, allowing families to look at fossils under a microscope, learn about how volcanoes impacted our Jurassic friends and touch an actual meteorite. Photo courtesy of Museum of Science and Industry


$12.95, $7.95 ages 3-12, $10.95 seniors. Ropes course is $7 with admission. 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6000.


The aquarium near Clearwater Beach doubles as a working animal hospital and is home to perhaps one of the world’s most famous dolphins, Winter, whose story was told in the hit Dolphin Tale movies. Some of the new rescued resident animals include PJ the dolphin, Snorkel the loggerhead sea turtle, Daphne the green sea turtle and Boomer the otter. The aquarium will be open until 8 p.m. all summer with evening hours and boat tours.

Children touch Hope the dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in 2018. JIM DAMASKE | Times


$24.95, $19.95 seniors and ages 3-12, 2 and younger free. $12.99 after 4 p.m. for CMA’s Sundown Special starting this weekend and every night in June, July and August. 249 Windward Passage. (727) 441-1790.


The interactive children’s museum has a new CEO, Sarah Cole, who returned to Tampa after working for the museum years ago. A Summer of Making series runs Saturday through July 27 with a Summer Makerspace on Level 3 where kids can meet inventive makers all summer long. And on July 27, the museum will host a Mini Maker Faire where makers will be invited to show hobbies, experiments and projects. Summer is a good time to take advantage of the monthly free Tuesday admission, and dads get in free June 16 for Father’s Day.

At the Mini Maker Faire, engineers, artists and crafters will be invited to show off their inventions. Photo courtesy of Glazer Children’s Museum


$15, $12.50 military and seniors, $10 ages 1-12. 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. (813) 443-3861.


The children’s museum has a new Estuary Exhibit that includes a digital microscope, jumping stones that light up and an Electric Avenue exhibit featuring a giant Plasma Ball. Beth’s Beach at the Sandy Shack is coming back later this summer with sand toys and educational components.

Beth’s Beach at the Sandy Shack is coming back later this summer with sand toys and educational components. Photo courtesy of Great Explorations Children's Museum


$10, $9 seniors, 1 and younger free. 1925 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 821-8992.


The kid-friendly dino play park has all the kitsch you would expect from an old-time attraction, except it has only been around since 1998. Pets and picnic supplies are welcome. Right now, you can get a free child’s ticket with paid adult admission to Dinosaur World when you donate goods at any Goodwill donation site in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando or Polk counties. Valid through Friday, and the coupon must be redeemed before Aug. 1.

A Tyranosaurus Rex at Dinosaur world in 2015. Photo by Jim Reed.


$16.95, $14.95 seniors, $11.95 ages 3-12, 2 and younger free. 5145 Harvey Tew Road, Plant City. (813) 717-9865.


An exhibition called History by the Pint: Beer and Brewing in Tampa Bay is running through Aug. 11, highlighting the colorful history of beer in Tampa Bay. On Track: A History of Florida Railroads will be chugging along through July 14, showing the profound changes the railroad brought to Florida. Treasure Seekers is a new permanent exhibit that opened in February in an 8,500-square foot new wing. It’s all about the conquistadors, pirates and shipwrecks that put Tampa on the map.

A permanent exhibit that opened in 2018 at the Tampa Bay History Center is Treasure Seekers. features a 60-foot scale replica of a pirate ship and about 100 real shipwreck artifacts. Photo of courtesy Tampa Bay History Center


$14.95, $12.95 seniors, military and students, $10.95 ages 7-17, 6 and younger free. 801 Old Water St., Tampa. (813) 228-0097.