I have to admit, up until a few months ago, I had not seen the Dolphin Tale movie. Granted, it was filmed not too far from us and our kids love sea creatures, but I just never stopped to watch it. So when the kids decided they wanted to go to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, I wasn’t too sure what we were in for. I knew it was a smaller facility, obviously nothing like SeaWorld, but I wasn’t sure it would be worth it. With all 5 kids usually going I try to make sure spending $100+ on a local afternoon trip is worth it. So off we went for the day…..
When you first arrive there is a photographer and they take your picture on a green screen. They took a group shot of all the kids and then individual ones. The younger two did not really understand why there was a green screen until we were able to view and buy the pictures on our way out.
Once you are in the facility, to the left, there is a large stingray touch tank, Stingray Beach. If you continue straight there are stairs that lead to the viewing area for the other animals, the dolphins and sea turtles, and the shows. We went a little off track by visiting the stingrays first, but that was probably the favorite spot for the kids. They could have easily stayed there for hours!!
After we hung out with the stingrays we all headed upstairs to see the dolphins and sea turtles before watching one of the many shows for the day. The upper level is called Dolphin Terrace. It has different tanks and swimming areas for the different animals and the shows they offer.
Examples of some of what was available and what we saw were:
-Story Time: How Winter Lost Her Tail
-Playtime with the Baby Dolphin
-Meet the River Otters
Upstairs on Dolphin Terrace, we watched the Nicolas show. Nicholas had respiratory issues when he was younger and ended up stranded. He was only about 6 months and his mother had passed so he ended up at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Nicholas likes to paint and jump! He is a very playful dolphin! It was a great show. The kids loved that he painted.
Turtle Lagoon and Turtle Cove are both upstairs also. Turtle Lagoon is home to two permanent residents, Stubby and Molly. Turtle Cove is more of a swimming area for the turtles. It is separated into 3 different areas, but still they are all the same. It runs about the width of the upstairs.
After the shows my middle son, who wants to be a Marine Biologist, stopped and had a chance to talk to some of the volunteers and trainers. He is so interested in marine life and creatures. Having a chance to talk to people who directly care for dolphins was awesome for him. He got some tips on what classes to take and signing up for internships at the aquarium once he is older.
As you are leaving the aquarium area, you pass through the sting rays and there is the shop. Large sharks and dolphins everywhere! Stuffed animals, clothes, toys, and all kinds of movie and Clearwater merchandise. We made it out of there with a few goodies.
Next on the list was heading over to the Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure. I did not realize it was in a completely different area. It was not located in the same building as the aquarium. We had the option to take the trolley or the ferry over to the HarborView Center. We chose the ferry there and then jumped on the trolley for the trip back. It was a nice peaceful ferry ride. Luckily the aquarium was not too busy so there were plenty of good spots available for the ride over.
Ran into a dolphin on the way! There is one over by the aquarium also.
Inside the theater there is all the stuff from the Dolphin Tale movie. Tons of pictures and scripts, posters and displays. The theater is just as hands on as the aquarium. You can pretty much touch and explore everything in the building. This whole part of the trip is indoors, which is a nice change, especially during the warmer months.
As you walk around you learn about the movie, you learn about Winter and what happened. You get to watch part of the movie on a huge screen. There are movie props and sets in each area of the theater. You can actually experience what it would be like to be apart of the movie. You learn how the movie was made and can actually experience it hands on. It is a great learning adventure.
The volunteers and employees are great! They are knowledgeable and available, but not too in your face. They are there to tell stories and show you how Winter’s tail works. There was an older woman there, I did not get her name, but she was awesome. She was very animated and very good with the kids. She started out telling the kids about Winter and the movie and then walked them over to an area that allowed them to hold and touch a tail like the one Winter uses. She was also able to show the kids in a clip that actually showed the tale in action.
In that same area, kids can color and write letters to the staff and Winter. Once they are done they can leave their artwork and letters in a mailbox. I believe each month they have a drawing and they pick someone from the mailbox to win tickets or shirts, etc. There are games to play, there was a ring toss and a target game. Lots of things to keep kids busy and entertained. The kids had a great time learning about the movie and what goes into making a movie. They also had lots of fun with all the interactive displays.
Keep walking and you run into the Hurricane Experience. It is a simulation of what it as like to be in Hurricane Leroy, the same hurricane from the movie. My youngest, Emmaleigh (4), was not too fond of that walk through, but the other kids all walked through it a couple of times.
There are a few smaller touch tanks throughout the HarborView Center, including some that have hermit crabs, sea urchins, starfish, and smaller fish. The whole center is full of interactive kids areas. The whole day was fun and educational. The kids had a great time learning about the different creatures of the oceans.
Heading back to the aquarium we jumped on the Jolly Trolley. It was a beautiful day out and it gave us a little chance to view Downtown Clearwater and relax a little before lunch and heading home.
Overall it was a great day. The aquarium was not too busy. The staff and volunteers were all great. Both facilities were clean and well kept. We will definitely be heading back for more visits! And with Dolphin Tale 2 coming out on September 12th, we will be sure to head on over afterwards for more hands on movie adventures.
To learn more about Winter and the Dolphin Tale adventure, or to plan your own trip out, just visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Meet and Greet with Cozi and Sawyer, from the upcoming movie this summer!
July 19th – 22nd you can meet with Cozi Zeuhlsdorff.
July 20th – 23rd you can meet Nathan Gamble.