Planning a trip to Florida and looking for a fun, family activity? Kidding Around’s Melanie is showing us around her former hometown of Sarasota, Florida! Mote Marine Aquarium was one of the first stops she made because she couldn’t wait to share the work of this facility with our readers.
To see more from our trip, check out our Sarasota, FL story highlight on Instagram
Complimentary tickets were provided by Visit Sarasota County for the purpose of sharing the area with readers.
I think it would be a safe assumption to say that most kids who grew up in the 80s at one time or another wanted to work with, or were obsessed with sea creatures. Movies like Free Willy, Flipper, and even Jaws influenced our interests, dreams, and (possibly) nightmares. It certainly inspired me to learn all I could about the ocean, and living on the Gulf of Mexico only fed my passion for sea creatures.
I can still remember my first trip to Mote Marine. It was on a school field trip and we would be video conferencing Robert Ballard. At the time the magnitude of that experience wasn’t fully appreciated, although my interaction with the researcher has continued to influence things in my life as recently as my son’s wax museum figure choice!
About Mote Marine Aquarium
The Aquarium has grown so much since that first trip! Mote Marine will be growing even more soon, with the addition of a $130 million dollar aquarium to be built for the public at Nathan Benderson Park. The current public aquarium on the bay will transition to a research facility when the new, nearly double in size aquarium is completed. I can’t wait to see it, but until then the original location is still very worthy of a visit.
The current Aquarium is located on Sarasota’s City Island and is spread between two separate buildings. The island also includes a popular bird rescue attraction, Save Our Seabirds.
You can easily spend the day in this small area, visiting the aquarium, the bird sanctuary, and enjoying the adjacent park and shoreline. Planning your day at Mote Marine during the current health concerns will need to include pre-purchased, timed tickets and masks.
Things to Learn at Mote Marine Aquarium
The aquarium is stroller friendly and depending on your pace can be seen in 2-3 hours’ time.
There is currently a touch tank opportunity in each of the two buildings, plus the opportunity to watch animal feedings. We were able to watch the sea otters get fed, and it was quite entertaining. The otters are trained to stand in front of their own special disc on the glass to get a treat!
If you’ve been thinking about buying a camera for your child, this would be the perfect opportunity. My son stopped at each exhibit and really studied it, then documented it with photos. There are so many things to photograph!
One of the exhibits that my daughter and I spent a good bit of time talking about was the jellyfish / not jellyfish display. (Seen above) If you were a sea turtle and loved eating jellyfish like a certain Kidding Around writer loves tacos (a lot), would you hesitate to snack on the creatures in the tank on the left? If you did, as so many other sea creatures do, it could be fatal. The creature in the tank on the left is a single-use plastic bag. My four-year-old daughter and I talked for a while that day about what we could do to help sea turtles not have this as an option on their dinner plate. I love when a visit someplace gets children thinking about grown-up solutions to grown-up problems.
More Things to Do
Be sure to bring coins in with you if your family collects smashed pennies. They offer eight different designs and due to the current coin shortage, it’s a BYO coin situation.
There is also a flume-type activity, similar to gem mining, except you are mining for fossils, shells, and sharks’ teeth. This is a premium in addition to the admission price.
The dining and shopping area known as St. Armands Circle is less than five minutes away and makes the perfect dinner stop after a day on City Island.
Cha-Cha Coconuts is a great option if you are looking to lean into the island vibes of the surrounding area. For a more upscale and quintessential St. Armands experience, The Columbia Restaurant can’t be beaten. But plan ahead with reservations, because they are popular with locals and visitors!
Mote Marine Laboratory
1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota | 941.388.4441
Purchase Mote Marine Aquarium tickets online
Ages 2 and under – Free
Ages 3 through 12 – $18
Age 13 and over – $24