Summer is here which means vacation planning for many. If you are headed to Florida, the Orlando Aquarium is worth checking out. The aquarium is pretty, has lots of marine life, and activities for all ages. We really enjoyed the stingrays, starfish, turtles, and sharks.  Here are the highlights of the trip.

About the Orlando Aquarium

SEA LIFE is a 25,000 square-foot indoor aquarium in Orlando, Florida. It is located in an area that has shopping and restaurants nearby for convenience.  You can order tickets online or buy them at the gate. On average it will take about one to two hours to enjoy the full SEA LIFE experience.

The aquarium will let you get face-to-face with underwater creatures such as sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, sea stars, sea horses, jellyfish and thousands of colorful fish. In addition to the marine life, there are Dive Talks, educational, and feeding presentations throughout the day so you can learn all about them.  They also offer additional experiences and packages such as behind the scenes tours where you can get up close and personal with some popular creatures.

What to see

There are so many fun sea creatures to view at the Orlando Aquarium.  We really enjoyed the seahorses, turtles and tropical fish.  You go through different areas and learn about each creature.  Some highlights include:

JellyFish

They had a cool jellyfish wall where you could see them swimming around. We learned they are older than all of our ancient reptiles. Scientists believe they first swam in our oceans around 500 million years ago and there are more than 350 different species.  They do have venomous tentacles that they use to capture their prey, but most are harmless to humans. My nephew was mesmerized by the display.

Sea Turtles

We enjoyed seeing the Green Sea Turtles and learned they are found in seas of the Pacific, Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean.  They get their name because they eat sea grass and algae which turns the fat inside their body green. Since they are reptiles they have to breathe air and are often seen coming to the surface to fill their lungs. They can hold their breath for many hours at a time even when they go to sleep.  We love turtles and liked seeing them swim.

Sharks

There are lots of different shark varieties at the Aquarium. In the Atlantic Ocean habitat, there were sandbar, grey reef, and nurse sharks. In the Indian Ocean habitat were blacktip reef and zebra sharks.  The Stingray Cove habitat had white spotted bamboo sharks which are cool.

Stingrays

We learned all about stingrays and that they get their name from the stinging barb at the base of their tail. When they feel threatened stingrays can whip up their tail to puncture their pursuer with their spiny barb. The barb grows back but it takes time, so they only use it as a last resort. They also like to bury themselves in the sand when they have to hide from predators.  The tank was very cool and the stingrays are fast. We enjoyed watching them play.

There were lots of other unique creatures including eels, lion-fish, bright tropical fish, and crabs.  We had fun seeing all the displays as well as walking through their glass tunnel where you could see all the marine life swimming above your head.

Orlando aquarium eel
stingray tank
lionfish
wall of jellyfish

Interactive Learning

In addition to the main displays, there were educational tours to learn about different marine life.  We enjoyed seeing the starfish and sea urchin. The interactive rockpools were fun. A rockpool is made from the water left behind when the tide goes out. It is full of incredible creatures like the sea anemone, starfish, and crab.  You can touch them as well as learn about them at this display.

Sea Anemone

Sea anemones look like colorful, underwater blooms and they got their name from the anemone flower. They are related to jellyfish and corals. They have no brain heart or blood but are considered predators. Stinging tentacles help anemones to catch tiny plankton which they draw into their mouth. The anemones in the rockpool are safe to touch as their stings are too weak for us to feel.

Starfish

Starfish are found in every ocean in the world with over 2000 known species. We learned they can drop an arm to escape a predator.  The arm will grow back, so that is a very cool trick. Starfish have no brain, heart or blood, but do have a specialized stomach. They can eject part of it out of their body to digest food, and then suck it all back in to finish digesting. Who knew?  I loved their bright colors and fun shape.

sea anenome
starfish

Final thoughts

I had a lot of fun at the aquarium and learned new things about many of the sea creatures.  I had no idea about starfish ejecting their stomach to eat large meals.  That sounds like it would be useful for me around Thanksgiving time. The stingray area was also interesting to see how they bury themselves in the sand for protection.  It is amazing how much there is to learn about all the creatures around us.  The Orlando Aquarium is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.  I plan on going back soon

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rating (4 stars):

Pros: pretty displays, rockpool area is interactive, cool walk through tunnel

Cons: very crowded

Priority: Medium – lots to see, rockpool area is fun

Cost: $28 adult, $23 child.

Savvy Tip: Save 10% if you order tickets online.

Website: Orlando Aquarium