What you need to know BEFORE you visit Winter at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Posted By Allison on Jul 3, 2013


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Hi! Have you seen the movie Dolphin Tale?

This 2011 hit is the inspiring true story of a dolphin named Winter who washed up injured on a Florida beach and eventually lost her tail. She was rescued and fitted with a prosthetic tail by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and the technology that went into it helps human amputees today.

Our family visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida. Here’s what you need to know to decide if a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is right for you.

Everything you need to know for a GREAT day with Winter the Dolphin at Clearwater Marine Aquarium | tipsforfamilytrips.com | Dolphin Tale | Spring Break | Winter Break | Family Vacation

See Dolphin Tale before you go

If you haven’t seen the movie, it’ll be hard to fully appreciate the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure. References to the movie are everywhere: “This is where ____ scene was filmed…” Without Dolphin Tale, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium wouldn’t be the tourist attraction it is now.

At Clearwater Marine Aquarium

At the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, you’ll find many typical aquarium exhibits such as a stingray touch pond, a small shark aquarium, and educational displays. The facility was expanding during our visit, so there are probably more exhibits now than when we were there.

Shows and presentations are offered throughout the day. When you hear “show,” don’t think SeaWorld. The presentations at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium are small-scale demonstrations, where most of the patrons stand around a small pool. Nevertheless, on a crowded Saturday afternoon in June, our family had no problem getting a good view of the popular dolphin presentation by taking our places just 10 minutes before the show.

We saw Winter swim with and without her prosthetic tail and were interested to learn that she only wears it for a few hours each day. The other dolphins from the movie were part of the show too and trainers talked about dolphin rescue and rehabilitation while the dolphins performed.

Up-close photo ops, backstage tours and animal encounters are also available for an additional cost. In the gift shop, my kids were dying to get their hands on the tail-free dolphin plush toys.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure

Your admission also gets you into Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure, which is located in downtown Clearwater. You can reach the Adventure by boat or air-conditioned trolley. We rode the boat one way and the trolley the other. You can also visit the Adventure first and the Aquarium second.

Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure is all about the movie. There are no animals. The exhibits are filled with props and behind-the-scenes information. There is an area where kids can play, and my son especially enjoyed playing with the carnival games from the fundraiser scene here.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

The showiest exhibit at Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure is the Hurricane Experience. Here, you’ll step into the hurricane scene from Dolphin Tale and get an idea of what a hurricane is like.

The Bottom Line

Our family enjoyed visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and we recommend it. Families who love Dolphin Tale or love supporting a facility that rescues and rehabilitates marine animals will probably enjoy the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

For all others, keep in mind that the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a rescue hospital first and a tourist attraction second. It is neither large nor showy, but with the support of visitors now, the CMA is expanding both its exhibits and its rescue facilities.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Good to Know

Where: 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is just a couple blocks from the causeway between Clearwater and Clearwater Beach.

When: Open every day from 9:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

How Much: Price includes same-day admission to both the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure, and transportation between the two. (Updated April 2016). To check current hours and ticket prices, visit www.seewinter.com/visit-us.

  • Adults: $21.95
  • Children (ages 3-12): $16.95
  • Children (ages 0-2): FREE
  • Seniors: $19.95
  • Active military and their families get in FREE with ID
  • Clearwater Marine Aquarium is included in the Tampa Bay CityPASS. Save up to 53% if you are also planning to visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and The Museum of Science and Industry/Chihuly Collection. Learn more about Tampa Bay CityPASS here.

How Long: 3-4 hours

Amenities: bathrooms, snack bar, gift shops, free parking

 

How else can we help?

Need a place to stay? We stayed at Frenchy’s Oasis Motel, which has a view of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. We loved the convenient location, full kitchens, moderate rates and retro vibe. See rates and reviews for Frenchy’s Oasis Motel at TripAdvisor.

Still need to see Dolphin Tale or Dolphin Tale 2? Check prices for Dolphin Tale at Amazon.com.

Want to save money at Clearwater Marine Aquarium? Check out the Tampa Bay CityPASS. You’ll save up to 53% on admission to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, if you also visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and The Museum of Science and Industry/Chihuly Collection.

Need the best price on a flight? Set up fare alerts and search prices at AirfareWatchdog.com.

Looking for more fun things to do in Clearwater, Florida? Here are our recommendations:

14 Comments

    • We didn’t try them, but the CMA does have week-long summer camps, volunteer opportunities, and other behind-the-scenes programs for those with a deeper interest in marine science. Check out the Explore CMA tab on the website for more information. http://seewinter.com/explore-cma

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  1. So happy to see posts from my home town! We love the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Winter. Great and informative information here.

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  2. Do you have any tips on what hotels are best to stay at? The reviews on TripAdvisor are confusing and I’m not sure if we should stay close to the aquarium or closer to the beach with 2 boys under 6….

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    • I know how you feel. It’s hard to know until you’ve seen a place for yourself. Clearwater Beach is an island separated from Clearwater by one main road. The aquarium is near Clearwater Beach, just off of that road. You can save a lot of money by choosing a hotel in Clearwater, but traffic and parking at the beach can be frustrating during weekends and other peak times. If you choose a hotel in Clearwater Beach, you can avoid a lot of that hassle. We stayed at Frenchy’s Oasis Motel, which is a 5 minute drive from the aquarium and an easy walk to the beach and Pier 60. Here is my review: http://tipsforfamilytrips.com/florida/frenchys-oasis-motel/

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  3. AAA (members) offers a discount, kids 3-12 $11.99 and adults over 60 $14.99.

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  4. We just received the great news that our daughter will get her wish granted through Make-A-Wish. Since, you went to Clearwater Marine Aquarium after leaving GKTW were you able to use the passes that they give out? I am just in the beginning stages of planning and overwhelmed at all the options and the generosity of Make-A-Wish.

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    • We paid for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium ourselves. It’s about 2 hours drive from Orlando and not part of our stay at GKTW, so I didn’t think to ask. There are many options!

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