Summer is coming to an end which means the school year is starting back up. Whether your kids are going back to the classroom or continuing to learn from home, education is about to take priority once again. However, their learning doesn’t have to end with the syllabus. The Tampa Bay area has tons of affordable, educational activities that are fun for the whole family and the perfect supplement to any child’s curriculum! Here are our top six picks for the best educational activities in the area.
Meet the star of the hit movie, Dolphin Tale, Winter, and learn about her inspiring story of survival after losing her tail to injury at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Educational presentations, games and exhibits allow you to the chance to observe nurse sharks, say hello to North American river otters, get up close and personal with a sea turtle and even participate in stingray feedings. Also, be sure to walk through Shipwreck Alley and its underwater viewing tunnel. This unique natural attraction invites you to view, touch and experience the biology and behavior of the wonderful marine life that call Planet Earth home.
Let your kids’ creativity and imagination run wild at the Great Explorations Children’s Museum. This kid-friendly museum invites your children to build with various materials and discover their inner architect, play a life-sized game of operation in the medical area, treat stuffed animals in the veterinary clinic, learn how to grow vegetables, shop in a kid-sized supermarket, act like a newscaster at a miniature TV news desk and watch live shows with music and dance. The various art, science, tech and health exhibits—all designed to be touched, moved and explored—are sure to stretch their mental muscles, test wits and fire up their imaginations.
Welcome to The Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center, where visitors to the St. Pete Pier mix fun and learning. Developed and operated by Tampa Bay Watch, a non-profit founded in 1993, the Discovery Center tells you the story of Tampa Bay’s vast and complex estuary — its history and recovery, and the organization’s pivotal role in that effort. Along with an exhibit gallery, they offer a state-of-the-art classroom that accommodates school field trips and programs for students of all ages. But the Discovery Center is not strictly an indoor experience. The “wet classroom” offers larger outdoor demonstrations and lectures. It’s bordered by walkways and railings and includes an amphitheater-style observation deck. Have fun while you save the Bay!
This 3,190-acre nature preserve is comprised of aquatic and upland ecosystems and is the perfect place to have an outdoor adventure without all the crowds. Rent a backpack—which includes maps to boardwalks and trails, field guides for identifying native plants and animals and suggested activities—and spend an afternoon walking along its boardwalks through its tidal flats and mangrove forests. You can even rent a kayak or canoe to explore the aquatic habitats up close. Be sure to visit the educational center where you can learn about the indigenous people who lived on the land for thousands of years.
Considered one of the most important museums in all of Florida, the Salvador Dali Museum features the world’s most comprehensive collection of Dali’s work—including 94 oils, 200 watercolors and drawings and 1,000 graphics, sculptures and objets d’art. This kid-friendly gallery with an outdoor waterfront garden gives visitors of all ages the chance to appreciate the uniqueness that is Salvador Dali. Let your imagination run wild as you learn all about Surrealism and participate in a fun self-guided scavenger hunt to learn about the museum’s highlights while admiring Dali’s impressive masterpieces.
One of the top three zoos of its size in North America (and only a 30-minute drive from St. Pete Beach), Lowry Park Zoo features more than 1,500 animals representing 350 exotic species across 60 acres. The family-friendly encounters range from manatees to tigers, monkeys to rhinos and African elephants to koalas. Kids will be sure to delight in feeding giraffes treats from a feeding plateau and touching stingrays, as well as hopping on the jungle safari ride through the animal exhibits, feeding playful goats, and watching one of their engaging educational shows.
Have your kids ever snuggled a sloth? They can, while learning about local and exotic wildlife, at the Alligator Attraction, just 10 minutes from the Alden in John’s Pass. The Wildlife Center frequently hosts local students for field trips, and they offer special educational programs throughout the year. Their animals are pet surrenders and orphaned native wildlife that can not be returned safely to the wild. The facility is home to a little over 180 animals including alligators, lizards, pigs, skunks, guinea pigs, rabbits, snakes, sloths, fish, and more.
Sunken Gardens If you want to show your kids how to find tranquility and take a break from the fast-paced bustle of the city, look no further than the city’s oldest living museum, the Sunken Gardens. Stroll through four acres of winding paths and see an exotic collection of more than 50,000 tropical flowers and plants—including some of the oldest tropical plants in the region. This 100-year old garden is home to cascading waterfalls and hidden groves that are sure to help generate calm and relaxed feelings. Call to inquire about their private garden tours and horticultural programs.
As you can see, family field trip opportunities are plentiful here in the Tampa Bay area. We always welcome families here at the Alden, so if you’re choosing online education, why not consider taking a week-long trip here to St. Pete Beach and take your home-school on the road! Our suites have nice big tables for schoolwork and we have excellent wi-fi service. We will be happy to welcome your family here for educational enrichment, a change of pace, and plenty of FUN!