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Tampa Bay CityPASS: The Ultimate Pass to Amazing Animals

Tampa Bay CityPASS is the ultimate sightseeing tool for animal-obsessed families looking for things to do in Tampa. Four of the five attractions bundled into the CityPASS are animal-centered attractions focused on education, conservation, and animal welfare.

The Tampa Bay CityPASS ticket book (or the mobile version) gets you discounted entry (and in many cases, skip-the-line entry) at four of Tampa Bay’s best animal-focused attractions: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, the Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa at Lowry Park, and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Tampa Bay CityPASS also includes access to either the Museum of Science & Industry or the Chihuly Collection.

Here’s the scoop on the animal-centered attractions that are a part of the CityPASS bundle.

ZooTampa at Lowry Park

Kids watching a manatee at zootampa

Paths shaded by tropical foliage make navigating the 63-acre ZooTampa comfortable, even on hot days. This award-winning, non-profit zoo promotes and supports wildlife conservation in Florida and beyond. Spend time watching manatees at the zoo’s critical care center, which treats and rehabilitates injured wild animals. Or sign up for reasonably priced up-close signature encounters, including the chance to feed a rhinoceros and go behind-the-scenes at the African penguin exhibit.

Kid Take: “I liked the different sections of the zoo. My favorite part was the macaw flyover; it felt exciting to see them fly really fast. Going into the manatee area was peaceful and it was relaxing to see the manatees swim slowly around. It was cool that they rescue manatees and help put them back in the wild once they’re healthy.”

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The Florida Aquarium

child looking into tank at florida aquarium in tampa

With an easy-to-reach location in downtown Tampa, the Florida Aquarium offers close-up animal encounters with an eye toward local Florida ecosystems. Exhibits featuring more than 14,000 animals educate and inspire families to connect with the natural environment. Visit the Florida Wetlands Trail to discover alligators, otters, birds, and fish. Head to the Coral Reef to glimpse sea turtles, sand tiger sharks, barracudas, stingrays, and moray eels. And for a globetrotting treat, explore the Journey to Madagascar exhibit, where you can watch lemurs frolic, snack, and socialize. Outside, a splash pad offers a way for kids to burn off energy and cool off.

Kid Take: “It was fun to see the otters playing around and the lemurs swinging from branch to branch. The gift shop was pretty cool, too. I also liked the splash pad right outside but I didn’t really get to play on it because it was raining like crazy when I was there.”

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Dolphin at the clearwater marine aquarium in clearwater, florida

Arrive curious and leave inspired at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The aquarium’s mission to rescue, rehabilitate, and when possible, release marine life is on display at this modest (but soon to be expanded) facility in Clearwater. Known widely as home to Winter the dolphin, who inspired and starred in the Dolphin Tale movies; the center has dolphins, sea turtles, rays, and more.

Kid Take: “I really liked it because we saw an animal movie star. I watched Winter the dolphin move through the water like she was an underwater race car. I also liked that I learned a lot about how to protect marine animals and make the sea healthier for them.”

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Busch Gardens

hippo peeking above water at busch gardens in tampa

Busch Gardens appeals to thrill seekers and animal lovers alike with its combination of roller coasters and animal experiences. On the Serengeti Safari Tour, visitors five and up board an open-air truck and spend 30 minutes exploring the 65-acre habitat where zebras, antelope, giraffe, and other animals roam. The tour highlight for kids and adults alike is the chance to feed curious giraffes a lettuce snack.

Kid Take: “On the safari I got to stand up in the back of a truck for the first time. We saw zebras, giraffes, a rhino, and other animals. Some of the giraffes came up to our truck and we got to feed them. I really liked being so close to giraffes. It was also fun to watch the roller coasters zooming around. I went on Cobra’s Curse; it was scary but also fun. My favorite part was when it spun slowly around.”

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Christine Sarkis visited Tampa as a guest of CityPASS. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

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