Miami Seaquarium offers family getaway to visit dolphins, variety of marine life

Posted Sept. 23, 2012


MIAMI, Fla. — Running frantically through the open gates of the Miami Seaquarium, a young boy thrusts himself onto the Plexiglas window of the underwater exhibit at the top deck pool. The boy was seeing a dolphin flip through the air for the first time.

“They jump so high! How do they do that mommy?” the seven-year-old boy, Tyler Stephens exclaimed to his mother.

Denise, a dolphin at Seaquarium, entertains visitors during a show (Photo by Brandon Lumish).

Denise, a dolphin at Seaquarium, entertains visitors during a show (Photo by Brandon Lumish).

The visiting Stephens family is typical of moms and dads who bring their kids to Seaquarium to see the marine life on display there. Located on scenic Virginia Key and on Biscayne Bay and just a few minutes from downtown Miami, Seaquarium sits on 38 acres of land and is home to eight different animal show presentations daily.

Established in 1955, the Miami Seaquarium is the oldest operating oceanarium in the United States. The Seaquarium, founded by Fred D. Coppock and W.B. Gray is host to more than 600,000 visitors yearly. In addition to housing marine mammals, the Miami Seaquarium has various fish, sharks, sea turtles, birds, reptiles and manatees.

“Being from North Carolina, I have never been to an oceanarium before. The Miami Seaquarium is breathtaking,” tourist Robert Beittle from Asheville, N.C., said.

Beittle came with his wife to South Florida for a week vacation in Key Biscayne. While out fishing, they heard about the Seaquarium and knew that was a place they had to visit.

Animal Shows

The Seaquarium hosts four different animal shows daily. These shows are offered twice a day in three-hour increments. The shows feature dolphins, sea lions, and a killer whale.

“You can tell the handlers are so passionate about the animals that are performing, that it makes for a more enjoyable experience. My kids had a blast,” Miami resident Alena Alonso said.

Top Deck Dolphin Show

The top deck dolphins can be seen during the day at anytime from above and below the deck. The bottleneck dolphin Denise and her friends do leaps and rolls on the command of their handlers. The Seaquarium calls the shows the Rock n’ Roll Cruise because the dolphins make sure to splash the visitors in the first few rows.

“Not only did I get to see dolphins flip through the air, I got to be cooled down at the same time,” said Floridian Zak Elfenbein.

Golden Dome Sea Lion Show

“Salty and her ranger friends put on the funniest and most informative show of the day so far for my kids. After seeing that, my three year old and five year old, won’t be littering in the ocean anytime soon!” Ohio tourist Doug Buckley  said.

Salty and her friends put on a comedic exhibition that attempts to inform the public about the benefits of recycling. Sea lions and seals have seen a huge population dip because many are dying after eating items thrown into the ocean. With the help of the park rangers, Salty’s show is truly one of a kind.

Flipper the Dolphin

Yes, this is Flipper from the movies and the television show. Flipper filmed 88 shows in this exact tank in the 1960s and even starred in two movies. Seaquarium’s biggest star Flipper shows off amazing tricks jumps, flips and tail wags to the audience. With years of experience, Flipper is adept at putting on a great show.

Seaquarium has four different dolphin shows each day (Photo by Brandon Lumish).

Seaquarium has four different dolphin shows each day (Photo by Brandon Lumish).

The Seaquarium also offers dolphin encounters. You can swim with the dolphin for $200 per person for 30 minutes. You will be able to perform many of the same training techniques that the trainers perform during the shows. For $139, a participant is allowed to do much of the same techniques listed with swimming with the dolphin, but the visitor will stay in shallow water. To swim with the dolphins, visitors will need to make a reservation in advance by calling the phone number for the park listed in the If You Go section below.

“Flipper is our biggest attraction. It is very rare to see any visitor of the park miss flippers shows. They are always packed,” said Lily, a Seaquarium employee who preferred to use her first name.

Killer Whale and the Dolphin

The Miami Seaquarium is also home to one of the oldest captive orcas named Lolita. Lolita first came to the Miami Seaquarium in 1970 and is the only orca currently at the park. The killer whale and dolphin show is one of the few shows in the United States where you will find a killer whale participating with dolphins.

“On a hot day, Lolita’s splashes are exactly what I needed,” Miami resident Bob Beifeild said.

During the exhibit, Lolita and her trainer walked on water, and did flips while interacting with the other dolphins in the pool.

Other Exhibits

There are many exhibits at the Miami Seaquarium in addition to the four shows. The exhibits, unlike the shows are open throughout the entire day. The 12 exhibits feature 12 different animals.

Crocodile Flats and Stingray Exhibit

Crocodile Flats houses a few crocodiles ranging in size of six to eight feet long. The crocodiles are fed chicken, fish and rabbit right in front of the visitors to the park. The flats area is beautifully displayed with rocks, palm trees and a beach-like setting for the crocodiles to roam.

Shark Channel and Tropical Reef Exhibit

Seaquarium offers the Tropical Wings exhibit as part of the visitor experience (Photo by Brandon Lumish).

Seaquarium offers the Tropical Wings exhibit as part of the visitor experience (Photo by Brandon Lumish).

The most popular and oldest exhibit at the park is the shark channel. At the shark channel, visitors can see live sharks being fed by the trainers of the park. Visitors can get so close that they can practically touch the sharks. The tropical reef exhibit is an amazing 750-gallon saltwater tank. Visitors can walk around the entire tank, watch divers feed the fishes and even listen to live narration about the fish inside the tank.

Tropical Wings and Manatee Exhibit

“Walking into Tropical Wings, I felt like I was at Parrot Jungle. Birds were everywhere,” South Floridian Maria Delgado said.

Tropical Wings has more than 20 different parrots that will talk your ears off. At the manatee exhibit, visitors can see one of South Florida’s most abundant animals, the manatee. These manatees can be viewed from an underwater and poolside tank. The manatee is now endangered and needs our help.


Ticket Information:

  • Daily admission ticket for visitors over the age of 9 is $39.95 and children ages three through nine are $29.95.
  • If you plan to visit the park more than once throughout the summer, the Summer Savings pass and the annual pass are only $55 and children 3-9 are $45. Anyone under the age of three are admitted for free.
  • Parking at the park is $8.

Hours of Operation:

  • The park is open 365 days a year. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Driving Directions:

  • From the North
- Take I-95 South, Exit 1A (Miami Seaquarium), and follow the signs to Key Biscayne and Rickenbacker Causeway.
  • From the South: Take South Dixie Highway North, exit to right just before the on-ramp to I-95, and follow the signs to Key Biscayne and Rickenbacker Causeway.

Miami Seaquarium Address and Contact:

  • The Miami Seaquarium is located at 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, Fla. 33149.
  • The phone number is 305-361-5705.
  • Miami Seaquarium website is

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