ADVENTURE ISLAND, 10001 Malcolm McKinley Drive, (813-987-5660). This 30-acre water park features a huge variety of amusements, including slides, corkscrews, water falls, a wave pool, children's water playground and other family attractions. Additional amenities include outdoor cafes, picnic and sunbathing areas, gift shops, arcades and a white-sand volleyball complex. The park is open daily March through October; hours vary. Single-day passes are $36.95 adults, $34.95 ages 3-9; children 2 and younger enter for free ($6 parking fee). Combo tickets for Busch Gardens and Adventure Island are also available. adventureisland.com.
AQUATICA, 5800 Water Play Way, Orlando, across from SeaWorld, exit 71 (888-800-5447). SeaWorld's brand spanking new waterpark opened its gates to the public in March. Aquatica's highlight is Dolphin Plunge, which features 240-feet of clear tubes that spiral through a lagoon with black-and-white Commerson's dolphins; other offerings include restaurants, 36 slides, a lazy river, interactive play areas, 80,000 square feet of sandy beaches and plenty else. Open daily; hours vary. Admission is $38.95 adults, $32.95 ages 3-9 (children 2 and younger enter for free). aquaticabyseaworld.com.
CLEARWATER MARINE AQUARIUM, 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater (727-441-1790). The nonprofit aquarium is dedicated to public education, marine research, and the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sick or injured dolphins, sea turtles and river otters. Visitors can see all of these rescued animals in addition to hourly animal care and training presentations, underwater viewing of native sharks and fish, standard and "hands-on" exhibits and more. New renovations have given the aquarium a facelift and features include a 100-seat widescreen theater, windows in the dolphin pool and an expanded gift. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.- Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun. Admission is $11 adults, $9 seniors, $7.50 ages 3-12. cmaquarium.org.
DISCOVERY COVE, 6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando (877-434-7268). This reservations-only, man-made aquavaganza features swim areas where visitors can actually splash about with bottlenose dolphins and rays, snorkel among exotic fish in a coral reef lagoon, wade in freshwater pools and rivers, hand feed birds and relax in hammocks. The prefab Tahitian-style day resort boasts sandy white beaches, thatched huts and a "high level of personal attention." Only 1,000 guests are admitted per day, so reservations are required. Open 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily. Admission is $289 ($299 Nov. 2-Dec. 20), and includes all cove adventures, a freshly prepared meal, free access to amenities (snorkel gear, wet suits, towels, lockers, beach umbrellas, chairs, hammocks and a personal guide), and a seven-day pass to Sea World and Busch Gardens; for $189 ($169 Nov. 2-Dec. 20), you get all of the above, minus the dolphin swim. discoverycove.com.
THE FLORIDA AQUARIUM, 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa (813-273-4000). This impressive downtown Tampa attraction focuses on Florida marine life and habitats. See indigenous sea creatures displayed in more than a million gallons of fresh and saltwater, an invasive species exhibit, limestone caverns, underground aquifer, beaches and marshlands, and hands-on shark and ray exhibits, Eco-Tours on a 64-foot catamaran (for an additional price), dive shows and more. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is $17.95 adults, $14.95 seniors, $12.95 ages 11 and younger (kids 2 and under enter for free). flaquarium.org.
LEBARGE TROPICAL CRUISES, U.S. 41 at Marina Jack's, Sarasota (941-366-6116). A fun and unusual way of exploring Sarasota's marine life and history, Le Barge offers three different tours in addition to private charters, special events and late-night cruises. Dolphin-watch cruises depart at 11 a.m. Mon.-Sat.; narrated sight-seeing cruises depart at 2 p.m. daily; sunset cruises with live entertainment, a light menu and a full bar depart between 5 and 7 p.m. Mon.-Sat. Tickets are $20 for the dolphin and narrated cruises ($15 for children 12 and younger), and $23 all ages for the sunset cruise (children 3 and younger ride free). lebargetropicalcruises.com.
MOTE MARINE LABORATORY, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota (941-388-4441). Mote's aquarium features everything from the puffer fish and seahorses to sharks and anglerfish and sea stars as well as touch pools and other interactive exhibits. Visit the Mammal Center, where Mote biologists rehabilitate sea turtles, whales and dolphins, and make sure to check out the giant (dead) squid on display, preserved in all its colossal-eyed grandeur. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is $17 adults, $16 seniors, $12 ages 4-12 (free for kids 3 and younger); eco boat tours are offered daily by Sarasota Bay Explorers and combo tickets are $35 adults, $28 ages 4-12 (free for children 3 and younger). mote.org.
THE PIER AQUARIUM, 800 Second Ave. N.E., St. Petersburg (727-895-7437). Giant vertical tubes — bubbling with fish and other sea life — lead from the lobby of The Pier up to the second-floor aquarium. The tanks feature native and tropical fish, sharks and other creatures while various displays — A Sea of Sound, Florida Red Tide and Into the Eye: Hurricanes — focus Florida's environment and ecosystems. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-6 p.m. Sun. Admission is $5 adults, $4 students and seniors (children 12 and younger enter free; $2.50 admission on Sundays). pieraquarium.org.