Water parks, hiking trails, museums and more

A complete guide to summer recreation on land and water

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SEA WORLD, 7007 Sea World Drive, Orlando, exit 71 (407-351-3600). This aquatic wonderland features live action shows and tanks of exotic marine life. Watch Shamu glide and leap through the water. Let your feet dangle while braving Kraken, a roller coaster that whirls over water and underground at 65 mph. The Journey to Atlantis water flume ride explores the mysterious city on high-speed rails (oh yeah, and a near-vertical 60-foot drop). Visit the Odyssey Circus, take a simulated helicopter ride into the Wild Arctic or travel through Key West, a duplicate of the South Florida paradise, filled with turtles, dolphins and stingrays. Hours vary from week to week. Entry is $67.95 adults, $57.95 ages 3-9, and for Florida residents, this includes unlimited admission through the rest of the year (children 2 and younger enter free); combo Busch Gardens and Aquatica tickets also available. seaworld.com.

SILVER SPRINGS, 5656 E. Silver Springs Blvd., east of Ocala on S.R. 40, exit 352 east off I-75 (352-236-2121). This 350-acre nature theme park offers glass-bottom boat cruises on Silver River, as well as other river cruises; wildlife exhibits featuring a white alligator, Florida panther, bears and more; rides; reptile and snake shows; various dining options and botanical gardens. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is $33.99 adults, $30.99 seniors, $24.99 ages 3-10 (children 2 and younger enter free). silversprings.com.

SOUTH FLORIDA MUSEUM AND PARKER MANATEE AQUARIUM, 201 10th St. W., Bradenton (941-746-4131). It's hard to believe Ice Age mammals roamed through Southwest Florida 12,000 years ago, but at the South Florida Museum, visitors can see life-size casts of these extinct creatures. SFM specializes in Florida history from the prehistoric to the present. Check out the Tallant Collection of artifacts, dating from the Paleo-Indian period to the arrival of the Spanish explorers in the early 1500s.10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. (open daily Jan.-April and in July). Admission is $15.95 adults, $13.95 seniors, $11.95 ages 4-12 (free admission for children 3 and younger). southfloridamuseum.org.

SS AMERICAN VICTORY, 705 Channelside Drive, Tampa (813-228-8766). The SS American Victory served during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War as a cargo carrier and is now open to the public for self-guided tours and various special events. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. Admission is $8 adults, $7 military, veterans and seniors, $4 kids 4-12 (free for children 3 and younger). americanvictory.org.

TARPON SPRINGS AQUARIUM, 850 Dodecanese Blvd., Tarpon Springs (727-938-5378). A 120,000-gallon reef tank houses more than 30 species of fish, including nurse sharks, bonnet head sharks, snook and the goliath grouper (aka Jewfish). There are also octopus, live coral, anemones and alligators. Featured diversions include narrated shark and alligator feedings, and a stingray petting tank. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. Admission is $5.75 adults, $5 seniors, $3.75 ages 3-11 (free for children 2 and younger). tarponspringsaquarium.com.

WET N' WILD, I-4 to exit 75A, 6200 International Drive, Orlando (800-992-WILD). This Orlando water park features more than 30 acres of amusements, including several slides with long vertical drops (like the "Brain Wash" extreme tube slide and the "Mach 5" flume ride), the "Disco H20" light- and music-enhanced tube ride and a four-passenger toboggan adventure. Other amenities include a kid's park with miniature versions of all the rides, several dining options and swimwear shopping opportunities at the Breakers Beach Shop. Open year-round; hours vary. Admission is $39.95 adults/$33.95 ages 3-9/$32.95 seniors (free for children 2 and younger). wetnwildorlando.com.

WEEKI WACHEE SPRINGS, 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee (352-596-2062). This attraction includes the world famous Mermaid Shows, riverboat rides, animal shows, scuba diving opportunities and Buccaneer Bay, a spring-fed water park, beaches, flume rides and more. Add to this the distinction that Elvis visited here once upon a time. Hours vary season to season. Admission is $24.95 adults, $16.95 ages 3-10 (ages 2 and younger enter free). weekiwachee.com.


ANNA MARIA ISLAND, 40 miles south of Tampa, seven miles west of Bradenton (941-742-5923). There are three major public beaches on Anna Maria: Coquina, Manatee and Bayfront Park. Coquina (west side of Gulf Drive/State Road 789) is a 96-acre stretch of clean beach popular with both families and kids. Free parking, lifeguards, concessions, pine-tree-shaded picnic tables, restrooms, showers, a playground and nearby boat ramps add to the attraction. Manatee Beach in Holmes Beach (State Road 64 and Gulf Drive) gets crowded easily; it boasts lifeguards, restrooms, picnic tables, an adjacent playground, free parking, showers and concessions, but no shade. The narrow Bayfront Park (316 N. Bay Blvd.) features restrooms, sheltered picnic tables, grills, a playground and great views of Tampa Bay. These beaches also allow fishing.

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