Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium#8 in Best Things To Do in Sarasota
Part-research center, part-aquarium, Mote Laboratory & Aquarium features nine exhibits, including two interactive areas and a 135,000-gallon shark tank. In total, the property houses more than 100 species of marine animals, such as sea turtles, otters and manatees. A 10th exhibit with American crocodiles, alligators and caimans will open in late February.
Recent visitors thoroughly enjoyed this aquarium, citing the array of animals and easy-to-navigate layout as highlights. But some caution that the area gets quite congested in the winter, so consider arriving early. Others warn that the property's entrance fees are high given its small size. Nevertheless, animal lovers and travelers with kids will likely enjoy exploring this facility.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium sits about 5 miles west of downtown Sarasota on the northern tip of Lido Key. Free parking is provided in the on-site lot, and the No. 18 SCAT bus stops twice within a half-mile radius. The facility is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round.
To enter the aquarium, visitors are required to pay an admission fee of $19.75 per adult and $14.75 for each child ages 4 to 12. Kids younger than 4 and military personnel get in for free, while seniors receive discounted rates. Tickets can be purchased in-person or online. All ticketholders have access to restrooms, animal talks with the property's researchers and the aquarium's exhibits, including those found in the Ann and Alfred Goldstein Marine Mammal Research and Rehabilitation Center. However, extra charges apply for special lectures, behind-the-scenes tours, sand-sifting equipment for the interactive Fossil Creek exhibit and items purchased in the restaurant and gift shop.
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#1 Myakka River State Park
Considered one of Florida's oldest and largest state parks, Myakka River State Park stretches across 58 square miles of wetlands, hammocks, pinelands and prairies. The area also features a river and two lakes, making it a prime place to enjoy water activities like canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Or, visitors can tour the lakes via one of the attraction's airboats, which are the largest in the world. Land-based tours are offered seasonally as well.
Though some travelers caution that finding the park's entrance and parking near the lake's main activities can be a bit of a challenge, many agree that this scenic spot is a must-visit for nature lovers. All sorts of animals – including alligators, roseate spoonbills and armadillos – are known to frequent the area. What's more, the park offers nearly 40 miles of hiking trails – including one walkway suspended 25 feet above the ground – and several biking paths.
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