Beating the summer heat at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa

Postcards from Florida

It's hot out there, huh?

That unmistakable Florida heat motivated me to pick out the refreshing picture that is the theme of this week's postcard: Ideas for cool fun (literally) in the Sunshine State.

Last week, on the shores of Flagler Beach, I had a fleeting, distant glimpse of a whale in the Atlantic — without air-conditioning.

For a closer look at aquatic creatures (and a climate-controlled one), the Florida Aquarium in Tampa provides a window into the eco-system of sharks, otters, coral reefs, birds, gators and other wetland inhabitants.

And here's a nice bonus: In celebration of the aquarium's 15th anniversary, the entrance admission has been knocked down to $15 through May 31, if you purchase online at

Even for the regular $19.95 admission, the 200,000-square-foot attraction has enough substance to occupy a day. There are daily penguin, otter, shark and coral-reef shows plus stingray feedings included in regular admission.

For additional costs, visitors can swim in the coral-reef tank or board a boat for a Tampa Bay eco-tour.

The aquarium is next door to Channelside Bay Plaza, home to shops, budget-friendly dining and a multiplex movie theater. Joffrey's Coffee Co., just outside the main entrance, serves breakfast all day, as well as Cuban sandwiches, all under $10.

And, yeah, it's air-conditioned.

Across the bridge in St. Petersburg, the Salvador Dali Museum hosts a compact but enlightening collection of the artist's work. On the way out, be sure to spend some time in the air-conditioned gift shop, where there are gift books and prints available. Where else can you find a "melting clock" clock?

General admission is $17, with discounts available for seniors, teachers, students and children. In addition, admission is only $5 from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays.

Making the road trip from Orlando? Hit the Ybor City historic district on the return for a cigar and a beer, or a tasty dinner at the Columbia Restaurant or the Acropolis Greek Taverna. Cool idea, huh?

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