Meet Winter, Hope, and Rufus! If you have never seen the incredible movies Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2, the only thing I can say is, “why not?”. These were favorites of ours since Caleb was very little. So when we were in Tampa, FL, we made sure visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium was moved to the top of our must-do list.
It was a fantastic day trip over to Clearwater Beach (about an hour’s drive). The aquarium is located over the bridge near a super cute marina, if you recall from the movie. The views of the intercoastal and all the way over to Clearwater Beach were incredible.
We chose the self-guided tour; however, there are upgraded tours of the facilities that will take you behind the scenes. We would love to return for these at some point. We did enjoy a few great informational shows while there.
The first show was the “real” story of Winter and how she came to the Aquarium. While everything is dramatized for movies, the storyline is not identical but close. We also learned all about her prosthetic tail and how it works. It was a very interesting and informative show, and we even got to hold one of the (old) prosthetics. Caleb was shocked by how heavy it was.
We saved the BEST for last. We went down below to watch the trainers do some work with Hope and Winter both and learned about why Winter usually only wears her prosthetic for her therapy sessions. She has adapted very well to life without her tail, and it was so amazing to see her swim about and play.
There is much more to see and do as you make your way through the facility, and the aquarium is very interactive, including a touch tank. They even have a Great White Pelican rescue, where you’ll get to meet Ricky, who played “Rufus” in the movies.
While we were there, some of the areas were under construction. The facility is getting an $80 million expansion. The size is going to more than double in most areas, including the tanks. The renovation is due to be complete in the Fall of 2020. We can’t wait to come back and check it out the next time we are in the area.