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Five Terrific Reasons to Visit the Tampa Bay Area this Fall

September 17, 2020 Travel Deals No Comments Email Email

Autumn may see temperatures dipping across much of the United States, but that’s not the case in Florida. There’s a reason this sun-soaked slice of America is called the Sunshine State. And one of the sunniest and most family-friendly destinations for travelers is the Tampa Bay area, which comprises the cities of Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg.

While the thought of traveling can seem daunting now, Tampa Bay area attractions are taking extra precautions to keep visitors healthy. And that’s just one reason to consider a Tampa Bay getaway. You’ll also find new experiences, including Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s new state-of-the-art habitat for Winter the dolphin, star of the Dolphin Tale movie franchise; as well as half off attraction admissions with the Tampa Bay CityPASS® ticket.

Here are five great reasons to quench your wanderlust with a Tampa Bay area vacation this fall.

  1. See Winter’s brand-new home at Clearwater Marine Aquarium:CMA’s most famous resident is Winter, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin who, as a baby, lost her tail after becoming entangled in a crab trap line. The CMA team helped to rescue Winter and then worked with Hanger Clinic to develop a prosthetic dolphin tail that allowed her to make a full recovery. Winter’s heartwarming story was made famous in the popular Dolphin Tale movies.

Today, Winter has a gleaming new home fit for a Hollywood star. Opened on July 29, this 1.5 million-gallon habitat features nine viewing windows that provide sweeping underwater views of Winter and her five dolphin friends: Hope, who co-starred with Winter in the Dolphin Tale II movie; PJ, Nicholas and Hemingway. (All of the dolphins are rescue animals who would be unable to survive in the wild.) The most magnificent of the dolphin viewing areas is the Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton Main Dolphin Pool Observation Window, which is 40 feet wide by 14 feet tall.

CMA’s new habitat is part of an $80 million expansion currently underway at the Ruth and J.O. Stone Dolphin Complex on Island Estates. The opening of Winter’s new home is the first of a two-phased opening for the Stone Dolphin Complex. Phase II will provide a new guest entrance experience, as well as new dining areas with locally sourced food options.

  1. Check the Tigris coaster off your bucket list:Florida’s tallest launch coaster, Tigris, opened just last year at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. If you haven’t yet mustered the courage to try it, it’s time to check Tigris off your daredevil bucket list. This innovative thrill ride catapults passengers through an exhilarating array of looping twists with forward and backward motion, breathtaking drops, a 150-foot skyward surge, and an inverted heartline (360-degree) roll—all at more than 60 miles per hour! Tigris races riders along more than 1,800 feet of steel track designed to mimic the awe-inspiring agility of the world’s largest and most powerful cat—the tiger.
  2. Say hello to Kayin at ZooTampa at Lowry Park:One of the newest and cutest faces at ZooTampa belongs to Kayin, an endangered white rhino born in January. The 8-month-old female calf is the seventh white rhino to be born at the zoo, which participates in the Species Survival Plan. Adorable Kayin and her mom, Kidogo, can be seen by park visitors who take the open-air tram ride in the Expedition Africa section of ZooTampa.
  3. CatchWashed Ashore—Art to Save the Sea before it washes away: Through Feb. 21, 2021, the Florida Aquarium is presenting Washed Ashore—Art To Save The Sea. This nationally acclaimed exhibit artistically showcases the impact of plastic pollution on oceans, waterways and wildlife with larger-than-life sculptures made entirely from plastic trash and debris collected from West Coast beaches. Washed Ashore sculptures have traveled around the country, but this is the first time they have been on display in Florida. Working closely with Oregon-based artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi, the Florida Aquarium helped to curate a “school” of 18 marine-oriented sculptures depicting sea life. You can view the Priscilla the Parrotfish sculpture outside the aquarium’s main entrance for free; a general admission ticket gets you access to the rest of the collection.
  4. Enjoy an extended 30 days to use your CityPASS tickets:CityPASS has always been a great way to stretch your dollar while visiting the Tampa Bay area’s top sights—it saves smart travelers 50% off combined admission to the included attractions. And now it’s also the best way to stretch the time you have to visit those attractions. Through Feb. 28, 2021, CityPASS has increased the usual 9-day validity period on its admission tickets to a full 30 days. Simply activate your ticket on or before Feb. 28, 2021, and you’ll enjoy 30 days of validity (activation occurs when your CityPASS ticket is scanned at the first attraction).

Tampa Bay CityPASS tickets cost $119 for adults, $106 for children age 3-9. The tickets, which are available in a convenient mobile format, cover prepaid admission to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay theme park and four additional area attractions. Includes:

  • Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
  • The Florida Aquarium
  • ZooTampa at Lowry Park
  • A choice between Clearwater Marine Aquarium OR Chihuly Collection
  • A choice between Museum of Science & Industry OR The Tropics Boat Tours

Some attractions now require advance reservations for guests. For information on how to make reservations, visit the “Tampa Bay Travel Guide” page on the CityPASS website. You’ll also find attraction hours of operation, exhibit highlights and travel tips.

Note: Before booking your trip, we encourage you to check the attractions’ websites to ensure that the exhibits, rides and activities you most want to enjoy are currently open and accessible.

In this new normal, travelers want to feel secure about their vacation decisions. Thankfully, CityPASS and its partner attractions are:

Safe — Stringent new cleaning protocols and social distancing measures at the Tampa Bay attractions have been designed to keep visitors safe and healthy. See the CityPASS “Attraction Safety Measures” web page for detailed information. To reduce contact and touch points, CityPASS also encourages visitors to use CityPASS mobile tickets for the time being.

Trustworthy — CityPASS has been a trusted brand for nearly a quarter of a century, with more than 23 million tickets sold to date. CityPASS tickets have a 97% customer recommendation rating. Read our reviews here.

Flexible — Travel plans unexpectedly changing? No worries. CityPASS has a 365-day risk-free return policy on unused tickets. Want to spread your attraction visits out over several weekends? Not a problem. For many CityPASS partner destinations, travelers now have 30 days in which to use their admission tickets.

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