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“Kids of All Ages Enjoyed It”

Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center
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Motorcycle Ride to Manatee Viewing Center
Ranked #6 of 198 things to do in Tampa
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: Visitors come to this warm water viewing center to see manatees, an endangered species of marine mammals.
Useful Information: Activities for young children, Activities for older children
Reviewed December 28, 2011

Me and my family visited during December with four children. They were spread out in ages from 7-15, so that can help you think of the age group who would enjoy it.
When we arrived, it was already pretty busy in the late morning. There was an abundance of parking which was nice.
Most of the viewing center is outdoors, so keep that in mind if the weather isn't very warm like it was when we visited. When we were there, it was about 60 degrees or so outside.
There are a few piers for seeing the manatees just inside the viewing center. There were pretty large and the manatees weren't hard to find.
We saw dozens of manatees while we were there. Mostly we saw just lumps just underneath the surface of the water, but of course that is just the nature of the animals. We were able to take a lot of pictures and it was very fun.
Elsewhere in the viewing center, there is a educational center, gift shop, and a second pier.
The educational center has mostly reading about the manatees. Since our kids like to read, they enjoyed that area, but there are also some hands-on things in there as well.
The second pier is located straight back. It's a short walk to get there, and you also pass through a tunnel of mangroves. The tunnel of mangroves is a great place to take family photos and stuff like that.
In the back pier, you could see some manatees, but there weren't as many.
The gift shop was a little on the small side, but for most, I don't think it's a dealbreaker really.
All in all, this is a great place, especially since it's free. Our kids came to this place rather skeptical, but they ended up enjoying it. It's a very nice place to see manatees without having to pay.

3  Thank mnsamok
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed December 27, 2011

Manatee, Cow Nose Rays and Eagle Rays, Oh My! It was a cold and windy day and we bundled up to go out on the pier.boradwalk at the TECO vieiwng center. There was all kinds of acitvity manatee (some mating?!), some nursing, platoons of rays, and dozens of shore birds standing by! What a feast for your eyes and ears! We go every winter at least once or twice. I used to turn up my nose in favor of getting in my wetsuit and snorleing in the freezing water with the crittes in Crystal River, but I enjoy my creature comforts now and love the desity of the population at the hot water outlets at TECO!

1  Thank margaretcushwa
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 27, 2011

Located just a few miles outside of Tampa, the Manatee Viewing Center is somewhere we always take visiting family and friends. It is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon -- sea air, sunshine and the ability to view manatees upclose -- it is always a favorite!
Plan to spend a couple of hours. The cooler the temperature in the Gulf, the more manatees you will see -- on one visit in January we stopped counting at 150!

2  Thank AJMF
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 23, 2011

This is my absolute favorite place to go. I am hesitant to say too much because I would hate to see it flooded with people, but it really is wonderful. During cold weather months there are manatees everywhere as well as all sorts of fish, spinner sharks, and spotted eagle rays that jump out of the water!

2  Thank farawaydreams
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 20, 2011

I've lived in Florida for 20+ years. Have been to MANY other manatee viewing "attractions". I saw more manatees here during this (our first visit here) than in all other places combined - at least 25-30 manatees, including babies. It's important to remember that manatees come to these "viewing areas" when the temperature drops looking for warmer water - in this case, from the power plant. Don't bother during hot months - usually a wasted trip - manatees are spread out and harder to find.

Manatees are hard to photograph - by the time you say, "There's One !!!" it's back underwater again. So we saw at least 25 floating lumps that flashed us snouts and tails. We were patient, and after waiting and watching fish and lumps for about 10-15 minutes, we had one directly under us for a great view. I have previously paid $35 a head elsewhere for a short boat trip and we saw two lumps at a distance, just to put things in perspective.

Remember, this is not a theme park; did I mention it's free? For free you get to see manatees along some very nice walkways and piers. One pier is 900' long, and as you walk out, you pass through two shaded tunnels, a canopy of trees and foliage. Very neat! We also saw a huge tarpon, 6' or larger, just hanging in the water right at our feet. We also saw a shark, MULTIPLE schools of assorted fish, water birds and butterflies. Yes, they have a little butterfly garden there too.

There is also a small education center with a couple of hands-on things for the little ones. There is a snack bar and nice well stocked gift shop. The gift shop prices were reasonable, and they had some cute stuff never seen elsewhere. All the neat (air conditioned) buildings are built on pylon stilts, and there are numerous shaded picnic tables available underneath.

If you care to read them, there are informational wildlife and information cards throughout, and hidden speakers softly narrating as well. They have a set of cards with pictures of specific manatees (named) identifiable by scars - apparently these are regular visitors. There are also a few information videos available - one near the picnic tables underneath in the shade. None of this was intrusive, but there if you cared to view or listen.

There is also plenty of free parking. Something typically in short supply when visiting anything in the Tampa area. Restrooms were immaculate. (No, I don't work for Tampa Electric, but I do have a tiny bladder).

It's an interesting contrast or balance of nature and industry. The power plant looms a good stone's throw away, chugging out white smoke (no smell) and thrumming along noisily. Yet, all this wildlife seems to thrive here. There's an ABUNDANCE of fish, many jumping, from minnow size to that 6' tarpon. There are temperature gauges in the water. On the electric plant side, the water temp was 83 degrees, on the far side 73 degrees. The Manatees were hanging on the hot side.

Finally, a few other things you should know. The water is a little murky - this is not one of Florida's crystal clear springs.

It's Florida, so expect to walk around outside in the heat.

There's no fireworks, costumed characters or animatronics.

To get here, it is off the beaten path. One has to drive a good 20 minutes down a mid- sized, 4 lane road. It passes through some not very scenic areas, including some run down places, lots of junkyards, and a couple of slimy adult "bookstores" or strip clubs. It's only a drive past.... but. Since the center closes at 5:00 PM it shouldn't be a problem, but I wouldn't want to break down along that road at night. Check your gas gauge before visiting.

7  Thank Day_Tripper_2008
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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