east coast Florida Pandemic Florida Trip road trip travel Uncategorized

Dolphins and Clearwater – Day 3

Day three had us waking up a little later than the past two days. It was actually nice to sleep in a little bit. Of course, I was still up before 6 but at least the sun didn’t rise yet in Florida.

I stepped outside to get a feel for how warm it was. Good thing was I didn’t start sweating immediately but it didn’t take too long for that to happen. Temps today were going to reach around 90. So it was going to be a hot day.

sunrise over Busch Gardens Tampa
Sunrise over Busch Gardens Tampa

A little before 7 the sun was rising. It was a decent sunrise. Best one I’ve seen yet on my trip. Of course, that isn’t saying to much since it was only the morning of day three.

I let my daughter sleep in a little bit this morning. I didn’t wake her up till around 730. I wanted to eat breakfast at the hotel and head out to Clearwater Marine Aquarium. I wanted to get there a little before they opened. Unlike the last time I was in Tampa. I didn’t get the Tampa CityPASS this time.

I wanted to make sure we had time to enjoy the beach. If I had gotten the CityPASS we would have been busy all day going to four different attractions. Than tomorrow we would have spent at Busch Gardens instead of driving to the Keys. I have been wanting to visit the Florida Keys for a couple years now so I wasn’t going to skip on that chance.

We had a simple yet delicious breakfast from the hotel. I made a waffle for my daughter and a bagel for myself. We also had some cereal and hard boiled eggs. I also got to get some coffee.

While the breakfast at La Quinta Inn near Busch Gardens won’t knock your socks off. It is a great way to start your day. Plus most hotels are not offering this style of breakfast currently. Most places are only offering you a bag for breakfast.

After breakfast we headed out to start our day at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA). From the hotel it was close to an hour drive. Traffic wasn’t too bad. Just a little stop and go but overall it was good. Driving on the Gulf to Bay Blvd (60) is a nice relaxing drive. Looking out into the water is something I have always enjoyed. Especially when you are almost level to the water.

The road way can’t be that much higher than sea level. One of these years I am going to have to pull off and check out the park along the road way. There are always a ton of people hang out down along the water. I want to be one of those people one day.

We arrived around 930 at Clearwater Marine Aquarium and started to head in. The aquarium didn’t open till 10 but there was already a line forming.

One thing I do want to mention is the ticket prices and my overall experience with CMA. It will cost you $33 for adults and $27 for kids ages 3-12. Now the Tampa CityPASS which includes a ticket to CMA will cost you $122 for adults and $109 for kids 3-9. Keep in mind that the Tampa CityPASS incudes four other attractions around Tampa including Busch Gardens.

Now I do feel that the price of tickets to CMA are a little overpriced. When I consider that the money is going into all the things that they do it is worth the price. They help save the different marine life in and around Florida including manatees and of course, dolphins like Winter.

We didn’t really get to see too much of Winter on this trip and she didn’t have her tale on. We did end up spending about an hour and a half here. For both of us the best part was the string rays. It almost seemed like they wanted to be touched by us. One just kept making small circles and coming back. I’ve never witnessed a sting ray do that before. It was quite interesting.

There really isn’t a lot to see at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. You can see a couple different dolphins, some fish, and touch sting rays. Other than that there isn’t too much to the place. Of course, you will also learn about their rescue efforts. After all, I do believe that is their main function. Rescuing and rehabilitating is what the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is all about.

From the aquarium we made the short drive down to Clearwater. Now parking in Clearwater can be a bit of a pain. Your best bet is to find a meter. Your second best bet is to park in one of the garages. The lots can be super pricey. The one I found wanted $50 for the day. No wonder there were ton of spots available.

We ended up parking in a parking garage right across the street from the beach. The price wasn’t too bad either. It ended up costing me between $10 and $15. Plus it was in a great location.

We walked around the town a little bit just to see what was there. There are plenty of shops to go into. Or places to grab a bite to eat. You can also find plenty of boat tours to do too. After are walk around the town we headed to Pier 60.

Pier 60 is just a really long pier that jets out into the Gulf of Mexico. You can walk pretty far out without having to pay. If you want to go to the end you have to pay to do that. From what I am told it is an excellent spot to go fishing from.

Pier 60, Clearwater, Florida, Beach,

Once we left the pier we hit the water. My daughter went swimming while I just got my feet wet. The water temperate was perfect. I gotta say I was a little mad I didn’t bring my stuff with me. I would have loved to jump in that water. It was the perfect day to do it.

Next time I plan a trip down to Tampa I think I will spend a few more days here. I really want to just have a nice relaxing beach day with my daughter. I know she would love it. The water in Clearwater is much different than we are used to in Jersey. The water also isn’t as rough as it is up in the Northeast.

It was getting to be about that time for food. I was thinking of grabbing something from Crabby’s Beachwalk Bar and Grill but I had them a few years ago and wanted to try something new. So we went next door and ate at CKs.

We got a table over looking the walkway and beach which was very nice. Sitting there came with a nice surprise. A cool little breeze to help cool us down a little.

We ordered our food and it didn’t take long for it to come out. We ordered pretzel bites which were AMAZING. Nice and salty and delicious. My daughter ordered a bacon cheese burger and I got the shrimp tacos. Everything was cooked perfectly and tasted great. The staff at CKs were amazing people. They all seemed so friendly and helpful.

Food from CKs in Clearwater Florida, Good eats,

After we ate we checked out a few different stores. I almost bought swim trunks at Surf Style but the line was too long for me to wait in to get an extra pair of swim gear. I knew I had 3 packed. I just didn’t think to bring them with to Clearwater. They were sitting back at the hotel.

I do have to say that the prices in the store were good. You would expect it to be a little over priced. However, you would be wrong. Nothing in Clearwater seemed to be overpriced. Everything we came across from clothing, souvenirs, drinks, and food seemed to be reasonable.

After we strolled along the main strip again we headed down towards the water. We walked along the beach for a while stopping every few hundred feet or so. I didn’t trust putting my bag down and going knee deep in the water so I kept my bag on me while my daughter would swim in the ocean.

I did get her to stop and take a couple pictures of me in the water. Of course, I got tons of her in it. I was even able to get a couple of us together. It is beginning to get harder for her to want to take a picture with her dad. I know as the years go by it will get harder and harder. However, I will keep trying to get them.

I really wanted to stay for the sunset. However, the sun was setting around 2015 (08:15pm) and it was around 1830. I wanted to another gulf sunset but I knew we wouldn’t get back to the hotel till around 10pm if we stayed to watch it. Tomorrow we would be leaving right after breakfast to head to Key West. So I just wanted to get a good nights rest.

Traffic was okay heading back to the hotel. Once we got back we did a little swimming. Of course, she did much more than I did. As the sun set and it started to get really dark the fireworks started to go off again.

I probably should have set up my DSLR on my tripod but I was being lazy and didn’t feel like getting the tripod out of the car. I did get a few videos with my phone though and a couple snap shots. I must say have the fireworks going off so close was a nice way to end the night. The show must have lasted 15 minutes. It was quite the sight to see.

Tomorrow will see us waking up somewhat early and heading down to the keys. I hope you are enjoying following along with us and will come back tomorrow as well.

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