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Spectacular Species: Manatees

Manatees, the gentle giants known as sea cows or mermaids, are quite possibly the most adorable creatures on Earth. Once on the brink of extinction, these sweet marine mammals are now protected under US law and are relatively easy to find. Here are some of the best places to see Florida's iconic state marine mammal.

 

Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa is one of the most popular zoos in Florida with over 56 acres of natural animal exhibits in a lush, tropical garden setting. Since 1991, the David A. Straz Manatee Hospital at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has treated over 400 Florida manatees and is the only nonprofit critical care facility of its kind in Florida. Check out the underwater viewing windows in the Manatee and Aquatics Center to come nose-to-nose with wild manatees who will return to the wild once fully recovered.

 

After a day of up-close and personal animal encounters, head to the Hilton Tampa Downtown for some rest and relaxation. Located 12 minutes from the Lowry Park Zoo in walkable downtown Tampa, this Hilton offers upscale amenities with a swanky modern feel. Head to the nearby Riverwalk for dinner or try your luck at the nearby Seminole Hardrock Casino. 

 

Visit the Miami Seaquarium for a South Florida attraction where conservation and education go hand-in-hand, and sea lions, sea turtles and manatees find a safe haven. See a manatee presentation for an opportunity to learn about this fascinating animal and ways that you can help save these gentle creatures of the sea. With eight different marine animal shows, astounding daily presentations, and a variety of educational exhibits along the way, Miami Seaquarium has something for everyone. 

 

Extend your adventure with a stay at EAST, Miami, which is a 10-minute drive from the Miami Seaquarium. Located in Bricknell City Centre, EAST, Miami offers retail shops, a movie theatre, restaurants & bars, spas, and much more. Take a dip in one of EAST, Miami's 4 pools, including a lap pool, spa pool, cold plunge, and hot tub. 

 

Located in Bradenton, Florida, the South Florida Museum boasts the Gulf Coast's largest natural and cultural history museum, the region’s premier astronomy planetarium and a 60,000 gallon manatee aquarium. The facility is also home to Snooty, the museum's most famous resident and the oldest known manatee in the world. Check out Snooty on his own live webcam, Snooty Cam, and mark your calendar for Snooty's 69th birthday bash and wildlife festival on July 22nd. 

 

After a fun-filled day at the South Florida Museum, walk right next door to The Hampton Inn and Suites Bradenton/Downtown Historic District for a night in the heart of Bradenton. Enjoy free Wi-Fi, a fitness room and a heated outdoor pool in this classically updated Inn. A short stroll to the Riverwalk, various dining options, and shopping, you won't be disappointed with a stay at this Hampton Inn. 

Be sure you get a FREE pre-road trip inspection at your local AAA Car Care Center before you head to Florida. As we move into summer, the heat can deplete the life of your battery. If you get stuck with a dead battery, call Emergency Roadside Assistance, and we can bring you a new battery on the spot. If you don't want to put miles on your car, rent a car with your 10-20% AAA discount from Hertz. Having an AAA membership is priceless. Take advantage of all the benefits when you book a trip with AAA Travel. Call 1-800-444-8691 or visit your nearby AAA Travel Branch for more information. 

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