By Sean Crumpacker
The Tampa area is home to a wide variety of entertainment opportunities for both tourists and residents alike, but what many locals do not realize is that plenty of these businesses offer behind-the-scenes tours to those who go looking.
The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium is a widely popular attraction. What many people do not know, however, is that the aquarium features a few unique activities for visitors to sign up for online.
The aquarium hosts a daily Behind the Scenes Tour. One hour in length, the tour gives guests a closeup look at the work that goes into maintaining a facility which harbors 14,000 animals. Whether you are interested in marine life and rescue or just want to learn about the aquarium, the tour is sure to be interesting and ensure guests appreciate the effort put into caring for so many animals.
The Behind the Scenes Tour, as well as the Florida Aquarium’s other attractions, can be signed up for on its website at www.flaquarium.org/tours-and-adventures. Prices vary day-to-day, so be sure to make your plans in advance.
Tampa’s historic movie palace is a bastion of culture that the city’s citizens fought to protect back in 1973, and for good reason. There are few theatres of its kind left in America.
On the 90-minute Balcony to Backstage Tour, guests can get a glimpse of the inner workings of the Tampa Theatre. Visitors on the tour will learn about the theatre’s history, art, architecture and stories.
Because the tours do sell out, the Tampa Theatre recommends those interested reserve their slots in advance. Additionally, Tampa Theatre members can take the tour at no cost.
Visit https://tampatheatre.org/tour/balcony-backstage-tour/ to book your tour.
Port Tampa Bay
All aboard; on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m., Port Tampa Bay offers a 75-minute tour of the harbor. Guests will board the Bay Spirit II to experience “a dynamic, working cargo port.”
Port Tampa Bay is the largest, most diversified port within the state and one of the largest within the nation—guests are sure to experience an entirely new world on the harbor excursion.
The seats for tours fill up quickly, so reservations are required to be made in advance. Call 905-7678 or visit www.porttb.com/harbor-tours to sign up. Best of all, it is free.
Raymond James Stadium
If you are a sports fan, you have probably watched a football game at the Raymond James Stadium. What you might not know, however, is that the stadium offers a whole other experience: stadium tours
The 75-minute long backstage tour grants guests access to a luxury suite, the pirate ship, the USF home team locker room, the field and more.
Prices vary by age group. To check ticket prices or reserve a spot on a tour, visit http://raymondjamesstadium.com/stadium-tours/.
Amalie Arena, originally known as the Ice Palace, is more than just a stadium for sports and performances. On Lightning game days, the arena opens up for guest tours, although a ticket to the game is not required to attend. Guests will get to see every floor of the arena as well as view the pipe organ, the press box, the zambonis and, of course, the ice.
The tour is $10 per person. Children under 5 may attend at no cost. The tours always start 3.5 hours before the day’s game. For more information, visit www.nhl.com/lightning/arena/amalie-arena-tours.
Big Cat Rescue
If you are looking for a longer, educational animal tour that delves into ‘the inner workings of a real animal sanctuary,’ look no further than Big Cat Rescue’s Keeper Tour. Two hours in length, the Keeper Tour is a mini tour of the 67 acre sanctuary. Along the way, guests will learn the history of the sanctuary and about the cats themselves and see many of the approximately 80 exotic cats.
The tour also includes a Behind the Big Cat Scenes Adventure, each of which is promised to be unique and exciting.
To book, visit https://bigcatrescue.org/keeper-tour/.