The TECO Manatee Viewing Center was recently selected as one of the USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards for best free attractions for 2023.

Tampa Electric’s award-winning Manatee Viewing Center reopened on November 1 for the season.

This year, the Manatee Viewing Center will include a new viewing platform to allow visitors to get even closer to the manatees. The new platform opens on Wednesday, November 15. TECO has revamped the Education Center and also has added two new electric golf carts to help transport guests from the remote parking lot.

“We’re pleased we can offer our guests additional elbow room – and the opportunity to see the manatees from an even closer vantage point,” said Stan Kroh, manager of Land and Stewardship Programs for Tampa Electric. “The Manatee Viewing Center is the showcase for Tampa Electric’s commitment to environmental stewardship.”

The Manatee Viewing Center is the anchor attraction for the Florida Conservation and Technology Center (FCTC), which is a public-private partnership to feature both nature and technology. Tampa Electric provides the campus to its environmental partners for their important research and educational outreach. In addition to Tampa Electric, the partners include The Florida Aquarium, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the University of Florida.

The manatees have gathered in the canal to find refuge from the cold since the early 1970s. When the water temperature of Tampa Bay is 68 degrees or colder, manatees gather in the clean, warm water discharge canal of Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station, sometimes by the hundreds.

Visitors also can enjoy meeting the rays, critical animals that rely on a healthy Tampa Bay ecosystem — and even touch them gently as they glide past in the touch tank. Guests can hike the nature trail and take in the vistas from the 50-foot observation tower.

Each season, the center draws nearly 400,000 visitors — for a total of more than 7 million. Admission and parking at the Apollo Beach facility are free, and the boardwalks are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act for its guests’ convenience. Contributions are welcomed and will directly support protecting manatees, preserving their habitats and educating the public.

The Manatee Viewing Center’s regular hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. every day from now through April 15, 2024, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, when it is closed. (The facility closes at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve.) Comfortable shoes and clothing are recommended. Please note that no pets are allowed, only trained service animals.

Visit the center online at or call 813-228-4289 for more information.

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