Every September Lowry Park Zoo, MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry), and The Florida Aquarium participate in the free reciprocal admission program known as Swaptember! I’ve included my personal strategies for taking advantage of this program to see more and spend less.
Yup, if you have a membership pass at any one of the above attractions, during the month of September (Sept 2-Sept 30) you can get free admission to the other two for free. Personally, I think that’s a pretty good deal for anybody living in or around Tampa.
For those of you who it does not make sense to get a yearlong membership, I have some great strategies for getting into these attractions at discounted prices or even for free in upcoming articles.
First in this post I’m going to highlight the three Swaptember attractions to show you how awesome they are and to hopefully entice you to go. Then I’m going to cover my own Swaptember strategy and how it can be applied to your situation. The three attractions are The Lowry Park Zoo, MOSI, and The Florida Aquarium. All of them are great. All of them have something different to offer.
Lowry Park Zoo
One of the best attractions in all of Tampa. I visit all the time with my family and truly believe this is the best zoo I’ve ever seen. Keep in mind I grew up going to Chicago’s Brooksville Zoo. Child Magazine named it 2004’s #1 family friendly zoo in the US. Parents Magazine named it their top zoo in 2009. In 2013, USA Today put it on their “10 Great Places” list. Elephants, apes, manatees, special events, rides, amazing kids area. There is a lot going on here.
Tampa’s MOSI has a lot to offer kids and adults. Fun, educational exhibits abound such as Mission Moonbase, Kids in Charge!, and The Amazing You. There’s a planetarium available and a ropes/zip line course (extra $). MOSI also has Florida’s only IMAX dome theater, which will always have a soft spot in my heart because it’s where I watched The Hobbit. (I’m a bit of a Lord of the Rings geek.)
The Florida Aquarium
Super cool place to spend a half-day adventure at. First, the animals are spectacular. There’s a huge shark tank, filled with other exotic fish too. A stingray petting tank, the Wetlands Trail which is filled with swampy birds and fish and plants, and even a lemurs habitat. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece. The extra bonus is its close proximity to other attractions such as the S.S. American Victory Memorial and Museum and Ybor City.
My Swaptember Strategies and How You Can Too
Step #1: Get an annual membership. If you live in Tampa Bay and like any of the above attractions it makes sense to get a yearlong pass. You have to pay some money up front, but when the math is done for what you get over the course of the year it is ridiculously cheap. For the most part, a pass to any of the attractions pays for itself in just two visits. Think about it.
I don’t want to get into all the details over the benefits of a year long pass, but I will say that my family visits the zoo almost once a week because we have a pass and have a budget to follow. With the amount of times that we have gone it almost feels free. Bang for buck.
Once you have made the decision that getting an annual pass makes sense, you need to figure out which one to get. Personally, I favor the Lowry Park Zoo. I like animals. My wife likes animals. My kid likes animals. There’s a fantastic kids section and fun events scheduled throughout the year. It works for us. Find what works for you. Love science things? Then MOSI is for you. Love aquatics? Check out the aquarium.
The key is to get one pass to your favorite place out of the three options. Don’t waste money on getting multiple passes. It defeats the purpose of spending less and seeing more.
Step #2: Take advantage of Swaptember and get your fill. That means that when September rolls around you need to clear out your free days. Better to plan it out in advance. Get all that stuff done that you need to get done ahead of time. Because Swaptember comes and goes quick.
Now the idea is that you need to get your fill for the whole year. If you visit, say…the aquarium just once. It’s going to leave you wanting more and then you might cave in and buy a day pass later in the year, money that could have been spent adventuring elsewhere. I suggest visiting the other Swaptember attractions at least two times each.
If you do that you will get the feeling that you thoroughly saw everything you wanted to see, and then you will be good for another year. You’ll be left with a pleasant feeling, but will not feel the urge to go again until next September when it will feel fresh and new again. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. Simple yet so hard. But if your goal is to see more of Florida while cutting costs best you can, Swaptember is something that can’t be passed up.