For the last 3 or 4 years we have been members of the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key, just east of Marathon, FL in the Florida Keys. If you find yourself in the Florida Keys (with or without kids), a day trip to the DRC is an experience you will never forget. It is my top choice for where to see dolphins in Florida.
The DRC is a serene facility, a place you could spend a few hours or whole day. After spending so much time at the DRC over the years, I have a very hard time visiting aquariums that keep dolphins in small, pool-like tanks. During a recent visit to a large East Coast aquarium that houses dolphins and has a “dolphin show”, my husband and I had to leave the mammal area because we were so disturbed by their living conditions.
Dolphins arrive at the DRC in one of several ways. Some have been rescued. Many were born there. And even though active research is happening at the DRC at most times, animals are never required to participate in research or forced to “showcase” their abilities. Instead, dolphins are invited to play and visitors can learn more about dolphins during play and research sessions with their trainers.
Our family favorite at the DRC is Gambit, a young and playful male dolphin. We are always on the lookout for him!
At the DRC you can also participate in experiences like painting with the dolphins, participating in dolphin playtime, and even standing in as a trainer for a day. A few years ago I participated in a session that allowed me to get in the water with the dolphins and learn more about their training at the DRC and their play behaviors. It certainly gave me a huge appreciation for these beautiful creatures.
One of my favorite spots at the DRC is behind the back lagoons where the center opens up to the Gulf of Mexico. It is always so peaceful back there!
Besides Gambit-watching, the boys love the Splash Park on site. Like us, many locals with young children are members of the DRC and will stop by for an hour or two to cool off under the splash parks’ sprayers.
Want to learn more? Planning a visit? Stop by the Dolphin Research Center website to learn more.