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Winter the dolphin Archives

December 8, 2015

Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter the dolphin, hosts holiday mini-camps

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For many of us, our furry pets are like family, and we include them in our Christmas celebrations with stockings, presents and holiday sweaters. But Florida residents and visitors can help marine life celebrate the season, too. I’ve written about SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration, and today I’d like to tell you about how kids can get in the spirit at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter the dolphin.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium hosts Holiday Hoopla camps from Dec. 21-23 or Dec. 28-30. Campers also can choose to attend for a single day. Each day starts at 8:30 a.m. and goes until 4 p.m.

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The official description of the camps is as follows: "Join us as we learn all about our Florida marine life and their cold water cousins through fun-filled interactions with some of Clearwater Marine Aquarium's resident animals. Discover how blubber and fur work to keep animals warm, prepare treats to lift our rescued animals' holiday spirit and spend time out on the water, seeing animal adaptations in action. Tour behind-the-scenes areas, participate in a fish feeding session, play educational games and make crafts, as we compare animal adaptations here in Florida and in the coldest regions of the world. Have a Holly Jolly holiday full of fun at Clearwater Marine Aquarium!"

The three-day price is $175 for members and $195 for non-members. Single-day prices are $75 for members and $90 for non-members. At the time this blog was published, there was availability in both camps. Participants must be at least 5 years old. You can register on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium website.

Can’t attend a holiday camp in Florida? You can help the residents of Clearwater Marine Aquarium have a happy holiday by shopping in the online store, where all purchases help the organization’s mission of rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine wildlife. The store has introduced new merchandise for the holidays, including special “Dolphin Tale” play sets, clothing and plush animals.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is just a 90-minute drive from Orlando. Whether you're a local resident looking for a little different holiday experience for the family this year or an out-of-state visitor who has never been this close to Winter's home, the holiday mini-camps are good reason to take a road trip.



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June 18, 2015

Meet stars of 'Dolphin Tale 2' at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in July

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If you or someone in your family loved the “Dolphin Tale” movies, next month might be the perfect time to visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where the film was shot and Winter and Hope, the dolphins, live.

The young stars of the movie -- Nathan Gamble (Sawyer), Cozi Zuehlsdorff (Hazel) and Austin Highsmith (Pheobe) -- are visiting the aquarium again, and fans can meet them. Zuehlsdorff will be at CMA July 19 through 22; Gamble, July 22 through 25; and Highsmith July 25 through 28. So, July 22 will be the only day when visitors can meet both Zuehlsdorff and Gamble, and July 25 pairs Gamble with Highsmith.

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The trio of actors has made several appearances at CMA during the last year to promote "Dolphin Tale 2," which was released in theaters in September 2014. My 10-year-old daughter was fortunate to be able to meet them during one such trip last summer, and she was thrilled with the opportunity to talk with the stars of her all-time favorite movies.

If the meet-and-greets work the same way as ours did, the actors had a limited time to meet fans, so no autographs were permitted. However, you could take photos, and CMA had one of its photographers there, as well. You have the option to purchase those images afterward. The meet-and-greets were included in the price of admission.

Last summer, the three actors joined Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates for a question-and-answer session with that we attended. You can view it here.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is just a 90-minute drive from Orlando. It's not a planned tourist attraction, so don't expect elaborate displays, shows and rides. What you will find at the working hospital is amazing in its own right -- volunteers and staff working to save animals, and you can visit the creatures and talk with the trainers. Plus, if you've seen "Dolphin Tale" and "Dolphin Tale 2," it's fun to recognize and walk through the places featured in the movie.

Included in your ticket to Clearwater Marine Aquarium is transportation and admission to Winter's Dolphin Tale Adventure in downtown Clearwater. This location shows images, re-creations and actual props from the movie. For a complete explanation of what you can do at the two locations, see my previous post.

NOTE: Prices and operating hours were correct at the time of that blog’s publication, but they have since changed. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at seewinter.com at a discount or in person at the box office.



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December 13, 2014

Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Winter the dolphin, offers special holiday events

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Although I focus on Orlando's unique family attractions, I've written about Clearwater Marine Aquarium and its most famous resident, Winter the dolphin, several times since I became a blogger for AllEars.Net. If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know this is in part because CMA is a place that my family and I enjoy spending time together. But a bigger motivation for me is that I know my daughter is far from alone in her love of Winter, and I want our readers to understand what they can gain from squeezing in a visit to Clearwater when they are in Orlando for a theme-park vacation.

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The release of the "Dolphin Tale 2" DVD this week has given me another opportunity to share with fans, new and seasoned, what is new in Winter's world this month.

First, the DVD. It, of course, contains the cinematic release, but "Dolphin Tale" fans will be pleased to find a slew of bonus features, as well. (You can read my review of the movie here.) Viewers can see what real-life rescue and rehabilitation work at CMA is like, and it's inspiring -- just like a visit a CMA, which is a working animal hospital. Those interested in movie-making will find fascinating the bonus short that reveals how underwater scenes in "Dolphin Tale 2" were filmed. In another segment, Bethany Hamilton, the professional surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack, is shown meeting Winter. As with other meetings between the famous dolphin and people with disabilities, it's touching to witness. Finally, there's a blooper roll. Fans of Winter and the film franchise clearly will enjoy this latest DVD release.

But if you find yourself in Florida during the weeks surrounding Christmas, CMA even has some special events that will take you beyond simply watching Winter's story on the screen. Holiday Mini-Camps are offered from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 21-23 or Dec. 29-31.

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The official description of the camps is as follows: "Join us as we learn all about our Florida marine life and their cold water cousins through fun-filled interactions with some of Clearwater Marine Aquarium's resident animals. Discover how blubber and fur work to keep animals warm, prepare treats to lift our rescued animals' holiday spirit and spend time out on the water, seeing animal adaptations in action. Tour behind-the-scenes areas, participate in a fish feeding session, play educational games and make crafts, as we compare animal adaptations here in Florida and in the coldest regions of the world. Have a Holly Jolly holiday full of fun at Clearwater Marine Aquarium!"

The three-day price is $199 for members and $240 for non-members. Single-day prices are $75 for members and $90 for non-members. There is a waitlist for the Dec. 29-31 combo session. You can register on the CMA website.

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As if that isn't enticing enough, two of the "Dolphin Tale 2" actors will be visiting the aquarium, and visitors will have the chance to meet them. Nathan Gamble, who plays Sawyer, will be at CMA Dec. 27-30, and Austin Highsmith, who plays Phoebe, will be there Dec. 20-22. My daughter was over the moon when she met both actors during a visit this past summer. If the meet-and-greets work the same way as ours did, the actors had a limited time to meet fans, so no autographs were permitted. However, you could take photos, and CMA had one of its photographers there, as well. You have the option to purchase those images afterward.

During the summer, Gamble and Highsmith joined Cozi Zuehlsdorff, who played Hazel, for a question-and-answer session with Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates that we attended. You can view it here.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is just a 90-minute drive from Orlando. Whether you're a local resident looking for a little different holiday experience for the family this year or an out-of-state visitor who has never been this close to Winter's home, the holiday mini-camps and the actors' visits are good excuses to take a road trip and experience one more mid-Florida attraction that makes this state so unique.



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October 15, 2013

Winter from 'Dolphin Tale' lives at nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium

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When it comes to sea life, Orlando might best be known for Shamu and Ariel. But just a short drive away to the state's West Coast is another famed sea-life celebrity who offers a chance for families to have a fun outing and to learn a few things, as well.

About a 90-minute drive from Orlando's tourist corridor is Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a working marine hospital that is home to Winter the dolphin, who starred in the hit family movie "Dolphin Tale."

Winter's real-life story is a bit different from what was portrayed in the film. Winter, a months-old calf who was caught in the ropes of a crab trap, actually was found by fisherman James Savage on the East Coast of Florida in the Mosquito Lagoon area of Canaveral National Seashore in December 2005. Savage freed Winter, expecting her to swim away. When she didn't, Savage called for help.

The first responders were marine mammal experts from the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, who took over supporting the badly injured dolphin until SeaWorld's rescue transport team could arrive to drive her to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Winter's caregivers and veterinarians have said they were unsure if she would survive the night, but the spunky dolphin fought to survive as she was given round-the-clock care. She recovered from many of her wounds, but the injuries to her fluke (or tail) were too great, and part of it died and fell away. Winter was quick to adapt, though, and began to swim from side-to-side like a fish. Her veterinarian, though, worried that the way she swam would hurt her spine over time. If you've seen "Dolphin Tale," you know that a very special prosthetic tail was developed just for Winter, and over the course of a year, it was refined and the dolphin learned to swim with it.

Today, Winter is thriving in her new home and is a source of inspiration for many kids and adults dealing with disabilities and other challenges. Winter's fans can visit her and the other rescued animals at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

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Like so many others, my daughter fell in love with Winter and that prompted us to visit the hospital in 2011 and again last month on her birthday. If you're considering a similar trip, here's a little bit of what you can expect from the experience. First, know that this facility is a working hospital and not a planned tourist attraction, so don't expect elaborate displays, shows and rides. What you will find is amazing in its own right -- volunteers and staff working to save animals, and you can visit the creatures and talk with the trainers. Plus, if you've seen "Dolphin Tale," it's fun to recognize and walk through the places featured in the movie.

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There is a gift shop, of course, and plenty of opportunities to purchase various photo packages, such as what is made available by the green-screen attraction at the aquarium's entrance. There, kids and families can strike a pose and then have Winter's image superimposed over theirs. It sounds hokey, yet the result can be quite humorous and is one of the pictures my daughter enjoyed the most.

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Also, if you're going for the day (which is recommended, given the drive time), know that the dining opportunity is limited to an outdoors counter-service grill that serves sandwiches and pizza and the like. The kids might be OK with this, but if the parents want something more, there are a couple of nearby cafes off the property (across the street, actually), and a trolley service runs to other parts of Clearwater if you'd rather eat elsewhere.

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On our first visit two years ago, we watched Winter and the other resident dolphins swim, feed and play on their own. There also was a scheduled show, starring Winter, that allowed trainers to explain the prosthetic tail and take Winter through a few tricks. Dolphin fans could see the other dolphins in a high-flying show on the upper deck of the hospital. At that time, only special groups were allowed to touch Winter, something my daughter longed to do.

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Fast forward two years, and the rules have been relaxed. The aquarium allows three visitors per day to touch Winter during a photo opportunity. The privilege is pricey -- $140 for an individual or $160 for a group of two to four participants -- and it's over in minutes. You are not paying for an interactive session with Winter, just a photo. Remember, though, that the experience is largely a fund-raiser for the aquarium, allowing staff to continue its care of Winter and other animals and to pay for rescue efforts. Short as the experience was, my 9-year-old daughter was thrilled with her birthday present and vowed never to wash the hand that had touched Winter.

The other experience that does allow interaction with Winter is Winter's Assistant Trainer, a 15-minute event during which the participant works with one of Winter's trainers during an actual training session. The activities range from cognitive behavior lessons and painting to physical therapy and preparing Winter's prosthetic tail. Winter's Assistant Trainer costs $449 per person and includes admission to CMA, a T-shirt and one professional photo.

There also are several experiences available with other dolphins at the facility:

** Trainer for the Day -- 3-hour experience is $295 per person and includes T-shirt, towel, bag and photo
** Wade with dolphins -- 60-minute experience is $249 per person and includes T-shirt and photo
** Paint with a dolphin -- 15-minute experience is $225 per person and includes T-shirt, photo, the artwork and VIP seating during the presentation
** Dolphin encounter -- 30-minute experience is $125 per person and includes T-shirt and photo
** Photo opportunity with other dolphins -- $40 for individual or $60 for a group of 2 to 4 participants

Because Winter was preparing to film "Dolphin Tale 2" when we visited last month, she was not performing in her regular show or even staying in her usual pool. The 8-year-old dolphin was busy learning new commands from her trainers, while her home pool was being spruced up for the movie. In fact, CMA has closed through the end of the year for filming but will be open during holiday periods. The next chance to see Winter is Nov. 29 and 30 and Dec. 1. (You can see the complete calendar at seewinter.com)

Admission, if purchased online, is $12.95 for children ages 3 to 13, $15.95 for seniors ages 60 and older, and $17.95 for adults. CMA also houses sea turtles, stingrays, river otters, and one of two pelicans who played Rufus in the movie. There even are other smaller forms of sea life and its habitat that guests are encouraged to touch during several informational sessions presented by CMA volunteers.

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Included in your ticket is transportation and admission to Winter's Dolphin Tale Adventure in downtown Clearwater. This location shows images, recreations and actual props from the movie. My daughter was excited to see some of Hazel's actual clothes from the movie as well as recreated scenes. Especially realistic is The Hurricane Experience, a walk-through attraction in which participants go into a replica of Sawyer's house and feel it move from the force of the storm.

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While CMA is closed for filming, Winter's Dolphin Tale Adventure remains open. Tickets are $6.95 for children ages 3 to 13, $8.95 for seniors ages 60 and older, and $9.95 for adults.

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About Winter the dolphin

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Winter the dolphin category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Dolphin Tale 2 is the previous category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.