Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys


Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

I had no idea just how much I would enjoy the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key, just  east of Marathon in the Florida Keys until a recent visit. I spent an entire day there and cannot wait to return.  What a cool place this is.This educational and entertaining attraction is definitely worth the $25 admission fee.

The Dolphin Research Center  is a not-for-profit education and research center in the Florida Keys. It is the home of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions. Seventeen of the twenty-five dolphins were born at the center and two are rescue dolphins, one from the Gulf oil spill. Besides providing a home to these animals, the DRC assists marine mammals in distress including manatees.

Dolphin Research Center Florida KeysOne of the prime areas of focus at the DRC is research and it is ongoing, and a number of the studies have been published in professional journals. Cognitive and behavioral research of the dolphins is the primary type of research conducted here, and it is done continually, even with visitors present. While I was there I saw three staff members documenting observations of a baby dolphin who had just been born five weeks previously. They were noting behaviors of the baby dolphin as she swam with her mother and the nanny dolphin, a common situation.

Dolphin performing, Dolphin Research Center, Florida KeysThere are various programs if you want to really get involved with the dolphins. There is the Swim with the Dolphins program and  several different interactive Dolphin Encounter program, depending on your interests.

What struck me the most while spending the day watching the various interactive presentations with the dolphins and their trainers was the attitude of every single staff person working there.  All of them were genuinely happy and they treated the dolphins as well as the visitors with a level of respect that is seldom seen. From the CEO down the ladder, everyone was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about what they do. I had the opportunity to meet Mandy Rodriguez, the CEO who has worked here forever according to him. Not only was he down to earth but he spent time to talk with my group and have a conversation. Peggy McGill, VP of Finance and Administration also was most cordial, informative, and very pleasant.

Dolphin Research Center Manatee rescue vehicle, Florida KeysI learned so much that day about dolphins and their abilities and their intelligence. The day was not just fun but very educational as I went from lagoon to lagoon to see the different things going on. The center has paid staff and quite a number of volunteers, about 100 people in all, and they truly love working with these animals.

I would highly recommend a visit to this special place anytime you are going to the Keys. I can't wait to get back there and spend another day learning about the dolphins. They are truly amazing animals and this is truly an amazing place.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Key West Attraction – Conch Train Tour

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

The Florida Keys are a beautiful and unique part of Florida and Key West is definitely its own experience. I have been to Key West a number of times and one of the best ways to see it especially for the first time is to take the Key West Conch Train Tour. So it's touristy but it's a great way to see the highlights and learn something at the same time.

Conch Train Tour, Key West FloridaStations and Stops

Since 1958 15 million passengers have taken this tour which does a loop through the Old Town, passing by the major landmarks and historic places in Key West. It is a 90 minute tour with three stops, the main one being the Station Depot at Front Street.  I would suggest boarding the train here to be sure to get a seat.  The train stops here for a ten minute refreshment, restroom, ice cream, and souvenir break. The second stop is at Truval Village, at the corner of Duval Street and Truman Avenue. This is the stop closest to the Hemingway Home, the Key West Lighthouse and the famous southernmost point. You can get off here and get back on after sightseeing if you like. The final stop is at Flagler Station where the tour ends at Mallory Square.Mallory Square Key West Florida

The tour was not always a Hop On Hop Off Tour, where passengers could ride it as much as they wished. Currently   the train ride is a Hop On Hop Off tour, and according to the latest information with the tour desk, this may be or may not be a permanent change. They may be trying this to compete with the Key West Trolley which is a bus size vehicle that tours Key West,  and it is a Hop On Hop Off tour. Prices are the same but there are more stops on the trolley and you can use the service for free if you ride it the second consecutive day.Hemingway House Key West Florida

Prices, tickets and hours

The Key West Conch Train tour is a good deal especially for families since kids 12 and under are free. An adult ticket costs $30.45, and an online ticket costs $24.57. Discounts for seniors 62 and older as well as military personnel are available also. The train operates daily from 9-4:30 but it is always closed the last Saturday in October due to the huge street celebration of Fantasy Fest. Tours leave every 30 minutes or more often if there is higher demand.


Hog's Breath Saloon Key West FloridaKey West is also an easily walkable town and be sure to see the highlights and experience the atmosphere here. Sloppy Joe's Bar  has been a Key West tradition and opens as early as 9am and closes late. If you want to have lunch and a Margarita at the Hog's Breath Saloon you can pose for the webcam and wave to all your friends back home.

The Key West Lighthouse Museum is open and if you are into climbing, there are 88 iron steps to get to the top for a great view. Built in 1825, this lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mallory Square is the best thing in the Key West in my opinion, and every night they celebrate the sunset there as crowds gather and enjoy the ambience. Street performers and food vendors seem to come out of the woodwork and it is a true Key West experience. Make sure to stay to be a part of this tradition.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Follow Margie on her blog at

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