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Beat the heat at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
The Discovery Center is operated by NOAA and offers up three things that are often in short supply in Key West, namely free parking, free admission, and plenty of air conditioning. The Center has plenty of other things to offer beyond that however, giving visitors a chance to see what life is like in the Keys both above and below the water. The numerous displays on hand show the diversity of both the flora and fauna throughout the region and describe in detail how those natural elements co-exist to create such an amazing environment.
One of the most prominent of these displays is the Mote Marine Laboratory's 2400 gallon "Living Reef" aquarium, which gives us a glimpse of the brightly colored and energetic marine life that thrives in the waters just off the coast of the Keys islands. These fish go about their lives just as they would in the open ocean, while we get to watch on from the other side of glass.
Another popular display at the Eco-Discovery Center is its mock-up of the Aquarius underwater ocean laboratory. The real Aquarius Lab is one of the few underwater research stations in the world and is located in the Keys as well, but the Center's simulated one is as close as most people will ever get. Looking through the lab's portholes makes it seem that you really are far beneath the surface of the ocean, complete with divers drifting by the windows as they go about their work.
If you drop by the Discovery Center, be sure to check out their 17 minute long film entitled Reflections. The movie, which was shot completely in High Definition, chronicles life in the Keys through the eyes of a young girl who grows up with a unique appreciation for the place she lives in. The underwater scenes are breathtaking and will delight and captivate visitors of all ages.
Located at the end of Southard Street in the Truman Waterfront, in Key West, the Eco-Discovery Center is easy to find and a great way to beat the tropical heat. It also happens to be very close to Fort Zachery Taylor, a popular Florida State Park. While you're in the area, it may be worth swinging by that historic site as well.