If you visited Miami as a tourist in the 1950s and 1960s, the Seaquarium was on your must-visit list. The hotels have published brochures and even offered a bus service to the marine attraction on the Rickenbacker causeway.
Then came Disney World. And the star has faded a bit for the Seaquarium, as well as other Miami roadside attractions.
But the Seaquarium worked. This is still a step for many. A place for school outings and summer camps. A rehabilitation center for injured marine life before being released back into the wild.
At one point, the owners proposed a major expansion of the marine park. Community opposition and other challenges killed those plans. In addition to entertaining visitors with its dolphin shows, the Seaquarium has also served as a hospital ward for injured or sick manatees and turtles and other marine animals.
The Seaquarium, recently purchased by a Mexican theme park company, has also been in a sea of controversy over the treatment of animals. And activists have called for the release of its star attraction, Lolita the Killer Whale.
Let’s go back to the beginnings of the Virginia Key monument.
Here’s what the attraction looked like when there was a monorail circling the grounds, when Hugo the killer whale performed with Lolita before he died in 1980, what the dolphin shows looked like when the park opened its doors in 1955 and into the 60s and ’70s.
And surely you have heard of Flipper?
In addition to the shows at the Seaquarium, the dolphin (in fact, multiple dolphins who have played the character) was also the star of his own network television show. And the Seaquarium star even jumped from his own tank set up in the end zone during the Miami Dolphins’ first Orange Bowl games in the mid-to-late ’60s.
Here are photos from the Miami Herald archives as well as the State Library and Archives of Florida:
The theme park
pinball tv show