Sea World Orlando
After seeing commercials and promotions for the ride attached to SeaWorld Orlando’s newest attraction, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, I was quite excited to try out the new ride technology as well as visit the penguin habitat. I was unprepared for exactly how much theming has gone into this new area of SeaWorld Orlando. The story behind the area is that you are on an expedition to the South Pole, a place most people will never journey to, and you experience what the exploration would be like, as well as seeing things from the point of view of a newborn Gentoo penguin named Puck. When you first enter the Antarctica section, you see tall pine trees and soaring glaciers approaching. As you journey into the ride, more glaciers and icicles line your path and soon you enter an indoor queue full of colorful lighting as you wait for your penguin education to begin. In the pre-show area, you learn about the lives of penguins, and one family in particular, waiting for their egg to hatch so they can move on before a great storm approaches. This little hatching penguin is Puck. And as we enter the remainder of the pre-show area, it is Puck we are now following. We enter an enclosed room which you share with the rest of the riders for your vehicle. There we see Puck again and discover we will be following his journey. Similar to Turtle Trek, where you follow a particular turtle on his life journey, this animated portion of the attraction is full of cute, but dangers may lie ahead for little Puck.
**Below is a full ride-thru description, so if you don’t want any “ride spoilers” skip this next two paragraphs** Before entering this area, you decide if you want to ride “Wild” or “Mild”. Wild being the more accelerated, motion-enhanced version of the ride. Mild is just that, mild, with minimal spinning and motion. Once inside, your journey continues through a series of rooms full of brightly colored lights, icicles and other candy for the eyes. In these first two rooms, we are basically just experiencing the technology of the ride vehicle, dancing around other vehicles and exploring every aspect of the rooms. We then move on to a room with more of the animated sequences. Puck has grown and we are following him as he finds his way in the waters and ice of the South Pole. Our ride vehicle then “becomes” Puck in a sense, as we mimic his movements when he waddles and jumps. We then move on as another storm is approaching, and in this next scene, that danger I mentioned before shows up, in the form of a hungry seal. Puck makes it out okay, and as we see his is safe, the ride vehicles spin around to reveal the actual penguin habitat, full of 4 different species of penguins, frolicking, hopping, swimming, diving and waddling around their 30 degree enclosure. From there we move to the unloading area and get out to visit with the penguins in 3 different areas, including an underwater viewing area which is outside of the 30 degree enclosure.
According to SeaWorld spokespeople, the ride itself has many variations within the ride, promising a different adventure each time you ride. I rode it twice, and did notice a little variation within the vibrations of the ride vehicle and the way we entered the first room with the film was backwards vs. forwards the first time, so the possible changes are subtle (not a different ending or different movie on screen), but fun nonetheless. Bottom line, the ride itself is just a really fun way to get to the penguin exhibit. The ride technology is definitely fun to experience (for Disney buffs, similar to Pooh’s Hunny Hunt in Tokyo Disneyland), and the colorful lights and penguin story are fun to look at. I do wonder if guests who just want to see the penguins without going on the ride will be able to enter through the exit to do so.
The penguin habitat itself is impressively put together, with no glass walls and very little separating guest from the penguins. As they swam by and flipped their little tails, we did get wet, which is cool – literally, with the 30 degree temperatures in the room! The most dramatic and for me, most fun to watch was actually the floor to ceiling underwater viewing area. Even though we are separated by glass, we can observe the penguins diving and floating and interacting. It was really enjoyable to see.
I’ll have more reviews coming up, including a video featuring SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment creative director Brian Morrow, details on the food and drink offerings, merchandise and more. Until then, enjoy this Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin photo gallery
In light of the theme, $5 merchandise specials were offered all day that included clothing, Aquatica-themed glasses, and more. There was a special birthday party held in the afternoon with amazing animal ambassador meet and greets and special treats, plus a live DJ raffled off prizes for future visits with Cabanas and all-day-dining. What a great present that was from Aquatica!
Aquatica Vice President Bryan Nadeau addressed the crowd thanking them for making Aquatica a hit over the past five years; he also lead the group in the Happy Birthday song.
Rā whānau is the Maori way to say “Happy Birthday” — Rā whānau, Aquatica!
From high-speed water slides and exhilarating wave pools, to tranquil beaches and the remarkable animal habitats that are the hallmark of SeaWorld, Aquatica delights all ages and interests. This waterpark is home to some of the world’s most thrilling water rides, featuring 38 slides, rivers and lagoons and 84,000 square feet of sparkling white, sandy beaches. Aquatica’s exclusive attractions promise unlimited fun, sending guests on amazing undersea adventures and through breathtaking animal exhibits.
My family visited Aquatica for the first time last weekend and had a blast. It’s definitely a water park for the adventurous type with most all of the slides being very high speed and having at least some portion in total darkness. (I’m a scaredy cat and those weren’t my favorite, but there are a few that aren’t in the dark too.) I think the favorite for everyone in our group was Roa Rapids, which is a fast-current not-so-lazy river, where you don’t even need an inner tube to be propelled along the stream and enjoy the scenery.
We also checked out the Waterstone Grill for lunch, which had really great food, and made time to just relax and enjoy the sandy beach and catch some rays. All in all, it was a great day of fun. If you are able to do the add-on from your day at SeaWorld, or visit with the package from Discovery Cove, I’d definitely say head over for some splashy fun. For more info, head to Aquatica’s site.
This weekend marks the last for SeaWorld’s Bands, Brew & BBQ season. I love SeaWorld’s special events like this because they are included in the price of regular admission, and you get a little something extra, this time in the form of rockin’ bands, great BBQ, and beer to boot. SeaWorld invited me over to check things out during the weekend when Styx was performing. It was a perfect small venue for a band that used to play arenas and has no less fans 30 years later. The intimate setting ensures every seat is a good one – even ours – the very last row of the stadium.
The BBQ options filled the air with heavenly scents. SeaWorld had its own offerings from its on-site BBQ restaurant, as well as Tony Roma’s, Cecil’s Texas Style Bar B Q and Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q sharing their finest creations. It was a great mix and easy to sample many locations instead of being locked in to just one place.
The brews were offered individually, or in the form of sampler packages, for those wanting to try it all. The beers offered were mostly craft beers, an excellent complement to the BBQ booths.
Carnival games lined the walkway for the kids, and a display of Harleys from the Orlando Harley-Davidson stores were also on hand.
It was a great addition to an already fun day at SeaWorld, so if you have the chance, check it out this last weekend, where Rodney Atkins with Uncle Kracker and Sheryl Crow will perform. Here is the full line up from this season so you can get an idea of what to expect in future years:
The 2013 Bands, Brew & BBQ concert lineup includes:
- Saturday, February 9 Chris Young with Jerrod Niemann
- Sunday, February 10 Merle Haggard
- Saturday, February 16 The Beach Boys
- Sunday, February 17 Styx
- Saturday, February 23 Big & Rich
- Sunday, February 24 Third Eye Blind
- Saturday, March 2 Daryl Hall and John Oates
- Sunday, March 3 Darius Rucker
- Saturday, March 9 Michael McDonald
- Sunday, March 10 Josh Turner
- Saturday, March 16 Rodney Atkins with Uncle Kracker
- Sunday, March 17 Sheryl Crow
For more details about Bands, Brew & BBQ visit www.SeaWorldOrlando.com
One of my family’s favorite places during the holidays is SeaWorld – with their wonderful Christmas Celebration, included in the price of regular admission, the spirit of the season is sure to find you there. This year was no different and my children had a wonderful time seeing the shows and experiences SeaWorld has to offer. My favorite is the Sea of Trees, which light up the lake in the middle of the park and are just beautiful.
With everything from elves to Elmo, and from Santa to Shamu, SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration is where the season meets the sea. Events take place on select dates November 17 through December 31, 2012. The best way to experience SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration this season is with a SeaWorld Fun Card, which includes unlimited visits to SeaWorld through 2013, all for the price of a single day’s admission.
Returning Seasonal Favorites Include:
Families and friends can once again enjoy the spirit of Christmas during SeaWorld’s holiday-themed shows and festivities:
- O Wondrous Night tells the greatest story never told, with more than 30 carols, based upon the Christmas Story and told through the eyes of a variety of live animals. Everyone will be entertained by this touching, light-hearted and glorious celebration featuring a host of angels, animals and the true glory of Christmas. And new this year, guests will have the opportunity to take photos with some of the stars from the show!
- SeaWorld invites guests to experience the grace and beauty of our Shamu family at Shamu Stadium, during the night-time show, Shamu Christmas Miracles. Thrilling seasonal music rings out as whales soar through the air in a performance that will take the audience on a stirring voyage into the heart of the holidays.
- Winter Wonderland on Ice is an ice skating extravaganza where Christmas comes to life through towering water fountains, magnificent fireworks and some of the most talented ice skaters in the world. This is a don’t-miss, holiday sensation.
- In addition to the incredible seasonal shows and attractions, the amazing Sea of Trees includes more than 100 massive trees, each sparkling, lighted and choreographed to classic holiday tunes, making a dramatic display around SeaWorld’s center lake.
- All Aboard! At the park’s Wild Arctic attraction, guests embark on a heart-warming journey to the North Pole aboard THE POLAR EXPRESS Experience, based on the film from Warner Bros. Pictures and Shangri-La Entertainment, inspired by the beloved Caldecott Medal children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. Discover the sights, sounds, and smells of the season as family and friends are immersed in the dazzling wonder of this beloved holiday classic. Upon arrival at the North Pole, guests can meet Santa Claus himself, and encounter astounding animals in a wintery wonderland.
- Holiday Reflections: Fireworks and Fountains Finale, with soaring fountains, dazzling lights, and festive fireworks, choreographed to joyous holiday musical favorites. Experience a wondrous SeaWorld Christmas connection that lights the night.
New this year is Show Express, which provides guests with reserved seating at all of SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration’s shows, plus front-of-the-line access to THE POLAR EXPRESS Experience, All-Day Dining Deal and a complimentary holiday photo. Reserve you spothere.
Clyde and Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas features Santa’s helpers, Clyde and Seamore, who are bringing their own brand of comedy to Christmas this year. Our loveable sea lions, along with a few mischievous otters, a comical elf, and a wintery walrus or two, search for Santa.
A Sesame Street Christmas is a festive and fun musical celebration that will have the little ones smiling all the way home. Through dance, laughter, and interactive sing-a-longs, Elmo, Telly Monster and the rest of Abby Cadabby’s Sesame Street friends teach her what Christmas means to them.
The Christmas Market, located on the park’s Bayside Pathway, features unique artisans and culinary delights. At this festive, bustling market, guests can find one-of-a-kind gifts and dine on scrumptious holiday delights.
Plus, enjoy a delicious dinner of Christmas favorites with Santa and Mrs. Claus during Santa’s Fireside Feast, a charming, warm-hearted holiday experience. Meet Santa himself, and listen to a classic holiday poem told onstage as never before to create Christmas memories that will last a lifetime. This sumptuous, all-you-can-eat seasonal meal takes place weekends of SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. Reservations are required, and include reserved seating at select holiday shows. To book your reservation, visit SeaWorldOrlando.com.
Disclosure: my family was provided a complimentary viewing of the events mentioned above. All opinions are my own.
SeaWorld Orlando is working on an amazing new attraction called Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, opening in 2013. If you haven’t seen the construction in person or heard what it’s all about, SeaWorld has released a series of YouTube videos with behind-the-scenes info on Antarctica.
The second Behind The Freeze focuses on the stars of our 2013 adventure — the penguins! SeaWorld’s top animal expert, Mike Boos, showcases the species of birds that will make their home at Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin when it opens at SeaWorld Orlando next spring.
Get ready for an epic exploration into an icy world like you’ve never seen before. Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, the most immersive mega-attraction ever created by SeaWorld – is coming in spring 2013. Set in the majestic grandeur of the icy South Pole, this exhilarating ride will glide, slide and transport your family to the penguins’ surprising world where you can brave a blizzard. Be dazzled by ice and lights. Then it sets you free to explore a one-of-a-kind penguin colony in an expanse that brings you above and below their icy world. It’s an awe-inspiring penguin attraction only SeaWorld could create.
The Antarctica Website provides a way to stay tuned to Behind-The-Freeze webisodes that will continually take fans behind the scenes with the designers and animal experts as they create Orlando’s coolest, must-see 2013 experience, even revealing icy secrets along the way.
SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular has become one of my family’s favorite events each year. Included in the regular ticket price, the Spooktacular takes place each weekend in October from noon until park close. Adults and children alike each get a trick-or-treat bag to collect candy and treats along the way. There are countless photo opportunities and characters roaming around, each with some fun interaction to offer. Sesame Street’s The Count also has a fun show called Countdown to Halloween.
In addition, Penelope’s Party Zone over at Bayside Stadium offers a chance for kids to listen to stories, dance, make crafts, all for free. Kids can also partake in optional activities for a fee, including decorating apples and rice crispie treats, face painting and sand sculptures. Before and after the Party Zone are midway-type games similar to those in Shamu’s Happy Harbor, only with Halloween-themed prizes. For $3, each person is a winner of a small prize, and could win a larger prize too. Snacks, drinks and Halloween merchandise are also available along the Spooktacular Underwater FantaSea Path.
We had such a wonderful time, there’s simply no reason not to head to SeaWorld during the Spooktacular weekends. More than Spooktacular, my family just loves spending time at SeaWorld. There is so much to do and it’s such a relaxing, laid-back way to enjoy the day, see amazing sea creatures at every turn, and take in some awe-inspiring shows. While we were there, my youngest son asked why we weren’t “eating with Orcas” (aka Dine With Shamu) so clearly he knows how to get the most out of SeaWorld! I can’t wait for our next visit.
You can find more information at SeaWorldOrlando.com
SeaWorld Orlando recently invited me to try out their Dine With Shamu (Now called Up Close Dining at Shamu Stadium) experience. I really didn’t know anything about it, and had pictured having tables right next to the Shamu Stadium show or something, picturing us all getting splashed at the end of the meal. Well, I was right and wrong. No splashing, and it was a wonderful experience which I would gladly do again, in fact, I can’t wait to go back.
The Dine With Shamu experience is actually behind Shamu Stadium. Before heading in for your meal, you can check out the orca whales swimming in the viewing tanks, which provide some great photo opportunities. You are then checked in and escorted to your table. I was a bit surprised when we walked in, as I realized we were actually behind and to the right of the “stage” of the Shamu show. I thought, “well, this isn’t going to be a very good view at all…” but I soon discovered it was the best view of all. (Click to enlarge all photos.)
The Dine With Shamu times are before or after the Shamu show, One Ocean, so what you actually get is an almost private, interactive display from several whales and their trainers. It is truly an amazing experience and I didn’t want to leave when our time was up. The 90-minute meal gives you plenty of time to enjoy the delicious buffet, watch the trainers and whales and get some one-of-a-kind photos.
The buffet was another pleasant surprise. There were so many choices, even the pickiest eaters (or vegetarians like me) had plenty to try. Tons of breads, salads, pastas, seafood and meats using sustainable, organic, seasonal or locally grown ingredients that aim to minimize environmental impacts to animals and their habitats.. The kids section had mac and cheese, plain pasta, and hot dogs (my 3 year-old was in heaven). And there was what seemed like an endless array of delicious desserts too – and not just little bite-sized options, but giant pieces of cake! My entire group was really impressed with the options. All-you-can-drink soft drinks were also included, as well as beer and wine.
I just couldn’t get over what a wonderful, relaxing, unique experience Dine With Shamu was. A great respite from the heat of the parks, and it’s a small enough space that you don’t feel crowded or rushed or like you are waiting in a huge line for the buffet. The price is only $29 for adults – you really cannot beat that deal.
I left feeling like this was how we had to dine every time we come to SeaWorld. It’s almost silly not to book this experience! Each time I visit SeaWorld, I am continually impressed with how they do things. It is unlike any other area theme park and has quickly become one of my family’s and my favorite places to visit. I urge you to visit SeaWorld Orlando, check out the all-new Turtle Trek (which I finally got to experience first-hand and LOVED) and other great shows, and book a Dine With Shamu meal – you won’t regret it!
Disclosure: my family and I were provided with a complimentary Dine With Shamu meal, but my opinions and thoughts are my own.
I first visited Discovery Cove when they were building their Grand Reef area over a year ago. Before that, I must admit, I thought it was just a place to swim with dolphins and that was it. BOY, was I mistaken. Even before the Grand Reef expansion, there was so much to do at Discovery Cove, it really is a hidden oasis tucked into lush, tropical landscaping where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the local area theme parks and do something we all could do more – relax!
I was shocked to learn some of the details of Discovery Cove back then, and of course, since that time, the Grand Reef is now open and offers amazing salt water snorkeling experiences, and the new Freshwater Oasis is open, where you can swim next to otters and marmosets. I figured if I was so in the dark about exactly what Discovery Cove has to offer, some of you might be too.
I’ve put together a list of 10 reasons why you need to put this on your must-do list and make it a part of your next Orlando vacation:
10. Swim With Dolphins – When I thought Discovery Cove, I thought dolphin interaction – but what exactly does that mean? Here guests can swim with an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin during a 30-minute interactive adventure. Accompanied by a trainer, groups of six to eight guests wade into shallow water and become acquainted with their dolphin through hugs, kisses and rubdowns. Then, taking the adventure one step further, guests interact with their dolphin in deeper water for an exciting dorsal fin tow ride back to shore. Guests must be at least 6 years old for the dolphin swim experience.
9. Swim Among Rays and Tropical Fish – Such detail was put into the planning and creation of the Grand Reef, and it recreates some of the most famous tropical canyons around the world. I stepped in for the first time recently, and was amazed to see gigantic (like, almost Fiat-sized) rays floating right by my feet. Other tropical fish are also swimming about and you can check them all out with your snorkel and mask. There is an area to see Lion Fish behind glass and more to explore within the reef.
8. SeaVenture Underwater Walking Tour – is an underwater walking tour where guests, wearing dive helmets, find up-close encounters with sharks (safely behind massive panoramic windows), one-on-one touches with unique animals and schools of fish and gentle rays.
7.Wind Away River – I also explored this for the first time last week and was pleasantly surprised at the experience. You hear “lazy river” and you think floating around passively in an inner tube for a spell. Wind Away River is so much more. You float or swim through caves, under waterfalls, through areas with a huge water depth, see fallen artifacts under the clear water, float through an aviary and more. It is truly an adventure and I loved it.
6. Freshwater Oasis – This newly opened area is an alternative to the chilly salt water in the Grand Reef. Here the clear waters contain no fish, you can float around or snorkel just to explore the various rocky structures in the Oasis. There is a fun area in the center called Monkey Island, where marmosets make their home and you can watch them eat and play in their natural habitat. The other section is a cave area where Asian small-clawed river otters play behind glass. You can view them as they dive under water, eat clams, or even sleep. Another area provides a shallow place to sit in a floating chair and just soak in the wonderful tropical atmosphere around you. Check out my video below:
5. White Sand Beaches – Each of the water-filled adventure areas are surrounded by beautiful white sand beaches. You can relax in a lounge chair, and watch the water around you. Guests can claim their own spot among the tall shady umbrellas, lazy hammocks, sunning lounges and beach chairs. Buckets and sand toys are sprinkled along the beach for kids to enjoy. (All amenities are included with admission.)
4. Aviary and Animal Appearances – I loved the aviary when we visited. The sheer number and type of birds is overwhelming. You can feel them right out of your hand, or just walk through and gaze at the colorful birds around you. Also throughout Discovery Cove are SeaWorld animal care experts with various animals for you to meet and even pet. We saw a tortoise, sloth, marmoset and kinkajou just in the couple of hours we were there.
3. Attendance is Limited to 1000 Guests – I love this aspect of Discovery Cove. You leave the crowds behind and feel truly at ease and stress-free when you enter Discovery Cove. The area is big enough that you will never feel cramped for space or fighting for a good spot. It’s heavenly!
2. Food is Included – Yes – you read that right. Your admission for the day includes meals and snacks! You are given an ID badge when you check in and you simply need to show it at the snack areas or restaurant to enjoy unlimited access to a fantastic selection of food and drink all day long. A full, hot breakfast is served at Laguna Grill until 10:30 a.m., followed by lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. From familiar fare to chef specials, all dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients and incorporate healthy elements, with daily seafood selections, salad options, and vegetarian dishes available. Snack stations throughout the park provide all-day service, and offer everything from yogurt and soft pretzels to fruit smoothies and gourmet coffees. Ice-cold beverages, including bottled water, juices, sodas, wine and beer are also offered all day. Talk about stress-free!
1. Your Ticket Includes 14 Days at SeaWorld or Aquatica – The biggest concern with Discovery Cove is admission cost. But as you can see above, your ticket includes SO much value. In addition, you are given passes to come back to SeaWorld or Aquatica – the water park next door, for 14 consecutive days – before or after your visit to Discovery Cove! Also included in your Discovery Cove day is: All swim gear (mask, snorkel, and swim vest or wetsuit), towel, locker, sunscreen and other amenities, all day self-parking, a complimentary photo portrait of guest and their party upon entry t0 park.
Have I convinced you yet?? I know I cannot wait to bring my whole family back to enjoy a full day of memory-making adventures. Due to the exclusive nature and 1000-guest limit at Discovery Cove, advance reservations are required.
Reservations and information are available by visiting DiscoveryCove.com or by calling 1-877-434- 7268. *Prices vary seasonally.
I was provided complimentary entry for myself to experience the new Freshwater Oasis, but all my opinions and excitement are my own.
Remember the huge expansion Discovery Cove unveiled last year across from Sea World Orlando? They are now adding another new area – Freshwater Oasis.