Planning an Orlando vacation?
There are so many fun things to do in Orlando, Florida, it's impossible to do them all in one vacation. SeaWorld Orlando is one of the area's top theme parks, and we had a great time there on our last Orlando trip.
SeaWorld Orlando is not quite as crowded as some of Orlando's other parks, and it offers a fun balance of entertaining shows, thrill rides, and educational animal experiences. It was a great park for my kids when they were little. Now that they are older, they have found more fun things to do there. SeaWorld Orlando is a good park for families with a variety of ages and interests.
We have visited SeaWorld in San Diego and Orlando. Both parks are fun, and offer similar experiences, but several rides and exhibits are better at SeaWorld Orlando.
Want to know which, plus get the rest of my tips? Read on.
SeaWorld has some of the biggest, scariest coasters in Orlando, and my kids (ages 10 and 13) loved them. Our previous SeaWorld trips have been focused on shows and animal experiences. We still love those, but this time my kids were all about the rides.
SeaWorld Orlando has four big coasters, plus a number of family-friendly rides. Mako claims the title of Orlando's tallest, fastest and longest coaster.
Kraken is another big coaster where you have the option of wearing a Virtual Reality headset, which sets you in an underwater adventure. I thought that the VR feature was a fun new experience, but found the animated underwater monsters less scary than seeing our actual speed and the actual ground far below.
Manta faces you down, instead of forward, which creates a flying sensation. Journey to Atlantis is one of the most thrilling log-flume rides I've tried.
SeaWorld San Diego also has Manta and Journey to Atlantis rides, but they are quite different from their counterparts in Orlando. In both cases, we thought the Orlando version was much more exciting.
The Sesame Street Bay of Play is a section of the park with rides and a huge play structure for younger children. Some of the aquariums include rides and I'll explain those in the Animal Experiences section of this post.
Animal shows have always been SeaWorld's top attractions and the shows at SeaWorld Orlando are fun. They are also a welcome opportunity to sit down for awhile. My favorite shows are the dolphin show and the sea lion show. The dolphins entertain with high flying flips and the Clyde and Seamore sea lion shows are filled with laughs.
SeaWorld Orlando still has a Shamu show where killer whales amaze and inspire. SeaWorld has announced plans to create a new orca habitat and visitor experience at SeaWorld Orlando, as they have already done in San Diego.
Most shows had a few empty seats on the October Saturday we were there, so you may not need to go too early unless you're serious about getting the best seats. If you sit in the soak zone, you WILL get wet. The first few rows will likely be soaked. Splashing gallons of water onto the audience is not accidental – it's part of the show.
SeaWorld is a world-class theme park and educational aquarium in one. I had a hard time tearing my kids away from the big coasters on our most recent trip, but the aquarium exhibits are impressive. Don't pass them by.
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, Shark Encounter and Wild Arctic are all can't-miss exhibits. Antarctica and Wild Arctic both feature optional rides at the beginning of the exhibit. Wild Arctic's ride is a lot like Star Tours at Walt Disney World. The Antarctica ride is tamer, but bumpy if you choose the “wild” version.
Inside the exhibits, you'll get the chance to see penguins, sharks, beluga whales, walrus and more up close in gigantic tanks and underwater viewing areas. I especially loved the penguins. You'll get a close-up view, with no glass in a cold indoor habitat. This is another attraction where SeaWorld Orlando's version is better than SeaWorld San Diego's.
The SeaWorld All Day Dining Deal is a popular option. It allows you to get an entree, side/dessert and drink at any of SeaWorld's restaurants as often as once per hour, all day long. If you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the park, plus pick up bottled water and snacks from the restaurants throughout your day, the Dining Plan will easily pay for itself and then some.
We considered the All Day Dining Deal, but decided against it. We wanted to ride coasters while lines were short in the morning, and the park closed at 6 pm on the day we visited, with most restaurants closing earlier. So, breakfast and dinner didn't work out, but we are still interested in the Dining Deal on a future trip.
I was happy to find a variety of cuisine throughout SeaWorld, including fresh fruit and salads. Dining at SeaWorld is mostly counter service and cafeteria style at lunch. We ate lunch at SeaFire Grill and liked the TexMex entrees.
SeaWorld Orlando hosts special holiday events for Halloween, Christmas, New Year's Eve and others throughout the year.
SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular was happening during our visit. This event is held on weekends each October, and it's great for families with young children. Unlike many Halloween events at top theme parks, SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular is included with your regular park admission and is held during the daytime.
Costumes are encouraged, but masks are limited to kids under age 12. Kids and adults can trick-or-treat through the park, and stop for photo ops, dance parties, and a Halloween show featuring Sesame Street characters.
Learn more about SeaWorld's special events at www.seaworld.com/orlando/events.
Tickets and Hotels
SeaWorld has four parks in Central Florida – SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica, Discovery Cove and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. I've heard that Aquatica is amazing (want to swim with dolphins?) and it's on my short list for a future Orlando trip. You can read Mandy's tips for visiting Busch Gardens Tampa Bay HERE.
SeaWorld Orlando is a little less expensive than some of Orlando's other popular theme parks, and with four parks you might want to bundle admissions with a multi-park pass. Buy online in advance for additional savings. Click the button below to see current prices and packages for SeaWorld Orlando.
You may also want to consider booking one of SeaWorld's partner hotels. We were going to do this, but waited too long and the hotel we wanted sold out! We were sorry because the price was right, plus it included a shuttle to SeaWorld AND Universal Orlando, early entry, and Quick Queue privileges. #vacationfail
My family had a great day at SeaWorld Orlando. It was a fun addition to our Fall Break vacation!
Disclosure: SeaWorld provided my family with complimentary admission to SeaWorld Orlando for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.