Saturday, July 14, 2012

SeaWorld Orlando - Dolphins, Sharks and Rays, Oh My!

I first visited Florida when I was 8 years old. (Way back when.) One of the highlights of that trip was a visit to SeaWorld Orlando. I can still remember the thrill of feeding dolphins and sea lions right from my hand. So, needless to say, I was pretty keen on sharing this park with my boys while we vacationed in Florida this summer.

The park has naturally grown and changed over the decades. The focus is still on marine life and a love and respect for the sea - conservation and education are clearly key values, which I really appreciate.  A variety of marine mammals, birds, and fish are present for viewing, shows, and even feeding opportunities. Plus, the park boasts a number of rides to suit visitors young and old, timid and brave.

We decided to split into two teams for our visit, so Hubs and the Teen could conquer the thrill rides while Little Boo and I checked out the animals and the kid-friendly rides in Shamu's Happy Harbour. We met up later so we could all enjoy what is perhaps the biggest draw at SeaWorld - Shamu's beautiful and inspiring One Ocean show.

In case you're not sure, these are shark embryos. Inside their eggs. Press a button to light them up and you can see them swimming in there. Super cool, hey?

And this is a shark swimming OVER our heads in the Shark Encounter exhibit. You stand on a moving walkway and progress through a tunnel of glass through a tank full of sharks and other sea life.
Little Boo was thrilled to visit and touch the rays, which we followed up with a visit to feed and touch bottlenose dolphins. Getting that close to the animals is a real treat. He wanted to feed the sharks too, after walking through the Shark Encounter exhibit, but the food option was shrimp and I'm allergic, so we had to pass.  We settled with an extended visit to view numerous shark species instead.

My big guys gave big thumbs up to the two roller coasters Manta and Kraken. Of the two, Manta was the fave, as they loved the crazy nosedives. Kraken is apparently the fastest coaster in Orlando and gave quite the thrill as well. Hubs later took Little Boo on the kid-sized Shamu Express which is a hit with the smaller set. The whole family got back together for the Wild Arctic Ride. This is a flight simulator, where you never leave the room, but your seat jumps and bucks and you truly feel you are flying over these stunning landscapes in a somewhat out of control helicopter. Beautiful imagery, great educational value. And I only got a little nauseated (I am a wimp). The boys loved it. Following the ride you can visit with beluga whales, walruses, and polar bears.

My only regret about this day? We didn't budget nearly enough time. We had a fabulous visit, but there is still plenty at SeaWorld that we didn't get to experience. I definitely recommend planning for a full day at this park. With so many shows, rides, and animal interactions, you can easily fill your day. You could even start your day with Breakfast with Elmo and end it Dining with Shamu!

I highly recommend including this park in your next family vacation plans. We will be returning for sure!

Disclosure: I wish to thank SeaWorld Orlando for providing media passes for my family's admission. All opinions on this blog remain my own and reflect my family's true experiences at the park.

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