This half-term, we were thrilled to be invited to spend a week in Orlando, Florida, as guests of Visit Orlando.
During our visit, we were invited to experience a number of attractions in Orlando – and the first stop on the agenda was Seaworld, Orlando, an attraction that’s all about celebrating everything that lives in the sea.
Seaworld is a combination of theme park, aquarium and nature reserve, and there’s such a lot to see that I’d definitely recommend spending a full day here, if you can. Here are some of our highlights:
Our visit kicked off with the Blue Horizons show which features acrobats alongside dolphins and tropical birds. Our guide explained that the dolphins don’t do “tricks” in the show, but the trainers can encourage them to exhibit certain behaviours that are natural to them – whatever the training, the show is quite breath-taking, and every single child in our group left the show determined to become a dolphin trainer.
Next, we headed over to visit the Stingray lagoon, where the children were able to stroke the stingrays. Our guide also explained that stingrays continually lose teeth as new ones grow, and if you sweep your hand along the bottom of their pool, you can find tiny, jagged little stingray teeth – a far more exciting souvenir than anything you’ll find in the gift shop!
Seaworld has some great rollercoaster rides – some, such as Manta and Kraken – are best suited to adults only, but they’re great fun. The children in our group also really enjoyed the Shamu Express which (so we were told) travels at the same speed as an adult killer whale – it’s pretty fast! Journey to Atlantis also looks great for kids but it was closed when we visited.
If you’re a family of animal lovers, Seaworld offers a range of behind-the-scenes experiences – our group met with one of the South American penguins and its trainer, and Flea loved the opportunity to get up close with an animal. Just so you know – penguins prefer to be approached from behind and stroked just where their spine meets their tail!
One real highlight of the day was Turtle Trek – a 360 degree, 3D cinema attraction. Basically, you stand inside a dome, wearing 3D glasses, and all around you is incredible footage of under the sea, from a sea turtle’s perspective. There are odd scary moments like being chased by a shark – but Flea thought the experience was a lot of fun.
We thought the food was just okay at Seaworld, many of the stands in the park sell chicken strips and turkey legs, but the vegetarian wraps were a better option, based on our group’s experience. You can pay a daily fee which allows you to have “all you can eat” from stands around the park for one fee, and there’s also a restaurant near the shark enclosure where you can book to eat.
What I liked most about Seaworld was how knowledgeable the staff are – our guide Angela was a mine of information – and the focus on conversation, and returning animals to the wild wherever possible. There are a range of summer camps, behind-the-scenes interaction experiences and other programmes designed to help visitors make the most of what they see in the park. Seaworld also runs educational programmes throughout the year, allowing people to learn more about the animals in the park.
Florida can get hot, and many of the attractions at Seaworld are in the sun – but when it gets hot, you can head off to some of the cooler attractions, such as Wild Arctic, a genuinely chilly indoor area that’s home to the park’s beluga whales, walruses and polar bears. Flea was particularly enchanted by the ginormous polar bear, who is terribly lazy – the trainers had us in stitches with tales of how they bribe the bear to move by throwing marshmallows into the water.
Later this year, Sea World will be opening a new attraction that will be home to all of the park’s penguins – Antarctica. This area was still being constructed during our visit but it’s seriously enormous – and will give visitors the chance to get up close to penguins.
We rounded off our day at Seaworld with Dine with Shamu – where you have the opportunity to eat dinner alongside the killer whales’ enclosure, and watch the animals working with their trainers. Sitting just feet away from these amazing creatures means it’s almost impossible to focus on food – but there was a tremendously impressive carrot cake…well, it would have been rude to say no!
Seaworld was a fantastic day out, and it’s worth setting aside a good chunk of time here so you can visit all the animals, and spend some time at the adjacent water park, Aquatica. If you’re a fan of dolphins, I’d also recommend checking out Discovery Cove, where you can swim with dolphins and scuba with tropical fish – this attraction only admits a set number of people per day and we didn’t have time to visit but the website looks a-ma-zing.
Five Top Tips for Seaworld:
- Definitely book a behind the scenes tour to meet animals in person – we met a penguin, but you can also get up close with dolphins and all sorts of other animals
- During hot weather, consider heading next door to Aquatica, Seaworld’s own water park – admission is only $40 on top of the Seaworld ticket
- You can book a table at Dine with Shamu once you arrive and it’s definitely worth it – the food is good but the experience of being so close to killer whales is what makes it special
- Pay attention to the signs that say “splash zone” around the park – they’re not kidding when they say the whales have worked out exactly when and how to get visitors drenched as they pass the enclosures!
- Talk to the guides – ours knew so much about the animals, even down to being able to tell us about individual manatees and where each animal had come from.
- Admission to Seaworld Orlando costs from $71 for children and $79 for adults. Private VIP tours for up to 7 hours cost $299 per person, while behind-the-scenes tours start at $29 for adults.
- The park is open from 9am to 7pm in low season, and 9am to 10pm in high season
We visited Seaworld Orlando as part of a trip to Florida as guests of Visit Orlando. All admission tickets, travel and accommodation costs were met by Visit Orlando. You can find more photos of our trip over on Facebook. Heading to Orlando? Why not check out the Orlando Holiday Planning tool, and read our other reviews of Florida attractions: