SeaWorld Orlando is one of the big four Orlando theme parks, but for those who have never been, it’s a bit different than the character focused Walt Disney World, Universal or LEGOLAND parks.
To get the most out of a theme park experience, it helps to know a few secrets; those tidbits that veterans have discovered over time, but first timers breeze by without a second glance.
40+ SECRETS FOR AN AMAZING SEAWORLD ORLANDO VACATION
After visiting SeaWorld Orlando a few times, our family has found that our favorite activities weren’t the show-stoppers on the brochure cover or the rollicking roller coasters (although we did find Manta to be a thrilling few seconds).
Instead, upon our return from Sea World Orlando, we found ourselves regaling friends and family about these activities and tips for visiting SeaWorld Orlando.
Free Souvenirs. One of my son’s favorite things to do at SeaWorld is collect trading cards, which essentially are free souvenirs. Find a Sea World education representative, they are located at all the animal locations, and either ask them a question, or give them some information about the exhibit in exchange for a free card.
New in 2022 – You can now participate in SeaWorld’s interactive pin trading experience. Collect your favorite pins and trade them at the park with SeaWorld Ambassadors and other guests. New pins will be released periodically throughout the year so you can continue to grow your collection. To get started visit a participating gift shop, where collectible pins and lanyards are available for purchase. Happy trading!
Knowledgeable Teachers. It was wonderful to my normally shy son coming up with thoughtful questions or scouring the signs to make sure he had the right answer to get a card. Sea World staff are incredibly thoughtful with the kids and encourage the shy ones to speak out.
Limited Edition Cards. Depending on when you go, you can get limited edition cards for specific special events, or general cards about the various animals at Sea World. It’s a great way to remember your trip, and learn a little something too.
Award-Winning Restaurants: Sharks Underwater Grill is a sit-down restaurant inside the park where you can watch sharks and other sea creatures while you eat, giving guests a different view of the oceans.
Our mahi-mahi was good, I’m not sure about award winning, but the polenta was creamy and flavorful (and the tiramisu shot for dessert was scrumptious, even for someone who doesn’t like mocha flavored desserts).
If you want to eat at Sharks Underwater Grill, be sure to make a reservation. Sharks takes priority seating requests in person starting at 10 am, so stop by early to guarantee your seat.
New dining options are now available! Check out Altitude Burgers, Coaster Coffee Company, and Edy’s Ice Cream Parlor!
Want to snack/eat all day? There is an All-Day Dining Deal.
BEHIND THE SCENES TOURS AT SEAWORLD ORLANDO
Day in the Life of a Trainer. For anyone looking to get up close and personal with the animals at Sea World Orlando, the behind-the-scenes and animal interaction tours are a must. These special tours allow guests to go behind theme park walls and experience Sea World from a trainer’s perspective.
The behind-the-scenes tour times aren’t listed in the park map, so book online before you go, or stop by the tour desk right inside the front gate as you come in. These experiences are a special ticket, but add a lot to your day, so if it’s in your budget, it’s worth it to plan at least one.
Penguin Pets: When I was little, I wanted a monkey. After petting the Emperor penguin; I’ve changed my mind, I want a penguin. He was as soft as a puppy and just as cute. Our experience was part of the Penguins Up Close Tour and the highlight of an educational adventure where you’ll see how the penguin keepers track and care for these arctic creatures. Beware, it is COLD in this exhibit, so you might want to pack a sweatshirt.
Rescue Tour. A regular Sea World behind-the-scenes tour began with a look at the Sea World Orlando animal rescue area. Get a chance to tour SeaWorld Rescue and explore how SeaWorld has cared for more than 39,000 rescued animals over 50 years. On this 30 minute tour, guests will have the opportunity to see manatees and sea turtles while learning how SeaWorld rescues and cares for the animals.
Touch a Shark. The next stop on our behind-the-scenes tour included a lesson on sharks, and we were able to touch a small shark. It’s skin is smooth when you run your fingers down his back, but feels like sandpaper when you go back up.
Unexpected Surprises. We then boarded a bus and took a ride to the other end of the park where we were treated to an unexpected walrus viewing. Walrus’ aren’t normally on the tour, but this IS backstage, so you never know what you’ll see. Garfield the walrus was one of the largest and strangest animals I’ve ever seen. I still can’t get over how BIG he was.
Encounters with a Walrus. Ever dream of meeting a walrus face-to-face? Or what it would sound like as they slump a fish from your hands? Do this and more on this unique interactive, behind-the-scenes encounter! And discover for yourself what makes this mammoth marine mammal so magnificent.
See Sea Lions. Looking for a playful way to spend your afternoon? Have fun with the goofballs of SeaWorld’s Sea Lion & Otter Spotlight and Pacific Point Preserve. Hear their rescue stories and pose for a wacky photo. Feed them a bucket of fish and learn what it takes to become the star of the show.
Conservation Donation with Every Ticket. Most Sea World Orlando behind-the-scenes tours last approximately 90 minutes. There is a bit of walking, but for longer jaunts, you take an open-air bus. Theme park admission is required for the tours and is not included in the tour price. However, 10 percent of tour admissions are donated to the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund to support conservation projects around the world.
SeaWorld Rescue. The Sea World Animal Rescue team works with state, local and federal agencies to rehabilitate to help animals that are orphaned, ill, injured or in need of expert care.
SEAWORLD ORLANDO RESCUE
See the Manatee. During a separate behind-the-scenes tour we caught a glimpse of rescued manatees. On our visit, there was a baby manatee feeding. It was adorable to watch this infant who was abandoned and would surely have died, wrapping its little flippers around the bottle, just like a human baby.
Those manatees that cannot return to the sea for whatever reason, find a home in the Turtle Trek exhibit where guest can glimpse these gentle giants either from above or below the water level.
Rescued Marine Life. The main causes of death for manatee are human related, such as habitat destruction, and ship strikes. I followed up on the manatee calf we saw during our visit.
SeaWorld’s legacy of animal rescue spans more than 50 years. In that time, SeaWorld’s Rescue Teams have come to the aid of more than 39,000 sick, injured, and orphaned animals in need, giving them a second chance at life
Animal Rescue Staff. The dedication by SeaWorld staff to rescue sea animals was mirrored by penguin caretakers. During our up-close penguin tour, caretakers talked about breeding practices, but also mentioned in the course of conversation, spending several days around the clock with the animals during recent hurricanes.
SEAWORLD ORLANDO RIDES
For a complete list of Sea World rides, visit the Sea World Orlando website, but here are some of the big ones and some of our favorites, as well as some tips to keep in mind.
Roller Coasters at SeaWorld Orlando. Manta and Kracken are the two big roller coasters. You must be 54” tall to ride these and they’re serious about that height. Not only are kids measured on a stick, if it’s close, they’ll make you stand under a swinging rod. If the rod can swing at all, you’re not tall enough for the ride. It may be just as well. Kracken goes upside down seven times and Manta was described to me as so many twists and turns you don’t know where you are at the end.
Opening February 18, 2022 – The Icebreaker SeaWorld’s brand new roller coaster will feature four airtime filled launches, both backward and forwards, culminating in a reverse launch into the steepest beyond vertical drop in Florida – a 93 feet tall spike with 100 degree angle.
Virtual Reality. Sea World Orlando will be bringing the virtual reality experience to the park. In 2017 they added VR to the Kraken. In addition to the multiple inversions, Kracken rises 149 feet, hitting 65 mph.
Visit Atlantis. Another popular thrill ride is Atlantis. This combination roller coaster, log flume is down every January for maintenance – which was a bummer since we went in January. However, if you go any other time, choose your seat wisely, if you sit in the front seat, you will get drenched.
Grab a locker. If you are carrying a purse or backpack, bring some change with you. You may not carry anything on these rides and must use the one-time lockers outside the queue area.
For the Little Ones. If your children are too small, or timid to ride the big coasters (nothing wrong with that), then head to Sesame Street Land™ at SeaWorld®. There are lots of play areas for the little ones.
SEAWORLD ORLANDO RIDES TO THE ANIMALS
Visit the Wild Arctic. There are a few continuous running shows with an attraction/ride included. Wild Arctic has a simulator ride at the beginning, very similar to Star Tours at Hollywood Studios. You can opt to bypass the simulator part and head straight to the well-themed polar research station where you’ll see arctic animals like polar bears and walrus.
Take a Turtle Trek. Turtle Trek begins with a 3D, 360-degree theater presentation before heading into the tank areas. Make sure to hit Turtle Trek before or during the Dolphin show at the Horizon Theater. Lines at this attraction are significantly longer right after the Dolphin show, as the Horizon Theatre lets out right in front of the Turtle Trek entrance.
Antarctic: Empire of the Penguin: Explore the habitat of Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin®, where you can see five species of penguins. Get a glimpse of this penguin colony in cool extremes: bringing you above and below their icy world. See penguins waddle around in snowy environments or gliding gracefully underwater in this expansive habitat.
Feed the Animals at SeaWorld Orlando. At Sea World, you can feed the dolphins, rays and sea lions, so bring a little extra cash. Watch out for the birds that hover over the feeding areas. They are quite aggressive and if you aren’t careful, you could be feeding birds rather than sea life.
SEAWORLD ORLANDO SHOWS
SeaWorld Shows. SeaWorld Orlando has always been known for animal shows. To make sure you see everything, get a show schedule online before you enter the park and determine when you’ll go to each show, then plan the rest of your day around them. You can download a Sea World map here. Here are some tips for experiencing Seaworld parks entertainment.
Arrive Early. To get the best seat for the Sea World Orlando shows, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before the show begins to get a seat in the theatre, on busy days 45 minutes. The most crowded shows are mid-day, so visit early or late for smaller crowds.
Pacific Point Preserve: Watch these California comedians swim and play among the waves, or bask in the afternoon sun near to a flippered friend or two. At Pacific Point Preserve, you’ll see California sea lions and harbor seals. You can even get a chance to feed these famously fun animals.
A Killer Whale Experience: SeaWorld invites you to connect in an inspiring new way with the ocean’s most powerful predator. Discover the importance of play for orcas and dive deeper into their masterful hunting techniques.
Sea Lion and Otter Spotlight: The Pacific Point Marine Conservation Center is ready to host you for a special tour through the lives of California sea lions and Asian small-clawed otters. You’ll love seeing these fascinating animals in action and learning more about their characteristics, skills, and behaviors.
The Splash Zone. Most shows have a splash zone in the first few rows. If you don’t want to get wet, sit up higher in the stadium.
GOOD TO KNOW ABOUT SEAWORLD ORLANDO
Food Allergy Assistance: For those with food allergies, I noticed gluten and allergy free snacks at the quick service restaurants. In addition, you can speak with a chef at any of the restaurants during non-peak hours, let him know about your allergies and a special meal can be prepared.
Sea World Orlando Hours. Although Sea World is open year round, SeaWorld Orlando hours can change by the season so be sure to check the website to plan your day. You can also find out the shows times, which you’ll want to work in so you don’t miss anything.
SeaWorld Orlando tickets. SeaWorld Florida has a couple different ticket options and Sea World ticket prices vary. It’s best to go ahead and get your tickets before you get to the park, that way you’ll save time waiting in ticket lines. To find SeaWorld discount tickets, I suggest visiting this page on Mousesavers.com.
HOTELS NEAR SEAWORLD ORLANDO FLORIDA
There are tons of hotels near SeaWorld Orlando, but here are the hotels that have partnered with the theme park.
Hilton Grand Vacations Orlando. This Hilton vacation club has fully-furnished studios and family suites and is located across the street from Sea World.
Doubletree by Hilton Orlando. The Doubletree Hotel is within walking distance to SeaWorld and Aquatica Orlando. They have a full service spa and mini-golf course.
Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. This hotel is across the street from Sea World and has a water park, plus full service spa and six dining options.
Residence Inn Orlando. This hotel has family sized suites and free hot breakfast.
SEAWORLD FAMILY OF THEME PARKS
In addition to main Sea World Orlando theme park, Sea World has Sea World Aquatica, an Orlando water park, Discovery Cove and Busch Gardens Tampa
SeaWorld Aquatica. If you get tired of watching all the animals in the water and want to hit the pool yourself, try SeaWorld Aquatica, the SeaWorld water park. This is probably one of the lesser-known water parks in Florida. We had a lazy day riding the water slides. We did add some thrill to the day by trying Ihu’s Breakaway Fall, where the floor literally drops from under you sending you careening through the twisting slides.
Discovery Cove. I have never been here but hear fabulous things about the animal encounters. Check out this great Discovery Cove recap from Stuffed Suitcase.
Busch Gardens Tampa. My son and I had a tremendous time at Busch Gardens Tampa. It’s the mammal version of SeaWorld Orlando. My two favorite experiences were feeding the giraffes, and the overly friendly flamingo that kept tapping my son on the head. You can get a free shuttle (free with a Busch Gardens paid admission ticket) from most Orlando area hotels.
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