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SeaWorld is often considered the “third” Orlando theme park and is somewhat eclipsed by the reputations of nearby Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. Despite the local competition, SeaWorld Orlando shouldn’t be overlooked; the park has plenty to offer every member of the family. From unique animal encounters to one of the best roller coasters in Florida, the park packs plenty of watery fun into each visit. Here are 5 essential experiences not to miss.
The primary reason to visit SeaWorld is for the marine inhabitants, including the killer whales. The orcas are the stars of the show in the new One Ocean program, which debuted in 2011. You can watch the park’s most famous resident, Shamu, put on a spectacle that is sure to please groups of all ages. As with many SeaWorld water shows, choose to sit inside or outside of the splash zone, depending on how involved in the show you wish to be.
This new program highlights the parks orcas with an innovative display of what these animals can do. Arrive early and choose a spot in the shade to enjoy One Ocean; shows run throughout the day.
This attraction is an interesting combination of ride and exhibit. Guests board a ride vehicle and complete a motion simulator journey to the arctic. When you disembark, you’ll be surrounded by the sites, animals and sounds of the arctic. From real polar bears to an actual chill in the air, the Wild Arctic is worth visiting any time of the year, but particularly nice on a hot summer day.
Note that the Wild Arctic attraction receives a holiday makeover each winter just in time for Christmas. The simulator and ride are remade with a Polar Express theme, and the arctic exhibit area is given a fun holiday makeover. The animals and fun remain the same, the seasonal additions just bring a bit of extra magic to this attraction.
One of three roller coasters at SeaWorld Orlando (the others are Manta and Journey to Atlantis), Kraken showcases the park’s innovative ride approach, offering floorless vehicles that seem to hurtle through space. The coasteris modeled after a monster – the mythical Kraken, and the twists, turns and inversions model the thrashing of the beast.
This is a true thrill ride, and not for those wary of high speeds or being turned upside down (Kraken features both barrel rolls and true inversion loops). If you are looking for a thrilling experience, don’t miss it. The sight of this ride is intimidating enough that there is almost never a line, so you can hop aboard pretty quickly most days.
If you are traveling with a toddler or preschooler, don’t miss the Sesame Street-themed portion of the park. Kids can cuddle up with Elmo, attend a breakfast or show designed to thrill little Sesame Street fans. You can catch the Elmo and Abby’s Treasure Hunt program, a Sesame Street Christmas, or a “Count” themed Halloween program, depending on when you visit.
Note that some shows are seasonal, and offered only during certain times of year.
Follow the screams to this innovative coaster, which is right at the center of the park. Manta is one of the Orlando area’s most innovative roller coasters, which is saying a lot, considering Orlando is home to theme parks giants Disney and Universal! Manta is a flying coaster, meaning riders are suspended in a hang gliding/flying position below the coaster car.
This seating arrangement will seem odd as you board – and certainly as you dangle above the ground while the ride is stationary. Once you launch, though, you’ll feel like you are flying – or gliding through water like the Manta Ray the ride is named for. Roller coaster enthisiasts should note this is a second generation flying coaster. SeaWorld Orlando has worked out some of the flaws of the earlier rides (you can find first generation flying coasters at several US theme parks), and has perfected the art of flying. Manta is an absolute must-do for any coaster enthusiast, and should top your list of SeaWorld Orlando rides.
Samantha McNesby specializes in writing about parenting, the home and, of course, theme parks. She is a regular contributor to Theme Park Tourist, where you can find all the latest Alton Towers offers.