7007 SeaWorld Drive (Interstate 4, Exit 71), Orlando, FL 32821
Payment options: Credit cards accepted
Admission: $99, $94 ages 3-9.
SeaWorld, one of Florida’s top attractions, is like a giant aquarium smack dab in the middle of the state. You can see creatures of all stripes -- fish, sharks, dolphins, rays, manatees, penguins, and of course, the famous killer whales. But there’s more to the park, like Manta, a super smooth roller coaster. Even when you’re upside down or going into a curve, you feel as though you are riding on air.
Other rides to try are Kraken, another roller coaster; the kitschy Journey to Atlantis; and the Skytower, which gives you a 360-degree view of the park. Shamu’s Happy Harbor is a great place for tots, with low-key rides and a picnic area for families to sit and take a load off. The best part might be the ginormous Pirate’s Nets, four stories of nets that are connected by tunnels and slides. This one area could keep kids busy for hours.
Most recently, the park added its largest expansion ever, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, a frigid realm with faux glaciers, an underwater viewing area, a ride, a restaurant and a gift shop. The centerpiece is a spinny “dark” ride called Empire of the Penguin. It pushes the boundaries of ride technology. As guests enter the fictional world of baby Puck the Gentoo penguin, they are acclimated to increasingly cooler temperatures: 60 degrees, 40 degrees, and finally 30 degrees. The high-tech ride, which is very kid-friendly, ends by sending riders into a chilly colony of 250 penguins playing just inches away behind a low rock wall — no glass partition.
You gotta eat when you go to SeaWorld but you can't take your own food. So try out one of the many restaurants around the park including Shark's Underwater Grill, which lets you dine among the sharks (although they are safely behind glass); the Terrace Grill, which is right near the Skytower; Seaport Pizza which serves up pizzas for a group or in individual kid's sizes; Mango Joe's which serves fajitas, wraps and desserts; and the Antarctic Market, which has hot foods and grab-and-go items. There are plenty of chicken tenders, popcorn shrimp and hot dogs for the pickiest of eaters.
New, Pop, a live show developed from the inspiration of sea bubbles. Each show explores ways to create and manipulate bubbles of all shapes and sizes. Effects include lighting, lasers and projects on 23-foot tall screens. Runs through Sept. 4.
New, Killer Whale Up Close tour, a behind the scenes look at the daily care of Orkas. $79 in addition to park admission.