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SeaWorld, Orlando

After several days of the hectic Orlando theme park scene, SeaWorld is a great change of pace attraction. There are only a couple of rides, lines are nearly non-existent, and the pace is slower, letting you really soak up the experience. Here’s an overview of favorite family activities at the park.

The Shows: SeaWorld’s shows are quite popular, with good reason. The usual line-up includes the popular Shamu show, where an orca (they aren’t called killer whales anymore) shows off amazing flips and jumps, a pirate-themed sea lion/otter show that includes an equally entertaining pre-show (arrive early to catch it), a dolphin show, and a hilarious pet show featuring some very talented pets rescued from a local animal shelter. Be cautious when choosing seats for the shows, the first few rows are designated “splash zones” and you will get soaking wet if you sit there. Don’t forget your video camera; your kids will love watching replays when you get back home.

Visiting Dolphins: There are a couple of places in SeaWorld to visit with dolphins. At Dolphin Nursery, you can see mom and baby pairs swimming around the pool. While you can’t touch the dolphins, there’s usually a staff member available to answer questions. At Dolphin Cove you can interact with the dolphins and even feed them at scheduled times. It helps to have patient kids for this one. Here’s one hint: If you lay your hand flat and still in the water, a dolphin may come up to investigate.

Shark Encounter: If dolphins are too tame for your crew, try walking through this underwater shark tunnel where the menacing creatures glide right over head. This is one of the few areas in the park that gets crowded, so you might want to plan your visit for off-peak times or just plan on moving really slow.
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Penguin Encounter: This is another very popular exhibit, as evidenced by the moving walkway designed to herd the crowd past a couple hundred waddling penguins in their icy environment. You can step off the walkway if your kids want to watch longer.

Stingray Lagoon: Want to pet a stingray? Here’s your chance. Pick up a bucket of fish from the concession stand and let your kids feed and pet these graceful creatures.

Pacific Point Preserve: If your kids liked feeding the stingrays, they’ll love feeding the sea lions. You can buy a container of smelts that will make you very popular among these entertaining creatures who will bark for your kids to feed them.

Manatees: Don’t miss a visit with these huge and amazing creatures. You’ll often find them chomping on heads of lettuce at the water’s surface. The manatees here are not permanent residents; they are being cared for before their eventual release back into Florida waters.

Shamu’s Happy Harbor: This clever outdoor play space is a hit with young kids who will get happily soaked to the skin playing here. Hint: you may want to save this for the end of the day, when your next stop is the car and a dry change of clothes!

This is just a sampling of what you’ll find at SeaWorld. There are also backstage tours and “trainer for a day” opportunities available if you want to enhance your experience. SeaWorld is a big park, so it pays to get a map and plot your route around. There are many places to eat throughout the park, these do get crowded so you might want to dine at off-peak times. Bring a stroller for young kids, plus plenty of water and sunscreen. SeaWorld may be less crowded if you visit at the beginning of the week since many families save the park for the end of their trip. Souvenirs are available throughout the park, the most popular being a stuffed orca.

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