September 2011: The Ride Describe guides tell you everything important about a single park’s rides, including details that could ruin the experience for people who want to be surprised. If that’s you, go directly to the Ride Guide. The Ride Describe for Sea World is ideal, however, if you want a complete overview in order to decide what to see and what to avoid.
For a quick guide to SeaWorld rides suitable for use in the parks, go to Ride Guide: Sea World.
The following section assumes you make a left once inside the gates with a bit of backtracking to cover the first few attractions.
The nursery takes only a few minutes to see – you walk over to a huge tank and look inside – but it’s a must-do if you want a glimpse of baby dolphins
Seaport Theater – Pets Ahoy!
A theater show focuses on animal tricks. The plot borders on “too cute” (emphasis on the “too”), but the entire audience says “Awww…” more than once.
Little more than a stop along the walkway, Turtle Point hosts a handful of giant sea turtles that swim just below the surface and occasionally bask in the sun.
This standout Orlando coaster relies on style more than body-racking speed and malicious turns. Riders are firmly locked in with a chest guard, and the seat bottom then pivots backward and up before taking off. Riders end up face down before the coaster even moves, supported only by that chest guard as they struggle to keep heads from drooping. Since the coaster attaches to a track above guests’ heads, they see nothing below them during the ride except ground and, if they look down, their feet. It feels like flight.
Guests surround a fair-sized pool, stick their hands in the water, and touch the silky backs of manta rays. For an extra fee, visitors may feed them at scheduled times during the day.
Dolphin Cove (Key West at SeaWorld)
Visitors can feed (extra fee) or visit dolphins that play in a huge ocean-style pool. One side of the pool is high enough for guests to lean over and touch the dolphins. The opposite side of the pool has three viewing options: A beach-like section accessed only by employees; a walking trail with a panoramic view of the pool; and a “cave” entrance for underwater viewing. (Look for the cave: It’s at the far end en route to the Whale & Dolphin Theater. Many guests miss it.)
Most Americans know little about the endangered manatee – giant Florida water creatures that look a bit like a walrus but with less tusk and better attitudes. Manatee Rescue has tank viewing, underwater viewing, and an educational presentation on what can be done to save the species, which can also be seen in the wild (if you’re lucky) in Central Florida. There’s recent talk of an expansion.
Blue Horizons (Whale & Dolphin Theater)
Sea parks have always featured a traditional show where dolphins perform tricks, and this is SeaWorld’s version of that classic. Choreographed jumps by three dolphins still impress, however, making this a must-see for that reason.
Journey to Atlantis
Part boat ride and part coaster, Journey to Atlantis starts with a story told along peacefully moving water. The nutshell version: A god gets angered and takes it out on guests. The boat has both waterslide drops and a roller coaster drop that bounces through water at the bottom. As a coaster, it’s middle-of-the-road thrills, but the combination of water and coaster make it a SeaWorld must-see if your stomach can take the action.
There’s nothing unique about Kraken, but it’s one of Orlando’s top fast-moving, big-dipping roller coasters – and it’s wilder than Manta.
The penguins stand and swim behind glass with a Southern Hemisphere light recreation, meaning dim for much of the summer. A moving sidewalk beside the glass gives visitors a close-yet-limited look, though it’s easy to ride more than once. For an unmoving look, guests can also stand on a higher tier behind the sidewalk. Exhibit includes a small museum-like area plus a second view of puffins, the penguin’s cousin in the Northern Hemisphere. Rumors call for an expansion.
Pacific Point Preserve
An enclosed outdoor area mimics the western U.S. coast with sea lions barking for food, which is available for a fee. The sea lions aren’t exactly wild, and many do tricks knowing visitors throw them more food.
Clyde & Seamore (Sea Lion & Otter Stadium)
A sea lion, otter, and other creatures perform in a show with decidedly G-rated humor. The animal tricks play second fiddle to the plot, which is a knee-slapper for kids and wink-wink cute for adults.
For a panoramic look at Orlando – and in flat Florida you see a long way – the Sky Tower rises above the park, circles for a minute, and then returns to the ground. For some unknown reason, SeaWorld charges an extra $3 to enjoy this attraction.
The first part of Shark Encounter has fairly large tanks filled with sea predators, such as barracuda and moray eels, followed by info on sharks: how big they grow, what they eat, where they live. But the highlight of Shark Encounter is a tank bigger than most city swimming pools. Visitors view it from the bottom, where a moving sidewalk under a circular glass ceiling keeps guests moving. For an extended view of the shark tank, consider dinner at Sharks Underwater Grill.
A’Lure (Nautilus Theater)
This theater show owes a debt of gratitude to Cirque du Soleil as it marries acrobatics, a storyline, creative lighting, and artistic music. Sea-style costumes cling to acrobats that bounce on trampolines, roll inside steel contraptions, swing over the crowd held up by curtains, and juggle. If you can’t make it to Cirque du Soleil, it’s a reasonable substitute without paying an extra fee.
Sea Carousel (in Shamu’s Happy Harbor)
A merry-go-round for kids with sea creatures instead of horses.
Water Works (in Shamu’s Happy Harbor)
Essentially a small water park, Water Works gives younger kids a chance to get soaked. Parents might want to consider packing extra dry socks and a bathing suit before arrival.
Swishy Fishies (in Shamu’s Happy Harbor)
A spinning ride for kids where the cars spin individually and as a group.
Flying Fiddler (in Shamu’s Happy Harbor)
A kid’s ride that goes up and down in a simulated (but not heart stopping) drop.
Shamu Express (in Shamu’s Happy Harbor)
A mild coaster for all but the very young, with a height requirement of 38 inches (.96 meters)
Jazzy Jellies (in Shamu’s Happy Harbor)
A spinning, up-and-down ride for kids.
Believe (Shamu Stadium)
Believe is SeaWorld’s hallmark show where a giant orca (Shamu and others) leaps from the water and sprays guests in the first 20 rows. You can’t visit SeaWorld without seeing this one. It has a plot of sorts, but the storyline takes a backseat to the giant swimming mammal.
Wild Arctic is both a ride and a zoo exhibit. The ride is a motion simulator, where a movie plays in front of an enclosed car. As scenes in the movie dip, the entire car dips, giving riders a feel of motion even though they don’t actually travel anywhere. The storyline follows the ride’s name as a simulated helicopter takes guests to the frozen North, encountering a storm along the way. A non-moving version is offered for those who want to see the zoo without holding onto their seat to do so. After the motion simulator, guests emerge in the Arctic and view polar bears, walruses, narwhals, and other cold-weather sea animals in a cool, enclosed building.
Atlantis Bayside Stadium (show changes)
A massive outside theater features water shows on the lake and big-name entertainment if scheduled.