Like all major theme parks in Orlando, SeaWorld is best enjoyed in a full-day visit. That’s a given. In a perfect world, Riding the Manta® or seeing an orca shouldn’t be an either-or proposition for any family on vacation. And if you have SeaWorld circled and double-starred as a “must,” I surely am not advocating that your family devote anything less than an entire day. But I also know that vacation planning is fluid and sometimes circumstances can bump us off our optimal itineraries.
The good news is that if for some reason—it doesn’t matter what—you’re able to enjoy Seaworld in half a day, it’s easy, from a planning standpoint anyway, to customize your visit so that you hit the high points. Just as important, if not more, a little proactive ticket-buying can get you special discounts that amount to almost half off the regular full-day pass purchased at walk-up.
A half-day visit for the equivalent of a half-day fare—makes it a lot easier to rationalize, doesn’t it?
Now, for the itinerary …
Here’s where you might want to weigh the costs and benefits of half day vs. full day once more, because the most efficient half-day experience probably involves some extra cost. Quick Queue Unlimited wristbands allow you to bypass lines at rides and Signature Show Seating allows you to reserve seats at popular shows. Both are add-ons. Check the website for the latest prices.
Once you’ve committed to your half-day, park officials recommend following this plan:
Start with Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin™, This popular new experience takes you through the life story of a baby penguin and experience life in the bird’s native habitat. In 25 minutes, you’ll watch a video, follow a path on foot, take a “mild” or “wild” ride (your choice) that follows the penguin on a perilous underwater adventure and transports you to an icy environment full of live penguins for you to enjoy up close on foot.
Another “must” is Manta, one of the most popular roller coasters in the United States. If you can imagine how it would feel to cling to a manta ray as it climbs, dives, spins, loops and inverts, you have a sense of what to expect. Younger family members and other non-riders can bypass the coaster and proceed along a corridor of aquarium displays featuring rays of all sizes and varieties plus other underwater species.
You’re encouraged also to attend two of the park’s signature theatrical shows, Blue Horizons® at Dolphin Theater and One Ocean® at Shamu Stadium. Blue Horizons weaves a narrative about a young girl named Marina and features bottlenose dolphins, colorful macaws and skilled acrobats, while One Ocean stars the park’s famed killer whales. Park officials recommend seeing the earliest scheduled Blue Horizons show and the One Ocean afternoon show.
Finally, no visit to SeaWorld, however short, is complete without experiencing TurtleTrek®. The 30-minute attraction begins with a stroll past aquariums featuring manatees and sea turtles, many of which are rescues. The highlight comes when you enter the first domed theater in the world designed to show 360-degree, 3D movies. Wearing 3D glasses, you’ll follow the life of a sea turtle from birth to adulthood—from the turtle’s visual point-of-view. The panorama of undersea life unfolds around you and above you in this unforgettable experience.
As I mentioned earlier, condensing all the wonder of SeaWorld into one-half day isn’t difficult tactically. It’s following your larger plan—and leaving when necessary to keep on schedule—that’s the hard part.