We had a nice long weekend in Orlando for Labor Day weekend and since Disney wasn’t appealing to us with a busy summer weekend, we knew that Legoland (check out that post here) and Seaworld would be a perfect combo. Seaworld, with its array of sea life animals, thrill rides (3 huge coasters) and shows, it was a family-friendly park.
Get there early for the best parking and shorter entrance lines. We arrived around 8:30 am, parked up front without paying for preferred parking (we did pay for regular parking) and walked right up to security. The bag search and metal detectors are seamless and quick.
We had pre-purchased all of our tickets, so we just had our tickets scanned and off we went.
If you haven’t purchased your tickets yet, save time and money by pre-purchasing them on the Seaworld website.
If you are military, click this link to receive your free tickets (up to 4 tickets per year). Even if you’ve used your free tickets, SeaWorld Orlando offers 50% off additional tickets, which is cheaper than ITT.
Seaworld Orlando offers stroller and wheelchair rentals. The strollers come in single or double. they are wide plastic seats on wheels with a canopy for sun protection and a bit of space for storage. You’ll pay a fee and leave a deposit for any item that you rent. Once you return it, you’ll receive your deposit.
We also saw powered wheelchairs, a nice bonus since it is a large park for anyone with wheelchair needs.
All Day Dining:
We decided that “all day dining” would be worth the cost for us. By the time you eat two meals in the park, the meal plan pays for itself. Learn more about all day dining options here.
If you choose all-day dining, there is a booth/stand just after you pass the rentals (wheelchair/stroller) area. You can trade your paper tickets in for your bands instead of waiting until you decide to eat to exchange your papers for bands inside the restaurant.
There is quite a list of restaurants where you can dine. Each meal includes a main dish, side or dessert, and a drink. You can choose to dine once an hour. You can also get free bottles of water from the restaurants or pop up stands. The same goes for slushies.
The Quick Queue pass gives you ahead of the line privileges and if you choose priority seating for shows, you’ll get to sit in a dedicated section (right in the center). We added both options to check out the benefits.
We decided to purchase the dolphin encounter option since the timing and length of tour appealed to use with a toddler in tow. We purchased our dolphin encounter online and printed off the voucher. We then exchanged our voucher for tickets near the entrance at the tour operator. They will also tell you where to meet up with your group 15 minutes before your encounter begins.
There are so many different animal encounters to choose from. Check out the SeaWorld website for more information about how to book and the additional costs.
How did we spend the day? (Rides, shows, dolphin encounter and more!)
Seaworld actually has three unique and thrilling roller coaster rides. There are also many fun family friendly ride options. Something for everyone! We decided to start our day in a clockwise direction, starting with Manta.
Manta, a very unique coaster! You face down and fly over the park with an inverted loop d’loop, certainly a unique experience. If you have the quick queue, just enter through the exit and you’ll be let onto the ride.
If you have to take turns and one adult is staying with smaller children, there is also an aquarium just past the normal entrance to the ride. Park your strollers outside the entrance and enjoy wandering around the interior with the beautiful aquariums and unique sea life.
Antarctica has a ride (cars that glide)and is enjoyable for all. You ride while enjoying a story about a penguin and then get off to see the actual penguins. It is cold! The penguin keeper is wearing a winter coat, just for reference. I grabbed a blanket since my son would be cold and it helped, but we didn’t end up lingering very long.
Journey to Atlantis: one of the few actual rides for kids 42”. It is part water ride, part meandering boat ride, and part roller coaster. We thought it was a nice long ride with some unexpected dips (not just the plunge you see). You will get wet, but not soaked.
After a full morning, it was time to grab a snack with our all-day dining pass. Voyagers smokehouse offers breakfast (which we missed on the notes, ops!), so we went to the Pretzel Kitchen. It was eh. The cinnamon sugar bites looked pretty good, but we wanted an early lunch and it was disappointing. Likely would have fared better at the expedition cafe which also opens at 10:30 am.
Our goal was the happy harbor kids zone. We found the carousel, but everything else is blocked off due to the Sesame Street construction (due to open April 2019). No other rides for the little ones, no splash pad… so heads up!
We did catch a Shamu show. If you like whales, it’s a great show. It did break my heart watching the animals perform. I guess after watching the whale documentaries, it tugs at your heart a bit, but I know it is the main reason people purchase tickets to Seaworld.
When the show releases, the wild arctic ride gets busy! So heads up, I’d skip it and circle back 20-30 minutes later for much shorter lines. With Quick Queue, you get ahead of the line privileges for almost all of the family rides and roller coaster. It saved us from a long line, which was ideal since our toddler isn’t the best at waiting around.
Wild arctic features a virtual helicopter ride. You do have the option to skip this and just see the animals on the non-rider line, this is nice if your children are under 42″ but still want to see the animals. Most of the rides/animal exhibits have this option. The helicopter ride was pretty bumpy and the images weren’t high quality, so it does make you a bit dizzy. Perhaps that was also attributed to our front row seats. After the ride, you’ll be released into the beluga whale, seal walrus exhibits.
Off across the wooden bridge to our 1 pm dolphin encounter. We arrived 15 minutes early and stood in quite a line. We were separated into groups of 10. Told to remove all jewelry, hats, sunglasses and lose articles. You are not allowed to take any photos, but they tell you a photographer will take photos for you to purchase at the end of your encounter. It’s definitely touristy. We were supposed to have 2 dolphins, but only one swam up. So we moved around for the photographer, gave the dolphin a few pets, tossed a fish or ice cube and then were told to step back to ask questions.
When you are finished, you wash hands and can view your photos on the computer screens at the photo booth. Ours were eh. Most of them included the couple next to us. Plus it is $25 for a printed image and $30 if you want a digital. It is $20 per ticket, so we had already spent $60. Add a digital photo and your looking at almost $100 for a 15-minute “experience”.
So just manage your expectations. You’ll have to fork out more money for longer with the animals. Check out all their animal encounters here.
After we were finished with the dolphins, we wandered over to the turtle trek to get an air-conditioned break. It was a bit of mass chaos! Quick queue saved us from the line, but you move from room to room as they gather everyone together. The last room features an aquarium with turtles and fish. Great to look at, but with 100’s of people, it’s loud. The staff tried to tell us about the animals, but it was really hard to hear. Then you go into a large room with your 3D glasses. It’s a 360 theater, so prepare to stand or lean against the rails. No seats and the kids can’t sit on the top of the rails, so you’ll be holding the little ones. If I was visiting SeaWorld again, I’d skip this attraction.
Off for a late lunch. This time we decided on Voyagers Smokehouse due to its air-conditioned seating area. With all-day dining, we grabbed brisket, sausage, chicken and a kids meal with macaroni and cheese, carrots and applesauce. We added in some cookies and drinks, which are all included in the meal plan. Not a bad deal right??
The dining room can get busy, even as late as 2 pm, but be patient and a seat will open.
The heat and an early morning wake-up (not prompted by adults) meant our son was ready for a nap. He’s super easy going, so the bench seat did the trick and he was out. With the heat, we knew a nap inside would be preferred.
My husband and I took the break to catch up a bit and then run off to ride the roller coasters Mako and Kraken. With quick queue’s, we were able to ride both coasters a couple of times before our son was up and ready to explore.
Mako was super fun! It’s almost like driving your fast car on a country road at top speed with lots of hills! You get to enjoy the weightlessness at the tops of the hills and you don’t have to deal with going upside down. It’s a nice long coaster, so if you have to wait in a long line, at least you get to enjoy a long ride.
Kraken: twist and turns at a fast speed! Typical to most fast and flip coasters we’ve enjoyed around the world.
Our son woke up just in time to head over to the 4:30 pm showing of Dolphin days. We enjoyed the show. It was upbeat, interactive and had lots of fun surprises along the way. If your child is sleeping in the stroller, you can still enjoy the show from the top zone. Just as the attendants at the normal entrance where to go. We had preferred seating, so we showed up 15 mins early and had great seats. If not, show up 30 minutes early if you want your pick. The shows were busier as the afternoon progressed.
We decided to end a busy day at the Stingray exhibit where you can pet and feed the stingrays. For $5 you get five fish. Perfect for a family of 3 to share. Even our almost 4-year-old son enjoyed feeding the stingrays with his giggles of excitement as the stingrays took the fish from his fingers.
There are so many more attractions that we didn’t get a chance to visit. We could have easily spent another few hours in the park, especially with their extended summer hours and events.
SeaWorld Orlando has a lot to offer for families visiting Florida. It’s a combination of rides, animal shows and experiences make it a top place to visit with kids. The park is easy to navigate, thanks to the helpful signs along the way. Be sure to grab a map to help move around and have a list of show times.
We weren’t really a fan of the dolphin encounter because of the cost and limited amount of time with the dolphins, but perhaps that is because we have had many other animal encounters that left a lasting impression compared to this touristy version.
We were also disappointed at the closing of the kid’s zone. I have fond memories of climbing the three-story net area as a child and I was looking forward to my son burning some energy. The splash pad would have also been a great way to cool off on a hot day. We did speak with the staff and they were apologetic as the map misrepresents the area and the construction.
Labor Day wasn’t quite as busy as I anticipated and we probably could have gotten away without using the quick queue passes. The three large roller coasters weren’t as busy as I anticipated, likely due to the fact that many families were enjoying the other attractions in the park. We did like the advantage a few times during the turtle trek and wild arctic rides, but we could have also easily circled back when it wasn’t as busy.
If you’re looking for more fun things to do in the Tampa Bay area (especially with kids). Check out my Top 10 Things to Do in Tampa! Tampa is a short 1.5 drive from Orlando and it packs a punch for so many fun things to do with kids. Or perhaps you’d like to see some other destinations that we have visited, head back to our homepage.
Must-Have Items for a great day in Orlando
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