For the past decade, I have lived just two hours away from SeaWorld Orlando. But I had never been. Why not? I don't know. Seriously, I've got nothing for you. I can't come up with a single good reason.
What finally got me to SeaWorld? Two men named Chris and Martin. I had made a promise to my four year-old daughter if the creators of her favorite show, Wild Kratts, ever came to Florida I would take her to see them.
Late last year I learned they would be coming to SeaWorld Orlando. So of course there was no question we would be there.
February is always a nice month in Florida, and last weekend was no exception. We had a lovely day to enjoy the park. A bit of a cool start, but plenty of sunshine and very comfortable temperatures as the day went on.
I didn't really know what to expect from SeaWorld, but I was impressed by how much character it had. It is part zoo, part theme park and entirely unique. Very lush and attractive. Lots to do and see for all ages.
In many ways it reminded me of Epcot, in that different sections felt like different parts of the world. With water being the theme throughout, of course. But SeaWorld is not trying to be or compete with Disney and that is clear. It is a big attraction in its own right.
By far my daughter's favorite part of SeaWorld was Shamu's Happy Harbor, an area toward the back of the park for kids. She delighted in rides like the Jazzy Jellies and Ocean Commotion. She could have easily stayed there all day.
But I wanted to see some animals. And we did. Seals and sea lions. Sharks. Dolphins. Sea Turtles. Manatees. Beluga whales. A polar bear. I could have spent much more time enjoying the animals, but four year olds are not the most patient people on earth.
We did have a good laugh at the little baby alligators on display. Because, hello? We live in Florida. We see gators all the time. Hubby remarked there is a gator in the pond at his office bigger than the ones at SeaWorld. But, I do remember what it was like before I lived in gator (and Gator) country. So I imagine most visitors are a little more impressed or intrigued than we were.
We definitely want to go back to take advantage of some of the exclusive park experiences like feeding the dolphins and swimming with beluga whales.
We didn't attempt to see any of the shows, other than the Kratt Brothers performance, mainly because we were with a tired four year old. They were the reason we were there. Plus, there is only so much you can do in one day.
And while hubby joked he would let us go back to our hotel alone so he could ride the roller coasters, he and I agreed we would have to return sans child sometime to enjoy that aspect of the park, as our little one is not tall enough yet. And, based on her reaction to the Shamu Express, not quite ready for roller coasters.
One thing I did find frustrating was getting around. Many times we would look at the map and think we'd figured out how to get where we wanted to go, but we'd hit a dead end or closed path. I think this was due to the construction on the new Antarctica exhibit. Either that or I'm really bad at reading maps.
All in all it was a great day, though. This was sort of like a reconnaissance visit - getting an overview of what SeaWorld has to offer and determining what we want to see more of. One of the benefits of being Florida residents is that we can go back again and again at a great price. And I'm sure we will.