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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Orlando's SeaWorld and Aquatica Parks: How We Enjoyed Them (review)

On our fourth day of vacation in sunny Florida, we headed over to SeaWorld, followed by some water park fun at Aquatica. The only one of us in the group of six that had ever been to SeaWorld was the hubster. However, not even he had been to Aquatica before. I knew we had a fun day in store.

We looked at the schedule of shows and made plans to see Shamu in "Believe: The Spectacular Shamu Show". (What's a visit to SeaWorld without seeing Shamu?) After seeing what time that began, we decided to head over to Shamu's Happy Harbor which is located nearby the Shamu Stadium and packed with fun for little ones. We figured if we gave Alex some time to ride some rides and have fun, he'd be more flexible to see the things we wanted to see. And we were right.

Alex had a blast. He got to ride a roller coaster with yours truly and go on fun, spinny rides with the hubster. There was also a humongous climbing area that Alex enjoyed. (It's pictured on the bottom left with the purple slide.) In this area, there were also misting stands to cool off at and a splash pad for the kids to run in.

After our fun there, we headed over to watch Believe: The Spectacular Shamu Show. We made sure to sit away from the "soak zone" so I could snap pictures without putting my camera in jeopardy of getting ruined. I'm glad I did too because Shamu and friends really know how to splash things up.

As I watched the show with my family, I was experiencing a real life dream come true. It was amazing to see the intelligence, strength, and grace of those whales. Please don't miss this show if you have a chance to visit. It is worth every minute and I left wishing I could see more. 

During our visit, we also enjoyed a visit to see Arctic animals like Polar Bears and Beluga Whales. We took time to see sharks, penguins, stingrays (we actually pet a few), manatees, dolphins, and others. Everything we saw was memorable and beautiful. Alex was excited about all the animals too. He loved learning about the ones he hadn't seen before and asked a lot of questions about the sharks and manatees.

My dad and I also enjoyed a spin on the ride called Journey To Atlantis. This takes riders through the temple in Atlantis and spits them out and down a steep hill that ends in a splash. We loved the ride and were happy to have gotten a little wet so we could cool off before heading over to Aquatica.

But before speaking of Aquatica, I want to recommend readers to visit the Top Tips From SeaWorld Insiders. We didn't get a chance to do each of the things on that list. I do wish, however, that we would have made plans to enjoy Sharks Underwater Grill. It sounds like an incredible way to dine.

On to Aquatica. This is a water park is filled with fun activities to keep you cool and make sure everyone in your group has fun. There are water slides for kids both big and small. In fact, one water slide sends you through water where dolphins are swimming around you. How cool is that?

There are rapids to go tubing on, a beach with a wave pool, a zero entry pool for little ones to splash in and another with a treehouse for kids to climb and play in. There are animals to see and even places to relax. 

When we arrived at Aquatica from SeaWorld, we didn't have a lot of time left before the park closed. So, the hubster and I took the kids to swim in the smaller pools and my parents went on their own over to the rapids.

Here's a look at the pool Eliana and I enjoyed in Kata's Kookaburra Cove while the hubster took Alex on some slides on the other side of this pool. Eliana just loved it. She would hold her hands out to be splashed by the different fountains and even cried at one point when I didn't get her hand into the water fast enough. It was too sweet.

And when Alex wasn't swimming or sliding with his dad, he was in the sand.

It's not like he's never seen sand before but he just loves to play in it. In fact, our double stroller may still have some white sand left on it from Alex carrying it on there. lol

When the announcement came that the park was closing, my parents found us and told us how much fun they had on the rapids. Apparently, it is quite the ride so you should brace yourself if you choose to go in. We were sad that we didn't have time to do more than what we did but we enjoyed every minute we were able to swim. 

Things to make note of if you visit Aquatica (taken from the website):

  • Dining facilities throughout the park offer a variety of delights
    • Aquatica has several different dining options including an all-you-can-eat restaurant and healthy alternatives.
  • Gift shops feature a wide selection of brand-name sportswear, beachwear and other "must-have" summer items.
  • Beach and picnic areas
  • Showers, changing areas, and nursing mother's station
  • A one-time locker fee gives you a full day's worth of unlimited access. Small lockers are $5* and large lockers are $10* per day.
    *All locker rentals require an additional $5 refundable key deposit
  • Beach towels can be rented for the entire day for a $4.00 each. Towels can also be purchased at any of our shops throughout the park.
  • Life vests can be checked out free of charge throughout the park.

A private cabana is the best way to take in all Aquatica has to offer. Your cabana is reserved exclusively for you for the entire day, until the park closes. Cabana rentals include a refrigerator stocked with a variety of sodas, juice, and water (16 beverages per cabana) as well as complimentary use of towels and lockers. While a security member is always present in the park, locker usage is recommended. Snacks and dining options are separate.

As cabanas provide the comfort of a shaded, sheltered environment, guests are welcome to move seating outside of the cabana to soak up some of the warm Florida sun.**

Also, be sure to look at the park map and familiarize yourself with it before going there. It's a great way to get to know the park and find out what each person in your group wants to do. With so much to do, you'll appreciate knowing where everyone is while you're there.

All in all, we had an amazing day at SeaWorld and Aquatica. If you're ever in the Orlando area, I highly recommend spending some time in one or both of these parks. You'll be amazed at all the different ways a family can have a great time there.

*Thanks to SeaWorld who provided complimentary and discounted tickets into the parks in exchange for an honest review. I received no further compensation. The opinion expressed is mine and mine alone. Others may not agree or may have a different experience.* 



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