Let’s face it; planning a family vacation that includes toddlers can sometimes seem like a military exercise. You really want to know the lay of the land before you go and have a backup strategy handy if things don’t go according to plan. If you are traveling to Orlando, you have a multitude of options for family friendly fun. But when it comes to spending an enjoyable day with your toddlers, Sea World tops the list.
Sea World has an ideal mix of exhibits, shows, and rides the entire family will enjoy. Some of the best resorts in Orlando are located near Sea World, or have shuttles to the park, making it even more family-friendly.
Animals are almost always a hit with kids, and where else will you get to see killer whales, penguins, and sharks up close and personal? Sea World is a first rate theme park on a slightly smaller scale, making it easier for families to relax and enjoy the day.
Sea World’s mission is to enable guests to celebrate, connect, and care for the natural world we all share. To this end, the park provides several unique animal experiences designed to let visitors interact with aquatic wildlife. But the best part (if you are traveling with impatient little ones) is you and your toddlers can see all of the animal exhibits with little or no wait!
Stroll through the air-conditioned comfort of gorgeous aquariums full of graceful manta rays, colorful tropical fish, or toothsome sharks. Make a reservation to feed the dolphin at Dolphin Cove or check out the youngest members of the dolphin family in the brand new nursery. Brave little ones will enjoy reaching their hands into the stingray lagoon and feeling their velvety skin. Next head towards Pacific Point Preserve and listen to the seals and sea lions barking for fish. Then laugh as the birds try to steal their food. There are knowledgeable employees at every exhibit, ready to answer kids’ questions and share facts about the animals.
There are two “rides” that are also animal exhibits: Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin and Wild Arctic. The penguin ride offers a “mild” option and toddlers are sure to enjoy following a day in the life of a new penguin hatchling. Lines for this attraction are shortest early in the day. The Wild Arctic ride, a simulated helicopter flight, is not suitable for young children, but you can bypass the ride portion and take a walking tour to visit the beluga whales and walruses.
There are also a variety of top-notch animal shows on the schedule every day. If your toddlers are not the sitting still type, you may want to limit your family to one show, or sit near an exit where you can sneak out early if necessary. You can bring lunch or snacks into the outdoor stadiums with you, which is one sure fire way to keep your toddler occupied before the show starts. Dolphin Days and Clyde and Seamore’s Sea Lion High are lively and fast paced enough to hold your child’s interest. The One Ocean show allows the only peak at Sea World’s famous killer whales. Ironically a show that spotlights land animals, Pet’s Ahoy, is the most geared towards very young children.
Shamu’s Happy Harbor
Shamu’s Happy Harbor is a family friendly play area designed with the theme park’s youngest guests in mind. This play area is home to several rides for smaller riders, including the Shamu Express roller coaster. There is also a water play area, so plan ahead and bring a change of clothes if you decide to make the splash pad part of your day’s itinerary. This area is truly a hidden gem for families – many guests don’t even know it exists unless they happen to stumble upon it – but it is worth seeking out. In the morning and early afternoon, when most of the park’s visitors are still wandering exhibits and rides closest to the entrance, your child can ride to his or her heart’s content with little or no waiting. There is even an air conditioned Baby Care Center located in Shamu’s Happy Harbor that includes changing tables, a private area to nurse, and child sized potties!
A day at Sea World is sure to include something for everyone. Whether you want to experience wildlife up close, ride thrilling (or not so thrilling) roller coasters, or see world-class shows, your trip to Sea World will be a highlight of your Orlando vacation.
Katie Parsons lives in Central Florida and is the creator of the blog Mumbling Mommy. She’s a communication specialist for Westgate Reservations.