Last Saturday my family and I set off to see the Spooktacular happenings at SeaWorld Orlando. Little did we know everyone else apparently had the same idea — wow, was it crowded. Well, not as crowded as summertime or the week after Christmas, but definitely more crowded than we expected to find it in October.
The first stop of every SeaWorld trip for us is Antarctica (since it opened this past summer). As we arrived we noticed the wait time was 40 minutes and decided to wait it out, as the ride time would only increase later in the day. We have taken this voyage many times since the attraction opened and were expecting the journey of Puck to be the same, but we were pleasantly surprised to see they had added steam geysers into the entertainment as our iceberg glided around the ice cavern room.
Even though we visit frequently, I never tire of viewing the penguins so close. Watching them move around their habit without any glass in between us and their icy home always gives me goosebumps – and not just from the temperature of the room!
When we’d had enough of the chill in the room, we moved to the outside viewing. There we found a penguin who was posing for pictures – he stood directly in front of everyone on the steps of their enclosure, and struck many different poses while continuing to look at the crowd as if making sure that people were still watching him. Who knew that models existed even in the penguin world?
After leaving Antarctica we went right next door to the Kraken. Even with the crowds in the park, the wait time posted was only 5 minutes. As always it was a smooth ride, highlighted by the exhilarating “near misses” with the concrete that make this ride so much fun. This is a coaster I could ride over and over again. Make sure to see the Kraken eggs at the ride exit; even though they no longer contain eels, they’re still quite a sight!
Turtle Trek was our next stop. We were pleasantly surprised to find a 15 minute wait time when we arrived, and I have to say this was the most pleasant wait of the entire day. The first section of the queue has guests standing outside with an aquarium window full of fish and an absolutely outstanding employee who kept my children completely entertained, teasing them about their Halloween hats while we waited.
The second section of the queue is indoors and has two giant aquariums. The first is the underwater viewing of the manatee’s habitat; we lucked out and had one of the manatees resting underwater near us. The second aquarium is the underwater viewing of the sea turtles, and it was quite busy with many large sea turtles swimming around us entertained. The staff member in the room was explaining SeaWorld’s marine rescue efforts nationwide, and she was pleasant and patient with the children asking questions about the specific turtles and the signs of the permanent injuries they could see.
The wait in this room didn’t seem long enough to see everything, as 10 minutes after we entered we headed in to the main attraction.
As we donned our 3D glasses and found positions to stand around the room, they explained the movie: we would be seeing through the eyes of a sea turtle as she journeyed from a hatching to an adult and returned to the same beach to lay her eggs. This movie is incredible, and the 3D effects are so good that I found myself jumping in surprise as the sea turtle faced countless perils. After the movie we exited not through the gift shop as most rides do, but through the above-ground viewing area of the same habitats we’d seen underwater. They even have a video game setup in this area where children can take their turn racing to the beach using unique turtle shaped controllers. Again, the staff member nearby was explaining how the habits’ residents had come to SeaWorld and exactly why several of them had been deemed “non-releasable”.
After a quick pause at a drink cart, we moved to the underwater viewing of the dolphins. They were especially active during our visit, and we found ourselves spending quite a bit of time watching them chase each other through the tank and play tag (the kids viewing the exhibit kept us informed of who was “it”). This is such a peaceful place to hang out, cool off a bit, and remember what caused SeaWorld to become a long lasting park – the animals.
By now SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular events had opened and everyone in the park flocked in that direction, so we decided to avoid the crowds and grab lunch at the Spice Mill restaurant. The hamburgers were better than expected, and our group of five paid a little over $50 for burgers, fries, and drinks for all – not bad for a theme park prices.
After lunch, we decided to check out the Sky Tower to get a bird’s eye view of the Spooktacular area. With only a 20 minute wait, we boarded the pleasantly air conditioned cabin and rose into the sky. The views afforded to guests from up here are amazing — you can see the entire track of the roller coasters, the backstage area of the Shamu show, and also some of Orlando’s other parks in the distance.
Back on solid ground we entered the Underwater Sea Fantasy trail. The Spooktacular area was fantastic in its theming with bubble making machines everywhere! However, there were so many people walking through such a small area that it was difficult to truly enjoy the festivities.
As we continued down the trail, we were handed our trick-or-treat bags and maps of the Spooktacular area. Then we discovered that trick-or-treating here would not be as easy as we thought. While the stations were set up along the trail with easy to read signs, the queues were not long enough for the crowds. This caused one line to bled into the next. After four stations, my kids were tired of standing in line and wanted to move on to the next thing: the party zone.
The party zone was in the Altantis Bayside Stadium, and the space was setup really well. They had a large covered area to provide shade for the dancers with large jellyfish creations hung from the top, which enhanced the undersea theming of the event. The DJ was playing crowd-favorite dance tunes (YMCA was a huge hit), and many kids danced along with Penelope’s Party Crew (large dancing pumpkin characters). My kids were surprised to find a trick-or-treat station tucked in here without a line, and they were thrilled to grab a rather large package of Airheads candy.
As we left the party area, our group agreed that the Spooktacular area set the festive mood just right but was too crowded. We opted not to complete to the second half of the trail and instead made our way to Wild Arctic.
This experience didn’t start well because the attraction was having technical issues and we could only take the walking path instead of the “helicopter” motion ride. Once we entered, we found out the movie wasn’t running at all, and they bypassed us straight into the animal exhibits. There the experience got much better as we were happy to see that the polar bear was actually awake! We’ve walked through the exhibits many times and he always seems to be sleeping, so this time we were thrilled that he was up and exploring his enclosure. Apparently Halloween is celebrated by polar bears too, because his orange play ball floating in the water was a jack-o-lantern!
Next we traveled to the other side of the park to go on Journey of Atlantis, which is a great ride once you forgive it for not having an understandable story. Then it was time for our last stop, Manta. I have found that the first loop puts enough negative G forces on me to trigger motion sickness, so I sat out, but others in my group loved it (and indeed they ride it every time we visit).
While waiting for the others in my group, I spent my time viewing the Manta aquariums, often missed by guests. It has some of the most unique animals in the the small aquariums on the sides (the leafy sea dragon is my favorite; it’s just the strangest looking thing!). But the big aquarium is the draw. This huge space has schools of fish swimming around and more mantas than you can count. The Manta aquariums also have an area where guests can stand and be surrounded by the water — even overhead.
We decided not to see any shows this past visit and the crowds were large, but we still had a great time. Now my family is looking forward to the Christmas Celebration at SeaWorld starting November 23rd!
Editor’s note: We’re happy to have Salina join our group of contributors and, among other endeavors, help us provide monthly SeaWorld trip reports for our readers!
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