SeaWorld Orlando trip report – February 2014 (Bands, Brew & BBQ, Larry the Cable Guy, Shamu Up Close)
When SeaWorld announced that Larry the Cable Guy would be the headline event at Bands, Brew & BBQ this past Sunday, we knew we had to go see him. So we all piled into the car with shouts of “get ‘er done” and drove down for a day in the park.
We got there early enough that the crowds had yet to arrive, so we hurried over to Antarctica before a line formed. The sign informed us of a 15-minute wait, but there was no wait at all – I’ve never seen Antarctica this empty before.
We enjoyed our ride through Puck’s journey and were delighted to enter the penguin exhibit. Many of the older chicks are losing their down and are able to swim now, so the water was full of very active penguins leaping out of the water – so active that we even thought one was going to jump over the glass right at us, causing the kids to squeal with delight.
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As we left the cold area of the penguins and wandered towards the underwater viewing area, we discovered that this season’s chicks were all gathered in one spot where we could see them clearly.
The nearby trainer patiently answered everyone’s questions as she showed off some actual penguin eggs that didn’t hatch.
We made our way through the park, stopping for some family members to brave the chill and ride Journey to Atlantis (now that it’s reopened from its maintenance), and then shuffled through a crowded Shark Encounter to see the sharks swimming overhead.
As we rounded the corner towards Shamu Stadium, we were surprised to find the area surrounded by green construction walls. The only sign explaining the work being done was that it would be part of the Sea of Surprises program starting March 21, which celebrates SeaWorld’s 50th anniversary.
There was no way to see over the walls, so I’m very anxious to find out what’s going on back there.
Also under construction is Shamu Stadium; it’s still closed as they resurface and do maintenance on the main pool.
Tarps now cover portions of the stadium’s seating, and, as I found out from the Sky Tower, the entire area is covered up to prevent anyone from seeing what’s going on. SeaWorld definitely knows how to hide their construction really well.
With their biggest show closed for renovations, SeaWorld has opened Shamu Up Close to still allow guests to see the killer whales.
This visit, I got through the line in time to see one of the mini-shows they do each hour. The whales performed some of their signature jumps, which are incredibly impressive when you’re only 25 feet away from them!
We then headed to the underwater viewing area, which is just breathtaking. These massive creatures swim by so gracefully.
At one point, all the whales even came right up to the glass, as if looking through to see everyone. Simply amazing!
At this point, we stopped somewhere different for lunch – Mango Joe’s Cafe.
This lunch spot near Wild Arctic had some great burgers (I highly recommend the Joe Double), as well as a nice outdoor patio seating area.
We put this one on the “must repeat” restaurant list.
We then ventured to Shamu’s Happy Harbor to see the rides for the younger crowd.
We are always impressed, as these are not your typical kiddy rides. They have a sea-themed carousel, a miniature drop tower, and even a kiddy rollercoaster. My teenagers just had to ride the kiddy coaster and found it to be actually “kinda cool” (their exact words – high praise from teenagers). The coaster even took their picture as they went down the hill, just like the big coasters.
Next we made a quick run through Wild Arctic (the ride portion is now open again), the dolphin nursery, and took a quick ride on Manta.
Finally, it was time to head to the Bands, Brew & BBQ section of the park. The enticing aroma of barbecue permeated the area as I entered the pathway.
Places to sample different craft brews, as well as offerings from some of the area’s most delicious barbecue establishments, line the walkways, with plenty of tables and chairs for seating along the waterfront.
Local bands perform to the crowds, and a kid’s area is even available inside Ports of Call with games, animals, and character meets-‘n-greets.
While I didn’t sample any of the beer or barbecue in the area (too close to driving-home-time), the smells definitely tempted me. Instead, we plugged on to Bayside Stadium to see Larry the Cable Guy.
We had arrived 30 minutes prior to showtime only to find the stadium completely full already. Plenty of lawn seating was still available on either side of the stadium, though, with televisions set up so we could see the action.
Signs had been posted throughout the park warning guests that Larry the Cable Guy’s routine might not be for everyone, but as he started, it was obvious some people had chosen to ignore them.
As the Viagra jokes began, families with small children began to leave the area. We tried to grab seats inside the stadium as others left but were unable to… other families were quicker.
We soon gave up our quest for an actual seat and just sat on the lawn to watch it on the monitor. The sound quality from the show was very good (and was piped through the entire Bands, Brew & BBQ area for those who didn’t want lawn seating), and we found the experience very enjoyable despite our lack of seats.
The positive side to sitting on the lawn was that, as the show ended, we found it worked really well in getting out ahead of the crowd leaving the theater.
We drove home with my son repeating the jokes he’d heard (I’m hoping he forgets some of them before going back to school) and the whole family already asking if we could go back for another show before the event ends on March 9.
SeaWorld Orlando trip report – photo gallery
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