5 First-Time Tips for SeaWorld Orlando
My last visit to a SeaWorld park came back in the late 90’s, right before SeaWorld Ohio and Geauga Lake merged to become Six Flags Ohio. Back then the park did not have any rides due to a non-compete clause with the next door amusement park. I can’t recall a lot of that visit, except for a few animals and the water ski show. Fast forward some 20 plus years and I finally had a chance to visit another SeaWorld property. Needless to say I was really looking forward to experiencing one of these parks again for essentially the first time.
Not really knowing what to expect regarding wait times, food, or shows, I tried to do a little research before the trip and plan accordingly. Here are my 5 First-Time Tips for SeaWorld Orlando:
1. Arrive early and stay to close.
I’ve seen all over the internet that SeaWorld is not a full-day park. Sure, it may not have the collection of coasters and thrill rides you can find at Busch Gardens or a Cedar Fair park, but it does have a lot to offer if you go looking for it. There are a number of small aquariums located around the park, underneath ride stations, in gift shops, or as stand alone attractions. The shows are awesome, but short, so you may want to plan to go back and see your favorite one again. SeaWorld tends to be at its busiest around midday, leaving the first couple and last couple hours with a lighter crowd.
I suggest getting to the park before rope drop (even though some rides may not open until up to an hour after). We found Manta up and running right at 9:00 when we entered the park. Knowing this ride would get busy later in the day, we jumped in line and got on in just 20 minutes. Later that day, wait times for Manta were pushing over an hour. This was easily my favorite B&M Flyer; the unique layout and scenery sets it apart from the Superman: Ultimate Flights out there.
2. Ride Journey to Atlantis early.
When planning our trip, I read and heard from multiple people to expect long lines at Journey to Atlantis. And along with the lines, expect to possibly get soaked. As I walked by the ride entrance around 9:45, I noticed it wasn’t open yet, but there was a short line forming. I decided that it was likely that it would open within a few minutes (around 10:00), so I hopped in line.
I guessed correctly and the queue filled up right behind me. While in line I saw people exiting the ride and it was hit-or-miss if they were wet or not, so I was hopeful as I didn’t want to have wet socks for the rest of the day. After about a 10 minute wait, I was boarding and got my feet propped up on a little bar under the seat in front of me.
Point of view videos do not do this ride justice. The indoor water sections of the layout are incredibly well themed and the coaster track sections are quick and thrilling! I loved how it wasn’t just the first half being a boat ride and the second half being a coaster, it jumps back and forth a couple times during the course. As for the soaked feet, I was lucky and didn’t get any more wet than the light sprinking you tend to get on a log flume. But if you do get soaked, it will be on the small five foot drop after the large plunge out of the main building.
3. If you have children, visit Sesame Street Land before the afternoon crowds (and heat).
We were visiting the park with my five year old son so making it over to Sesame Street Land was on the agenda. Unfortunately we made the mistake of waiting until the crowds were at their peak to make our way over there. Lines for all of the kid rides were over 30 minutes and the mostly unshaded pavement in that area made the whole section feel 10 degrees hotter than the rest of the park.
We also waited a very long time in line for drinks and the line never moved so we packed up and headed out of Sesame Street Land. The rides we did get on were great, but would’ve been a lot more enjoyable without the crowds. Go early!
4. Get the All-Day Dining Deal.
At $45 the All-Day Dining Deal may seem steep, but when a meal (entree/side/drink) costs you between $18-25, it easily pays for itself in two restaurant visits. With the deal, you can get a full meal, side or dessert, and a drink every hour. Having the ability to grab a drink or an ICEE even when you weren’t hungry was a life saver during our 95° day.
The food was also exceptional. SeaWorld has 8 restaurants that accept the All-Day Dining Deal and I highly recommend visiting the all new Lakeside Grill. There they serve up delicious Mediterranean dishes, such as kabobs with rice, falafel, hummus, fish sandwiches, roasted vegetables, and garlic parmesan fries. During our lunch there, we sampled a little bit of everything and it was some of the best park food I’ve ever had. Everything was served hot, fresh, and in generous portion sizes.
The other food stand I recommend hitting up is Mama’s Pretzel Kitchen located just outside Sesame Street Land. I am a sucker for a good pretzel and when it comes to theme park pretzels, you never know what you’re going to get. Having had excellent pretzels at the Busch Gardens parks, I was hopeful when I saw this place on SeaWorld’s map.
It was totally different than the pretzel stands at Busch Gardens, but just as good. The pretzels were more like loafs (about the size of a Dollywood cinnamon bread) and came in salted, cinnamon sugar, pepperoni, or cheese. They also have nuggets, a pretzel dog, and a bizarre, but tasty, preztel burger that comes completely encased in the dough. All of their pretzels are then served with house made kettle chips (weird side to a pretzel, but I’ll gladly take it).
5. Don’t feel the need to rush.
If you have the whole day to spend at SeaWorld, use all of it. Don’t worry about getting everything in, you will. Between the incredible coasters, great food, and amazing creatures to explore there is definitely a full day’s worth of fun at this park.
If you are anxious about the other wait times on the coasters, I will be happy to inform you that Kraken never had a wait longer than 10 minutes and Mako seems to always be at a steady 30-45 minutes.
The park’s website suggests getting to the shows about a half hour prior to showtime. This is a great baseline, but we found that there were no problem getting in during the afternoon shows. You could walk in minutes before the start and find an easy seat (keep in mind reservations were still required that day, so capacity was potentially not full).
I hope these tips help you on an upcoming visit to SeaWorld! If you have visited the park before, do you have any additional helpful hints for first-timers?
Bonus tip: If you need a break from the sun, go check out Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin.
After several hours in the hot Florida sun, you are most definitely going to need a breather. Even though the ride portion of Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is currently closed (as of June 2021), you can still go in and see the penguins in their habitat. Not only is the exhibit indoors, it is a cool 35° inside! During our trip, we cooled off for a good 30 minutes before heading back out into the park — a much needed refresher!