This Spring, my family and I took our first major theme park trip of the season. Luckily, we’re only an 8-hour drive from the themeparkopolis of Central Florida. With our kids’ interest in animals and their Dad’s interest in world-class roller coasters, I thought SeaWorld Orlando would make for a fun adventure. Like SeaWorld Parks’ dryer parks, Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Busch Gardens Tampa, SeaWorld Orlando has the same high bar for theming, park operations, landscaping, and top-notch rides. Ever Seen a Break Dancing Orca? I seldom see the shows at theme parks as roller coasters are my main focus, but since this was a family trip shows were a big part of the experience. I wasn’t dissapointed. The shows were quite entertaining. Seeing those big, 3 ton whales in person is awesome. The biggest tip that learned about seeing shows is that it pays to get to the shows early for good seats. The seats closer to the performance area were marked with warnings to let guests know that they may get wet, but the view would have been worth it in my opinion. One Ocean is the main show and it showcases Shamu. Or should I say the shamus? In it, several orcas perform a number of synchronized jumps. The trainers remained on the stage giving the orcas treats between stunts. The highlight for me was watching one of them break dancing by spinning on a platform at the front of the arena. I really enjoyed the cirque du soleil-like Blue Horizons. The show merged birds, dolphins, and a neat-looking false killer whale. The human performers did high dives and performed acrobatic maneuvers on rigs above the water at times. I don’t want to spoil it, but there’s a rather large bird that makes a surprising appearance during this show that causes a lot of ooh’s and ahh’s. Later in the day, when I was off riding some coasters, my wife and kids checked out Shamu Rocks. They seemed to really like it. From the sounds of it, it’s less theatrical and dramatic and just more fun. I also overheard guests saying that they liked the music from Shamu Rocks a lot more than One Ocean. Animals Everywhere – Some of SeaWorld Orlando’s Exhibits I love how SeaWorld and sister park Busch Gardens Tampa incorporate animal exhibits throughout the park. There’s not a zoo section or area, the exhibits are fully integrated into experiencing the park. My daughters were a little skittish so my attempt to show them the mantas and seahorses in the manta exhibit was thwarted. I made the mistake of mentioning an octopus that I remembered from my last visit and my oldest was too afraid to go in because she might catch a glimpse of it. We did see the flamingos and ducks. And, the dolphin nursery was another highlight. Unfortunately, the turtles were acclimating to their new environment in SeaWorld’s new 3D 360 Turtle Trek attraction. Again, my kids weren’t in the most courageous mood, but there are a number of other exhibits where guests can get up close and personal with the marine life. SeaWorld Orlando’s Roller Coasters I was with the family the majority of the day checking out the shows, animals, and visiting the kids area. The last hour I had a chance to ride some of the park’s roller coasters. Shamu Express is a small Zierer family coaster in the Shamu’s Happy Harbor area of the park. SeaWorld even themed this pint-sized coaster. The unusually long train has an orca on the front car. My coaster-riding daughter wasn’t feeling brave. So, I tackled the ride solo. It has a surprising bit of force for a smaller coaster. Manta is the park’s signature roller coaster. The impressive flying coaster is a top 20 steel coaster for me. It not only boasts the excitement of the face-down flying position and fun loops, but it also features a show-stopping swoop to a pond that triggers a neat splash effect. Manta also has one of the coolest queues around with its large marine life exhibits integrated right into the queue. I was hoping to get a quick ride in, but the line was moving very slow. So, I bailed. I rode Manta several times back when it opened during its media day. Read my review here: Manta at SeaWorld Orlando Even though it was looking a little rainy and I wasn’t really interested in getting wet, I needed a fresh ride on Journey to Atlantis so that I could write a good review. The water roller coaster is basically a lengthy and highly-themed shoot-the-chute water ride with a short tracked coaster section. It’s an okay ride, but as I said in my review, I wish there was a bit more coaster and a bit less water. I got a little wet from the ride and the rain. Read my full review here: Journey to Atlantis at SeaWorld Orlando Kraken is a large floorless looping roller coaster that looms over the back of the park. The ride’s teal track is probably one of the first things many see as they approach SeaWorld. It was drizzling and the park was about to close, but I was hoping that I could slip in a quick ride on Kraken. I might have been better off skipping it. I’m a huge fan of the ride’s designers (Bolliger & Mabillard), as their rides are known for their smoothness, but Kraken was uncharacteristically rough. I wish that I would have asked Bob Mampe about this, but I’m thinking that the roughness had to do with the empty train as there was only one other rider when I rode it. And, I remember a similar experience when I rode Dominator at Geauga Lake. It was rough when empty and much, much less so when it had more riders. Anyway, it’s a great ride, but I caught it in an unusual state. Read my full review here: Kraken at SeaWorld Orlando Here’s a recap of the lessons that I learned from our SeaWorld trip: Don’t mention potentially scary animals to daughters. Plan ahead and get to the shows early to get a good seat. If large a looping roller coaster has empty trains, think twice about riding it. Always bring a car remote, so the family’s not stuck walking aimlessly around a large parking lot (in the rain!). Have you been to SeaWorld Orlando? What’s your take on the park? What’s your favorite show, exhibit, or ride? Got some tips to share? Leave a comment below. Image 1 via CC Flickr User – Colleen Pence, Image 2 via CC Flickr User – stevendepolo, Image 4 via CC Flickr User – hyku 13 Responses Owen June 25, 2012 I haven't been to Seaworld Orlando before, but I'm going next February. Kraken and Manta look fun, and it would be fun for the rest of the family to ride Shamu Express or Journey to Atlantis. Nice post, had me smiling for a bit. Reply The Coaster Critic June 26, 2012 Thanks. I'm glad you liked the post. I'll be posting our own pics and videos soon too. There's really a lot to do at SeaWorld. You could easily spend two days there depending on the ages and interests of the people in your group. Thanks for reading. Reply Aric June 26, 2012 My last couple rides on Kraken-about a year ago-were oddly rough, and my only ride on Dominator a week ago was REALLY rough. Total bummer too, I love floorless coasters, and neither of those were much fun at all. Dillon June 26, 2012 That really shocks me, because I rode Kraken last year and it felt smooth, powerful, intense, but not rough. And one of the rides had a very small amount of people on-board (Maybe 10?) But, rides can run differently every day, so you can't tell for sure if Kraken is losing it's comfort. The Coaster Critic June 26, 2012 Maybe there's a big enough difference (when you consider weight distribution) between 2 and 10 people. Just a guess. delahoussaye June 26, 2012 Did you go to disney because if you did can you please do a review of expedition everest . Reply Aric June 26, 2012 You know, I think I wrote a review of this a year or so ago… Reply The Coaster Critic June 30, 2012 I haven't been, but check back for an awesome guest review from Aric this Monday. Thanks for reading! Reply Mike M. June 26, 2012 Kraken's probably been my most ridden (and favorite) coaster here in Orlando. I don't think I've ever experienced any roughness on it, even when I rode it one day after work right before closing with almost nobody on it. Maybe seat position has something to do with it? Besides the one time I rode front seat, I've almost always ridden Kraken in the last two rows (more airtime) and it has always been buttery smooth. Maybe the extra airtime cancelled out any roughness I would have experienced when I rode the empty train? At any rate, the wifey and I still plan on taking the same 8-9 hour drive up to your neck of the woods to visit Carowinds sometime this summer. I've got great expectations for that park! Reply The Coaster Critic June 26, 2012 I did ride in the front seat because there was no one in line. Maybe the front is shakier when it's empty. It was crazy. Very un-B&M. That's cool that you're coming up to check out Carowinds. We've got 13 roller coasters (two of which are world-class in my opinion) and 20 inversions (3rd most inversions of any park in the World). There's also a pretty large water park. I'll have to write up an overview of Carowinds sometime for visitors. Reply Prof.BAM June 26, 2012 I went back in 2010. I waited in line for Kraken for nearly an hour due to rain when i went, when I eventually got on, I experienced some of the roughness but I think it was lessened due to the speed that the rain brought. I loved Manta. One of my favorite coasters so far. On my one ride on Journey to Atlantis, some non-riding members of my party took a picture of a car coming down the main drop. It wasn't until later that they realized that the car they took a picture of was the one I was riding in. :^) Reply Alex Fahner June 26, 2012 I love the Kraken! It's such a great coaster! The line for it was do short when I headed down to Florida! Reply Gearhart June 27, 2012 Seaworld is such a great, laid back park and any park with penguins is cool in my book. I'm gonna have to go back when the Antarctica exhibit/attraction opens. The one time I went JTA was in rehab unfortunately. But Manta was amazing and Kraken was pretty good as well although I experienced the same shakiness you described sitting in the front and was wondering why everyone raved about it so much. I'll have to give it another go and maybe try a different seat. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.