Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring Break - Family Vacation Part 2

After spending the day at the Magic Kingdom on Tuesday, we used Wednesday as a day of rest and hung out by the pool at the resort.

YB playing air-guitar while coming down the water slide at the resort.

Thursday we headed to Sea World. I must say, I was not overly enthused to go to Sea World, but in the end I was pleasantly surprised and very glad we went.

I grew up in San Diego and went to Sea World every time anybody came to visit. When we were stationed in San Diego for my department head tour, we bought the annual passes to Sea World and those were totally worth it. It was really nice being able to just go for an hour or two, do just a couple of things, and leave not worrying about whether you got your money's worth for the price of a full-day's admission.

So my lack of enthusiasm about going to Sea World was mostly a "been there, done that" type of attitude.

However, I didn't object to going because (a) the boys haven't been in a long time (6-year old YB certainly doesn't remember being at Sea World as a toddler), and (b) it was FREE. In case you didn't know, Anheuser-Busch's Here's to the Heroes program offers each military family one free admission per year into any of their parks. We hadn't used ours yet for 2010, so we figured why not?

Well, a lot of the same exhibits are there that have always been there like...

the shark exhibit...

the sting-ray petting pool...
(photo taken by sticking my waterproof Olympus
in the petting pool and pushing the button)

(photo by ES)

the penguin encounter...

...and feeding the sea lions.

Each of those exhibits was really cool to see, of course, but then there were a few other things that really made me say to myself, "Self, I'm really glad we came here today."

1. The Dolphin Show

As you can imagine, having grown up in San Diego and been to Sea World dozens of times, I've seen the dolphin show. Been there. Done that. Don't want a t-shirt. Don't need to see it again, but okay, fine, I'll take the boys to see it.

I have to tell you, this show is no longer properly named. They still call it the dolphin show, but it's nothing like what I have seen before. This is more like a Cirque du Soliel show with acrobatics above and into the water. The dolphins make sort of a nice little exhibition appearance in the beginning and again at the end.

Aside from the acrobats though, another thing that made me say, "Wow," was the birds. There were a couple of places in the show where they released several colorful parrots from behind the audience that swooped low over our heads and flew in circles over the audience several times before flying to land on the arms of the trainers at the front of the stage (note the several blue and yellow parrots in the image above). Then there was one occasion when they opened a special box behind the audience and a very large bird of prey with at least a 2 meter wingspan of large black wings swooped down over our heads and flew behind the stage. I couldn't see it's head, so I still don't know what type of bird it was - eagle or condor of some sort. Even so, it was amazing.

2. This Guy

This mime kept us entertained while we waited for the sea lion and otter show to begin. He was hilarious. The sea lion and otter show itself was pretty corny and didn't do much for me, although the cast did a great job of working together when the sea lions didn't conform to the script of the show. The mime act was top-notch.

3. The Rides

I'm not used to doing roller coasters at Sea World. There were three major rides of sorts at Sea World Orlando: Atlantis, Manta, and Kraken.

Journey to Atlantis is a sort of a splash-mountain / log ride where you're gonna get wet. The wait was always between 75 min to 90 min for Atlantis, so I never did that one. I did, however, go on both Manta and Kraken (waits on the order of 30 minutes each).


Manta is a roller coaster where you lie down flat, and you're essentially flying (click on the link to see a video fly-through on the Sea World website). It was FAST and smooth and I LOVED it. The only part I didn't like about Manta was that it was too short. We waited in line for like 30 minutes and it felt like the ride lasted 30 seconds.

Self portrait in front of Kraken (the sea monster)
(Photo taken before I rode. I don' think I looked
so fierce after the ride.)

Kraken is a roller coaster where you sit up straight. I liked it in the beginning because I like going fast. I don't mind loops or steep drops. I just like going fast. Toward the end of the ride though, this one goes into a rapid series of very tight high-G turns.

I felt like I dislocated my stomach.

When I rode this Kraken, my brother-in-law and nephews were standing nearby watching me. As I came stumbling down the exit ramp from the ride, my nephew said, "Uncle Kevin, I could hear you screaming on that ride. Were you screaming out of terror or awesomeness?" I was glad he left me that way out, "Well, AWESOMENESS of course!"

In the end...

When we asked our kids whether they liked the Magic Kingdom or Sea World better, they didn't even hesitate before they both said, "Sea World." Their main reason was the lines. There was a lot less crowding at Sea World versus at the Magic Kingdom. In addition, I think there were a lot more hands-on things for them to do in static displays (for example, buying some fish and feeding the sea lions, or going to the petting pool, sticking your hands in and petting the stingrays) that didn't involve waiting an hour or more for a ride.

Another nice thing about Sea World is it's a lot easier to get out. When you're in the Magic Kingdom and decide you've had enough for the day and you're ready to go to dinner, you've still got an HOUR trek ahead of you before getting anywhere to eat. That is, unless you (a) made reservations months in advance for one of the sit-down restaurants in the park or (b) want to eat another fast-food-like hot dog (just like the one you ate for lunch). From the time you decide to leave the Magic Kingdom, it'll take you 45 minutes to get to your car and then another 15 minutes to get somewhere else to have dinner.

Not so with Sea World. We decided we had enough and it was time to go, and about 5 minutes later we were walking out the front gate toward our car. It was about 15 minutes later we were at a restaurant up on International Drive and sitting down to dinner. It's nice that Sea World doesn't have that big lake you have to cross to get from the parking area to the park and vice versa. :-)

In summary: It was a great day, and I was very glad we went!

P.S. One last tidbit...

I was living in San Diego when Anheuser-Busch bought the Sea World parks. I remember a lot of joking about Shamu jumping out of the water with a Budweiser sign emblazoned on her side. Sure enough, when visiting Sea World after the take-over, there was the new beer garden and there were Clydesdale horses and Anheuser-Busch emblems and paraphernalia everywhere.

During this visit to Sea World in Orlando, I was again pleasantly surprised. I didn't really see any heavy Budweiser or any other beer-related advertising in the park. There was actually only one place that I noticed the Anheuser Busch emblem... in the restrooms. Their distinctive A symbol was on each of the urinals and the faucets.

(Sorry, no photos of the urinal. Attempting that photo might have gotten me arrested and thrown out of the park.)

No comments: