SeaWorld can easily be done in a day depending on the time of year you go. When I visited with my family back in November, the park wasn't crowded at all. We even arrived 3 hours after the park opened and still covered everything by the time the park closed at 10 p.m.
Whether crowded or not, some planning is required in order to tackle the park in a day. What I'm about to share with you is my process for systematically going through SeaWorld with a one-day admission pass. Please understand this is not a LAW or the ONLY way to do SeaWorld...it's merely a suggestion. Feel free to tweak things as you see fit.
1. Get Preferred Parking: General parking is $25.00 for the day, but for $5.00 more, you can get preferred parking, which allows you to park very close to the entrance. This is EVERYTHING to me for a couple of reasons. First of all, it saves you so much time when you're heading in and out.
And second, at the end of the day after walking a bazillion miles, your feet will be tired and maybe swollen. With preferred parking, you're only steps away from your car. No tram. No long walk. No swollen feet. You'll be glad you spent the extra $5 bucks!
(Ninja Tip: Preferred parking also comes in handy if you want to go to the car for lunch, or to change out of your sopping wet clothes after riding water rides. But more about this later.)
2. Know Before You Go: I call this the pre-planning phase. Before I visit any theme park, I go online and pull up the map. This way you're familiar with the lay of the land and you'll have an idea of the rides, shows, and restaurants you plan to visit. You can download a printable map of SeaWorld Orlando here.
Ninja Tip: Allow each family member to pick one "must-do" activity that day. Once you compile all of this information, it will help you lay out your day in an organized fashion.
3. The Flamingo Walk: These tall, stately birds are a sight to behold as you watch them walk from their after-hours home to their daytime hangout. This parade, if you will, happens in the morning around the time the park opens (sometimes it'll happen twice in the day!) So as soon as you enter the park, ask the nearest SeaWorld team member where the flamingo walk can be found.
4. Hit the Shows First: Before entering the park, we already know which shows we plan to see. The key is starting with the shows first. In particular the shows ending the earliest. Then we work your way backward to the shows ending the latest. It's nothing worse than wanting to see the Shamu show and finding out the last show ended at 3 p.m.
SeaWorld Orlando has 4 shows:
Ninja Tip: Arrive at least 30 minutes before the show for a good seat (and photo ops of the dolphins and whales). On busy days, arrive 45 minutes early. The most crowded shows are mid-day or the last show. Also consider purchasing signature seating, which reserves your seats at each of the above-mentioned shows.
5. Water Rides: We sprinkle water rides in between shows, when the sun is out in full source. We've found that this is a great way to stay cool in Florida's brutal sun. Not to mention there's plenty of day left to completely dry off before traveling home. (There's nothing worse than riding home in wet jeans, believe me, I know from first-hand experience!!)
There's only 2 water rides here at SeaWorld Orlando:
Ninja Tip: If you get extremely wet, (which can happen from just sitting in the splash zone area at the killer whale show), simply go to your car and change into warm, dry clothes. (Yet another benefit of preferred parking!)
6. Time for a Quick Lunch: Assuming you've already eaten a big breakfast and perhaps a light snack and taken in some shows and water rides, now is a good time to slow things down and eat a hearty lunch.
Bringing in big coolers filled with food is not allowed at SeaWorld, but they do allow some food. We pack things like PB&J sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, ham & cheese sandwiches, muffins, protein bars, pretzels, chips, cookies, grapes, apples and things like this. We also bring our own bottled water and juice boxes for the kids.
Ninja Tip: Some families opt for the All-Day Dining plan, which is super convenient and allows you to eat at participating restaurant locations as often as once every hour until the park closes. The adult plan is $29.95 and for children 3-9 is $13.95.
7. Animal Experiences/Encounters: Once you've eaten, you're ready for the different encounters and experiences SeaWorld has to offer.
Animal experiences include:
You can feed and pet the velvety soft rays at Stingray Lagoon.
At the Manatee Rehabilitation area, learn more about these gentle giants who have been rescued for various reasons.
Get up close and personal with five species of penguins at Empire of the Penguin.
8. Roller Coaster Rides: What better way to end your day at SeaWorld than riding exhilarating roller coasters! What makes this so perfect is by this time of afternoon, many families have already begun taking the kiddies home. So the lines are short as are the wait times. In some cases, you'll be able to walk right up to the ride and get on.
The 3 Roller coasters rides include:
I hope this guide has been super helpful to you. Do you have any additional suggestions? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
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Kimberly is the owner of Travel Kimestry. Her areas of expertise include The Bahamas, The Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, Europe and ALL THINGS DISNEY. She’s passionate about working with families who enjoy traveling the world. She looks forward to working with YOU soon!