Fulfilling a lifelong dream at SeaWorld, Florida

dolphins at SeaWorld

Seeing dolphins was Sarah’s dream

Sarah Ebner blogs at Family Travel Times. Here, she reviews one of the premiere attractions in Orlando, Florida.

One of our recent family trips was part of a cherished dream that I had for as long as I can remember: to visit two worlds, Disney and Sea. I clearly recall aching to see a dolphin show, especially after my best friend told me about her trip when I was still at primary school.

My parents never did take us to Florida and I had to wait more than 30 years to visit SeaWorld myself, now with my own children. You’ll be pleased to know that it – especially the dolphins – was worth the wait.

SeaWorld has much to offer families. It’s less frenetic than the other theme parks and has far shorter queues. That makes it a lovely and relatively relaxing day out.

Sarah Ebner & family at SeaWorld Orlando

Shorter queues and fewer crowds made SeaWorld a relatively chilled park visit

We started our day with a Rescue and Rehabilitation tour. This introduced us to the “behind the scenes” work at SeaWorld. We met turtles that had been rescued and found out that they are put in fresh water as opposed to sea water to get rid of all the “bad stuff” (in the words of our guide) which might be clinging to them.

Our tour guide Kayla told us lots of information and interesting facts. We discovered that SeaWorld rescues more birds than any other creature and that a tree frog, treated for skin lesions, was the smallest animal they’d helped.

One of the early highlights was touching some small white spotted bamboo sharks. I thought this was remarkable and my son and daughter declared it to be “awesome.” Fortunately our fingers are still intact.

We also found out that sharks, as our guide told us, “act like the garbage cans of the ocean” because they eat diseased fish (if they didn’t, we would). We were told that hundreds of thousands of sharks are killed each year for their fins, and we also discovered why the skin of the little sharks we touched was so rough if you stroked it backwards instead of forwards. It’s because they have tiny, prickly, teeth there.

It was extremely exciting to see a (huge) polar bear in his den, and find out the different ways in which the staff try to keep him and his fellow bears happy and busy (they use a variety of toys, and sometimes spoil the bears with ice lollies). We also met a gorgeous 14-year-old penguin called Newman, who had a surprisingly loud shriek. We all enjoyed stroking her, even my non-pet-loving husband.

boy with penguin

Getting up close with a penguin

Once the tour was over, we were lucky enough to continue to have Kayla as our guide, which meant we managed to skip the long queues, particularly for feeding the dolphins.

This was an incredible experience and, as you can probably hear from the audio clip, we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

Feeding the dolphins

Feeding the dolphins

SeaWorld is famous, not only for its gorgeous animals, but for the shows they take part in. There are a number of these, including the Shamu whale show (although the original Shamu is long gone). We watched the dolphin show and it made me feel as if a childhood dream had come true. It was what I imagined as a child but better. Believe it or not, I even shed a tear.

We also saw the sea lion show, which is completely different, and much more humorous. The children absolutely adored this, and laughed heartily away.

The kids loved the jokey sea lion show

The kids loved the jokey sea lion show

All in all we had a magnificent day at SeaWorld, and I haven’t even told you everything. We also fed sea lions and saw manatees, which we had never even heard of before. These huge animals (known also as sea elephants) are only found in warm tropical and subtropical waters, so they’re not something we would be used to in the UK. SeaWorld is the global leader in rescuing and rehabilitating manatees and we loved looking at one happily doing backstroke, oblivious to the curious crowd gathered around him. We also walked through Shark Encounter – which takes you into an underwater viewing tunnel with sharks swimming all around you. It’s not the kind of place you’d like to be if there was any risk of the glass cracking.

SeaWorld has other “attractions” on offer too. We visited TurtleTrek, which is a 3D film showcasing the sea turtle and its journey from birth. There are also some rollercoasters which are supposed to be terrific. However we were happy to stay at ground level, have a ride-free day and meet some fabulous sea creatures instead.

Sarah Ebner and her family were guests of SeaWorld.

The best value for money ticket for UK guests is a 3-Park Ticket:  The 3-Park Ticket offers 14 days unlimited entry to SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica and Busch Gardens Tampa. Prices start from £93 per person, for more information and bookings please visit www.seaworldparks.co.uk  

The Behind The Scenes (Rescue and Rehabiliation) tour is free for those staying in a SeaWorld Partner Hotel. Otherwise it starts from £9 for children and £21 for adults.

The VIP tour starts at £189 for children and £209 for adults from www.seaworldparks.co.uk.

SeaWorld’s latest attraction, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, opens to guests on 24th May.  It will transport families into a rarely seen, icy world, with visitors seeing the South Pole through the eyes of a penguin.


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About Sarah Ebner

Sarah Ebner is a journalist who blogs (with her daughter) about family travel and days out at Family Travel Times. She spent five years as editor of the Times education blog School Gate, where she won the award for outstanding online commentary in 2012. She has been shortlisted four times at the British Press Awards and written for almost every national newspaper. Sarah was a producer and occasional reporter for BBC Newsnight, and is the author of The Starting School Survival Guide (published by White Ladder). She now works on the Times Sports Desk.


  1. 04 June 2013 / 23:07

    We’ve been talking about going and you make it sound very, very appealing

    • 05 June 2013 / 12:10

      It really is! Could you tell how much I loved it?!

  2. 05 June 2013 / 11:05

    Oh we missed so much! We visited on our last day in Orlando, and had to get to the airport. But not before seeing the Shamu and dolphin shows, during both of which I also cried 🙂
    I’m writing up my post as I type – if it’s ok with you, I’ll link to this post for the extra advice you have.

    • 05 June 2013 / 12:09

      Of course, Helen, that would be lovely. It really was a great place to visit, and my feeling is that you never have enough time in Orlando!

  3. 05 June 2013 / 17:45

    I love this post, especially the recordings of your children. It sounds like you had a wonderful time – I can’t wait to go there with my two.