Living in Florida we have an abundance of theme park choices. We have the world famous Walt Disney World, where you can let out your inner child free. From Princesses to Star Wars battles, they have you covered. Disney property is a city within itself, everything you need is on property, and millions from around the world flock here every year. Then we have the epic Universal parks for the thrill seekers and the Harry Potter lovers. From battling dragons, or standing side by side with your favorite super hero (or Villain) this park is a real adrenaline rush. Next we have Sea World and Busch Gardens for the up close more educational animal experiences, and also Lego Land for the little builders delight. Florida also has the little small ones scattered through the state, that could easily be classified as a permanent state fair. Since living here, we definitely take advantage of having these right in our "backyard".
Before I go further, yes I am aware of the film BlackFish, and yes I do have a problem with the ethical choices they chose, as well as any other captivity centers. However, I do want my kids to be able to see some of these animals up close in person (without dropping thousands), learn about the impacts we have on our planet, importance of recycling, and other environmental factors that these zoos teach. I also know that they do really help with our oceans, have ended captive breeding, and this will be the last year of the Orca shows. Please spare me the angst, and hatred for past actions, we are in unison here. Moving on...
Being a Florida resident majority of the theme parks offer a pretty sweet deal for just living here. Surprisingly even with all the tourism, Floridians are their biggest money makers. With Florida annual passes majority of the parks pay for themselves within a few visits. However, Sea World/Busch Gardens takes the cake for best bang for your buck as a Florida resident. Hear me out on this one. Kids under the age of 6 are FREE! You read that right, FREE, Like zero dollars. They call it the preschool pass. You have to register them online, and pick up your ticket before your little one is 6. Best part there isn't a limit on how many times you can do this. The preschool pass has been offered for the last four years, and we love it. While the boys are free, Trey and I only have to worry about our passes. As any Floridian knows, a one day ticket can be pricey, well not with Sea World. They offer something called a "Fun Card", basically buy one day get the rest of the year for FREE. What person doesn't like FREE stuff?
On top of being a budget friendly on tickets and passes, it is an easy park. You are probably asking, "What do you mean easy?". Sea World is a park you can do in a day and not feel completely drained for a drive back home. Being about a 2.5 hour drive, this is a nice feature. Our family loves a good day trip. Universal and Disney you are looking at a few days or at minimum an overnight trip. This is another point on the budget scale for us, as it is saves more on our wallet while still providing the fun memories. Every trip, we feel like we experience something different. From spending more time on rides, to spending hours watching animals, or cramming in a new show, it is always an exciting trip. Our little bubble boy really loves animals, so watching his face when he gets to see one close up is a magical moment. While watching my kids smile and create memories, they are also learning. Education is definitely a top priority for our family, and we try to (re)create as much hands on learning as possible. Here the boys are able to see turtles, manatees, whales, sting rays, and other sea life up close in person. We ask them questions after each animal, "How did they feel?", or "What is their favorite snack?". Now that little man is reading, he reads us the signs to "teach us" about the animals. This trip our family learned that Orca's are in the dolphin family along with Pilot whales.
Some tips we have found for making Sea World (or theme parks in general) bearable with young kids....First up is pick your arrival time, either arrive EARLY or go for the later crowd. This way you can do as much as possible before the little's nap, or manage to do the driving during nap and then get the heavy snooze on the way home. Second, don't waste the money on the express pass. It is ridiculously expensive, and it is only to be used once. So if you use it on one ride you can't reuse it on the same ride later. The only ride it is "worth" is the penguin ride. To avoid dropping the $70 express pass, do the walk through for this one. This ride is better for older kids anyways, if your older one really wants to go, they can wait in the line with you. This year the wait times during our trips have been relatively short, ranging from 5-30 minutes tops, so save some green and skip this add on. Third, go see the animal shows. All of them if you are up to the challenge. They are spread out to where there is a new show after another. After you see the Walrus show, jet over to Shamu, or the house pet show. Your kids will love them, and so will you especially since they tend to throw in some adult humor. Ideally have someone score seats about 15-20 minutes prior so you can get the good seats, you know the ones where you get real wet. Furthermore September is the slowest month for our theme parks, which is a benefit for us who live in the state. Last trip we literally walked onto the rides. Last tip is the most obvious, pack snacks, waters (a lot), and lunches. Theme park food is TERRIBLE. Not only is it terrible, it is horribly expensive. Since when have french fries cost $10?
All in all this is still a great park for a family. Everyone has a blast, and the memories will last forever. Our boys sure do love our Sea World days. We hope you do too!