When I was growing up in Florida, SeaWorld Orlando was just a zoo for underwater creatures. These days, with its roller coasters and massive play park, this Orlando theme park has something that will appeal to animal lovers and thrill seekers. We recently visited with five kids in tow, ranging in age from 8 to 13, and they all had a blast. Here are six reasons to include SeaWorld in your trip to Orlando:

1. SHAMU’S HAPPY HARBOR PLAY AREA
For families with little ones who may be frustrated about not being able to ride the big roller coasters, Shamu’s Happy Harbor will make them jump for joy. There is an ocean-themed carousel (ride the sea creature of your choice), an enormous climbing structure with slides, a small roller coaster and other carnival-type rides for smaller children. Families with young children could easily enjoy an entire afternoon in this one section of the park, which happens to be adjacent to the Shamu show stadium.

2. SEAWORLD ORLANDO RIDES FOR BIG KIDS
One of the biggest changes from 1970s SeaWorld is the addition of two roller coasters that are notfor the faint of heart. The Manta and Kraken are definitely for thrill-seekers who are 54”or taller. The ‘tweens and teen in our group rode them multiple times without tiring of them. SeaWorld Orlando also has a log flume ride, Journey to Atlantis, in which you will definitely get wet — something to look forward to on a hot Florida day. This ride does not have the height requirements that the other roller coasters do. My daughter rode this ride FOUR times and still wanted to return!

3. ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS AT NO SIGNIFICANT EXTRA COST
Guests have the opportunity to feed several sea animals including dolphins, stingrays, sharks, and sea lions. The feeding times for each animal vary, but the times will be posted at the entrance. Our group fed the stingrays, which is quite a unique experience, and the bait only cost $5. (There are hand-washing facilities at every feeding location to wash that fishy smell away.) SeaWorld Orlando does offer more intimate animal encounters at an additional cost.

4. SEAWORLD ORLANDO SHOWS
I am such a mom! I like it when my kids can actually learn something in the midst of having fun. While all of the animal shows are entertaining, I appreciate the fact that the common theme among all of them was the importance of conservation and human stewardship. We especially enjoyed the 360° film about sea turtles!

5. MAJOR ATTRACTION AMENITIES
SeaWorld Orlando offers many of the park amenities that make families’ visits more efficient and economical: fast passes, meal plans, multi-park packages, and roaming photographers. SeaWorld even has its own water park, Aquatica, which we didn’t have time to visit, but looks really fun!

6. GREAT LOCATION FOR VACATIONERS
For visitors to Orlando who are staying on International Drive, the main tourist corridor, SeaWorld is at the west end of that major road. Hilton Orlando is only one mile away from SeaWorld and offers a free shuttle to and from the hotel. In fact, when we stayed at Hilton Orlando we enjoyed watching SeaWorld’s fireworks display on several nights.

Unlike some of the other parks we visited during our Orlando trip, SeaWorld seemed less rushed and hectic. Maybe it was the soothing music or the overcast weather that day. Or maybe it was our first stop at the dolphin nursery that I found so relaxing, where we watched mother dolphins with their babies. I could have easily whiled away the whole day watching them. SeaWorld Orlando has something to enthrall everyone in the family, and we all look forward to a return visit.

This article was originally published by Hilton Mom Voyage.

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