Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sea World, Day 1: Crossing Off Bucket List Item #40!

Last week we decided to take a little mini-vacation to Orlando to spend a couple of days at Sea World. I mentioned before that my sister oh-so-kindly offered us Friends and Family passes to Busch Gardens ( a definite perk of her employment, as far as we're concerned), which are good not only for admission to Busch Gardens but also to Sea World and Adventure Island (plus free parking and a discount on food and souvenirs!). We decided we would love to take advantage of this and visit Sea World with our passes, and we knew we should probably do so before Eric leaves for Institute in June. So, we did a little "flexible searching" for Orlando resorts and discovered that last Wednesday and Thursday would be, at least hotel-wise, the cheapest dates to go in all of May. So, we found ourselves a fun resort (more on that later) and off we went!

We left Wednesday morning right around Ellie's naptime, in the hopes that she would sleep in the car. She did doze a bit, although not as much as we would've liked, but what can you do. It took us about an hour and a half until we saw this:

I spy Mickey!

Sure, we weren't headed to Disney World, but still - we all know what those mouse ears mean. Welcome to Orlando!

When we arrived we parked and then had a picnic lunch in the grass along the parking lot.

We're here!

Picnic lunch

Then we lathered ourselves with sunblock and were off!

Ellie looking adorably Sea World-ready!

When we first entered the park we had to check in for our Behind the Scenes Tour later that afternoon (trust me, you'll hear more about that very shortly) and then our plan was to run over to catch the orca show. Unfortunately, the showtimes we had looked up online were off, so there were no orcas to be seen. We tried to dash back over to the Pets Ahoy show (doggies for Ellie!) but that one was already full. Not an awesome start. We began to wander towards the sharks, but realized we were just in time for the sea lion and otter show, so we grabbed a seat for that. It was pretty cute, although if you ask me, there was too much story and not enough adorable sea lion and otter tricks. Ellie loved it, though! She sat perfectly through the whole thing and just watched.

Ellie and Eric before the show

There's a sea lion driving that boat!

Just hanging out

A surprise guest walrus!

Ellie watching the show

Taking a break from the action to review the map and plot out our next move

As soon as the show ended we hurried out of the theater and over to the Key West portion of the park to meet up with our Behind the Scenes Tour, which took us, well, behind the scenes. The told us a lot about the operation of the park and talked extensively about their sea animal rescue efforts, and we were even able to see some of their charges, including sea turtles and manatees.

Left: Ellie and me at the meeting spot for the tour; Right: Sea turtle in rehab

Ellie watching the manatees munch on some lettuce

We also got the opportunity to do some hands-on stuff, including touching a shark...

Ellie and Eric touching a shark

...and, the most exciting part of the day, pet a penguin, thus crossing off Item #40 on my bucket list! We were in the polar exhibit, hanging out next to a sleeping polar bear (behind glass, obviously), and they brought in a sweet little penguin named Cecilia. After letting her roam about a bit, we were all invited up to pet her. She was so soft! I loved it and Ellie also was pretty interested in the bird (she's on a real bird kick).


Left: Ellie and me taking our turn; Right: Family shot!

Eric's turn

One more time!

So yay, another bucket list item down! Actually, I'll be crossing another one off in less than a month (and another bird-related one, no less!), but I'll tell you more about that later this week!

After our penguin encounter the tour was over, so we were back to our own devices in the park.

Photo op!

We took a little bit of a rest-and-refresh break, then checked out the Arctic exhibit with polar bears and a walrus.

Left: Ellie on her tip-toes to watch the introductory video; Right: Polar bear with his giant paws over his face!

Walrus from the surface

Walrus underwater! He kept swimming back and forth and back and forth, and every time he would turn by the viewing window, it made this deep "whooomp" sound/feeling as he moved - very cool.

As we left that exhibit, it was getting pretty late, but we realized we were just in time to catch the One Ocean (a/k/a Shamu!) show. We debated just leaving the park for the day as we had planned, but ultimately decided since our timing was so perfect, we should just catch Shamu so we wouldn't have to worry about it on Day #2. As opposed to the "too much story and too few tricks" sea lion show, the whale show had no story and was all whales flopping about. Ellie was pretty tired by that point, so she was a bit squirmy during the show, but she really did pretty well and we enjoyed watching those beautiful whales do their thing.

Ellie is ready to record the whales in action!...





And generally showing off for their adoring fans!

By that time, we were all pretty spent, Ellie in particular. The poor thing passed out as soon as we left the theater. And that NEVER happens - she is so not a "sleep where you are" kind of girl, so you know she was pooped. We walked around a little bit more just to let her sleep for a bit before heading to the car.

Sleepy baby!

When she woke up we hit the road and drove the 10 minutes or so to our hotel: the Nickelodeon Resort, which ended up being perfect for us. The price was reasonable, and we were able to get a two-bedroom suite, which included a living area, a kitchenette (microwave/sink/mini-fridge), a kids' room (with bunk beds and a Nickelodeon-themed mural) and a bedroom with a king-size bed for us. We were able to grab dinner at the hotel "mall" (restaurants, shops, arcade, etc.) and then put Ellie to bed in her Pack 'N Play in her own room. She went right to sleep (was not expecting that) and only woke up twice during the night (not too far off from normal). So, it worked out great.

The Nickelodeon Resort

Our room

Ellie modeling the mural in her room

There were some other fun things about the resort, too - but I'll share those with you tomorrow! For now, we'll call it a night!


Lauren said...

How fun, I love SeaWorld so much!!! :-) I also love penguins so adorable.

Becky said...

It looked like you all had a great time. Poor little Ellie was plumb tuckered out. ;)