Important Update: Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, SeaWorld Orlando has made operational adjustments since the reopening which include opening / closing hours, attraction restrictions and dining establishments.
It is highly recommended to check the theme park web site before making plans for your next visit.
Have you been to an Orlando theme park in the past year? If so, you know the crowds levels can make it more difficult to enjoy a stress-free theme park vacation with your family.
And it’s not just the crowds that can tamper your theme park vacation. Between the high cost of the admission tickets as well as time and money it takes to travel to Orlando, its becoming more difficult for the average family enjoy the full theme park experience.
After our many years of being SeaWorld Orlando (and Aquatica) annual passholders and visiting hundreds of times during the past 10 years, we have figured out a number of strategies that make our days much more enjoyable. We would like to share our tips and tricks, so you too can get the most out of your day at SeaWorld Orlando.
- Planning Tips and Tricks
- Tips & Tricks when in the Park
- Money Saving Tips and Tricks
Planning Tips and Tricks for SeaWorld Orlando
The following tips and tricks should be used when you are planning your trip to SeaWorld Orlando.
Arrive Early and Stay Late
As you would expect, the crowds are at their lightest right when the park opens and at the end of the night. From the mid-morning hours to mid-evening, depending on what the park hours are that day, is traditionally when crowds levels are the heaviest and queue wait times are their longest.
Guests will find considerably shorter wait times immediately after park opening and towards the end of the evening.
In addition to the crowds, the weather in Florida is typically quite warm even during the winter months. With the later part of the mornings to the early evening being the warmest time of the day, it can be quite uncomfortable to walk around a theme park.
In addition, during the summer months Central Florida has frequent afternoon storms that force outdoor rides and shows to close until the weather clears. This definitely puts a damper on your theme park fun.
If it can be arranged, try to avoid as much of the middle part of the day as possible. If where you are staying is not close enough to SeaWorld Orlando for this to be practical, then pay close attention to our next tip.
Stay at a SeaWorld “Official” or “Partner” Hotel
Unlike it’s neighboring theme parks, SeaWorld Orlando does not have any on-site hotels. However, it has a number of “Official Hotel Partners” and “Hotel Partners” that provide a fair amount of benefits for your visit to SeaWorld.
As of spring 2020, there are 11 “Official Hotel Partners” that are all within one-mile of SeaWorld and walking distance to the front gate. These eleven hotels are as follows:
- Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld
- DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld
- Fairfield Inn and Suites Orlando by SeaWorld
- Hilton Garden Inn Orlando at SeaWorld
- Holiday Inn Express and Suites Orlando at SeaWorld
- SpringHill Suites Orlando at SeaWorld
- TownPlace Suites Orlando at SeaWorld
- Hampton Inn and Suites Orlando at SeaWorld
- Staybridge Suites Orlando at SeaWorld
- Residence Inn Orlando at SeaWorld
- Hilton Grand Vacations at SeaWorld
By far our favorite “official” hotel is the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld which is located directly on the other side of Sea Harbor Drive, and a very short walk to the front gate. This hotel has an amazing lobby with several dining options, a great pool area, and small water park / splash pad for kids.
While considering this is more of an upscale property, you can find some “deals” with room rates. We normally don’t pay more than $150 per night. Just be aware than parking costs and resort fees can add an additional $50 per night.
More budget conscious options include the Fairfield Inn and Suites Orlando by SeaWorld and the Residence Inn Orlando at SeaWorld. While slightly longer than what we would consider walking distance, these hotels can be found from around $100 per night and do not have resort fees.
In addition to the official hotels, SeaWorld has five “Partner Hotels” which include:
- Hilton Orlando
- LaQuinta Inn and Suites Orlando
- LaQuinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Orlando IDrive Theme Parks
- Courtyard by Marriott Orlando
- Blue Heron Beach Resort
The benefits of staying at a SeaWorld official or partner hotel are comparable to those offered by on-site hotels at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. These hotel benefits include:
- Priority Entry to SeaWorld and Aquatica
- 10% of Dining at SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove
- 10% off merchandise purchase of $50 or more at SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove
- Complimentary Transportation to SeaWorld and Aquatica (Most hotels)
There are two extra special benefits which guests receive when staying at an official hotel that make these hotels stand out. The two benefits include a complimentary one-time Quick Queue pass for SeaWorld and complimentary access to the SeaWorld Rescue Tour.
Quick Queue Pass
Quick Queue is similar to Disney’s FastPass+ and Universal Express where guests go to a separate queue (front-of-the-line-access) which is traditionally much shorter in wait time than the stand-by queue. This free benefit is available for each guest staying in that particular room. In the past, we have had as many as five people eligible for Quick Queue.
Please note that the Quick Queue hotel benefit is a one-time pass as SeaWorld sells an upgraded pass which allows for unlimited front-of-the-line access. For the Endless Summer Florida family, we make it a point to stay at an “Official” hotel when visiting SeaWorld for this benefit alone since nothing can make a day at a theme park better than very short wait times.
Quick Queue pass at SeaWorld Orlando is available for the following rides:
- Mako (roller coaster)
- Manta (roller coaster)
- Kraken (roller coaster)
- Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin (trackless motion dark ride)
- Infinity Falls (river raft ride)
- Journey to Atlantis (hybrid roller coaster / water ride)
- Wild Arctic (motion simulator and animal attraction)
To learn more about all the rides and attractions at SeaWorld Orlando, please visit our Complete Guide to SeaWorld Orlando for 2020.
The value of this benefit started at $14.99 per person per day and could be as high as $69.99 per person per day. There is no need to make advanced reservations for ride attractions, just show up to the parks and enjoy the day.
We at Endless Summer Florida feel that Quick Queue is the best hotel benefit to have when visiting a SeaWorld theme park and really a game changer to the theme park industry as a whole since the long wait times are typically the biggest complaint when visiting a park. With this benefit you will have the flexibility to choose when you want to visits a particular attraction without it interfering with other scheduled plans during the day.
SeaWorld Rescue Tour
While as of spring 2020, the SeaWorld Rescue Tour is still shown as a benefit on SeaWorld Orlando’s web site, we have never been able to take the tour itself being told it is “unavailable” on that particular day (which has been the case for the past two years).
A recent search of the park’s web site revealed a new “SeaWorld Rescue Experience” which is a four hour “hands-on program” that is offered at a cost of $250 per person. At that price, we highly anticipate that this new experience will not be complimentary to “official” hotel guests.
We will continue to investigate but at this time “official” hotel guests should not expect this tour to be offered.
Pack a Bag
While it is always a good thing to travel light, one of our best tips is to bring along a small bag or backpack when visiting SeaWorld. During the cooler months you may need to bring along light jacket or sweatshirt as well a place to carry phones, cameras, wallets, and other essentials.
Every time Endless Summer Florida visits SeaWorld or another theme park, we bring along a backpack that includes:
- Ponchos / Rain Jackets – for either storms or to keep somewhat dry on the water rides as well as when seating in the “Splash Zones”.
- Water Bottle – SeaWorld will refill your water bottle at just about every location so there is no need to spend $4.00+ for a bottle of water.
- Snacks – Although we enjoying eating at SeaWorld, at times a granola bar or piece of fruit satisfies the hunger during the day.
Tips and Trick When in the Park
Ride the Roller Coasters First Thing
SeaWorld is known for its roller coasters Mako, Manta, and Kraken which are some of the most thrilling in all of Orlando. Since these are the most popular rides and demand the longest wait times, guests should visit these rides immediately upon park opening.
If you are staying at an “official” hotel and have a one-time Quick Queue, save that for later in the day and go directly from the park entrance to Manta. At park opening, you should mostly likely see that all three coasters will have wait times of less than 15 to 20 minutes (barring holidays or special events). If you get lucky and there is no line when your finish your first ride, go ahead and re-ride that particular coaster if you are so inclined.
If the park opens at 9:00 am with average summer crowd levels, you should be able to finish riding all three coasters by 10:00 am, making is a very productive start to your day. This will leave the remainder of the day to visit the less popular attractions and enjoy the shows that have to endure lengthy wait times.
Visit the Animal Encounters
What makes SeaWorld unique from Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando is their large offering of animal encounters found at the park. Many of these attractions are exhibits and shows which do not have lengthy wait times.
These attractions are perfect for children that may not be tall enough (or willing) to ride the roller coasters or some of the other “thrill” rides.
- Stingray Lagoon (exhibit – pet and feed a stingray)
- Dolphin Days (show)
- Dolphin Cove / Dolphin Underwater Viewing (exhibit)
- Dolphin Nursery (exhibit)
- Turtle Trek (aquarium and 3D show)
- Manatee Rehabilitation (exhibit)
- Pacific Point Preserve (sea lion viewing)
- Sea Lion High (show)
- Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin (ride and exhibit)
- Pets Ahoy (show)
- Shark Encounter (aquarium)
- Wild Arctic (motion ride and animal exhibit)
- Orca Encounter (educational exhibit and show)
In addition to the above exhibits and shows, there are aquariums at Manta and Journey to Atlantis. Both are quite unique and should not be missed.
Use the Mobile App
Although SeaWorld’s app may not be as sophisticated as that used by Walt Disney World or Universal, it will provide wait times on the attractions as well as the schedule for the shows since many of the shows at SeaWorld are offered as many as five times a day.
Visit Sesame Street Land Early
If you are visiting SeaWorld Orlando with younger children then a stop to Sesame Street Land should be on your list of things to do. Since this section of the park typically opens one hour after initial park opening, there should be enough time to ride the roller coaster as indicated above.
But when that rope drops, head over to Sesame Street Land as this area of park, being relatively new, gets crowded quickly and wait times for the rides can get lengthy.
It is recommended to ride Super Grover’s Box Car Derby first since that is the most popular attraction and we have seen wait times exceeding 30 minutes. This attraction is a family-friendly roller coaster that is perfect for the first time riders. If you child is adventurous, the last seat on the coaster gives the best ride.
Money Saving Tips and Tricks at SeaWorld Orlando
Look for Deals in Advance
As we have said for other theme parks, the most expensive price for a theme park ticket is always at the gate on the day of your visit. With some advanced planning you can save a fair amount money by checking other available options most of which are online.
At this time, if you buy your admission ticket directly from SeaWorld one day in advance of your visit, you will save $20 off the same price at the gate. In addition, SeaWorld is offering a two-park ticket (any two parks including SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, and Adventure Island) for the full price of one-day admission ticket.
In addition to saving money buying admissions tickets on-line, SeaWorld is consistently running promotions, so depending on your travel dates, there may be the opportunity to save more if you can find an offer than works with your schedule.
Other on-line options to purchase SeaWorld Orlando admission tickets include:
- AAA (American Automobile Association)
- Best of Orlando
- Undercover Tourist
Just make sure that whatever source you buy from is reputable as there is always theme park ticket fraud going around.
When buying tickets in advance of your visit, you will not only save money but won’t waste time standing in line for those tickets There are already enough lines so it’s nice to skip one.
All Day Dining Deal
If you are planning to spend the day at SeaWorld Orlando then their “All Day Dining Deal” is one of the best dining values in all the local area theme parks. An adult can dine “as often as every hour” and select an entree, side item or dessert and a regular soft drink for just $39.99 with children ages three to nine costing $19.99. All Dining Dining can be upgraded to include draft beer and wine for $15.
When purchasing admission tickets on-line directly from SeaWorld you can save an additional $4.99 per adult ($35) with a “Single-Park Ticket + All-Day Dining” package.
All-Day Dining restaurant options at SeaWorld Orlando include:
- Voyager’s Smokehouse
- Expedition Cafe’
- Seaport Pizza
- Captain Pete’s Island Eats
- The Spice Mill
- Seafire Grill
- Mama’s Pretzel Kitchen
- Lakeside Panini Bistro
- Waterway Grill
- Mango Joe’s
- ABC Eats
- Yummy Yummy Nom Noms Food Truck
All day diners will also receive 30% when they visit Sharks Underwater grill which is SeaWorld Orlando’s premium dining experience.
And if you are an annual passholder then SeaWorld has not forgot about you as they offer a “2020 All Season Dining Plan” where you can have lunch and dinner every visit to the park now through December 21, 2020. This pass is limited to two meals per visit and alcohol is not included, but at a cost of just $119.99, it is an unbelievably good value for the money.