10 October 2012

31 Days:: Beyond Disney

{About Series}
Welcome to today's topic: Beyond Disney! Today I'll be talking about two other main amusement park attractions in the Orlando area that you may want to spend a day or two at while you're in the area- Sea World and Universal Studios!

Dining with Shamu (no zoom needed for this photo!!)
Sea World
I once wanted to be a Sea World trainer so I could swim with the orcas, so Sea World holds a special place in my heart :) We don't get to visit during every trip to Disney, but we visit whenever we have the time!! Feel free to visit the official Sea World Orlando website {here}. Below are some of my favorite parts of Sea World...
  • Shamu show- the name of the show changes every few years, but I love orcas! "Shamu" was the original Sea World orca, and the name has been passed down through various generations of orcas, but I love to see their show set to music. Such beautiful creatures! If you go during the summer months or some holidays, there's an evening show too set to a rock and roll soundtrack!! All Shamu shows are hugely popular, get there as early as you can (at least 30 minutes) to get a good seat.
  • Clyde and Seamour show- super funny show staring two sea lions, an otter, a walrus and their ridiculous human sidekicks! Watch out for the mime that makes fun of people as they enter the stadium ;) He's hilarious! Get there early so you can watch all of his hijinks! If you visit during the summer months, there's another evening show that pokes fun at the other Sea World shows- this is probably our favorite Sea World show of all! During the holidays, there's also another evening show that's holiday-themed (looking forward to seeing that)!
  • Dolphin show- this is one of my DH's top picks, starring acrobatic dolphins, acrobatic humans, water cannons, and a visit from some feathered friends and an "evil" pilot whale. Another popular show, so plan on arriving up to 30 minutes early, especially during heavy crowds.
  • Journey to Atlantis ride- this is a roller coaster crossed with a log flume ride! Float along in your boat to the story of Atlantis, plunge down a several-story drop, then proceed to roller coaster your way to the end of the ride! Super fun and not too too scary for the younger ones :)
  • Kraken ride- a great roller coaster with a Kraken theme :) Perfect for any high thrills adventure seeker. 
  • Wild Arctic ride- a wild and bumpy ride through the arctic aboard a "helicopter." In this ride, you sit down in rows of seats, there's a large movie screen in front of you, and the floor bumps and moves to the motion of the movie (like Star Tours at Hollywood Studios). Don't let the description fool you, there's a ton of jostling going on! Might be too scary for some of the smaller riders, actually. After the ride, you can view the Wild Arctic exhibit.
  • Wild Arctic exhibit- see belugas, a walrus, and polar bears. To get there you have to either go on the Wild Arctic ride, or view the "non-ride" version where you just watch the short movie. 
  • Dolphin Nursery- we could spend all day here just watching the newborn dolphins jump and play! Sometimes the bored mamas even do tricks for you, sliding up on the center area and posing :)
  • Dolphin Cove- here you can view the dolphins both above and below the water, and don't forget to take part in the dolphin feeding for an up close and personal encounter! Small fee for the dolphin food, and you can order professional photos that will be taken during your feeding encounter.
  • Pacific Point Preserve- view the fun sea lions and buy some fish to feed them too!
  • Stingray Lagoon- a hands-on experience where you can pet and feed the stingrays! One of my favorite experiences as a youngster :)
  • Dine with Shamu- absolutely fabulous! This is a flat-fee, all-you-can eat buffet situated next to one of the orca's pools! The trainers show you some of their training techniques and tell you all about the whales. We did this once a few years back, and were so excited to get a seat for this upcoming trip!
  • Sharks Underwater Grill- so neat!! In this restaurant, one entire wall is a shark tank! The food was quite wonderful. You cannot make reservations ahead of time, only in person once you get to the park. If I remember correctly, they only serve dinner and reservations open up for booking at 11 AM for that evening's dinner. So make sure you're around the Shark Encounter exhibit around that time so you can get your first choice for dining times!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Studios
Feel free to visit the official Universal Studios Orlando website {here}. I've only actually been to Universal twice, so I'm working off limited knowledge! Not my area of expertise, but it's certainly worth a visit :)  My favorite area of the park is City Walk, which is like their version of Downtown Disney- it's shopping and dining and a large movie theatre. Universal is made up of two parks- Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios Florida. The parks are actually set up similar to Disneyland- you enter Universal via the CityWalk, and then at either end of CityWalk are each of the two parks. They recently shut down the infamous Jaws ride, but you can still get some fabulous carmel apples here! Here are some of my favorites from Universal...
  • Emeril's- (CityWalk) oh. my. word. We ate here a few years ago, and the chef made THE most fantastic gluten-free lunch for me!! It was pasta made out of essentially julienned veggies with a slightly spicy marinara-esque sauce (see below). We still talk about it today!! Half of the kitchen staff gathered around to see how I liked it :) You get the white glove treatment here, but you can come just as you are- dressed to the nines or flip flops and shorts coming from the parks. Highly highly recommend it!
  • Latin Quarter- (CityWalk) Great Latin food, and if you go near dinner, there's live music and sometimes dancing too! Great atmosphere and food :)
  • Bob Marley- A Tribute to Freedom- (CityWalk) We absolutely love the yucca fries with smoked ketchup... sooo good! Great place to drop in for a quick meal or a snack. 
  • Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville- (CityWalk) My parents always make an effort to stop in here whenever they visit Orlando. In the evenings there is live entertainment and great desserts. If you sit inside at the bar, the volcano "explodes" every so often and the lava is margaritas! Super fun atmosphere.
  • Revenge of the Mummy- (Universal Studios Florida) A fun indoor coaster that's largely in the dark with various theming from the movie illuminated! Can be a bit intense for younger riders (I remember closing my eyes a few times!!).
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- (Universal's Islands of Adventure) This is a fun area even if you're not into the books/movies. I imagine it's even cooler if you're a huge HP fan since you'd get all the references!!
    • Dragon Challenge- this was our favorite ride and for some reason the line was quite short. A dueling coaster (blue vs. red dragon) with lots of twists, turns, and flips!
    • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Adventure- sit down and hang on tight! You're in for a hair-raising adventure through HP's world, from quidditch to the classroom and more. Watch out for the spitting spider! A bit intense (I had my eyes shut through half of it, lol) but tons of fun. 

gluten-free meal at Emeril's

Well that's my take on our two favorite attractions outside of Disney! Come on back tomorrow when I'll be chatting about Budgeting for Disney, and I'll share my budget sheets as free printables!

1 comment:

RHome410 said...

Your own custom meal... How cool!! And looks yummy, too.