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SeaWorld Orlando with Toddlers & Preschoolers

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My oldest has an obsession with whales, sharks and dolphins that has been going on for about two years now. Since he will turn 4 next month, that’s over half of his life! I wonder if his adoration for these wonderful creatures was sparked by aquarium trips as a baby, but the why doesn’t matter to me nearly as much as does encouraging this love that runs deeper than the ocean. It was easy to decide Sea World Orlando must be part of our ‘Goodbye USA’ family vacation to Florida, on which my husband, preschooler, twin toddlers and I embarked before our recent move to Europe. Rather than spending time waiting in lines and riding amusement park rides, my family focused on SeaWorld’s main draw, the animals themselves. Here are a few must-see attractions when visiting SeaWorld Orlando with babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

SeaWorld Orlando with Toddlers and Preschoolers

My preschooler and two toddlers admiring the whale-shaped topiaries at SeaWorld Orlando

Manta Aquarium

My family wanted to look into blue tanks and see an array of the ocean’s creatures. At our first stop, the Manta Aquarium, we found just what we were looking for. Effortlessly swarms of these beautiful animals glide past viewers. Leave the stroller at the front of the attraction outside and walk through with your kids. Crowds come in waves so pick your opportunity and  jump in.

Manta ray aquarium at SeaWorld Orlando

Tell me that manta ray isn’t smiling at us!

Dolphin Cove

My son’s ocean affair started with his love of dolphins. Dolphin Cove and the Dolphin Nursery  are filled with these friendly mammals that are sure to make your child smile. We spent over an hour at the nursery alone—watching the dolphins swim through the pool and asking the guide questions. I can’t say I have seen many things cuter than a baby dolphin upclose.

Preschooler at One Ocean at SeaWorld Orlando

Too engrossed with One Ocean to even look at me

One Ocean

It may be easier to skp the shows when visiting SeaWorld with fidgety toddlers and preschoolers, however, animal shows are what SeaWorld does best. Take a look at the daily schedule and choose at least one show to watch during your visit. One Ocean brought tears to my eyes not only because it was moving to see my oldest son’s utter amazement when Shamu and his giant orca whale pals flipped through the air, but also because the show’s message is so important. The morale of the story is to share our planet with these animals and protect their habitats. All three boys cheered and danced in their seats. This was absolutely the highlight of our day at SeaWorld.

Shark Encounter

You know an exhibit is good when you can actually feel your skin prickle and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Such was the case when we approached the Shark Encounter. My children squealed with delight and shouted “Leopard shark!” My boys ran around the tank for quite a while, just watching these sharp-toothed predators skim the surface. Never have I seen so many sharks in one place before. Another highlight was the replica great white hanging from the ceiling inside the aquarium. My preschooler was so impressed with its lifelike representation, he didn’t stop talking about it the rest of the trip.

Dine with Shamu at SeaWorld Orlando

Trainers working with orcas at Dine with Shamu

Dine With Shamu

We wrapped up our day by having dinner with our new friend, Shamu. Quite literally, we sat next to the orcas while eating a buffet dinner that night at Dine With Shamu. Reservations are required but worth the advanced planning. The meal is all-you-can-eat, complete with desserts. Our children loved watching the whales swim past while we ate. A family photo is included with the meal. If your kids are as whale-obsessed as mine, dining with Shamu is an incredible treat your family won’t soon forget. Children under 3 eat free, and the cost of child/adult tickets vary by season.

Do your kids love sea creatures too? Tell us what they would like best about visiting SeaWorld Orlando in the comments!

All photos by Farrah Ritter.

About Farrah Ritter, The Nomadic Travel Mama

Farrah Ritter is an adventure-seeking mama to a 4-year-old son and twin 2-year-old boys. Her family of five moved to the Netherlands in October of 2012. Originally from Michigan, she and her husband relocated to the South in 2006 and jumped over the pond with their boys in tow. She blogs at The Three Under when she can and is looking forward to documenting and sharing their European journey with anyone interested in travel with multiple small children. An Instagram and Twitter junkie (@Momofthreeunder), Farrah loves to see perspectives of others and experience the beauty of old towns and historic places.

  1. Laura Graham says

    Just wanted to say Thank you so much for this post. We are leaving to visit grandparents in Orlando soon and my 2.5 year old is so obsessed with Sharks, Whales and Dolphins that I started researching Sea World and found this ! Our kids sound just alike. Thank you for the tips/suggestions!

  2. Wow Laura- perfect timing!!

    I hope you have a GREAT time. Brody still talks about it and can’t wait to go back. Enjoy!!!

  3. Laura Graham says

    We are in Orlando now and had , probably the best day of our lives as parents the day we went to Sea World. It was absolutely perfect and we did everything you recommended! I just came back here to get a link to this post so I can talk about it on my blog about Sea World! Thanks AGain! I am also gonna search for Disney tips as I hope you went there too 🙂

  4. Farrah Ritter, The Nomadic Travel Mama says

    Laura you have no idea how jealous I am. I am SO glad that you had a great time! Thanks for reading and letting me know- I am thrilled when I learn I can offer someone a tip or two 🙂

  5. Very good trip! Surely the kids were having fun with the animals. So do you, right? Always love to take the kids to see animals. Nice post!

  6. Sunflowersbythesea says

    Thank you for this! I was wondering if our little almost 3 year old would be too small to enjoy this but it sounds like it’s the perfect place to bring her at this age for a 1 day Orlando experience! Disney can wait. 🙂 I appreciate the suggestions of what to see too!

  7. Be careful, we had our double stroller stollen while we watched the Shamu show. Seaworld didn’t do anything (they said they would, but we never heard from them).

  8. Hi, love your post. My family and I are going to stay in Disney Resort during our vacation but plan to visit Seaworld in between. I have a 3 y/o son. Do you think we can cover Seaworld in 1 day or do you recommend a 2 day visit?

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Sita – Unless your family is crazy about ocean animals and will want to see every show and attraction at SeaWorld, one day should be plenty. Enjoy!

  9. Are kids under 3 free or we still need a ticket to SeaWorld

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hi Tota – I could not find the answer to your question on the SeaWorld website so I’ve sent an email to them. I’ll post the answer when I hear back from them!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Here’s what SeaWorld Orlando says, “Yes, children under 3 do not require a ticket.” Have a great time at SeaWorld, Tota!

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