This big nationwide company – with parks in Orlando, Tampa, Williamsburg, Langhorne, San Antonio and San Diego – is now completely independent after being owned by the big Anheuser-Busch brewery company for many years (although, sadly, there are no longer any free samples of Anheuser-Busch products!). In Central Florida it brings together four big parks, SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Aquatica and Busch Gardens (the latter at Tampa).
While they feature a lot of high-thrill rides and experiences, they are extremely family-friendly and offer many conservation and eco-friendly moments that children are quick to pick up on. As well as their parks, the SeaWorld organisation performs a lot of animal rescues and rehabilitation, and funds a lot of animal research worldwide, some of which you can learn about at their parks.
The SeaWorld Parks
SeaWorld is obviously the signature park, home to a number of jaw-dropping attractions, including the longest tallest fastest rollercoaster in Orlando, and a whole host of awe-inspiring animal encounters, while water park Aquatica is home to a number of magnificent water slides and rides, and features the breathtaking Ihu’s Breakaway Falls as well as Dolphin Plunge (a tube slide that catapults you through a lagoon filled with Commerson’s dolphins) and many family rides and features.
Discovery Cove offers the chance to swim with dolphins, among an array of resort-style facilities that are all-inclusive for the day. Busch Gardens is an innovative zoo-style park an hour away in Tampa, and provides the opportunity to go to the Edge of Africa and take in unique animal experiences, while also boasting a number of out-and-out high-thrill roller-coasters.
What not to Miss:
The array of large-scale roller-coasters is extremely impressive, with SeaWorld and Busch Gardens boasting some of the best in America, notably Mako at SeaWorld (the tallest, longest, fastest rollercoaster in orlando!), Kraken and Manta (also at SeaWorld) and SheiKra, Kumba, Montu and Cheetah Hunt (Busch Gardens). Big thrill seekers will love Falcon's Fury, the tallest drop tower in North America - guaranteed to make you lose your stomach at the top! Aquatica also has some unique rides and slides, as well as highly kid-friendly features for families with younger children.
SeaWorld is renowned for its animal shows, notably One Ocean and Blue Horizons, but Busch Gardens also has several high-quality live entertainment offerings, too. Iceploration is a fabulous ice-skating and special effects show while Opening Night Critters features more guaranteed family fun.
Perhaps more than any other of the big theme park organisations, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens provide more all-inclusive seasonal events and party-style festivals that add an extra dimension to a visit to either park. They are especially eye-catching at Christmas while Busch Gardens can rival Universal Studios for the ‘Most grisly Halloween show in town’ honour with their fantastic separately-ticketed Howl-O-Scream event.
Mako, a brand new hypercoaster, opened at SeaWorld in 2016. Mako is the tallest, longest fastest rollercoaster in Orlando, reaching incredible speeds of up to 73mph and heights of 200ft in the air! It's impossible to miss as you enter the park...
The fabulous spin-coaster Cobra's Curse was added to Busch Garden's rollercoaster collection in 2016. This family-friendly attraction takes you face-to-face with the huge Cobra's head that dominates the ride, before spinning you around a whilwhind journey that will leave you laughing and screaming at the top of your lungs.
Recommended Visit Time
- SeaWorld: One to two days, as it can be difficult to catch all their shows at busy times.
- Busch Gardens: One to two days (especially if you opt to try some of their backstage tours).
- Aquatica: One day.
- Discovery Cove: One day.
In all, you may need 5 full days for the 4 parks, although you could save a day by making Aquatica a half-day with the other half of the day at SeaWorld.
SeaWorld features one of our favourite theme park dining experiences, Sharks Underwater Grill, where you can get a great full-service meal (with their specialities being seafood and steak) while watching the denizens of the huge Shark Encounter aquarium floating by. Even the bar area is eye-catchingly attractive.
- Park hopping: Hopping between SeaWorld and Aquatica is possible with the right tickets, especially in the summer season when both are open later into the evening. Otherwise, Discovery Cove is a full-day experience and Busch Gardens is a full day out in its own right. Right now, parking is free with your 3-park ticket or Discovery Cove Ultimate Package, so it makes sense return in the evenings, even just to catch one show!
- Tickets: The best-value tickets for the SeaWorld parks are their 2 and 3-park tickets that give access to SeaWorld and Aquatica, or SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, or all 3, for 2 full weeks. If you opt for the Discovery Cove experience, it includes both SeaWorld and Aquatica for 2 weeks, while it also has an Ultimate option that includes Busch Gardens as well for a little bit extra. For maximum flexibility, the Orlando Freedom Ticket sold by Attraction Tickets Direct covers the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks and 2 water parks, both Universal Orlando Parks, CityWalk, SeaWorld and Aquatica for 2 weeks, while the Freedom Ticket Plus includes Busch Gardens.