For sheer, impressive beauty, it’s difficult to beat the light displays SeaWorld has presented over the past five years, and it’s easy to spend an hour just strolling the park once the sun goes down, taking in the dazzling Christmas tree exhibits and twinkling garlands cascading down the tree branches like Spanish Moss. But there is so much more than that; SeaWorld also features a Christmas Village and marketplace, five top-quality shows, carolers, Christmas-themed photo opportunities and the Wild Arctic attraction converted to the seasonal Polar Express, based on the popular children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg.
Start with the Christmas Village, spanning the Bayside Pathway leading from the waterfront to Bayside Stadium. Decorative kiosks selling holiday themed merchandise and specialty foods and drink create a cheerful atmosphere, highlighted by sing-alongs, strolling characters, musicians, and a delightful model train village. After sun-down, cozy up to the fire pit with an interesting beverage and just soak up the setting.
There are several photo ops throughout the park, and this year saw the addition of a ‘living statue’ in the form of an angel. If he returns in 2016, he is well worth seeking out for the pure artistry of his craft, and for the hilarious results when guests stand next to him for a photo, not realizing he might just move!
World-class shows are a mainstay of any visit to SeaWorld, but they take on a new dimension during the festive season. It can be difficult fitting them all in, and queues can be long as Christmas draws closer, but with a little judicious planning guests should be able to see at least three, if not four, over the course of the evening. If you can’t bear the idea of missing even one show, consider the Christmas Celebration Reserved Seating Package, which provides priority seating (no queuing!) at O Wondrous Night, Winter Wonderland on Ice, and Shamu Christmas Miracles, for an additional fee per person.
2015’s shows are:
Winter Wonderland on Ice: Ice skating in Florida is rare enough, but when it’s combined with jaw-dropping skills, glittering costumes, and a Dickensonian setting, it becomes something truly special. The show begins with the Bayside Carollers singing holiday favourites, and then the skaters take to the ice in stories as varied as gift-bearing elves, an energetic reindeer, and a soldier returning home to find his sweetheart. Be sure to arrive early for this one so you don’t miss the carollers!
Elmo’s Christmas Wish: Located in the Seaport Theater, this show is aimed directly at the Sesame Street crowd. Elmo has a pre-holiday conundrum, and Cookie Monster, Grover, Zoe and Rosita are on hand to help him figure out what he is really wishing for at Christmas. It’s a colourful montage of singing, dancing, and the kind of gentle audience interaction pre-schoolers love. Watching the park’s youngest guest dancing in their seats along with their favourite characters is one of the most charming elements of the evening.
O Wondrous Night: The stand-out show of the evening, this lovely re-imagining of the nativity story tells of Christ’s birth in a stable through the use of live-action, puppetry, and stirring Christmas melodies. Reliving the memories of a donkey, who carried Mary to the stable on his back; a dove, who gave the innkeeper the key to the barn; and a sheep, who kept the newborn babe warm; each claim responsibility for Jesus’ having been born in their stable, until a wise old camel reminds them they all played an important role. The show is so engaging even youngsters will pay attention until the end. And what an end! Live animals join their counterparts on stage, including three camels that make a dramatic—and hugely impressive—entry. O Wondrous Night, ‘the greatest story never told’, is so beautifully performed, it’s worth making the trip over to SeaWorld just to see it.
Sea of Trees: 114 Christmas trees glittering with dancing lights are a feast for the senses when choreographed to upbeat seasonal music, lighting up the waters between the Waterfront and Bayside Stadium, twice nightly. The best place to view it is from the bridge across the waterway, or with a drink or a meal on the outdoor patio at Spice Mill restaurant.
Shamu Christmas Miracles: Replacing Believe during the Yuletide season, Shamu Christmas Miracles invites the audience to remember the miracles in their own lives. It’s uplifting, it’s nostalgic, and it’s got whales. Although the whales are somewhat incidental to the ‘story’, it just wouldn’t be a day at SeaWorld without being inspired by their majesty, and that’s part of the point. Shamu Christmas Miracles focuses on family, on friendship, and on a love for the natural world. Listen to the children around you as you watch this show; there is an undeniable connection being made, and the hope of a lifetime of caring for these magnificent animals.
Santa’s Fireside Feast: Add this all-you-care-to-eat buffet to your day, with roast turkey, baked ham, potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green bean almandine, and desserts, plus soft drinks, tea, coffee, beer and wine. Kid favourites mac and cheese, hot dogs, French fries and chicken tenders keep young’uns happy. Even better? Every family gets to meet Santa and Mrs. Clause, and receives a complimentary photo to commemorate the event. Reservations are required, with booking available on www.seaworldorlando.com.
SeaWorld Christmas Celebration runs each weekend from late November through the end of December, and is free with park admission. But bring along a few dollars anyway, as you’re going to want to try a special treat or two. And if you’re visiting over New Year’s Eve, stay until midnight and enjoy a spectacular fireworks display to ring in the new year!
For us, SeaWorld’s celebration is a highly-anticipated reminder that winter is on the way, even as temperatures edge into the mid-80s, with nary a snowflake in sight.
Have you been to the celebration? Would you like to go? If you would like to see loads more pictures from SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, join us on this thread on Attraction Tickets Direct’s discussion forum.