Evenings are our favourite time in summer. Once the sun dips down, the temperature drops just enough to make being out in the parks genuinely relaxing, and there is nothing better than to be able to sit back and drink in the atmosphere in relative comfort (you can even drink in a few drinks if you like, too!).
At SeaWorld, that feeling of enjoyment is heightened by their summer entertainment programme, which this year lasts all the way through to September 2, with extended hours, lots of new live events and a general sense of holiday fun.
It all goes under the title of Electric Ocean, and it consists of a series of shows and other entertainment elements that conclude in a big nightly spectacular that really is worth coming a long way to see. The best thing about it is that it is all timed so you can pretty much go from show to show, soak up the ambience along the way (along with some of the wares from the great food and drink kiosks), and be in pole position for the grand finale at just the right time.
Or, as SeaWorld’s creative director of entertainment, Steve Welch, told us, “It’s a great reason to stay late at SeaWorld and we think it’s the best thing going. We have a great series of shows, a really cool, energetic electronic dance party, and it all concludes with Ignite, which is unlike anything you have seen before.”
And he’s not wrong, you know. Just to start with, there is a new dolphin ‘edutainment’ show called Touch The Sky. The park is keen to stress the environmental aspects of its animals, and this is definitely part of the new approach to presenting the dolphins, with a more free-form, casual and interactive style that is ideal for this kind of laid-back summer vibe.
The fun continues – with the accent on groan-inducing humour – with Sea Lions Tonight, a parody show starring the regular performers from the Sea Lion and Otter Theater. Instead of Clyde and Seamore’s Sea Lion High, the two mischievous pinnipeds take their human helpers for a ride as they take the Mickey out of all the park’s other shows. Look out, Shamu – you’re in the firing line!
The excitement then carries over into another show that was brand new in 2017 and has been revamped for this year, too, starring the performers of Bubble Legendary. POP is an extraordinary creation of bubble-blowing artistry and it is definitely one that all the family will enjoy (especially as it is inside in the air-conditioned cool). Using their own unique bubble mix and blowers, plus special effects involving lasers, strobes, dry ice and, yes, more bubbles, the Bubble Master puts together a scintillating series of tricks and visual wonders that will leave you amazed at what can be achieved with a bit of soap, water and ingenuity.
From the Nautilus Theater, it is time to head over to Shamu Stadium for another traditional summer-night blockbuster, Shamu’s Celebration: Light Up The Night, where the typical killer whale show also takes on a more informal character, with a rock music soundtrack, dynamic lighting and a real high-energy approach to showcasing these majestic animals.
Along the way, you will definitely want to stop off at the various event food kiosks sprinkled throughout the park, most noticeably in the Festival Pathway area between the Waterfront section and Bayside Stadium. These have all been added specifically to ‘spice up’ the occasion and feature notable nibbles like Beef Empanadas, Steamed Bao Buns and Flame-Grilled Skewered Chicken and Pork.
We were given our own little preview taste prior to the event on June 2 and can attest to the fact SeaWorld’s culinary team has again raised the bar on what you expect from theme park food, with a delicious array of flavours, highlighted by those great empanadas, rivalled by their ‘Totchos’ (tater tots covered in chili, salsa, sour cream and cheese!), and surpassed by the Nutella and Sliced Banana Bao Bun (in a creamy peanut sauce), which Susan declared to be “Oh my dear lord, sweet baby Jesus!” (which means she liked it. A lot).
The other tastes to look out for are the various Craft Beers that are now such a feature of Florida pretty much wherever you go. The Festival Pathway is the place to go for the best of these, and we recommend seeking out the offerings of the Fort Lauderdale-based Funky Buddha Brewery, and especially their tropical fruit-flavoured Hop Gun – ideal for a hot summer evening.
(HOT NEWS! Have you heard? Free beer is back at SeaWorld – and Busch Gardens – this year. All visitors 21 and over are allowed two free 7-ounce samples per day. Just head to the patio bar next to Mama’s Pretzel Kitchen at the back of the park. This is a throwback to the days when the parks were owned by the Anheuser Busch brewery company, and free samples of their products were a staple at SeaWorld and Co)
Given those wonderful sweet and savoury delights, our final stop for the night was at Bayside Stadium for the two-part finale, starting with Club Sea Glow, the family-friendly dance party that features DJs and 35 performers in a kaleidoscopic whirl of music, colour and acrobatics. Children are invited to take part in the dance party ‘beneath the waves’, and then stand back to watch as the acrobats, dancers and puppeteers go to work. It is all highlighted by an eye-popping performance from a Laser DJ who ‘plays’ along to the electronic sounds from within a network of spiraling laser effects.
The dance party finally fades out, which is the cue for the finishing extravaganza of Ignite. Now, we saw this dazzling spectacle of pyrotechnics, lasers, fountains, water-screens, fog and other special effects when it made its debut last year, and we were suitably impressed. Coming back for a second look was no less thrilling and, in a way, even more impressive as we were reminded of how totally enthralling and breathtaking it is, underscored by an uplifting music track written especially for the show. It’s guaranteed to give you the good-time vibe of being on holiday somewhere special, and we defy you not to dance your way out of the park after this near 10-minute visual spectacle.
And, just because Electric Ocean is a night-time performance, don’t forget to check on the other new and recently-added elements to the park, notably the revamped Dolphin Nursery, which now features multi-level viewing, including an underwater section that is brilliant for kids – and which the dolphins seem to enjoy just as much. Try to show them something through the glass they might not have seen before – like a water-spray fan or even just a park map – and watch them crowd around with curiosity!
As ever, it serves as a great reminder of how totally enthralling SeaWorld is as a park these days. We highly recommend it – just don’t miss out on those Nutella-and-banana bao buns!
Want to know more about SeaWorld or any of Orlando’s great theme parks? Be sure to head over to our Discussion Forums, where Susan & Simon are on hand to answer questions and provide more feedback.
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