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July 7, 2016

Island Nights and other new summer offerings at SeaWorld's Aquatica water park

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Beginning tomorrow (July 8), Aquatica will stay open an extra hour for its Island Nights presented by Coca-Cola on Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 6.

SeaWorld Orlando’s water park will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. for Island Nights. During the summer celebration, guests can experience kick-off parties with a DJ and dancers, special music during the event and an evening menu at Waterstone Grill. Pass members can take advantage of a happy hour from 5 to 8 p.m. that includes one free 12-ounce Coca-Cola beverage or ICEE per pass member at the stand across from Kiwi Traders.

During the rest of the week this summer, Aquatica is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and there are plenty of deals and new offerings to entice vacationers and local residents to spend a day at the water park.

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Purchasing a one-day ticket to Aquatica at the gate is $58 plus tax for ages 10 and older and $53 plus tax for ages 3 to 9. However, if you buy it online in advance, you can save $20 per ticket. Tickets can be purchased at this price through Sept. 5 and must be redeemed 365 days from the date of purchase. You can also opt to purchase an Aquatica annual pass for $108 plus tax for ages 10 and older. It includes free parking, which costs $15 per car each day otherwise, and there are no blackout dates. (There also are other tickets and annual passes that combine admission to SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.)

Pass members can buy guest tickets for half off the $58 plus tax. They must be purchased and used by Dec. 31. There is a limit of six guest tickets per pass member.

There are some new offerings at Aquatica this summer designed to enhance guests’ experience – but they come with an additional charge.

Perhaps the most noticeable is the addition of Quick Queue, SeaWorld’s system of paying to bypass the long lines. This is the first summer Aquatica Orlando has offered the system, and there are two tiers: Quick Queue and Quick Queue Unlimited. Quick Queue allows each front-of-the-line access once at each of these six rides: Whanau Way, Omaka Rocka, Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, Taumata Racer, Walhalla Wave and HooRoo Run. The Unlimited version allows guests skip the line at the same six rides as many times as they would like. Quick Queue and Quick Queue Unlimited are offered seasonally, and pricing is based on popularity of certain days. Expect Quick Queue to start at about $20 per person and Quick Queue Unlimited at $35. Note that Dolphin Plunge is not included in the Quick Queue options.

All-day dining deals have returned to Aquatica this summer, and the new feature is the inclusion of breakfast. Guests still can choose lunch only – unlimited visits throughout the day -- at Banana Beach Buffet for $20 for ages 10 and older or $15 for ages 3 to 9. The menu includes pulled pork, baked chicken, hot dogs, cheese pizza, a variety of sides, desserts and Coca Cola products. For just $5 more per person, guests can purchase All-day Dining with Breakfast, which is served until 10:45 a.m. Guests who purchase this option may make unlimited trips through the buffet for breakfast and lunch. That option is less expensive than just the all-day lunch option was last year.

Just like at SeaWorld, Aquatica sells cups that can be refilled with soda or juice from the fountain machines for about $1. The initial price varies by the style of the cup, but count on about $10, and it’s good forever. We have had some cups for years! Plus, the cups may be used interchangeably for refills at SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens. (Pass members receive 10 percent off all dining, including the refills.)

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Finally, there are two new ways to seek refuge from the sun at Aquatica. Although the water park has a decent number of shaded chairs that are free, as you can imagine, they are among the first to be occupied each day. Guests now can opt to rent individually shaded chairs – Wave Pool Loungers -- in an area directly in front of the wave pools for $30 per chair. (The price drops to $15 per chair for off-peak times.) There are about 30 chairs, and the section is monitored by a team member to make sure only those who have rented the chairs are in the section.

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Also new this summer is a section of private cabanas with views of Roa’s Rapids. The cabanas are priced for four people at $249 (dropping to $129 for off-peak times) and up to three more can be added for $15 to $30 per person. Cabanas include a locker, rental towels, ceiling fan, refrigerator with bottled water, and a 20 percent discount coupon for merchandise, including photos. Aquatica already had cabanas in Cutback Cove, plus Premium and Ultimate cabanas.



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June 27, 2015

Tips for planning and saving at SeaWorld Orlando's Aquatica water park

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It’s summer, and for many people, that means lots of water time -- whether it’s the pool, lake or beach. For Orlando visitors and locals, beating the heat often translates to taking advantage of one of the area’s many water parks.

Today, we’re taking a look at some of things that can make a day spent at SeaWorld’s Aquatica as hassle-free as possible. Plus, we’ll give you some ideas for saving money.

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The biggest expense of going to Aquatica other than consumables, is, of course, your admission ticket. If you purchase your ticket online in advance for $47, you save $10 over the gate price. You can also purchase in advance an eat-and-play-all-day ticket for $52 for adults and $47 for children ages 3 to 9. However, if you are planning to visit more than once, you might want to consider an annual pass for $108 for one year or $146 for two years. Or, if you know annual pass members, they can purchase guest tickets for half off, $28.50. (Only annual pass members receive free parking; for everyone else, it’s $13 for cars and motorcycles and $17 for RVs.)

There also are other combo offers if you and your family are interested in visiting SeaWorld Orlando or Busch Gardens in Tampa. Or, if you splurge on a day at Discovery Cove, your ticket gives you 14 days at SeaWorld and Aquatica.

Another way to add value to your day at Aquatica is go on a Friday or Saturday from July 3 through Aug. 8, when the water park stays open later for Island Nights. Closing time is extended until 9 p.m. on those days and includes a beach party. Waterstone Grille also serves up a new, evening menu.

Speaking of food and drinks, they can add up quickly at Aquatica (or any theme park). Aquatica does offer an all-day dining plan for $26 for adults and $21 for children ages 3 to 9. Depending on how much you eat, this might be a good deal for you! Or, if you can squeeze in two meals -- lunch and an early dinner -- that could help justify the cost, too.

Just like at SeaWorld, Aquatica sells cups that can be refilled with soda or juice from the fountain machines for $1.29. The initial price varies by the style of the cup, but count on about $10, and it’s good forever. We have had some cups for years! That’s a good deal for this Diet Coke-loving mama. Even better: I recently discovered that the cups may be used interchangeably for refills at SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens. (Pass members receive 10 percent off all dining, including the refills.)

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If I could change one thing about dining at Aquatica, it would be that there would be fewer restrictions placed on bringing in personal coolers and their contents. Guests are permitted to bring in a cooler that is 16 quarts in size, and it can contain snacks in individual serving sizes that are less than 3 ounces, bottled water and baby food in plastic containers. That’s it – no sandwiches or anything that would constitute a meal is allowed. Exceptions may be made for guests with dietary restrictions. This was a big adjustment for our family because we were used to Walt Disney World’s policy that doesn’t put such tight size limitations on coolers and only forbids alcohol and glass containers.

Still, if you really want to bring your own food and drinks to Aquatica, it is possible, but you will have to leave them in your vehicle. There are a limited number of picnic tables outside the turnstiles, and guests who want to exercise this option are allowed to leave and gain re-entry to the water park.

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Another expense for many guests is a locker to hold valuables. Aquatica has upgraded its offerings by trading in its key-entry lockers for ones with digital codes. No need to wear that key around the park all day and hope you don’t lose it! Plus, renting a locker is now done at self-service machines, which reduces lines. Lockers are $10 for a small size and $15 for the large space. There no longer is a deposit given back at the end of the day because you are not returning a key.

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About a week ago, Aquatica introduced another option for keeping your valuables safe – the AquaVault. This device is slightly smaller than a shoebox and made of plastic with a digital entry. It is designed to be secured to your lounge chair. It retails for about $40 in the gift shop at the front of the park and can be reused on multiple visits.

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If you want to completely avoid charges for securing items such as cell phones and credit cards, you can get a cashless wristband at Guest Services and leave your phone in your vehicle. A team member will link your credit card information to the wristband so you can charge throughout the park, and then you can return that to your car, as well.

If you plan your day at the water park, you can save a few bucks and beat the summer heat. And with as hot as it’s been lately, that’s well worth the money you save.



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June 20, 2015

Olympian Rowdy Gaines hosts World's Largest Swimming Lesson at SeaWorld Orlando's Aquatica

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For the sixth consecutive year, SeaWorld Orlando’s Aquatica water park hosted a swim lesson a little different from the ones it offers all summer long. This lesson was part of an attempt to break the record for the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson, which was set last year with 36,564 participants in hundreds of aquatic centers, pools and water parks around the globe.

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This was the sixth year that Aquatica has hosted the event, and 149 children took part, including my 12-year-old son. Although my son swims competitively and doesn’t need basic swim lessons, he wanted to see which skills were required for the 30-minute certified lesson for his age group, 10 and older. Among them were practicing swimming freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke; floating on his back; and streamlining off the wall. The “skill” he liked best, though, was jumping off the elevated side of Big Surf Shores pool, which is not allowed during normal operating hours at Aquatica.

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My son also had the remarkable opportunity to interview three-time Olympic gold-medal swimmer Ambrose “Rowdy” Gaines, who was hosting the swim lesson. Gaines spoke to my son about the importance of learning to swim early in life and how that shaped his life. As a native Floridian, Gaines grew up around water and learned to swim at a young age. However, he didn’t begin swimming competitively until he was 17 – after he tried out for five other sports. “Is there any other sport than swimming?” he asked. “I can’t think of anything!”

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Still, he explained that learning to swim is more than just learning a sport, it is vital to children’s safety. He repeatedly said that as soon as kids learn to walk, they should learn to swim. The reason couldn’t be clearer: SeaWorld’s press release states that drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death of children ages 1-14. Furthermore, research shows that if children don’t learn to swim before the third grade, they likely never will. The World's Largest Swimming Lesson is designed to draw attention to this issue, and encourage participation in swimming lesson programs.

You can see my son’s interview with Gaines below:

Aquatica invited the public to sign up in advance for the attempt to set a new Guinness World Record and also allowed water-park visitors to sign up on the spot. Admission to Aquatica was required to participate, and guests who did so received certificates and rubber bracelets for their efforts. Plus, their names were logged for the official entry should a record be broken.

DISCLAIMER: My son and I were guests of Aquatica for the World's Largest Swimming Lesson. This did not affect my story; my opinions are my own.



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November 27, 2014

SeaWorld Orlando announces 'Blue Friday' deals and holiday savings

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It's Thanksgiving -- are you ready to hit the stores? If you're still in that turkey coma or just don't want to be pulled away from all the pigskin action, there are some great theme-park deals to be purchased from the comfort of your own home. Of course, not having to fight the crowds is a gift in itself!

SeaWorld Orlando has dubbed the day "Blue Friday" and is offering quite a few deals to save you some green. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday, you can purchase these Buy One, Get One Free offers for admission to the theme park and its water park, Aquatica:

** BOGO SeaWorld Orlando 1-Year Annual Pass; a savings of $156

** BOGO SeaWorld/Aquatica Orlando 1-Year Annual Pass; a savings of $180

** BOGO Full-Paid, Any-Day SeaWorld Orlando Ticket; a savings of $75

** BOGO Aquatica Orlando Single-Day Ticket; a savings of $19

** BOGO SeaWorld Orlando/Aquatica Orlando Combo Ticket; a savings of $89

Visitors also can receive significant savings on offers for these experiences in the park:

** BOGO SeaWorld Orlando Quick Queue Unlimited; a savings of $19

** Buy one Adult Santa's Fireside Feast, get one Child Santa's Fireside Feast free; a savings of $19

** BOGO Dolphins Up-close Tour; a savings of $59

** BOGO Sea Lion and Otter Tour; a savings of $39

** BOGO Wild Arctic Up-Close Tour; a savings of $59

My family and I have experienced the Dolphins Up-close tour and highly recommend it. If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know that my 10-year-old daughter is in love with dolphins, and this experience was perfect for her with two feeding opportunities and even a training session. I wrote about our tour here. If you have a dolphin-lover in your family, this deal offers significant savings.

One of the other deals is for Santa's Fireside Feast, and we have enjoyed that as well. My son and I attended the seasonal event at the Seafire Inn Restaurant a couple years ago. It's a great way to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus without a long line and to feast on a traditional holiday meal. One child can attend for free with each paid adult.

To take advantage of the Blue Friday deals, guests must register to receive SeaWorld Orlando's e-mail updates or already be subscribed at http://seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-orlando/ Fans can subscribe any time between now and Dec. 1 to participate. The deals are available through 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, Dec 1.

In addition, SeaWorld Orlando is offering free admission to the theme park for each child with a paid adult for the holidays. That deal can be purchased and redeemed through Dec. 31.

SeaWorld's 2015 FunCard is on sale now and it's valid for the remainder of 2014 and all of next year -- with no blackout dates. So, adults pay $95 plus tax and kids ages 3 to 9 pay $90 plus tax for the holidays and an entire year of general admission.

Finally, guests who visit SeaWorld on select days through Dec. 31 also can experience SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration for the price of regular admission. This is a wonderful value, especially when you consider that other area theme parks require separate tickets for holiday events.



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October 21, 2014

Top 5 reasons to visit SeaWorld Orlando's Aquatica in the fall

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If you've never been to SeaWorld Orlando's water park, Aquatica, fall is the perfect time for checking it out. Many families with school-age children have fall breaks this month, and Aquatica could be a great way to spend some of that vacation time. My family and I have visited the water park at different times of the year, and we especially like the fall. Here are our Top 5 reasons why:

1. Unlike some of the other Central Florida water parks, SeaWorld's Aquatica offers several price breaks on admission right now. If you book your ticket online in advance and commit to a specific day, you will save at least half off regular admission. Weekday Splash and Save tickets are $19 and weekend tickets are $24. Want to enjoy the water park for the remainder of the calendar year? Pay just $37 for unlimited admission per person in 2014. (Regular admission is about $50 per day for adults.) In addition, Florida residents visiting SeaWorld's Discovery Cove receive unlimited admission to Aquatica through Jan. 31.

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2. The weather in Orlando is still warm enough for a day of hanging out in swimsuits. Temperatures this week will be in the 80s, and that doesn't leave room for shivering. In fact, when my children and I visited Aquatica on Sunday, the pavement still was hot enough for us to want to wear our flip-flops. It's also warm enough to crave an Icee from one of the most expansive selections we've ever seen near one of the kids' sections. Choose from Blue Raspberry, White Cherry, Coca-Cola, Orange, Watermelon, Lemonade, Banana, Strawberry, Kiwi Strawberry and Pina Colada. The kiosk even suggests ways to mix the flavors to create unique flavors for the Outback of Aquatica: Hooroo Runner, Outback Cherry Cooler, Tassie Lemon Twist and Walhalla Blast.

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3. As with other Orlando theme parks, crowds tend to be less severe at Aquatica in the Fall when most children are in school. The queue for Aquatica's newest thrill ride, Ihu's Breakaway Falls, does not extend from the eight-story platform to the ground. You get more for your money when you're able to experience more of the water park's signature attractions, and that should appeal to everyone, right?

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4. From tame to thrilling, there is enough variety in the water attractions at Aquatica that everyone can find something to enjoy. Roa's Rapids, Loggerhead Lane and the side-by-side wave pools appeal to all ages. Kata's Kookaburra Cove is designed for young children 48 inches and younger, while older children can hit up the fantastic Walkabout Waters. In addition, there are slides for families to experience together and individually.

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5. Of course, what sets this water park apart from others in the area is its focus on real animals and marine life. Perhaps the most stunning are the Commerson's dolphins that swim in the tank that Dolphin Plunge goes through. Many guests do not realize there are dolphins that look like much smaller versions of orcas. You'll also find other species, such as parrots and tortoises, in locations where visitors can learn about them.

Sure, water parks are a great summertime break from the heat, but living in Florida means our cool-down for fall still can't diminish the cool features at Aquatica. Now is as fun a time as any to make a splash and still soak up the fun in the sun that often lingers well into December.

DISCLAIMER:
Recently, I was a guest of SeaWorld Orlando at Aquatica. This did not affect my review; my opinions are my own.



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May 10, 2014

Take the plunge on Ihu's Breakaway Falls at SeaWorld's Aquatica

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Orlando's tallest, steepest water-slide attraction opened yesterday at SeaWorld's Aquatica. Are you brave enough to give it a try?

My 9-year-old daughter was -- and there were plenty of adults who wouldn't step foot onto Ihu's Breakaway Falls during a media event Thursday! Few theme-park rides frighten my daughter, but this one made her think twice before climbing 126 steps to the 80-foot-tall platform. I believe she mostly was apprehensive about not being able to wear her goggles to see better because she normally wears glasses on dry land. The "thrill" part of the ride didn't paralyze her, as it would some kids.

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After taking in the amazing view of SeaWorld and Aquatica, my daughter stepped into the clear chamber as the rhythmic drumming of a heartbeat beat in the background. When she was ready, she crossed her arms and legs, gave the team member a thumb-up sign, and waited for her countdown to start. Then, the bottom dropped out and she plunged at a rate of 20 to 24 feet per second before splashing into a spiral speed slide. (During normal operation of the attraction, three riders will be in position, one in each breakaway box, and they won't know who will drop first, adding to the anticipation.)

My daughter emerged at the bottom of the water slide all smiles. She was shaking a little from the adrenaline, but she was not upset by the experience. She said she expected it to be a scarier than it was, so she was fine once she had experienced it. Still, this attraction is not for the faint of heart or anyone with ongoing medical conditions.

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My daughter first rode the orange slide, which drops more than three stories and is the longest of the four slides, at 420 feet. Each translucent tube slide offers riders a different experience. The green slide has the shortest drop, but it's still a 28-foot fall. And the blue slide is the steepest of the trio that start with breakaway boxes.

Next, my daughter tried the purple slide, which does not have a breakaway box. It does start from the same platform, though, and it has the steepest incline. She said she liked that slide best and she rode it multiple times. Neither slide, however, caused the dreaded wedgie, she was happy to report.

See a first-person point-of-view video of Ihu's Breakaway Falls:

Although it may seem like hours for those who are frightened, the ride really only lasts about 7 seconds total, I was told. Most of us can talk ourselves through that, right?

What to know before you go:

** Riders must be at least 48 inches tall to experience Ihu's Breakaway Falls. The maximum weight allowed is 300 pounds.

** Nothing can be carried on this ride, including cameras.

** Riders cannot wear items that may come loose, such as goggles or jewelry.

For the opening weekend, Aquatica is testing a fun green-screen photo opportunity. Visitors can pose individually or with their friends and family, and their image will be placed in the promotional artwork for the attraction. The cost is $15 per image. That price buys you a 6 x 8 print, and the image also is sent via email or text to the recipient. Additional images for the same person are $5. The Ihu's Breakaway Falls photo booth is the first of its kind at the water park, which doesn't have professional photographers stationed throughout the park.

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On the day before the official opening of Ihu's Breakaway Falls, there was a small selection of branded merchandise.

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To take a look at all the other attractions that Aquatica has to offer families, please see my previous post.

One-day admission to Aquatica is $46 for adults and $41 for ages 3 to 9. The Splash and Save ticket, which must be purchased in advance online and is good through May 31, is $28 per person.



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February 24, 2014

SeaWorld Orlando's water park Aquatica to open new attraction Ihu's Breakaway Falls on May 9

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As of May 9, thrill-seekers will have a new attraction to conquer in Orlando. That's when SeaWorld's Aquatica debuts Ihu's Breakaway Falls, the tallest, steepest and only multi-drop tower slide of its kind in the southern United States.

During a recent hard-hat tour of the construction site, I spoke with Bryan Nadeau, the vice president of Aquatica, about the new attraction.

"When the sun is hitting it and these guests are falling, at 20 feet per second -- you're going to be able to see these guys flying through these translucent tubes all the way around the structure," he said.

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Nadeau answered many questions that we expect AllEars.Net readers and water park enthusiasts to ask:

Just how high is high?

The platform where riders will start the body slides is about 80 feet from the ground. Ihu's Breakaway Falls will be the tallest structure at Aquatica at 105 feet overall.

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What am I getting myself into?

Riders step into one of three clear "breakaway boxes" that face each other. The see-through bottom drops out and guests plummet in a free fall that transitions into an exciting body slide.

Will I have any control over when I start my ride?

You will be asked to give the ride operator a thumbs up when you're ready to go. After that, you have to wait and see what happens. The ride operator can set the boxes to drop randomly or all together. Each guest will hear a countdown, but he or she will not know if other guests are hearing it at the same time.

Just how fast will I be going?

Riders will drop at about 20 feet per second. The free fall ranges from 27 feet to 40 feet on the three slides that are positioned at an 80-degree angle.

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What happens after the free fall?

Riders transition from a vertical position to a horizontal one and circle the structure in four loops at a speed of 16 miles per hour. The entire ride lasts 20 to 30 seconds.

Should I ride Ihu's Breakaway Falls more than once?

That's up to you, of course, but if you do, you're likely to have a slightly different experience each time. That's because each of the four tubes -- purple, green, blue and orange -- takes a unique path.

Can I enjoy this attraction without experiencing the free fall?

Yes, a fourth slide is an open tube that starts from the same platform and does not have a breakaway box.

Can young kids who are brave enough ride Ihu's Breakaway Falls?

Like the Dolphin Plunge and Omaka Rocka water slides, there is a 48-inch minimum-height requirement.

How are animals incorporated in the ride?

Although guests zooming through this ride won't be seeing any animals -- there's no time! -- Aquatica team members will be offering animal interactions near the attraction. Ihu, the water park's colorful gecko, will be represented by a real gecko.

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Where is this attraction located?

Ihu's Breakaway Falls is being built where the cabanas were situated adjacent to the wave pool. The cabanas are being moved to the island in the center of Roa's Rapids and are expected to open prior to Ihu's Breakaway Falls.

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How can I follow the progress of construction on Ihu's Breakaway Falls?

By reading AllEars.Net, of course! Aquatica also has set up a new Facebook page just for this attraction.



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September 7, 2013

Discovery Cove deal gives Florida residents more time at SeaWorld and Aquatica

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This week, Discovery Cove announced a Florida-resident deal that really is a great value. My family took advantage of this offer last year, and we think it was worth every penny.

Through the end of the year, Florida residents can book the Dolphin Swim Day for $219 per person. That's about half the price during peak times, such as the summer, when visitors from out of state pay as much as $399 per person. What also makes this Florida-resident deal so sweet is that it includes unlimited admission to SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica water park through Jan. 31, 2014, after your day at Discovery Cove.

We spent our day at Discovery Cove in late September for our children's birthdays and then had four months to enjoy Aquatica and SeaWorld. This deal is a great way for locals to sample all the SeaWorld Orlando parks. Plus, the crowds are light, for the most part, which makes each experience all the more enjoyable. We were a little chilly swimming in January, but that didn't stop my 8-year-old and 10-year-old from diving right in and having a blast, that's for sure!

Here's a quick look at what $219 buys:

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Discovery Cove

Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive park, which means your ticket provides breakfast, lunch, snacks, drinks and alcoholic beverages; wetsuit and equipment for snorkeling; and lockers, towels and sunscreen. Discovery Cove only admits 1,300 guests per day, so the park is never overcrowded.

Guests wade with stingrays (that have been debarbed), snorkel among exotic fish in a saltwater lagoon, feed tropical birds in a free-flight aviary, float down a lazy river and relax on white-sand beaches. The highlight of the day for many is, of course, a 30-minute interaction with dolphins that includes holding onto the dolphin's dorsal fin for a short swim. (Florida residents who do not want to participate in the dolphin interaction can purchase a Resort Day pass for $149 and get the current deal with SeaWorld and Aquatica.)

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Aquatica

SeaWorld's Aquatica water park is themed to feature sea animals, of course, and its centerpiece attraction is Dolphin Plunge, which takes riders through a tank of black-and-white Commerson's dolphins. There are a variety of tubes and slides, two family raft rides, a lazy river, body-surfing rapids, and two separate kids' play areas. As with SeaWorld, there is an all-day dining option in one of the three restaurants. (You can read more in my review.)

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SeaWorld Orlando

See SeaWorld's signature Shamu show, feed a dolphin, pet a stingray, brave some monster roller coasters or play in the kids' area all in a day at the Orlando theme park. The newest attraction, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, opened in May and features the park's penguins and a ride. The South Pole area also houses a new restaurant, an exclusive Coca-Cola drink, and a gift shop.

Florida residents who opt for the Discovery Cove deal also can experience Halloween parties that include trick-or-treating and Christmas celebrations with amazing decorations and special shows at SeaWorld at no additional charge. This definitely is another selling point because Disney World and Universal Orlando both require separate tickets for holiday events.

Perhaps the only downside to the Discovery Cove deal is that parking is not included for SeaWorld or Aquatica. But the $14 charge is a small price to pay for all you're getting.

June 8, 2013

Disney's Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon vs. SeaWorld's Aquatica: Who has the better after-2 p.m. pass?

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As Orlando residents, my family and I have had various combinations of theme-park passes since our kids were toddlers. For several years, those included the popular water parks: either Disney's Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon or SeaWorld's Aquatica.

With school out for summer, now we are considering an option we haven't yet tried: The after-2 p.m. water-park pass that is available to Florida residents. For a reduced price, guests can purchase an annual pass that allows entry into the water parks only after 2 p.m. with no blackout dates.

The water parks offer this option, of course, because that's when the crowds start to thin out. Guests who have been in the water since 9 a.m. often are ready to head back to their hotels by mid-afternoon. Plus, in Florida, it's a given that many summer days include afternoon rain, which also clears a water park pretty quickly. Added to this is the fact that the afternoons often are the hottest parts of the days.

So, purchasing an after-2 p.m. pass is a gamble with the weather. But at about half the cost of a regular annual pass to the water parks, we think it just might be worth a try. The water parks stay open later in the summer, often until 8 p.m., so we potentially still could spend six hours on the slides and in the pools.

Now, the difficult decision: Which water park do we choose? Our family has happy memories at all three water parks. But on paper, Disney's Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are the better deal.

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At Disney, the after-2 p.m. pass is $66.03 for adults and $53.25 for kids (including tax) ages 3 to 9. It allows the passholder entry into two separate Disney water parks for one year from the date of purchase. Plus, there is no charge for parking. In addition, Walt Disney World allows guests to bring coolers of all sizes, including large rolling ice chests, so it is possible to bring a meal and drinks for the day and save money. The only restrictions involve glass containers and alcohol.

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At SeaWorld's Aquatica, Florida residents can purchase an after-2 p.m. pass for $58.58 for adults and $53.25 for kids (including tax) ages 3 to 9. It is good only for the one park and only through the end of 2013. There is a $12 charge to park each time you visit. SeaWorld restricts coolers to a 16-quart size, and food is limited to snacks, bottled water, baby food and whatever is needed for those with dietary restrictions. Of course, alcohol and glass containers are not permitted. SeaWorld does have a small picnic area outside its gates and guests are allowed to use the tables for meals stored in their vehicles and then re-enter the water park.

But how do you measure value when your children prefer one water park over another? How would you decide? Please tell us in the comments.

January 31, 2013

SeaWorld's Aquatica offers families water park fun with marine life

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Walt Disney World may have revolutionized themed water parks here in Orlando, but SeaWorld has created its own unique and kid-friendly version, too, that is equally as fun.

Over the last several months, my family and I have explored Aquatica, and we have been impressed with what it has to offer. Until recently, my experience with Orlando water parks primarily was limited to Disney World's Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.

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Dolphin Plunge

The wow-factor is similar at SeaWorld's park, but perhaps the most obvious difference is that Aquatica is themed to feature sea animals, of course, rather than a freak snowstorm in Florida or a tropical paradise left in the wake of a ravaging hurricane. A popular ride in the park is Dolphin Plunge, which is a steep tube slide through a tank where Commerson's dolphins swim and play. A tip for younger (and shorter) guests from team members: If you sit up when the slide goes through the tank, you will slow down and have a longer time to view the dolphins. My husband and I zoomed through the tank segment so quickly we got little more than a passing glance at the dolphins each time we experienced the ride.

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A Commerson's dolphin

Visitors who are not brave enough to take the plunge can see the dolphins from many other angles: at the water's surface, where daily training sessions are performed; an underwater viewing tank where guests can stand; and another view of the tank from the lazy river attraction. But note that if you choose the opposite path on the lazy river, Loggerhead Lane, you'll see a tank full of colorful fish instead.

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Loggerhead Lane

Want to see other wildlife? No problem here, because SeaWorld team members introduce guests to other exotic animals throughout the park, as well.

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Roa's Rapids

And while lazy rivers are a staple at water parks because of their widespread appeal for slow-moving relaxation, Aquatica offers a different take on a winding river with its fast-moving Roa's Rapids. In this attraction, visitors do not ride in tubes. Instead the experience can be almost like body surfing. The strong current propels guests forward whether they float or swim, bypassing islands and gushing geysers. Because of this, children shorter than 51 inches are required to wear a life vest. Roa's Rapids is one of our family's favorite attractions at Aquatica, and with multiple entry points, there is never a wait. The same is true of the park's side-by-side wave pools.

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Walkabout Waters

Like Disney's water parks, Aquatica has carved out play areas just for kids. At Kata's Kookaburra Cove, only those 48 inches and shorter may play. The miniature versions of popular rides give youngsters a thrill without parents having to worry about them being overrun by the older children. Kids of all ages, though, can play at Walkabout Waters, a 60-foot-tall play area where "rain" from buckets, fountains and blasters is continual.

Located next to Walkabout Waters are two family raft rides, Walhalla Wave and HooRoo Run. We found these rides to be quite a bit rougher than the family rides at Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. In addition to steeper banks and drops, these rides include dark tunnels. If your child is a daredevil, Walhalla Wave and HooRoo Run could be fun for the whole family. They're not gentle rides for timid parkgoers, though.

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Taumata Racer

There also are many different types of water slides for those with varying degrees of bravery. On Taumata Racer, guests lie on mats and fly through dark tunnels and then down a very steep hill. My 8-year-old daughter and I love this one. It's much faster than the Tobaggan Racers at Blizzard Beach, and I definitely had the sensation of my stomach dropping when my mat did. My 10-year-old son is a big fan of Omaka Rocka, which sends inner tube riders up half-pipe funnels backward and forward.

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Omaka Rocka

The food at Aquatica is similar to what is served in SeaWorld restaurants. Waterstone Grill serves burgers, sandwiches and salads; Mango Market offers favorites such as pizza, chicken tenders and French fries, plus so grab-and-go selections; and Banana Beach is an all-day buffet. Family picnics are available seasonally. Alcohol and Coca-Cola products are sold at Aquatica.

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Waterstone Grill

Of course, lockers and beach towels are available for rental. And sunblock and souvenirs are well-stocked, too.

Mickey and Co. certainly know a lot about making waves of magic at Disney World's two water parks, but the park that is home to Shamu also knows how to make a fun splash, as well.


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About Aquatica

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Aquatica category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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