What does America’s favorite pasta dish and Give Kids The World (GKTW), one of Central Florida’s greatest children’s charities, have in common? They are both going to be part of the inaugural O-Town MacDown Presented by SeaWorld at the Orange County Convention Center on Saturday, August 23 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.!
Do you love mac-n-cheese? Does your mac-n-cheese have a secret ingredient that sets it above the rest? Join GKTW for O-Town MacDown and enjoy an unbe-CHEESE-able afternoon of fun and food the whole family will enjoy! Gather the family and come stuff your face with mac-and-cheese and help determine the Mac-and-Cheese Kings and Queens of Central Florida, all to benefit kids with life-threatening illnesses.
Of course, whether you are a professional chef, a restaurant chef or a home cook with the tastiest mac-and-cheese in your neighborhood, you are invited to show off your best cheesy concoction and see if you can earn bragging rights as well as cash and great prizes! PLUS, the first 40 competitors to sign up by July 1 will be entered to win a pair of AAdvantage Airmile Certificates from American Airlines!
The winners of the professional and restaurant competitions at O-Town MacDown will have the opportunity to face off on stage in front of their colleagues at the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show, to be held two weeks later in Orlando, Florida. Both winners will compete at the Show’s Food Trends Experience Culinary Demonstration Theater for the title of Best Mac ‘n Cheese in Orange County. They also will be featured on the Show’s website leading up to the event and promoted heavily at the show.
The unique and family-fun O-Town MacDown will include cooking demonstrations, live entertainment, a performance by Tony Brent from the Outta Control Dinner Show, appearances by the SeaWorld “Groove Chefs” and unlimited mac-n-cheese. Kids can have a blast in the Kid’s Zone including bounce houses, face painting and macaroni arts and crafts.
Tickets are going fast, get yours online now at $10 for adults and $5 for children (tickets higher at the door). It’s going to be a GOUDA time, so don’t miss it! Visit www.OTownMacDown.org for tickets and registration information.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Launches New Mobile Websites and Ticketing for SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Parks
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment launched new mobile websites for the three SeaWorld and two Busch Gardens parks last week, providing guests and fans with a convenient and easy way to plan their vacations and purchase and redeem tickets directly from their mobile devices.
SeaWorld and Busch Gardens are some of the first in the theme park industry to effectively use mobile sites with geo-location capabilities. When a guest is near one of the SeaWorld or Busch Gardens parks and connects to the website, the guest’s phone will immediately default to driving directions. However, if the guest is actually in the park, the site will automatically default to a park map so they can find their next adventure without missing a beat. Receiving the most relevant content, products, offers and promotions based on their location to the parks are just some of the many intuitive features mobile users can now experience.
“These mobile sites have been in development for several months and we are excited about the incredibly positive response we’ve already seen from guests,” said Anne Fischer, Director of Interactive Marketing for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “With ever-increasing mobile traffic to our parks, guests can expect more exciting mobile websites, products, apps and systems designed to make their lives more convenient in the near future.”
The sites provide guests with a simplified mobile purchase experience with images, text and easy steps for the entire process. Once the purchase process is complete, guests will receive their digital admission ticket directly on their phone, allowing them to proceed directly to the front gate for entry to the park.
Unlike other theme park mobile sites, guests can not only purchase single day tickets, but also multi-park and season passes, allowing guests to save money and time. Based on the tickets purchased, the sites will suggest additional experiences and adventures, including behind-the-scenes tours, up-close animal interactions or dining options to make their visit to the park even more memorable.
The new sites were designed to work with some of the most popular cell phone operating systems, including Apple, Android and Windows.
This week I’d like to focus on two great apps for smartphones from Busch Gardens and Sea World. I have often being accused of being attached to my phone while in the parks, but in this case, this is a good thing. These apps are amazing! They have some great features that I will explore a little further with a bit more detail.
First off, the layout for both Busch Gardens is similar as you can see from the pictures below. On the first screen upon opening the app for the first time after downloading it, you will be asked to choose which park location you’d like to choose from to install that specific park’s information on your phone. Seen below are the screen shots for the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Sea World Orlando. The next screen you will see is the home screen with a built in compass. The screen is broken up into categories of Animals, Search, Shows, Attractions/Rides & Wait Times, Restrooms, Stay Connected, Food and Explore More. I have also taken a picture of the park maps with some of the search options.
Across the bottom of each screen you have the Home, Events, Camera, Map and More options. With the Busch Gardens map above I just zoomed out to see the whole park. For the Sea World map I opted to search for the companion restrooms at the park.
Since the features are practically identical for the two parks, I will focus just on one from this point forward since I went to Sea World most recently and much of the functionality is brought out best while in the park based on GPS location.
For the Animals section you are able to sort alphabetically by name or distance from your current location within the park.
Search allows you to type in a keyword and gives your results in alphabetical order, but also shows your distance and a brief description. If you are wanting more specific information about dolphins, click on the listed links.
One of my favorite things about the app is the show listings. I love all of the shows Sea World to offer and the function of sorting by name, distance or show time is great! I used this to find my way to explore a new show for me: A’Lure. It directed me and kept constantly updating my distance to the show.
Similar to shows, Ride & Wait Times allows you to sort by name, distance or wait time if you are looking for something to ride.
Again with the Restrooms you are able to sort by name or distance. If you want GPS directions, just click on the name of the restroom and the app will direct you with step by step map using GPS.
On the Stay Connected tab, you can get more information on Sea World by following them on Twitter, liking them on Facebook, following the Sea World blog or signing up for the email list.
Much like the other categories, with Food you can sort by name or distance. Once you select a location you can see more like sample menu items and pricing.
For the Explore More section of the app you can learn more about Tours, Camps, Animal Interaction programs, the Quick Queue program and the All Day Dining Deal (which I highly recommend).
Events lists upcoming things like concert series and special events for the next few months along with more information and specific dates.
I absolutely loved the Camera function of the app. It was so cool to take pictures in the park and add fun borders right then to save to your phone to upload or send to friends and family. However, this was the only part of the app that I had some issues with it acting a little buggy going back to my phone’s home screen instead of to the app’s home screen when I was done take the picture.
You can see the interactive footsteps on the map once you have selected your destination. Along the top you have options of searching or pre-selected categories of Animal Connections, Shows, Rides, First Aid, Restroom, Nursing Facility, Defibrillator, Drinks, Snacks & Refills, Companion Restrooms, ATM, Amenities, Dining, Lockers, Guest Information, Events, Gifts & Souvenirs, Smoking, and Clear All. You can select multiple options at the same time and can move the map around as well as zoom in and out. Also included is the ability to recenter the GPS to your current position.
If you are wanting to contact Sea World or get more general info about the park, like their address for GPS, you can find this under the More – Contact Us/General Information section.
Park Hours is pretty self explanatory and shows the hours for each day of the month when you click on the calendar.
The directions tab is particularly useful if you don’t have a GPS program. When I went to the Directions my phone verified my current location and calculated distance and time based on GPS.
There is even a built in Weather app to give you the forecast for the day.
If you are wanting to learn more about Sea World’s mission and pledge to environmental education and protection, visit the Commitment section under More.
I think my favorite thing using the GPS was the Car Finder function. When you park your car you drop a pin to mark the GPS location of where you parked. When you are leaving for the day you can revisit the car finder to find your car! No more do you have to try to remember where exactly you parked. I found this to be very reliable and it even recognized when I reached my car.
All in all, I am very impressed with the Sea World and Busch Gardens apps. Even though I know my way around the parks well enough to not need a park map, it is nice to have the GPS to show you the shortest distance or alternate routes to get where you are going. There are tons of great features that these apps offer using the GPS technology and search functions. I use these apps pretty much every time I’m in these parks, especially for the show times to see what I can catch on a whim and also for wait times and exploring what is in the area. Honestly, the only thing I had any issues with was the camera function on occasion. I’d say it worked fine three out of five times I tried it. I think these are some of the nicest apps for parks in the area and wish some of the other parks would adopt some of these features and ease of use. Check them out next time you’re in the area or even if you just want to check to see what is going on in the parks in advance of your trip!
Earlier this morning SeaWorld Orlando had a HUGE announcement about new attractions and experiences coming to both SeaWorld and Discovery Cove in 2012 and 2013, and I cannot tell you how excited I am about them!!!
These new attractions represent the biggest attraction expansions in the history of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, the parks’ parent company.
Terry Prather, president of the company’s Orlando parks, SeaWorld, Discovery Cove and Aquatica, said, “With TurtleTrek at SeaWorld Orlando and Freshwater Oasis at Discovery Cove, travelers will have all new reasons to visit Orlando. What we’re creating will take you places you’ve never been before, places only SeaWorld can take you.”
While creating TurtleTrek (opening at SeaWorld Orlando in spring 2012), designers stayed true to SeaWorld’s unique blend of nose-to-nose animal encounters and state-of-the art entertainment.
Guests first visit two massive naturalistic habitats, one filled with hundreds of freshwater fish and gentle manatees, the other home to more than 1,500 saltwater fish and more than a dozen sea turtles. Many of the manatees and sea turtles were rescued by the park’s animal team. Since SeaWorld Orlando’s rescue programs began, the team has cared for and returned to the wild nearly 240 manatees and more than 1,200 sea turtles.
Moving on from the habitat, guests enter a domed theater, and what happens next has never before been seen and is a first at any theme park in the world.
Coming to life is a first-of-its-kind 3-D/360-degree dome theater film that is completely immersive. The dome allows a hyper-realistic 3-D movie to be shown all around guests and even above them – not just in front them or on only one screen. It’s this unique and immersive way of showcasing a sea turtle’s epic and astounding journey that is the heart of TurtleTrek. And for the first time, SeaWorld guests are given a turtle’s eye view of the ocean’s wonders.
TurtleTrek is as inspirational as it is astounding. There’s a call-to-action at the end of the experience: SeaWorld calls on guests to join them in conserving the world we share. “Do a little, do a lot, but join us and do something to help the world and its animals,” said Brian Morrow, the attraction’s chief designer. “TurtleTrek is about the everyday heroes who can make a difference in nature.”
Opening at Discovery Cove in spring 2012 is Freshwater Oasis, an all-new attraction featuring swimming and wading adventures and face-to-face encounters with playful otters and curious marmosets.
Designed with a rainforest canopy above and sparkling-clear springs below, Freshwater Oasis is a natural fit within Discovery Cove’s tropical vibe. Guests can relax at the In-Water Relaxation Station and explore in the unique water ways and water-filled trails to discover marmosets and playful Asian otters. No matter where they turn, they’ll find endless discoveries.
Admission to the Freshwater Oasis is included with admission to Discovery Cove, a limited-admission, all-inclusive tropical resort where guests swim with dolphins, hand-feed tropical birds in a free-flight aviary, snorkel among thousands of colorful fish and rays and relax on pristine beaches.
Antarctica – Empire of the Penguin
Also announced was SeaWorld Orlando’s biggest-ever attraction expansion, Antarctica – Empire of the Penguin, opening spring 2013.
Through the years, SeaWorld Orlando has taken guests to far-flung corners of the globe, immersing them in the character and feel of exotic places and introducing them to unique worlds of adventure.
At the park’s “Wild Arctic” guests ride a simulated jet copter to the frozen north, into a habitat of polar bears, beluga whales and huge walruses. “Key West at SeaWorld” sets guests down in the funky ambience of the Florida Keys, with dolphins, stingrays and colorful birds. The rocky northern California coast is found at “Pacific Point Preserve,” with dozens of seals and sea lions. The park’s other attractions take guests into the worlds of sharks, sea turtles and manatees, or let guests soar like a ray on the Manta roller coaster or ride the back of a mythical beast, the Kraken.
But no journey is bigger — or as incredible — as the one to come in 2013. It’s a voyage to the bottom-of-the-world, to the coldest and windiest continent, to a place of ice more than 9,000- feet thick. It’s a journey to Antarctica and to the empire of the penguin.
Guests will be surrounded by the sights, sounds and awesome encounters found in this frozen place, embarking on a one-of-a-kind ride and an incredible family adventure.
They’ll experience the mystery and wonder of life on the ice through the eyes of a penguin, sensing the beauty and drama of their sometimes-dangerous habitat. Antarctica – Empire of the Penguin combines closer-then-ever animal connections with state-of-the-art interactive ride technologies for adventures that are different each time.
It’s an all-family experience that could only come from SeaWorld and can only be found at SeaWorld Orlando. And, it’s safe to say Antarctica – Empire of the Penguin will be the coldest theme park attraction in the world.
A year-and-a-half from opening at SeaWorld Orlando, details are few. For now, SeaWorld Orlando’s Antarctica will stay as mysterious as its namesake continent. “Only SeaWorld and its parks can take you on these journeys or bring these experiences to you,” said Prather. “We’re excited about what the future holds for our parks and our fans.”
I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Sea World since I was young, so I decided it was time to take a stroll down memory lane and visit one of my favorite childhood parks. It was definitely a good decision! Sea World is a beautiful park that is more of a destination than a place to see a “whale show”!
I’ll be posting more about the shows, experiences, and rides that Sea World has to offer in the upcoming week. But right now I want to talk about a few things that you should take into consideration when planning your trip to Sea World, from someone who didn’t plan anything! 🙂
When you arrive at Sea World, the first shocker for me was the photographers jumping in front of you trying to take your photo. I know it is their job, but seriously! If I don’t look interested in stopping, please don’t even try!
But I did find one photo op that I couldn’t pass up…
Now for the awesome news….They have a Starbucks in the Park! Now lines in here can be just as long as some of the attractions, but the rides don’t taste this good!
The most important thing to consider while you are at Sea World is their “loose items” policy. Now while you can bring your backpack or purse onto most rides at Walt Disney World, this is DEFINITELY not the case here. They will not allow you on any ride with a “loose item”, but they do provide lockers throughout the park for you leave your items in. For us it was an issue, since we don’t typically use a stroller in smaller parks and I am so used to carrying snacks and drinks in for Zoe.
The shows are amazing, and you really need to show up about 30 minutes in advance to avoid the “Splash Zones”! Now while there have been a lot of tragedies lately, you can definitely tell that the trainers at Sea World have a true love for what they do and the animals that they work with.
Sea World had definitely earned a spot in our theme park rotation! They offer great & unique animal experiences, have some great coasters, and have show that capture the magic and love that we all have for nature and its inhabitants.
If you haven’t considered a visit…you might want to!