Riding the wave of new and expanded attractions and lands coming to Florida parks including the Fantasyland Expansion at Walt Disney World and the new Transformers ride at Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando has its own new goodies on tap. First up in 2012 will be TurtleTrek (what's up with SeaWorld's aversion to spaces between words?), an exhibit that will feature both real and virtual presentations of marine life via aquariums and a 3-D film shown in a 360-degree format. Sister park Discovery Cove will also be getting some new attraction love in 2012, while SeaWorld's penguin exhibit will be getting a major makeover for 2013. The SeaWorld additions are part of a host of new attractions coming to Florida theme parks in 2013.
Antarctica - Empire of the Penguin Quick Facts
- Type of attraction: Ride-through animal exhibit
- Location: SeaWorld Orlando
- Planned opening: Spring 2013
- SeaWorld's Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin official site
Details are sparse for what SeaWorld is describing as its largest (read: most costly) expansion to date, but we do know that guests will board vehicles and embark on a c-c-c-cold journey to the land of the penguins. We also know that the unique ride vehicles will be trackless and capable of providing motion simulator movements. As guests move through the attraction, they will encounter what will likely be filmed sequences, and the vehicles will be synchronized to move with the projected action. It sounds as if it will be somewhat similar to the roving motion base vehicles concept used in attractions such as Universal Orlando's The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, although I would imagine the thrill quotient would be considerably less in SeaWorld's family-friendly ride.
The cute birds, who have long been a staple at the park, are endlessly fascinating. And it's always been great to duck out of Orlando's oppressive heat and humidity into the penguin exhibit. Wild Arctic, SeaWorld's polar bear and whale exhibit, also melds a motion simulator ride with a themed (and cold!) environment. The Antarctica pavilion should be similarly engaging. As with Wild Arctic, passengers aboard the Antarctica ride will be able to disembark and walk among the penguin exhibits.
TurtleTrek Quick Facts
- Type of attraction: 3-D film and marine life exhibit
- Location: SeaWorld Orlando
- Now open
- SeaWorld's TurtleTrek official site
High-Tech TrekIn typical SeaWorld fashion, the new exhibit offers up-close viewings of animals. One of two habitats includes, of course, sea turtles along with fish of the saltwater persuasion. The other aquarium puts manatees, the huge mammals that are also known as sea cows, on display as well as other freshwater creatures. I'm not sure what manatees have to do with sea turtles, but the lumbering animals are intriguing to watch. Some of the exhibit's turtles and manatees are animals rescued by SeaWorld.
The TurtleTrek film is presented not just in 3-D (after all, where's the novelty in that these days?), but in 360-degree 3-D. The encompassing movie is projected onto the ceiling and the entire circumference of the walls of a domed theater to provide an immersive, you-are-there experience. According to SeaWorld, the action is presented from the perspective of a sea turtle navigating the ocean floor.
Disney pioneered the 360-degree theater with its "Circle-Vision" presentations that incorporate nine screens arranged in a circle. Epcot continues to show the in-the-round movies at its China and Canada pavilions. Universal Studios Hollywood introduced the goofy glasses to the experience when it added King Kong 360/3-D to its studio tour in 2010. Instead of a traditional theater, guests see the big ape while aboard the park's tour trams. (Although the trek of a turtle doesn't exactly pack the same punch as a freakishly enormous ape on the loose.)
Freshwater Oasis Quick Facts
- Type of attraction: Interactive animal adventure
- Location: Discovery Cove
- Now open.
The boutique park, Discovery Cove, where the highlight is the swim-with-dolphins experience, now has a new animal interaction. Guests are able hop into the water and sidle up to an otter. No barriers. Just you and the otters. I'm not sure how close I would want to get to an otter, but the implication would appear to be that it's an entirely safe proposition. Other animals in the new area include mamoset monkeys. 2012's Freshwater Oasis comes on the heels of The Grand Reef, a snorkeling experience that opened in 2011 at Discovery Cove.