SeaWorld is decked out for the holidays.
While the decorations are omnipresent, Christmas shows are only scheduled on select days from November 23 – January 4. That includes every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during that period, in addition to every day over Thanksgiving and every day from December 23rd to December 31st. A few Christmas shows are scheduled on January 1 – 4 as well.
The schedule varies, but looks something like this:
View the various schedules here by clicking a date on the calendar.
Up until 5pm, it’s business as usual for the most part. The website has covered SeaWorld briefly in Josh Goes to SeaWorld and Antarctica Opens.
Dress for the cooler weather. With the exception of O’ Wondrous Night/A’Lure Call of the Ocean and Pet’s Ahoy/Elmo’s Christmas Wish, all SeaWorld shows are outdoors.
Manta, the flying roller coaster, and Journey into Atlantis, the flume ride, generally see short wait times regardless of overall crowds this time of year. Atlantis is a wetter Splash Mountain/Jurassic Park River Adventure and Manta’s intensity, coupled with the cooler temperatures, cause many people to think twice. Manta is located just inside the entrance and Atlantis is further back near Kraken and Empire of the Penguin.
Kraken is a steel floorless roller coaster similar to The Hulk at Universal. It usually has short lines this time of year as well, though they’re typically longer than Manta/Atlantis. With its slow, brooding lift, seven inversions, 144-foot drop, and max speed of 65 miles per hour, it’s an intense attraction that exceeds Hulk in thrills in my opinion. This is located in the back of the Park in between Atlantis and Antarctica.
Turtle Trek, the indoor aquarium and 3D theater show, remains popular.
In low crowds, you can more or less walk into the next pre-show area. As Christmas approaches, waits can easily hit 30 to 50 minutes on busier days, particularly from December 21st – January 5th and on weekend days with 11pm closes.
Your trek begins with a basic aquarium exhibit with sea turtles, manatees, and other underwater life.
The show culminates in the domed 3D theater where the action happens not only 360 degrees around, but above as well. So basically 900 degrees.
It’s entirely animated, but there are a couple slightly scary elements, including the crab attack and shark passing over.
But it’s aimed at families.
Empire of the Penguin is SeaWorld’s newest attraction.
Perhaps without exception, Penguin has the longest waits of any SeaWorld attraction. If you arrive prior to Park opening, heading here first thing is wise. With a late arrival, visiting as late as possible is wise. These pictures are from Sunday November 24th, which is the Sunday before Thanksgiving. No other attractions had wait times other than Penguin. Despite the hype, Penguin is largely a flop, helping push SeaWorld’s attendance down 6% last quarter. The Blackfish nonsense isn’t helping either, I’m sure.
Antarctica is also home to SeaWorld’s best quick service eatery, Expedition Cafe.
Here, you’ll find the widest variety of food at relatively reasonable prices. The less obvious entrance also means fewer people inside and wide open ordering area is less chaotic than others. Note that Expedition Cafe is not on the All-Day Dining Deal, which is good news for those of us paying cash since the food is less dumbed down and higher quality.
I ordered the South Pole Pepper Steak – Sliced sirloin beef tossed with peppers and onions in a Mongolian brown sauce served with Jasmine Rice – $10.99.
You actually have your choice of jasmine rice, lo mein noodles, or fried rice. I opted for the fried rice, which seemed to be made with jasmine rice instead of your typical white. I thought it made the rice taste a little “off.”
The beef was better, though still far from spicy. I’d put it above Lotus Blossom, but behind Sunshine Seasons. Better than virtually anything elsewhere at SeaWorld though.
Served with a fortune cookie that was dipped in white chocolate.
Lisa ordered the Garden Lasagna – Loaded with “freshies” and baked to perfection. Topped with marinara and alfredo sauce with a garlic breadstick on the side – $9.99. Lisa ordered it with just alfredo and it was quite good, packed with squash, zucchini, carrots, and other vegetables in a lasagna that might have been slightly overcooked.
I thought my fried chicken back in May was better than either entree we ordered this time.
Unfortunately, seeing the darling penguins still requires guests to wait in line for the lousy Empire of the Penguin attraction. It would be a lot of fun if you could meander in for a minute. At least with the cooler temperatures, guests may be able to enjoy the penguins for a bit longer with coats and sweatshirts. It remains freezing inside.
The rest of SeaWorld is similar to any other day, including the underwater dolphin viewing.
The popular dolphin feeding.
SeaWorld’s version of the Jammitors.
SeaWorld’s version of Pick-a-pearl.
SeaWorld’s holiday overlay is The Polar Express up near Shamu Stadium.
Wait times are generally second-longest here, but don’t tend to build until around 11am due to how far away from the entrance it is.
But it’s a slow-loading ride that is much more popular than Wild Arctic Ride. Plus you have the opportunity to meet Santa at the end.
So what have we learned? If you’re planning a visit here during the fall/winter, your attraction priorities from highest to lowest are:
- Empire of the Penguin – Peak waits of 40 to 120 minutes
- The Polar Express – 30 to 75 minutes
- Turtle Trek – 20 to 50 minutes
- Kraken – 15 to 40 minutes
- Manta – 15 to 35 minutes
- Journey to Atlantis – 10 to 30 minutes
During the day, seemingly random popup entertainment occurs throughout the Park.
This is a humorous Santa’s elf skit.
A roving quartet.
A free-if-you-don’t-buy-the-print snowglobe photo-op.
Clyde and Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas is scheduled a maximum of twice daily and is usually the earliest show other than Elmo’s Christmas Wish. That means a single show at 5pm or a show at 6pm and another at 7:30pm at Sea Lion & Otter Theater, which is one of the more convenient show locations.
Even the pre-show entertainment is funny with this mime flirting with older women, stealing beers, and leading the audience in various Christmas carols complete with cue cards.
This is my favorite of the stage shows, complete with a singing sea otter.
And splashing sea lions.
That smile on command.
May I have this dance my love?
There’s even an unexpected walrus. That is the level of entertainment we’re talking about here.
Not to mention the King of ECVs.
Clyde and Seamore is equal parts funny, smart, cute, and impressive with the animals stealing the show. It’s also the least preachy. Plan to arrive 30 minutes early to secure seats. Cutting it closer to 15 or 20 minutes early will result in seats in the far corner.
Speaking of arriving early, SeaWorld does offer reserved seating for $29 to $34 per person depending on date. Front of the Line access at Polar Express is included. Ordinarily, I tend not to recommend the upcharge reserved seating as arriving 20 to 30 minutes before a show means you’ll get a seat just as good. But SeaWorld’s Christmas shows can fill to capacity, particularly on Saturdays and days around Christmas. Even arriving 30 minutes early can result in a seat somewhere up in the far left hand corner. And shows are scheduled close together, making it difficult or impossible to see them all on in one night. With reserved seating, you can show up five or ten minutes before a show and sit in some of the best seats. I’m still not saying you should purchase show seating, but with only one day to visit, it’s an option. With two days, it’s much less necessary.
The Sea of Trees is scheduled two to four times nightly. It’s similar to the Osborne Lights, but the scope is much smaller and the trees only “dance” for a couple of minutes. I don’t think it’s worth going out of your way to see, but it’s easy to see if you’re in the vicinity.
The waterfront snow flurries are also easily viewable from all around this area.
O Wondrous Night is scheduled two to three times nightly in the same theater as A’Lure.
It’s a large, fairly comfortable indoor theater.
A violinist plays holiday music for the 30 minutes leading up to show time.
SeaWorld describes it as “Hear the greatest story never told with over 30 carols, life-size puppets and live animals in the brand new show that will charm, entertain and delight people from all walks of life. Lots of singing, special effects and incredible lighting enhance this production and holiday spirit.” There may be a reason why this story was never told.
In reality, the show is rather strange. The writing is corny and the premise may or may not be offensive as these stuffed animal puppets take credit for the birth of “the child.”
On the other hand, the singers are talented and the scope of the show is impressive.
But I’m not sure the whole “This is SeaWorld so we’re going to have to work in animals somehow” works here.
I’m not sure if they ever actually said the word “Jesus,” which was a little odd too.
The name does work its way into some of the song lyrics.
But it all comes together at the end when girls in fake beards walk camels on stage.
SeaWorld offers three outdoor nighttime shows. The scheduling can make it difficult to see both Shamu and the ice skating. You can scamper from Shamu at 8:15pm over to Bayside Theater for Winter Wonderland on Ice at 8:45pm, but it’s going to be tight. I am not a Shamu person myself as the shows tend to be preachy and boring.
Winter Wonderland precedes Holiday Reflections: Fireworks and Fountain Finale. And an a capella group singing Christmas carols precedes that. You can view the fireworks from all around the Park, but the best spot is the theater. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to find seats for the fireworks if you don’t go to Wonderland on Ice first.
Winter Wonderland is a fairly straightforward ice skating show.
But there are some surprises, like penguins and a guy dressed up like a reindeer.
No Tanya Harding sighting.
It’s otherwise an entertaining prelude to the fireworks.
The last three minutes. I’m not sure it’s a amazing or “must-see show,” but SeaWorld doesn’t usually offer fireworks, so it’s nice holiday nightcap.
Exiting the theater, you can enjoy the holiday village SeaWorld has set up, including a train set.
SeaWorld offers a lot included with the regular price of admission. If you’re not interested in the various shows, they just help pull people away from the usual attractions. During the Clyde and Seamore show, Kraken was sending completely empty vehicles, for example.