World Penguin Day

Today, April 25,  is World Penguin Day, not to be confused with Penguin Awareness Day which January 20. In honor of their special day, get ready for the 2013 opening of Antarctica –  Empire of the Penguin!

Antarctic will be the coldest theme park attraction in the world, at a chilly 30 degrees. Guests will ride on an 8-person “boat” right into a close-up interaction with gentoos, rockhoppers, adelies and kings. Park insiders confirm an experience that will be “up close to say the least.” A friendly guide, a young gentoo penguin, will lead the exciting journey.

What’s it like for penguins in their frozen world, the coldest and windiest continent? Visitors will be able to catch a glimpse into their beautiful, but sometimes dangerous, environment.

The penguin “realm” will include not only the new attraction, but a new penguin habitat, gift shop and a restaurant.

Terry Prather, SeaWorld Orlando’s president is excited about their largest ever expansion. “Only SeaWorld and its parks can take you on these journeys or bring these experiences to you!”

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Antarctica… Empire of the Penguin at SeaWorld, Orlando

Today SeaWorld Orlando announced the biggest expansion in their history! One of the “coolest” attractions is Antarctica… Empire of the Penguin. Set to open in 2013, Antarctica will take guests to the bottom of the world in a family-friendly ride which promises to be the “coldest attraction in the world.”

Antarctica, the continent, is locked under 9,000 feet of ice. SeaWorld’s Antarctica, will offer guests a taste of that harsh climate, in small doses, of course. (This is the Sunshine State, after all!) Insiders tell of “intense” up-close interaction with the penguins including “pop up” windows of some sort where visitors will be inside the actual habitat.

Julie Scardina, animal ambassador to SeaWorld/Busch Gardens, was on hand to introduce the family-friendly attraction. “Antarctica is a harsh environment even if you are a penguin,” she explained. Ever the conservationist, Julie talked about sustainable seafood and other ways we can reduce our “footprint.” “We can all make a difference and become Everyday Heroes!”

The ride is described as a “closer-than-ever” interactive experience and an incredible family adventure. Viewing the frozen world “through the eyes of a penguin,” guests will sense the beauty and drama of their sometimes dangerous world.

Don't Worry!

Although some have been concerned about penguin withdrawal during construction, Brian Morrow, Corporate Director of Creative Development assures penguin pals like myself that there will be opportunities to see “some” of the penguins while the expansion takes place. “Don’t worry!” he assures. Many of the birds will be at the sister parks, but guests will not have to go “cold turkey,” er “penguin,” at the Orlando, Florida park. A temporary habitat will allow Spheniscidae Spectators a “penguin peek” until the new exhibit opens.

Spheniscidae Spectator

SeaWorld is known for taking guests into an amazing underwater world they can’t experience on their own. Antarctica… Empire of the Penguin continues that tradition,  and then some!

You know it’s gonna be cool!

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SeaWorld Birthday Party and Cake

There’s so much to celebrate at SeaWorld… conservation, beauty, marine life, family. We enjoy it so much that when my son suggested a SeaWorld theme for his birthday party we were all for it! And the icing on the cake was, well, the cake!

I started out by baking two half sheet cakes in one flavor, and three 8-inch rounds in another (so chocolate lovers could have their favorite, and non-chocoholics were good to go, too). Not sure how a person does not like chocolate, but who’s to say?!

I made a strawberry filling for the yellow cake filling and a chocolate ganash for in between the chocolate layers.

The fondant was store-bought and I added blue food coloring until I got the just-right ocean-y feel! Meanwhile, a friend of mine helped by whipping up a batch of buttercream frosting. (Thanks MW for everything!) We had two bowls: one was for the blue color, and one was for white.

I rolled it out and covered the 8″ rounds that were now filled and stacked. Once the two large rectangles were similarly filled and layered, I covered that part of the cake with the blue buttercream icing. Then I placed the fondant-clad round off to one side, touching both a long and short side of the base cake.

The sides of both the round and base cakes were given a fresh garnish of additional white icing, just piped on really thick at the base. Then I put a fork into the blue gel food coloring I’d used to color the fondant. I pressed it into the white and made a wave-type of motion and… voila! The dark blue mixed with the white to create a pretty realistic wave, if I do say so myself.

Since I’m not a professional cake maker, I couldn’t sculpt the whale, penguin, and dolphin out of sugar or gumpaste or chocolate or any other edible product for that matter, I simply used three of my son’s “Little People” characters and made waves around them.

What was awesome and edible were the sharks, “baby” penguins, fish and rocks that completed the look. (Thanks again MW!) Purchased at a candy store, these little jimmies added dimension and were absolutely delicious. (I could eat a bag of the chocolate rocks right now!)

After pushing the gummy sharks into the sides of the “wave area,” covering the “ocean floor” with rocks, and placing the bright-colored fish into the “foam” of the water, all that was left was to write happy birthday. I used some more of the fondant and cut the letters with plastic alphabet shape cutters.

We had a “baby pool” filled with stuffed dolphins and whales. We even created a “Penguin Encounter” (as per my toddler) where all his penguins and puffins could line up and the people at the party had to walk by “real slow” so they could pretend they were on the conveyor belt.

“Daniel is Three. Celebrate with the Sea,” stated our invitation. Everyone had a “whale of a day” and ate lots sea-themed foods and ocean-blue punch. We then had our cake and ate it, too.

Penguins Just Dive On In at SeaWorld

Escalators, elevators, moving sidewalks… they all hold fascination for little kids. But a moving sidewalk with a live penguin show…. Now that’s entertainment!

My toddler son enjoyed his first visit to the Penguin Encounter at SeaWorld when he was 3 months old. Now, 3 years later he’s obsessed with the little black-and-whites. The rockhopper, he’ll inform you, has funny orange “hair” at the sides of his head and he hop, hop, hops from rock to rock. The gentoo has a gentle touch of white by her eyes. And the Adélie (emphasis on the eeeeeeeeee when we say it!) has a long white belly–again with the long E sound. (We’re big on mnemonics in our house: You hit, you sit… in time out. You throw, it will go–the toy–to time out. You get the idea!)

In addition to learning about the cold-climate penguins, we’ve also come to know a new little South American friend… the Magellanic penguin. On our behind-the-scenes tour we met the little fellow face to face. While the grown-ups bent down to stroke its back, our toddler stood eye to eye. Carefully he lifted his two-inch hand, trying hard to put his fingers together as instructed. (Since my son’s still working on fine motor coordination, the trainer/caregiver was allowed him to use his full hand to gently stroke the penguin’s feathers.)

From the time his size 10 1/2 feet step on to the “mover” (as he calls it), he’s looking up at his snowbound friends (although once in a while he’s checking out his reflection in the glass!). Sometimes I think his neck will get whiplash watching a penguin as it swims by at surprising speeds. At others I think he’ll go horse telling one of the kings to “jump, jump, JUMP” in the water before he gets to the end of the exhibit viewing area.

Ready or not, here he comes again… off the moving sidewalk, around the back (at the non-rider viewing area), poised at the beginning again… for another trip to see his feathered friends.