One Weekend Left for Spooktacular at SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld Spooktacular is a tradition for our family. Since it’s held every weekend in October, we try to make it out a few times. This year we’ve been every single weekend and there’s one more to go!

To add to the festivities this year, we decided to go to the “Count Von Count’s Spooktacular Breakfast” (which is an additional charge). If you love the Sesame Street gang, this is a fantastic opportunity to get character photos! If you’re expecting a big show… not so much. There was a short dance number, but we missed it standing in line for food. Yes, I was bummed about missing it, but I did feel pretty special getting a hug from Cookie Monster himself. The food was typical theme-park fare, and the quantities were generous.

It’s hard to decide what we enjoy most, but live comedy has to be up there… especially the Longshoremen. They put on quite the show! (And this year’s pumpkin performance was the “gutsiest” ever, ha ha.)

The pumpkin guts are flying now!

People watching is another favorite pastime. I especially enjoy seeing how creative people can be with their costumes. I’m particularly fond of homemade costumes, and “family costumes.” The prettiest little Shamu smiled at us this past weekend. Her mom shared how she insisted on being the adorable orca. Mom, ya done good!

Families even get into the act, like the Toy Story gang. There was another little one in costume (a lamb) but, shhh, she’s sleeping!

I consider myself a really creative person, and I think that’s another reason I appreciate all that’s done for Spooktacular. The characters who greet the children are wildly imaginative… And there are so many of them! Yes, it is crowded at times, but if you’re patient and either get their first or wait for a few hours to enter the Spooktacular walkway, you’ll have a great time.

Theme Park Insider Tip: Don’t enter Spooktacular candy lane at the front entrance by the geese and Dolphin Nursery. Walk around to the other side of the park and enter from the opposite end of “Candy Lane.” The lines will be a LOT shorter!

A sure-fire hit with the kids is “Countdown to Halloween,” in the Pets Ahoy Theater. Abby, Elmo, and of course The Count will dance and sing to seasonal favorites like “Monster Mash.” It’s a graveyard smash!

So grab your cutest costume, or wear plain clothes… they don’t mind… and get to the last weekend of Spooktacular 2011. Even big kids with no kids of their own are welcome to dress up, trick-or-treat, watch shows and pretend they haven’t grown up… not yet, anyway! I know I haven’t!

“Count” You In For Lunch with Sesame Street at Busch Gardens?

SeaWorld has its very special Spooktacular breakfast throughout October… But Busch Gardens has a Monster Mash Lunch. Only ONE. October 22, 2011.

Join the fun at Sesame Street Safari of Fun for the Spooktacular (um,¬† no wait, that one’s taken…) spooky fun lunch.

The Count will be making appearances at both SeaWorld AND Busch Gardens!

The special dine costs $22 for adults and $15 for children 3-9. Passholders don’t forget your 10% discount. Each family will get one 6 x 8 photo with The Count in addition to having a really great time. (Admission to the park is required, and not included.)

Make reservations at: SesameStreetSafariofFun.com and click on Dine with Elmo to book the Oct. 22 dine, or call 1-888-800-5447.

A Winter Wonderland at SeaWorld

I think a lot of people get depressed right after the holidays. No more presents to open. No more lights twinkling all around. No cheery holiday songs to mangle. (My favorites are a friend’s daughter, Rachel, singing “Giddy up jingle horse, look at your feet” and my son’s classic misunderstanding of a certain snowman’s anthem. He kept asking what kind of cakes he bakes. We were confused until we realized he thought the words were “Frosting the Snowman!”) Thankfully, SeaWorld keeps the holidays going just a little bit longer… until January 2 at least.

I’m pretty sure we’ve enjoyed the festivities at least 10 times this year, with another one or two on the horizon. Can you blame us?

A few weeks ago we sat front and center for the Winter Wonderland on Ice show. Before the skaters dazzled us with their fancy footwork, a quartet of Polar Express engineers serenaded us barber-shop style with all the favorites. You should have seen my son’s eyes get big and his mouth drop as they crooned away. You’re never too young for music appreciation, and my 3-year-old is certainly a fan! His eyes went from singer to singer. “It sounds just like a radio!”

Skates then sliced through the ice when a troupe of dancers performed effortlessly on the stage at Bayside Stadium. Parka-clad beauties in ice-blue dresses “shooshed” and swayed with their all-in-white partners appropriately to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” followed by a high-energy solo for “Frosty the Snowman.” We especially enjoyed the graceful and elegant “Christmas Waltz” (just picture the flowing white gowns billowing in the breeze as the skaters glide past you!).¬† We then got jazzed up by a really top-notch soloist performing to “Cool Yule,” one of my favorite holiday songs. Big band Christmas music just does it for me and the skater nailed it! My son’s favorite number, though, was “Hot Chocolate!” And yes, we enjoyed the drink at the same time we were listening to the song! Dancing penguins?! Skating chefs with huge whisks?! AND singing about his favorite beverage. Well, as you can imagine… it was fabulous!Skaters performing to "Hot Chocolate" at SeaWorld's Winter Wonderland on Ice

Hot chocolate, the drink!, has been a fun treat this year. All through the Christmas Market, and throughout the park, there are drink stations! We purchased the insulated mugs that allow you to get inexpensive refills. I have at least a pound or two of holiday weight gain thanks to these little babies, but OH has it been fun! (My favorite photos are of my little guy with a chocolate mustache curled up his cheeks while he hugs Santa Shamu!)

Warm insides, chilly (chilly!) temperatures outside have made for a wintery wonderland this year. Sigh. It’ll be over in a few days. OK, now I’m getting depressed. Better go make some cocoa…

Firefly Moments at SeaWorld

Little boys are more like fireflies than kittens… lightening in a bottle, elusive to catch, a joy to behold, and radiating with a glow from within. Kittens are also a blur of motion, and tough to pin down, but sometimes, just sometimes they slow down enough to be held. I had that joy the other morning when my usually wiggly 3 1/2-year-old snuggled up with me in my bed and let me rub down his back, his arm draped over my neck.

Moments of pure unadulterated warmth and joy are ones to cherish. I’ve been thinking about special times like that a lot lately with the holidays fast approaching. We’ve had many of our special memories of the season at SeaWorld.

I think we’ve either spent Christmas day, or the day before or after, at SeaWorld my son’s entire life. (Not to mention at least two or three times during the month of December!) The crowds are not bad, and everyone is in a good mood. Holiday sounds and music echo through the air. And most importantly, I have beside me the most amazing little boy, holding my hand, curling up next to me as we watch the dolphins from the underwater viewing area, or giggling like mad at the cold, cold riders of Journey to Atlantis as they get soaking wet from the splash at the end. It’s especially magical to romp through the Polar Express.

At my son’s age trains, as you can imagine, are of paramount importance. (A certain little blue cheeky engine and his friends take center stage, um, I mean floor, at our house.) Christmas trains, however, hold a special fascination. Unlike the warm climate our mild winter offers trains and their passengers, the winter wonderland of the Polar Express Experience allows that train to chug chug through ice and snow in a place so cold you need hot chocolate to warm your insides. I smile watching my son’s chubby red cheeks try to grin and drink at the same time, his jacket now dribbled and dotted with cocoa.

Of course the train isn’t real, and you can’t actually ride on it except through either the visual and physical sensations of the simulator ride (this is, mind you, my son’s only complaint about SeaWorld: no “real” train), or by watching the movie in the non-motion version. It is, nonetheless, a place to imagine Chris Van Allsburg’s vision… followed by a chance to meet Santa Clause, adorned in the glorious costume depicted in the Caldecott¬† Award-winning book and Oscar-nominated film.

I look forward to the new wonders SeaWorld’s dreamed up this year. The Sea of Trees, 74 in all, will be lighted within and without, synchronized waters arcing over and through them as the seas around them come alive as they “dance” to the holiday music.

There will be an ice skating show, which I’m anxious to see, and fireworks to cap off the evening. My little guy will be, no doubt, snuggled up on my lap as we watch. I’ll rub his back and as he drapes his little arms around me and his dad. We’ll drink in the magic and enjoy every blessed minute. I’ll bet the sparkles and flashes above our heads look like fireflies in the sky….