Ka-Chow! Richard Petty Ride-Along Now Features CARS Cars

Tomorrow Disney Pixar Piston Cup Cars will be unveiled at the Walt Disney World Speedway. Petty Holdings, LLC, Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney World have brought to “life” two characters from the Academy Award-nominated 2006 animated feature film “Cars” — Aiken Axler and Sage VanDerSpin — and we’re SO excited to meet them!

Number 28 car

Aiken Axler, Car 28, likes exercising and Tai Rod meditation when he’s not racing.

Starting Saturday, June 14, Kids ages 6 to 13 (and at least 48 inches tall) will be able to ride in the front passenger seat of a 600HP race car, driven by a racing pro at the Walt Disney World Speedway. Piston Cup Cars Jr. Ride-Alongs will be first-come, first-serve basis. Guests simply show up to the track to queue and then wait their turn to take a spin in what will seem like the “real” Piston Cup! The cost is $59 + tax.

speedway-pixar-piston-cup-2-500x359

Sage VanDerSpin, Car #80, is the youngest winner of the Junior Piston Cup Pro Series and has mad dodgeball skills when he’s off the track.

Now, you need to know my son has not seen a lot of movies. (He’s more into cooking shows, DIY, and programs that highlight engineering marvels, LOL.) He does, though, LOVE “Cars” and all the personalities (and “Planes,” for the record!). His favorites are Mater, Mr. The King (voiced by Richard Petty, you’ll recall), Lizzie, and the Sheriff. (My favorite is Sally Carrera because I think Bonnie Hunt is just awesome, if you were wondering.)

Getting to touch a movie hero in life will, no doubt, be one of those childhood memories my son will re-live over and over, kind of like the lap after lap action in his (and his dad’s favorite) NASCAR action. I, for one, am excited to see the ear-to-ear grin on his face as that little gentleman “starts [his] engine!”

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Preschoolers are FREE in 2012 at SeaWorld, Orlando and Busch Gardens

Preschoolers can enjoy all of 2012 for Free!

Children age 5 and younger get into SeaWorld AND Busch Gardens for all of 2012 for free! The Preschool Pass is good for unlimited admission with NO blackout dates the entire year. Every special event is included. Every festival. All of it! Click HERE to sign up.

Our resident preschooler is looking forward to the “Just for Kids!” festival featuring concerts by Lazy Town, Max & Ruby, the Doodlebops and Choo Choo Soul, along with plenty of family-friendly fun and activities on Saturdays, Jan. 14 through Feb. 4.

At Busch Gardens, Sesame Street Safari of Fun is ALWAYS a hit. New this year (and on our to do-list: Iceploration, premiering this February.

“Must-see” preschool attractions at SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld’s littlest guests can enjoy the wildly popular 4-acre play area, Shamu’s Happy Harbor.  It’s a kid’s dream come true, complete with kid-size rides, a 4-story net climb, and a great place for parents to relax while watching their kids have splashes of fun.  The park’s first family-oriented roller coaster, “Shamu Express” can be found here along with other kiddie rides to explore.

Of course no visit to SeaWorld is complete without being splashed by Shamu!  SeaWorld’s newest killer whale show, “One Ocean,” features majestic whales performing spectacular behaviors, including thrilling high-energy leaps, while educating and inspiring kids and their families to make a difference in this world.  And at “Blue Horizons” kids will be awed by graceful dolphins, false killer whales, a rainbow of exotic birds, and entire cast of divers and aerialists.

Kid-favorite “Pets Ahoy!” will leave children giggling as a menagerie of rescued dogs, cats, birds, rats, skunks, pot-belly pigs, and other animals performing a series of uproarious and amazing skits.

While older kids are flying, gliding and soaring on Manta, younger ones can experience the incredible underwater world of tropical fish and rays in the floor-to-ceiling aquariums.  Manta’s underwater viewing area is home to more than 3,000 species. Kids can even “pop up” in the middle of a small aquarium, surrounding themselves with hundreds of fish for some great photos.

At Dolphin Cove, kids (and parents) can touch and feed dolphins and also go below the surface for an underwater view where they just might see a dolphin blowing a bubble or two!

Plus, SeaWorld features a cozy Baby Care Center located at Shamu’s Happy Harbor with top-of-the-line changing facilities, private feeding rooms and pint-sized potties.  This brightly-colored building gives parents the privacy and comfort of a home-away-from home in the middle of all the fun and is a one-stop shop for baby necessities.

Busch Garden loves kids, too!

Don’t forget this awesome new FREE Preschool Pass also includes Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Just a short hour’s drive away, in addition to all the  wondrous animal encounters at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, preschoolers will delight in Sesame Street Safari of Fun, a sunny funny play land, filled with moments that your family can share for the first time — like a first coaster experience aboard Air Grover. And everyday smiles can be repeated time after time —clapping along to original shows, splashing in our expansive water play area and enjoying kid-size rides.

Sign up today!

The Free SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Preschool Pass is an exclusive online offer, available at SeaWorldOrlando.com or BuschGardensTampaBay.com. It is exclusively for Florida residents ages 5 and younger and is valid for unlimited admission – with no blackout dates – through Dec. 31, 2012 at SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. The Preschool Pass does not include parking or Premium Passport discounts or benefits.

After registering through either park’s website, registrants can pick up the Preschool Pass for their child by bringing a printed confirmation and a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate to any ticket window at SeaWorld’s or Busch Gardens’ front gate.

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I Danced with a Snowman at SeaWorld

I’m thinking about the last few weeks and pondering which things specifically have brought me the most joy. I have to say, without a doubt, that our family has enjoyed our time at SeaWorld the most. It’s quality time together where we wonder at the miracle of life, are wowed at the beauty of nature and all of God’s creatures, and sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season.

As season pass holders we try to visit every weekend during December. There is so much to do and see that you can’t see it all in one trip! Yes I enjoy the “big” things (O Wondrous Night is glorious, Shamu Christmas Miracles is breathtaking, The Polar Express is a wild ride, and the Ice Skating show “Winter Wonderland on Ice” is top notch), but my favorite moments are the small, simple pleasures.

My son is particularly fond of the elves who play with children near the dolphin nursery on your way to the waterfront and Seafire Inn. All children are invited to participate in their shenanigans that vary throughout the day. I’m always a little sad, though, when I hear someone rushing their child past them when the child SO wants to play for a moment. (And isn’t that the reason for visiting a theme park?) Those who do participate, get lots of giggles, a few tee hees, and an occasional oh-gee-shucks. I thought it was hilarious when Flaky tried to tell my little guy about mistletoe kisses. He wasn’t having any of that nonsense!

He also laughed at the toy soldiers who march back and forth by Christmas Village. You never know if their going to follow you, encircle you, or try to swipe a sip of your hot chocolate. If you see them, try to march along. They don’t mind. It’s actually encouraged!

After the Sea of Trees lighting, it’s a great time to stroll by the water to see what holiday baubles and goodies are available in the village, but it’s also a good spot for character spotting (and photographing!). While my husband and son took off to buy an ornament, I saw the snowman at water’s edge, just watching all the children. Gallantly he accepted my request for a dance, and we swayed to holiday music for a bit. What Christmas is complete without a dance with a snowman?!

Sure there a lot of people enjoying the parks, too, but it doesn’t seem crowded. The lines are not excessive, the shows are spectacular, and all the “little touches” SeaWorld has added this year make it even more special for us.

Come on down for a leisurely day of holiday fun. You may go inside a snowglobe, or be snowed ON along the shore. And if you’re luck, you too might get to dance with a Frosty Friend.

 

Starting tonight SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration takes place nightly through Dec. 31!  Waves of holiday spirit splash over the park during SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration. With everything from elves to Elmo, and Santa to Shamu, lifelong memories are made in a watery, wintery wonderland that only SeaWorld could create. Don’t miss out on the spectacular holiday shows, including: Winter Wonderland on Ice, Shamu Christmas – Miracles, Clyde and Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas, A Sesame Street Christmas, and the all-new “O Wondrous Night – the Greatest Story Never Told”, as well as the festive holiday décor and amazing Sea of Trees.

Discovery Cove at SeaWorld Takes Your Breath Away

Discovery CoveMy 4-year-old, Daniel, is used to being up close and personal with marine life. As a visitor to SeaWorld and Bush Gardens well over 100 times in his short life (not to mention countless visits to zoos and other animal-themed attractions) he’s pretty much a pro when it comes to interactions. Our visit to Discovery Cove, however, has raised the bar so much so that I fear his expectation of “normal” is forever altered!

Walking into the check-in/lobby building, Daniel first noticed the incredible art. He bent over to examine the mosaic floor. “Look, Mom. It’s like waves,” he said as he then proceeded to show me how many shades of green were represented, and how many blue. His neck craned up: “Look, Mom, at the dolphins!” Above us graceful dolphins appeared to be floating, breathtaking fiberglass on steel crafted by artist Michael Linenbroker. He looked at it from multiple angles, checking out the white fish “swimming” with them. Our feast for the eyes had begun, and we’d only arrived minutes before.

Once our entire group had arrived, our guide walked us out of the main building toward the Reef. “This is a magical path” my son informs me as we make our way along the nature path past Serenity Bay and Dolphin Lagoon. He knows he’s going to see tons of sea life, and is thrilled to find a corded “fish I.D.” card he can take with us for the day. I was happy to find it, too, as he’s extremely curious on specifics. (I can no longer get away with: “It’s a bird, or a plant, or an airplane.” It’s a Toucan, a Dusty Miller, and a Cessna!)

After donning our wetsuits (sans Spanx, dang it), our little band made tracks for the shore. We easily found a locker for our gear and a chair for our towels. Despite being at capacity for the grand opening of the new attraction, we didn’t feel crowded. Even  “full” was not shoulder-to-shoulder like some places. We felt free and easy, with plenty of “elbow room.”

After our guides gave us the lay of the land we walked into the water, snorkeling gear in hand. A cow-nose stingray swam past us at about “knee deep,” causing aforementioned 4-year-old a moment’s hesitation. Initial fear melted into an ear-to-ear grin followed by wild expressions of delight. Great big eyes looked up at me as he asked, “Can we go way out there?!”

I knew he’d fall in love with Discovery Cove, but I had no idea it would be so hard and so complete. Everywhere he looked there were birds, tropical fish, marine mammals… you name it. At the center of his fascination was the brand new Grand Reef.

With a footprint of 2.5 acres and close to a million gallons of water and 5 million pounds of pristine, sifted beach sand, the Grand Reef is home to thousands of tropical fish and dozens of rays including spotted eagle rays that have a 5-foot wingspan! Behind glass we found eels and, holy moly, sharks!

We balanced on rock formations (man made, like the removable coral so as not to be sharp) and bobbed and floated and swam to points near and far checking out the abundant marine species, and marveling at this unprecedented view into their world.

We did attempt the snorkeling gear, LOL!

I would have loved it if my little man could have used the mask and snorkel to better see the curious and colorful creatures in our midst, but he may be a little young… this trip. He couldn’t quite get it into his head that something covering his eyes and nose (and being tight and pressing on his face) was a good thing. His mom, however, put the gear to good use (with dad nearby to watch the boy). Swimming nose to nose with a stingray whose eyes were larger than mine was awe-inspiring, I can assure you.

“I don’t see how I could ever return to common life after this,” thought we all (quoting “Anne of Green Gables”).

Sure you may have gotten goose bumps at SeaWorld interacting with the marine life and riding the awesome rides. And OK, your family has giggled with delight while whooshing down the slides at Aquatica…. But if you’re ready for your next BIG close encounter with all you love from the marine parks, do not miss Discovery Cove. I’m already counting the days until I, too, can return.

Get the Sensation at One Ocean at SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld’s new killer whale show was unveiled recently with a splash! (Understatement of the year!) Crowds, as you can imagine for opening day, were heavy, but we managed to get a seat. (We joking referred to ourselves as “ceiling fans,” we were SO far up in the stadium.) In our subsequent visits we’ve made it a point to arrive 30 to 40 minutes early to get the up-close-and-personal seats. Why? Well, first because it’ breathtaking being close to the whales, and second because you “get the sensation.”

Young children are naturally curious. Talking about events like this by discussing the senses is a super introduction to not only science, but language arts. And they learning to be good observers and communicators, all while recounting a fun, FUN show.

We started with the five “primary” (or most-known) senses.

What did we hear? Uplifting and up-tempo music, of course, but we also heard the sound of water splashing as the whales jumped out of the water, then BOOM landed again. We heard the crowd giggling and screaming when they were hit with the splashes and the water crashing on the stadium seats.

What did we see? Majestic, huge!, shiny black-and-white beauties, caring trainers, TONS of water, huge screens that moved, lots and lots of people having the time of their lives. We pointed out some of the whale’s anatomy: rostrum, fluke, blow hole, dorsal fin and eyespot. And look, up in the sky… it’s a bird. But he’s not part of the show! It’s just a white feathered friend trying to sneak a snack.

How about feeling? Did we feel anything… unusual? Well, when we sat up in the upper balcony we felt the smoothness of the seat underneath us and the gritty concrete of the stadium walls. Normal stuff. On subsequent visits (when we sat in the Zone), however, we also felt wet… REALLY wet as we felt the splash from the pool!

One Ocean

Get the Sensation of Being SPLASHED

We smelled snacks, and the faint smell of fish when the wind caught it “just so,” but didn’t taste anything until the show was over and we re-filled our popcorn bucket (you certainly don’t want a full bucket getting soggy in the show, now do you?).

There are more than five senses. It’s actually closer to 20. One of the many “lesser-known” senses we described is thermoception which, to my young child, we called hot/cold. One minute we were “enjoying” (ahem) the Florida heat and then WHAM! a wall of extremely cold water made our skin shiver as goose bumps appeared.

Our balance helped us maneuver up and down the steps and kept us from toppling off our seats when we were hit with “the wave.” We could tell time was passing as we waited for the show to begin and were impatient for it to start. (And, curiously, time seemed to go quicker during all the fun!)

Describing what we sensed not only helped fix the memories in our minds, but helped my son use his exploding language skills.

One Ocean was fun. It was thrilling. It was (dare I say it?!) SENSEational! And it was, yet again, an educational experience for the whole family, cleverly disguised as a whale of a day.

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…

Not Spooky at All: SeaWorld’s Spooktacular

Halloween is, for some, a time to get scared, to play “tricks,” and to dwell on the… shall we say… creepy things of this world… and things other-worldy. (Insert Vincent Price maniacal laugh here.) For me it’s none of those things. It’s about playing dress up, making new friends as you “forage” for candy and other tasty treats, and having an excuse to be just plain silly.

Last year my then 2-year-old really enjoyed Halloween Spooktacular at SeaWorld. He wore a pumpkin T-shirt since it was a bit hot for his “real” costume, but there were kids fully decked out as well as wearing street clothes. All were welcomed and treated as if they were the most adorable child there.  (In case you were wondering, his “real” costume was Smarticus the gladiator. His mom (yours truly) was “Mother of Boy” instead of Helen of Troy. Dad was… wait for it… Dadius Gladius–pronounced: Dad he is, glad he is. Yes, we’re that nerdy. And yes, he was adorable!)

Walking down the entrance to the “Spooktaclar walkway” (as we call it), we were greeted by bubbles, bubbles, and more bubbles. For a toddler, this is one spectacular way to be welcomed to the festivities! Whoa. A fish on roller skates just whizzed by us. Or was that sea weed? And a butterfly catcher?!

Down a ways we came to the first candy stop. Big inflatable barrels shaped in an anemone-type shape are practically overflowing with tiny, tasty treats. Mister Shy-when-he-wants-to-be is hesitant to go up at first. “Hey there, little guy,” the SeaWorld worker says. Smiles are exchanged, and my young man is loosening up. He gets a bit more comfortable as he continues on and even gets “brave” enough to have his picture with a beautiful mermaid. (Usually mommy is the only girl lucky enough for this.) Fully acclimated to the sights and sounds, we were off to fill our goody bags. (Yes, parents are allowed to sample, too. Score!)

On the way to Abby Cadabby’s maze we pass by dog fish. And catfish. And other assorted creatures of the deep (and some from someone’s fabulous imagination!). Photo opportunities abound, and I took them up on every one!

Older kids were not as impressed with the maze as my toddler was, but for his age-group it was perfect. At different way points, Abby’s friends posted signs about which way to go. Parents read aloud and kids answered silly/cute questions. Eventually they reached the finish line and they all, including mine, seemed pleased with themselves.

Along the shore you can find the hysterical Longshoremen at SeaWorld

One of the highlights, however, was watching the Longshoremen perform their pumpkin routine. You won’t find their schedule posted on the daily map (rats!), but you can find them “along the shore” most afternoons making people laugh. I think we sat down for their show every weekend of the event. FYI: “pumpkin guts” can be made using rope, shaving cream, and a tiny bit of orange tempera paint. Who knew?

Next stop: Shamu’s Happy Harbor where Penny Penguin, Opie Otter, and other strolling characters show us their costumes. Shamu (the character version!) can also be seen donning a fanciful getup. (Say, I wonder what he’ll be for Halloween this year!) After a few photos, and rides!, we made our way to the Pets Ahoy theater.

Seasonally, the fun is changed for a couple of shows a day and the Sesame Street gang, not the pets, are the stars. The Count takes over for the “Countdown to Halloween” and delighted fans sing along. OK. Their parents sing along, too.

While no frightening laugh track is piped in over loudspeakers and the only things jumping out at you are the dolphins and whales out of the water, SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular is our kind of fall festival. Good, clean fun. Adorable children. Smiles. And pop! More bubbles.

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.

Sharks, Sea Dragons and our Pup at SeaWorld

As SeaWorld super fans, we were fortunate enough to have received the coolest costume from a friend… a shark. Our then 9-month-old looked adorable as we carried him through the theme park. (What? Were you expecting me to say we just had him wear it on Halloween?!)

First we went through the aquarium at Shark Encounter. Our little ferocious beastie pointed at all the creatures in the outer aquarium, and sat on the wall to gaze at the barracudas, daddy protectively holding him in his high vantage point. “See me? I’m a shark!” he seemed to tell the barracudas. “I scare YOU.”

Next we checked out the leafy sea dragons. It’s hard to believe they are alive, the blend in so well with the seaweed around them. Their camouflage is quite effective as they float through the water. My little guy wasn’t really that interested in them, they blended in so well. Eyes widened, however, as we entered the 60-foot glass tunnel. Directly overhead a huge shark swam. One tiny boy’s neck craned up. “OK. Now it’s your turn to scare me!” I’m pretty sure I heard him think.


Shhh. I'm hiding.

At the gift shop across the way it was our son’s turn to exhibit camouflage. Yes, we looked like dorks putting our child in a box of stuffed animals, but by gosh he was the cutest shark pup there! It kind of reminded me of that scene in E.T: The Extra Terrestrial when the alien blended in among the toys. That’s our little guy! The creature amidst the chondrichthyes.

SeaWorld’s Spooktacular is coming up. I’m sad we don’t have another shark costume for him to wear now that he’s a toddler. Maybe he’ll be some other sea creature this year. Maybe he’ll be a Longshoreman! Whatever costume we come up with, he’ll have fun collecting goodies and sweets. He’ll walk through the walls of bubbles and marvel at the seaweed-costumed characters on roller skates as they whiz past us. Hummmm. Maybe they’re actually leafy sea dragons. I wonder….