Marine-Themed Kids Music CD Giveaway

Do your kids love music as much as mine does? Is he or she a HUGE fan of SeaWorld, marine life, and other fun water creatures? Then enter to win a marine-themed kids music CD from SeaWorld Mommy.

To be in the running: Follow me on Twitter (@seaworldmommy) and retweet any post about the contest. Follow me on FaceBook and post on my wall your Twitter account (because some names on Twitter are not the same on FaceBook and I don’t want to leave anyone out!) That’s it.
Winner will be announced October, 16. Good luck.

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.

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.