Orlando Sentinel's Dewayne Bevil talks with FOX35 about the new Antarctica exhibit at SeaWorld.
The grand opening of SeaWorld Orlando's Antarctica - Empire of the Penguin isn't until Friday morning, but here are five tips to help guide through the theme park's largest expansion. The Antarctica area includes a dark ride, an eatery, a gift shop and other points of icy interest.
+ Antarctica has two entrances. The grander of the two is on the side adjacent to the Sea Lion & Otter Theater. Its archway is higher (50 feet), and the approach feels more immersive. On the opposite end of Antartica, near the Journey to Atlantis water ride, is another entry, which frames the park's Sky Tower in the distance. The entrances to the ride, restaurant and merchandise areas are pretty much evenly between Antarctica's entrances. Both sides have signs that read "Welcome to the bottom of the world."
+ The ride offers options: Wild or mild? Going wild is probably OK for most people. Don't expect high speeds or to travel upside down, even though you're theoretically at the bottom of the world. And if you've had motion-simulator sickness in the past, keep in mind that you won't be in tight (claustrophobic) quarters on the new SeaWorld ride. There's room to breath. I'm told the mild version is extremely tame. The ride vehicles hold eight passengers: two rows of four, with individual seat belts -- no lap bars.
+ The real-life penguins are located mere steps from where passengers unload from the ride. This is where the temperature has dipped to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. You can stand and watch our feathered friends there, or proceed to the left, where the air is warmer and you can see the birds swimming behind a 20-foot glass. They truly are zippy swimmers, and to see them coming at you at full speed and face-on is fun and unusual. Creative director Brian Morrow has referred to them as "jet pilots" underwater. You'll want to linger.
+ For sale in Expedition Cafe is the Cup That Cares. It uses RFID technology to keep track of how many times the owner has used it, encourages recycling. It costs $9.95 with refills for 99 cents, even on future SeaWorld trips. The Build-A-Cup That Cares looks like a little penguin comes with fun accessories (mohawk, sunglasses, etc.) for $15.95. A dollar from each cup's price goes to the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.
+ In the center of Antarctica's plaza is a shiny ball atop a small structure that represents the South Pole. Stand in just the right spot to take a self-portrait with the ride entrance in the background -- or maneuver around to have carvings of the world's penguins as your background.