Editor's Note: Due to the deaths of four of its trainers (in orca attacks) and the deaths of scores of orca whales and dolphins, SeaWorld has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. Many feel that keeping these large animals in confined quarters is inhumane. Others point out that SeaWorld has been making a concerted effort to improve conditions at its parks, and that the company has invested millions of dollars, over the years, in ocean conservation efforts and acquatic study programs. Only you can decide which side is correct. We'd urge our readers to take a look at both the documentary Blackfish and SeaWorld's response before visiting the SeaWorld parks. Below is the Frommer's author's non-political review of the park.
At 250 acres, this SeaWorld is the largest of the Anheuser-Busch-owned parks, which also makes it the largest marine theme park in the world. Fascinating walk-through habitats house penguins, sea lions, sharks, tropical fish, and flamingos. But if you're a theme park fan, you might find even more fun in the aquatic acrobatics of the stadium shows, where divers and synchronized swimmers frolic with whales and dolphins.
You needn't get frustrated just looking at all that water because there are loads of places here to get wet. The Lost Lagoon has a huge wave pool and water slides aplenty, and the Texas Splashdown flume ride and the Rio Loco river-rapids ride also offer splashy fun. Younger children can cavort in Shamu's Happy Harbor and the "L'il Gators" section of the Lost Lagoon or take a ride on the Shamu Express kiddie coaster.
Nonaquatic activities abound, too. You can ride the Steel Eel, a huge "hypercoaster" that starts out with a 150-foot dive at 65 mph, followed by several bouts of weightlessness, or Great White, the Southwest's first inverted coaster—which means riders will go head-over-heels during 2,500 feet of loops (don't eat before either of them).
Hotels in the area sometimes offer discounts, and there's usually a discount for buying tickets online.