The second theme park chain to set up shop in town, after Disney, was SeaWorld Orlando. The park, which began in San Diego in 1964, staked a claim in Orlando in 1973, predating Universal by 17 years, but the last few years have been the hardest. The Blackfish flap hit hard, and although the park has always touted its legitimate rescue and conservation efforts, now such boasts can feel awkwardly defensive. In 2009, before its troubles began, it was the 12th most popular theme park in the entire world. Now it’s not even in the top 25. But thanks in large part to a new focus on thrill rides, it seems to have stopped the bleeding.

While SeaWorld operates three American parks (the third is in San Antonio), its Orlando location is the company’s most important. SeaWorld Orlando is amid a multi-year investment strategy to remake itself as an amusement park and sidestep away from animal entertainment. For now, however, the focus is still aquatic animals and conservation, and if watching larger animals such as dolphins obey commands for food makes you uncomfortable, you’ll hate it. As more alternative attractions are built, it’s increasingly easy to avoid those shows, but they haven’t gone away entirely. Otherwise, there’s a lot going for SeaWorld: 200 acres of space for gardens, a compound that absorbs crowds well—and you don’t have to pre-plan every move the way you do at Disney. Across the road you’ll find its luxury animal park, Discovery Cove, and a waterslide park, Aquatica.

For now, the optimal SeaWorld experience is mostly show-based. Your day here will revolve around the scheduling of a half-dozen regular performances in which animals (mostly mammals, but some birds, too) do tricks—except here, they’re called “behaviors”—with their human trainers. To some, SeaWorld’s banner attraction will always be that controversial Shamu show (named for an orca that died in 1971—and also savagely bit a trainer), and when you’re not watching orcas do backflips, you’re ambling through Animal Connections habitats stocked with other beautiful creatures. Thoughtfully, schedules are posted online a few weeks ahead of time so that if you’re really detail obsessed, you can map out your day in advance; the show schedule calendar is under “Plan Your Day.”

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.