I was provided with press tickets to SeaWorld so I could share my experience at SeaWorld’s newest attraction Antarctica: Empire of the Penguins. However all opinions are sincere and are my own.
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is SeaWorld’s newest attraction and we could not wait to experience this icy adventure which combines penguin interaction with a fun family dark ride. The first thing we noticed as we approached Antarctica was how realistic this recreation of one of the coldest places on earth looked. You really feel like you have stepped into a place filled with glaciers, icy stalactites and other interesting ice formations.
Before entering you will find all the different penguin species carved into a rock wall. Each penguin has a tag and on the floor there is a corresponding map for each one that tells you where each of the different species of penguins lives. It was a nice to learn about the penguins before going in to see them.
As you go inside the attraction you will see a preshow on a screen. Here is where we learn the back story of the main character, Puck, a baby penguin who is the last egg to hatch in the season. There is a storm coming so Puck and his family have to seek shelter in the ice caves. The short movie stops as you enter the same ice caves to experience the penguin’s icy world from their perspective.
Once in the ice caves you are given the option to choose the Mild ride or the Wild ride. You then enter a small room where Puck himself introduces you into his cave and then he disapears as the doors open and you go into the loading zone and get on the vehicles.
The vehicles themselves are really interesting they are trackless and as they detach one at a time each one goes where they are programed to go moving around like in a dance. There are two different rooms where you will see a series of ice formations lit with a combination of different colors, there are geysers and a beautiful ice waterfall.
As they move around there is a quite a bit of spinning but nothing that will make you dizzy, this coming from someone that is afraid to ride the tea cups! There is no real story here, you are just exploring the penguin’s realm and the spinning and gliding around made this more fun. My 8 and 5 year old really loved the ride which was just fast enough to make it thrilling without being to much.
After exploring the caves with their beautiful formations you come to another screen where the story of Puck and his Gentoo penguin family comes to an end when he reaches the safety of dry land after being chased by seals in the water.
Immediately after the movie ends the vehicles turn around to show us a version of what we just saw on screen but in real life as we come face to face with a colony of penguins behind glass. Slowly, as we move from room to room the weather has been getting colder and when the vehicles reach the last area where you get off and enter the penguin encounter the temperature has dipped into the low 30s.
In the penguin encounter area you will really feel like you are in their environment and like you can almost touch them. They are really close and some areas have glass while other’s have a small net but still, it they wanted they could probably come out and say hi. I think I have heard that some penguins have jumped out and they are being trained not to do it anymore.
My kids love penguins and we really enjoyed watching them, the only problem was that we where not prepared for how cold it was so we where not able to stay too long. You can see my little guy’s face, you can tell he is freezing.
Underwater Penguin Dance
Finally you go out into an underwater viewing where you can see the penguins dive into the water and swim around through a 20ft glass wall. It’s amazing to see how fast penguins are under water and they really seem like they are flying.
Both my children and I where just mesmerized with by them and we could have spent a long time watching them.
Interesting Antarctica Exhibit Facts
- A total of 245 penguins live in the exhibit, including a number of Gentoo, King, Adélie and Rockhopper penguins.
- In order to minimize the fishy smell in the penguin encounter SeaWorld staff clean the exhibit several times per day and replace the 20,000 pounds snow daily.
- Lighting in the exhibit allows the park to control the seasons for the penguins.
- The temperature in the penguin exhibit is around 32F.
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is truly a unique ride adventure that lets you experience what life is like for a colony of penguins living in the South Pole. The ride is quite short considering the amount of time we spent waiting in line but the great thing is that you can stay and watch the penguins for as long as you like, or for as long as you can stand the 30F weather while wearing shorts and a tank top.
Things to consider
- This is a new ride so try to get to it as early in the day as possible to avoid waiting too long in line, do expect at least a one hour wait.
- When we went they where having some technical issues and the ride was down for short periods of time (10-15min) making wait times longer. Again visit this ride as early in the morning as possible to reduce the time you have to wait in line.
- The wild option is quite mild, so unless you really don’t like spinning or have younger kids (there is a height requirement for the wild option) I would go for the wild instead of the mild.
- Bring a light sweater if you want to watch the penguins for more than a few minutes as it is 30F in there. My kids wanted to stay longer but couldn’t stand the cold.
- There is a quite strong fishy smell in the penguin viewing area. In my opinion this is part of the experience but if you have a sensitive sense of smell you might have a problem with it.
- The ride and experience can take around 25 minutes.
- Some of the advertisement I saw for this attraction makes it seem as though the ride is over water or like the penguins are running around loose. This is not the case.
- The lighting inside the penguin exhibit simulates the lighting pattern in Antarctica, this means that during the summer the lights are dimmed for about 20hrs each day. It will be hard to take good pictures of the penguins in when the lights are dimmed. In Summer the best times to visit are between 10:30am and 1:30pm, during the fall, winter and spring the lights in the exhibit will be kept brighter for longer periods of time.