By Dewayne Bevil
ORLANDO, Fla. — SeaWorld Orlando has been plugging along since reopening from the pandemic shutdown. It broke ranks with many entertainment venues by offering fireworks shows during July 4th weekend, not just for one night but for three consecutive nights.
There have been multiple baby steps at the park, slowly increasing the number of days per week it’s operating. It hit the “open every day” status this week, at least that’s the plan through early October. And it has upped the number of event days for its Craft Beer Festival and Electric Ocean Remix, which offers the now-rare after-dark adventure to an Orlando theme park in 2020.
Here are notes from an Electric Ocean outing last weekend.
Dance day away
A DJ sets up in the waterfront area, and that music plays throughout the park. The tone is more clubby than your daytime theme park vibe, but it’s not jarring.
Once I walked by the DJ area and there were lots of people, most of them masked, many of them dancing alongside neon-costumed characters (kids love them). There was also an eye-catching acrobatic act called Bayside Flippers launching themselves into the air. I fretted a little.
The next time I passed through, it was completely empty, but folks may have been drawn to the evening version of “Sea Lions Tonite” or the Orca Encounter show.
You’ll probably find deserted stretches in the park so it’s OK to dance like no one’s watching. But, yes, we do see you, Dad Who Grooves to Remix of “Uptown Funk.”
The dark side
It can be difficult to get the timing right, but an at-dusk roller coaster ride is an exhilarating experience. SeaWorld’s Manta coaster is always a “which way is up?” trip, add in orange sunset tones and a cloud or two and the disorientation increases. It’s darker whilst on Mako, SeaWorld’s newest thrill ride, but that helps you appreciate the twinkles of the park in general.
Beware, two major rides _ Kraken Unleashed and Journey to Atlantis _ close early for fireworks prep.
Beer here and here and here
The park’s Craft Beer Festival runs simultaneously with Electric Ocean. The suds flow at multiple SeaWorld kiosks, some of which have funky names such as Ale Yeah, Go for the Grain and Brew Print. Several of the stands have solid food. Buffalo chicken empanadas, summertime jambalaya and Reuben spring rolls were unexpected temptations.
The event includes more than 100 craft beers from near and far. Sampling lanyards are sold for $45 for eight samples and $60 for 12 samples.
SeaWorld’s shining moment for social distancing is during the “Light Up the Sky” fireworks presentation near the end of the night. There are round ground markers scattered in prime watching areas to guide groups of onlookers.
One fresh new perspective is on the stage of Bayside Stadium, which has large orange circles that are about 6 feet across painted on it. Each group gets their own spot; I’d say four adults fit cross-legged comfortably in there if you can call cross-legged comfortable. (I had a flashback to 2008, when the stage was enlarged to accommodate the taping of “Wheel of Fortune” there.)
There are also rows of seats with backs in the stadium that visitors can use. Some rows are off-limits for spacing purposes. You’re facing the park’s Sky Tower, which has colorful lighting for the occasion.
I nabbed a spot near the edge ... and near the loudspeakers. It was rib-rattling, but so were the pyrotechnics, launched from the structure in the middle of the lagoon. It was a nice complement of effects _ colorful, booming, sometimes screaming. They’re flanked by flames and lighting effects.
About seven minutes in, I thought “this feels like a finale.” Sure enough, it was the finale. It’s not the longest fireworks show you’ll see, but I won’t complain. In this abnormal summer, I’ll settle for a bit of normal.
If you go
The park will still require dates-specific reservations made via their website (seaworld.com/orlando/) plus face coverings in place and temperature screenings before entering the park.