My picture threads consist of images I have taken that focus on the architecture, landscape architecture, planning, design, and theming of the facilities highlighted. They may also contain short descriptions and commentary, but will not focus on construction progress or special events or memorabilia or food selections or my traveling companions. Hopefully these threads are a good introduction for those who have not seen these places yet. All killer, no filler!
Sea World Orlando photographed in November 2008:
This marine park is a hybrid of aquatic zoo and aquarium with some rides and non-marine life shows. It has nicely themed and detailed areas set amidst well-manicured gardens and multiple pathways, generally arranged around a central lake.
This complex of low Bahamas-like buildings is set on the edge of a rocky lagoon filled with marine mammal sculptures and boats.
The park's largest animal show theater features their orca shows, currently called Believe (as well as nightime and holiday versions). The backside of the stage has several smaller tanks for holding orcas, the most spacious of which features underwater viewing.
Whale and Dolphin Theater:
Another large animal show stadium features smaller whales and dolphins and birds, currently in a show called Blue Horizons.
Sea Lion and Otter Stadium:
A humorous show that also has a walrus called 'Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island' is staged here.
This large rocky lagoon is for bottlenose dolphin feeding and demonstrations and has a nice underwater viewing cave on one side.
Pacific Point Preserve:
Large rocky habitats for numerous California sea lions and harbor seals are surrounded by a scenic walkway with multiple viewing areas with glazed railings.
The outside of this excellent exhibit has a pergola with views to an alligator swamp on one side and the above-water portion of the manatee exhibit on the other. Visitors then enter the building into an atmospheric dark education theater with projections before seeing the extensive underwater viewing area of the manatee lagoon.
An outdoor shallow pool for small sharks and rays is seen first, then an indoor set of aquariums is encountered. These include a tropical reef tunnel, several smaller wall tanks, and finally the large shark tank with a moving walkway through a tunnel. The other side of the large shark tank is viewed from the table-service Sharks Underwater Grill.
This building houses two large chilly indoor exhibits for polar birds. The first is larger, a long rocky habitat for Antarctic penguins seperated by glass from visitors, with underwater viewing of their pool. A similar habitat is adjacent for Arctic birds such as puffins that fill a similar ecological niche to the penguins.
This chilly polar themed attraction is housed in a large modern building. Once inside, sunny Orlando is left behind and a simulated North Polar scientific research station is entered. Visitors first encounter a motion simulator ride with a thrilling film that transports them to the station. After exiting, three animal exhibits are featured along a twisting path through the station that also features educational displays of life in the Arctic. The 3 exhibits feature both abovewater and underwater views of beluga whales, polar bears, and walrus. Each exhibit is a showpiece of ice and snow-covered rocks and simulated shipwrecks. The holiday season brings a movie-themed overlay to the attraction and a different motion simulator film called 'The Polar Express Experience'.
This themed village on the central lake is a nice collection of vaguely exotic buildings with shops, restaurants, a pearl diving tank (strange to see humans in what looks like a nice habitat for fish), and the tall Skytower ride which gently rises for a great view of the park.
Journey To Atlantis:
This thrilling hybrid water flume and rollercoaster ride is set in a themed complex that recreates the mythical lost city. It features a fairly extensive and detailed dark ride section within filled with some special effects and robotic characters. The entry and exit area has a matching gift shop and aquarium called Golden Seahorse which has a temple-like room of small wall tanks as well as larger tanks below the floor and above the ceiling.
This large steel rollercoaster is minimally themed through most of its route behind the park except for the entry and loading area. The area has a giant sculpture of a conception of a mythical kraken as a sort of moray eel, and a cave nearby features the kraken's 'eggs' which are small globe-shaped aquariums with live eels inside and a veil of water flowing over their sides.
Shamu's Happy Harbor:
A brightly decorated children's play and ride area.
Manta, photographed in January 2010:
This new 'flying' style rollercoaster soars over a large area near the park entrance. Its queue features several windows into a large aquarium tank filled with rays (but no manta rays currently, fans need to go up to the excellent Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta to see the two mantas they feature in their huge 'Ocean Voyager' tank). The other side of the tank is a separate indoor aquarium for visitors to see more exhibits, including the large tank and eight smaller ones that highlight smaller fish and mollusks.