Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin at Sea World Orlando

Summer in Orlando suddenly became much cooler in 2013, with the opening of Sea World’s Antarctica. The jewel of this glacial creation, Empire of the Penguin, is an innovative, trackless ride – culminating in an unprecedented encounter with the frozen ambassadors themselves, live and in the flesh, er… feathers!

Somewhere along the way, I took up the notion that penguins are my spirit animals. Our shared traits and mannerisms display an undeniable parallel in our very nature. Then, of course, there’s the fact that most of my wardrobe is black or white… I’m rather pint-sized… and many peers in high school loved pointing out that I tend to walk like a penguin. Not the waddle, per se… but I do seem to lack the ability to point my stubborn feet quite straight. Spirit animal, past life… somehow, these little buggers are just my soulmates. Don’t judge.

But, I digress. You’re interested in the attraction, not my obsession. I just couldn’t resist the urge to bring up Pablo!

On our most recent visit, we took advantage of that short wait time to grab a quick bite at Expedition Cafe (preferable to standing in a line).

Don’t forget to waddle your way into Glacial Collections for a penguin souvenir or two. Wearables, huggables, displayables and playables… you’ll find something here for every penguin fan in your family. A unique option? The customizable “Cup That Cares“!

Fun highlight: interactive touch screens in this area provide facts and trivia on the chilly friends you’ll soon be meeting!

Now that you’ve explored Antarctica, get yourself in that line – the penguins await you!! Be aware… this is not a constantly moving queue. Rather, guests enter in batches, and stages. When you first enter the building, your “batch” will fill the interior of a glacier, with screens of various shapes and sizes revealing glimpses of an Antarctic scene all around you.

Following your welcome, and an introduction to your new penguin friends, you’ll proceed through a door under the main screen, on the opposite wall from where you entered. Don’t be dismayed when you realize that another queue awaits you. This one is quite short, and you really are almost there! Right now, you have a very important decision to make… are you feeling WILD? Before proceeding, you have to choose the “mild” or “wild” adventure experience. Follow your chosen line to an elevator that will transport you in small groups to your final destination. On the way, you’ll spend a little more time with Puck, the friendly little Gentoo Penguin baby you met during the pre-show.

To be totally frank, I have no idea what the mild version consists of, but for those who will be traveling with little or timid ones, I can tell you that “wild” is not a thrill ride. I would assume that the wild aspect might be something to consider if you have a bad back, or certain other circumstances. It does not have drops or anything extreme, but it does toss you around a touch. Universal Studios guests might compare this to a feature on Cat in the Hat… Disney-goers, think Mr. Toad or Primeval Whirl’s chaotic pinballing. 

Over the course of your journey, you’ll encounter the perils that our penguin friends face on a daily basis. You’ll experience harrowing encounters with predators and natural threats as you follow Puck on his quest to safely reunite with his family. 

Just as you’re celebrating the happy reunion, you’re invited to join Puck’s friends in their amazing land of ice and snow. Remember when I mentioned that teary-eyed gasp I just can’t refrain from? This is that moment… gets me every single time.

I really am an overgrown child. As the vehicle docks, I always find my legs bouncing with excitement waiting for the seat belt to release. One of these days, I fear a penguin may hit me with a restraining order. My paparazzi skills get the full test here! If you think I’m infatuated with the Disney ducks, you simply have NO idea! No flash photography here, folks… and as you can see, there’s no reason to attempt to fracture that rule, so just DON’T.