SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration offers music-filled nights with surprising live performances around almost every corner. From impromptu street musicians to elaborate stage performances, SeaWorld Orlando has expanded its Christmas Celebration once again for 2011, adding even more festive fun, all included with theme park admission.
The Christmas entertainment has been featured in the park on weekends since Thanksgiving, continues tomorrow and Sunday, and then picks up nightly December 16 through the end of the year. A variety of entertainment is presented with an emphasis on music and the true spirit and story of Christmas. SeaWorld Orlando doesn’t wish their guests a politically-correct “Happy Holidays,” but instead firmly focuses on Christmas and all that makes this particular holiday merry and bright.
There are more special performances to see at Christmastime in SeaWorld Orlando than many of Orlando’s other popular theme parks, with a number of live bands and musical acts and exciting shows (wet and dry, indoors and out). Below is a video summary of the music-based performances guests will find this year during SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration, followed by a photo and video tour of these shows and much more.
Video: Live music and shows at 2011 SeaWorld Orlando Christmas Celebration
A returning favorite from 2010, the Sea of Trees has been expanded this year to include 100 massive trees around the park’s center lake, each sparkling, lighted and choreographed to holiday tunes. It’s a beautiful view from any waterside spot, with programmed performances scheduled a few times per night.
Video: Sea of Trees full show expanded for 2011
New for 2011 is the heavily religious show “O Wondrous Night,” performed in the indoor Nautilus Theater. Billed as showing “The Greatest Story Never Told,” this show presents a spin on the classic Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus story of Christmas with a focus on animals, both as talking puppets and live on stage. The animals and actors are accompanied by a talented choir of Herald Angels who sing their way through familiar Christmas songs, donning church-inspired costumes. The show mixes a bit of lighthearted comedy in, but the focus lies on the story and well-choreographed song-and-dance routines with more than 30 carols performed.
“O Wondrous Night” leaves the audience feeling warm and fuzzy inside - and also a bit like they’ve just attended church, without the preaching. It’s the most religious theme park show I’ve seen outside of the Holy Land Experience and those who feel Christmas has become too commercial and has lost focus of what the holiday is “really about” are sure to enjoy this telling of the story.
Video: O Wondrous Night highlights
For a more lighthearted sound of Christmas, SeaWorld Orlando features more than a few musical acts throughout its streets. The Groove Chefs literally bang out peppy tunes like “Jingle Bells” on pots, pans, and grills.
A live three-piece rock band plays similar hits with a bit of a Latin flair.
A saxophone quartet performs 1-minute versions of both religious and non-religious Christmas songs, sometimes with some fancy footwork. Watching them perform with the Sea of Trees backdrop is a wonderfully relaxing moment.
Just outside the Nautilus Theater where “O Wondrous Night” is performed, a quartet of a capella singers offer similar songs as the above bands, but with their voices as instruments. Their rehearsed routine includes guest interaction with “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and some playful banter between songs.
The same group entertains at the end of the night on the waterside ice stage as pre-entertainment for each night’s finale performances.
Winter Wonderland on Ice is an ice skating performance - in Florida! Set to familiar Christmas songs, a large cast of skaters jump, spin, and soar through a variety of routines and costume changes. Their graceful elegance can be appreciated by all, while guys will particularly enjoy a few short-skirted Santa’s helper outfits worn during two of the songs.
Video: Winter Wonderland on Ice highlights
In the same setting, just after Winter Wonderland on Ice concludes, Holiday Reflections: Fireworks and Fountains Finale is performed. While it may not be Orlando’s biggest theme park fireworks show, guests will enjoy the close proximity to both the dancing colorful fountains and the booming fireworks. Unlike other local parks that shoot of their shells from a great distance outside the park, these fireworks are launched just beyond the stage, where each blast can be heard, seen, and felt. It’s a perfect way to cap off a night at SeaWorld Orlando.
Video: Holiday Reflections full fireworks show
Aside from the music-filled performances above, SeaWorld Orlando also offers Clyde and Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas featuring sea lions and other aquatic creatures, Shamu Christmas … Miracles, and A Sesame Street Christmas.
And outside of the performances, the park is packed with plenty of other unique opportunities to see and do. One waterside area features lighted archways, regular snowfalls, and other entertainment.
Two festive elves stand by to play games with guests of all ages.
Families can step into a unique inflatable snow globe photo opportunity, complete with snow to throw in the air just as the picture is snapped.
SeaWorld’s Longshoremen put on a Christmas-themed slapstick comedy performance as they attempt to place a star on the top of a Christmas tree, to hilariously disastrous results.
The park’s Wild Arctic ride becomes The Polar Express Experience for the Christmas season, offering a motion simulator ride through clips from the movie of the same name. Outside, a large Polar Express train is available for pictures.
Throughout the park, dripping icicle lights create sparkling sights overhead.
Other illuminated displays include polar bears, penguins, and an occasional Shamu or two.
The Christmas Market, located on the park’s Bayside Pathway, features culinary delights and unique gifts. Included, of course, is the obligatory theme park turkey leg.
Steak burgers are an inviting offering in the Christmas Market.
The kettle corn is a sweet treat as well.
But the culinary highlight of the Christmas Celebration is from a company called The Daily Bread Bakers, who offer a variety of fresh-baked breads and toppings to go with them. SeaWorld has brought them in for Christmas as a test and may keep them around permanently if they do well.
I thoroughly enjoyed the pretzel bread I had, topped with sweet honey and spicy mustard. The new company will also be opening up a location in the Altamonte Mall soon, which I will gladly frequent.
Also in the Christmas Market are meet-and-greets with a happy snowman and shy, but curious otter.
SeaWorld has also decorated Shamu’s Happy Harbor with thousands of twinkling Christmas lights, adorning its existing oversized play areas.
And in the end, after all the shows have completed and fireworks launched, SeaWorld eases guests out of the park with more musical merriment, such as the saxophone quartet playing a soft serenade in front of the tall Christmas tree at the park’s exit.
Of course, in addition to all the Christmas additions to the park, SeaWorld Orlando’s regular attractions continue to run, including their world-class flying roller coaster, Manta. And late at night, while crowds are waiting for Shamu to perform, thrill seekers can seize the opportunity to enjoy little-to-no lines on the rides.
More information about SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration, along with ticket details, can be found on their web site.
More photos from the 2011 SeaWorld Orlando Christmas Celebration:
(Photos by Katherine McElroy & Ricky Brigante)