Do you like aquatic animals? Do you perhaps love education? How does getting up close and personal with those animals and spending the night at SeaWorld sound? Pretty amazing I bet, something for your bucket list for sure! Thanks to SeaWorld San Diego and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, the five of us got to check off that very bucket list item off and experience the time of our lives with some amazing penguins for a penguin sleepover!
In honor of the Mr. Popper’s Penguins Blue-ray and DVD release, December 6th, we had an itinerary that some dream of this past weekend. After our road trip down to San Diego, I met up with our contacts, unloaded our sleeping bags and suitcase, and headed into SeaWorld after hours. Imagine walking around one of your favorite theme parks when it’s empty, getting some behind the scenes tours, and no lines! Assigned some great educational leaders, we were given fabulous history, facts, and information about SeaWorld, played some fun games with the younger kids, then made our way to dinner. The educational programs at SeaWorld start with a wonderful buffet meal, and we dined at Shipwreck Reef Café. In our group of just over 30, we dined outdoors in the cool evening air on pasta, marinara sauce, meatballs, salad, the yummiest breadsticks, and chicken strips. Something for everyone in the family even my picky eaters who even went back for seconds on a little of everything.
Following dinner we made our way to the spot where we’d spend the night, the Penguin Encounter. We entered the experience like most, via the moving sidewalk in front of the glass that holds over 300 Macaroni and Gentoo penguins in the exhibit. Younger penguins were pointed out, Emperor penguins in their grand stances overwhelmed, and some even showed us how gracefully they swim in their pool. I had to giggle at the few that laid flat on their bellies on the ice, they mimicked pillow pets, even my 5 year old thought so.To all the children’s delight (and the parents too), a Gentoo penguin was brought out to our group to see up close! Penny stood atop ice packs and was frequently sprayed with a water bottle during the question and answer session to maintain her normal temperature. Though the kids could not touch Penny, they could literally smell her fish breath and could visibly notice the softness of their feathers (72 feathers per square inch). When penguins swim we learned feet are for steering underwater while swimming and wings propel them. Did you know they can dive deeper than whales? Emperor penguins can only be found in three spots, Japan, SeaWorld San Diego, and Antarctica! We got to touch and feel the dummy eggs that SeaWorld uses to replace the real eggs they remove to incubate.
So much information to absorb, we had one brave soul for penguin dress-up, then we soon were delivered our sleeping bags to set up along the back of the exhibit. Getting dressed in our cozy jammies (bring layers it gets cool there) snacks (Goldfish pretzels and fruit roll ups) and water was brought in to enjoy while we watched Mr. Popper’s Penguins. It was close to 10pm by this time and my family was pooped. We watched about 30 minutes before we fell asleep.
Supervision is provided for safety and security at all times. When anyone in your party needs to use the restroom, a camp “counselor” escorts you to and from, even if you happen to need it during the middle of the night, just give them a gentle nudge awake. At no time did I worry about my family or my belongings, it was in fact like we were camping with family, well if you consider the penguins our Antarctic relatives!
The counselors are such great people I have to say. Our evening counselor, Nicole, was a senior studying psychology working at SeaWorld, really what a fun experience, one not dismissed by my teenager thinking about her future. Kelly, our morning counselor was just as fun and both girls really knew how to work a crowd of young kids and their parents. We sang songs that we will remember “just gimme Shamu Shamu Shamu,” “Boom Chicka Boom,” and some little things like, “my hamster ball” will always remind me about personal space! , *wink*
First thing in the morning, we woke to see some of the penguins swapped positions in the exhibit, all the Emperor penguins were now on the left side, maybe there while the crew of SeaWorld cleaned up with their power hoses. Still surreal that we slept with the penguins, my youngest woke with smiles and awe and even the innocent, “yep, the penguins are still there and some are awake like me!” After dressing and tooth brushing we ventured across the park to breakfast at Seaport Marketplace. Included was coffee and juice, blueberry muffins, bacon or sausage, eggs, and watermelon, the meal sure hit the spot.
Next up, we strolled over to one of the most popular attractions of the park, Shamu’s Stadium. Here we met Ulysses and Ike and viewed them from the close-up tank. Even though she may blush to admit it, my teenager was even in awe here, no crowds, no lines, just a small group of us and some of the neatest whales you’ll ever be this close to!
After our whale fill, we headed to the Sea Lion and Seal exhibit where everyone got 1 fish to feed the animals! No dangling or else the seagulls will be sneaky and steal the fish. The sea lions and seals can sure smell fish because as soon as that bucket came out they began to bark and beg like a hungry toddler, ha!
SeaWorld has a new exhibit that opened in June, 2011, Turtle Reef, the largest of it’s kind in the world! This sight with all the yellow tang, turtles, and coral reefs reminded my husband and I of snorkeling in Maui and Oahu, the colors are amazing and some of the biggest turtles have shells as long as 6ft!
As we approached 10am, we grew near to opening time for the park. We saw the hustle and bustle of all the amazing workers of the park getting ready for the crowd. Our final treat of the experience, full-day passes to the park for everyone in the SeaWorld educational camp. If all we had already done wasn’t enough, we had the pleasure to enjoy the park on our own accord, shows, rides, and experiences included. Favorites for the rest of the day included the Snow Park with real snow, sledding, and snow block building, Blue Horizons the dolphin/whale/bird show, and the comedy of SLL (sea lion live)!
Want an amazing gift idea, party experience, or family treat, look into SeaWorld’s educational programs, they are truly an experience you’ll never forget!
Experience, meals, park passes, and goody bag were all hosted for this media event. Travel costs were on our own. All opinions are ours. Thank you SeaWorld and Fox!