SeaWorld Orlando kicks off its Just For Kids festival for the second year on Jan. 12. For four consecutive Saturdays, the theme park is offering families special entertainment and discounts on some of its popular animal experiences — and many of the offerings are included with regular park admission.
Children (and their parents) can hear concerts by some of today’s popular kids’ performers, a couple of whom you’ve probably seen in the past during Disney Channel’s morning programming for its youngest viewers. The performers include:
** Jan. 12 — Imagination Movers
** Jan. 19 — Laurie Berkner
** Jan. 26 — Choo-Choo Soul
** Feb. 2 — Kratt Brothers
Concerts are at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. in the Nautilus Theater, and tickets will be distributed across from the venue beginning each Saturday at 9 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no additional charge for these tickets.
Want a guaranteed seat for the music? Then book the Shamu & Friends character breakfast at the Terrace Garden Buffet restaurant. The 9 a.m. meal guarantees admission to the 2 p.m. concert, and the 11 a.m. breakfast saves you a spot at the 4 p.m. concert.
During the breakfast, families will have meet-and-greets with SeaWorld characters and will receive a 6 x 8 family photo.
The menu, which is subject to change, includes baked ham, scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, biscuits and sausage gravy, bacon, sausage, French toast sticks, Belgium waffles, seasonal fresh fruit, breakfast pastries, yogurt, cereal, milk, juices, coffee, and assorted Coca-Cola products.
Reservations are required for the Shamu & Friends character meal, and children younger than 2 are free but require reservation. Tickets are $39 for adults and $29 for children ages 3 to 9.
Younger kids might also enjoy Elmo’s VIP character breakfast. The popular red muppet brings one of his Sesame Street friends to a full-service breakfast — with much the same menu as the Shamu meal — at Sharks Underwater Grill. This breakfast also comes with character meet-and-greets, a 6 x 8 family photo, VIP seating for the 11 a.m. concert, and complimentary valet parking. Tickets are $49 for adults and $39 for children ages 3 to 9.
For my family, though, the best benefit of the Just for Kids festival is the discount on the animal encounters. For the Dolphins Up-Close, Sea Lions Up-Close, Behind-the-Scenes and Family Fun tours, one child is free with each paid adult. On these tours, guests younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult. That savings can add up quicker than a orca can eat a pail of fish.
Regular readers of my blog may know that my 8-year-old daughter is in love with dolphins and aspires to train them, so the Dolphins Up-Close Tour is a perfect activity for us. (You can read about our experiences on my previous post.)
In addition to concerts and tours, SeaWorld is hosting fun zones on Just For Kids days:
** New this year is Elmo Rocks!, a concert with Cookie Monster, Zoe, Abby Cadabby, Bert and Ernie at Seafire Inn.
** The Lakeside Patio becomes Shamu’s Party Zone, which features a family-friendly DJ, games and character appearances.
** An Ocean Adventure program takes young guests to four Sea Star locations in the park for educational activities. Kids can collect cards and stamps at each location and then redeem them for a prize.
SeaWorld Orlando pass members receive additional discounts during the festival, such as 20 percent off dining in all cafeteria-style restaurants and merchandise in the gift stores. Admission to SeaWorld is $89 for adults and $81 for children ages 3 to 9 with a Fun Card, which allows admission all year long.