SeaWorld Orlando’s Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin officially opens tomorrow, Friday, May 24 but Best of Orlando was invited to a sneak peek at the new attraction yesterday during the park’s SeaWorld Experience Antarctica Special Event. The Party took us on a fun adventure to the bottom of the world where temps dropped to freezing, penguins roamed and we became the ultimate explorers.

The journey into Antarctica began at Base Camp, where fellow travelers checked in, and we were greeted by SeaWorld's finest adventurers, all in full expedition gear, ready to brave the freeze. We received a tattered map detailing our expedition route. In the map, the trail guided us through various checkpoints along the way that would prepare us for the chilly Antarctica experience. At each checkpoint guests were greeted by a different characters with different props that were used to fully immerse guests into the "6-week" expedition. Tents, lanterns, “cargo” boxes, hiking backpacks and canteens were among the few items scattered around the checkpoints. 

The first checkpoint was The Old Canteen, maybe my favorite! Here we were given a cool flask with “SeaWorld’s Antarctica Empire of the Penguin” on it. Inside the flask was a very yummy alcoholic drink that was intended to warm us up for the freeze that we’d soon be encountering inside the attraction. Mission accomplished!

Stuff keeps you warm.

The second checkpoint was Southern Lights where we acquired a handy flashlight that we assumed we’d be needing later in the adventure. Getting lost in Antarctica is not recommended, so it's good to have a personal flashlight to guide the way.

Light the Way!

The choices of an explorer: Silver or Blue?

Best of Orlando is ready for an Adventure.

At the Third checkpoint, we were handed an Antarctica Scarf, another gesture that the ride was going to be a cool one. We strapped that sucker on our necks and prepared to enter Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin.

I think I can follow this guy anywhere. 

A scarf for everyone!

After acquiring a tasty drink, flashlight and scarf we finally reached the much-anticipated attraction area for Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin! With signs pointing us towards Antarctica, we came across a huge icy glacier beckoning us in to the cold world. Fog littered the ground to give an even greater feel of Antarctica’s chilly atmosphere. Let me tell you when you first lay your eyes on the new area; there's a definite wow factor involved. The scope of the landscape, the details, and the color tone shift dropped my jaw, this is one Orlando attraction that photos don't do justice. You'll just have to come out and see it for yourself.

Good Eats!

More Paella please.

Teriyaki Chicken with Sweet Corn Chive Polenta

We feasted by the penguins.

Once inside, it was a blast and I found myself exploring the area like I was on an expedition. At every turn, there was something cool to eat, see, or meet. Our first stop inside the attraction was for some grub at Expedition Café, which looks like  some sort of space vehicle that sits up on stilts with flags from every country scattered around it. The restaurant is situated in the side of a glacier. Once we got over how cool Expedition Cafe looked from the outside we went inside and sampled some of its new food offerings including orange chicken, stir fried vegetable lo mein, sausage sliders with caramelized onions and peppers and so many more delicious dishes. But we had to pace ourselves, scattered throughout the area, there were food stations serving Seafood paella, Truffle Mac & Cheese, Korean BBQ and more, all served on cool biodegradable plates and utensils made from completely organic material. How cool is that?

The Truffle Mac & Cheese and the Korean BBQ were served in expedition tins.

Mac & Cheese Heaven!

Very cool bar

Right in front of the attraction, SeaWorld had a bar complete made out of ice with penguin ice sculptures on each side, but if that wasn't exciting enough; there was a special green Antarctica drink that would get funneled through the ice blocks on the bar and fill a neat plastic shot glass that was made to look like a ice cube. And of course, the special alcoholic drink was sweet!

Chilled on the way down.

Need every drop.

Just Chilling out by Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin

The New Drink is called Vanilla South Pole Chill

Puck and family on souvenir cups.

For non-alcoholic drinks, we made our way to Coca-Cola’s unique Freestyle Machines that were also placed inside what looked to be a snow embankment. The coca-cola drink of the night was the new Vanilla South Pole Chill, and it was quite tasty, especially in the souvenir Antarctica cup they gave us. And just when we thought we couldn’t eat or drink any more, the dessert display was truly enchanting. A cornucopia tantalizing cakes, pies, flan, mini gourmet donuts, mousse, you name it! They were all suspended and displayed rotating by on conveyor belts! So many to choose from, you had to eat two or three, maybe four... it's been a long expedition; I think we could afford the delicious Calories.


Pie please.

A donut on a mini martini glass


Desserts that come to you

Penguins in some mousse.

Gummy Penguin inside

Any chocolate lovers?

Gotta have some fruit, too!

Stuffed and satisfied it was our turn to finally take a journey on Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin. And what a ride it was! We’ll have more details about the ride itself and the penguin habitat for you tomorrow, so stay tuned!

After the ride as night fell, snow and bubbles began to fall for a beautiful snowy atmosphere, and a night we’d never forget. Park President Terry Prather welcomed the crowd and said a few words about the attraction. Prather was followed by a special performance by Lauren Alaina, runner-up on the tenth season of “American Idol.” She is the voice behind the attraction’s "Antarctica: One World, One Family" that you hear on the ride. We also got to take photos with her before her performance in the Sub-Zero Recreational Center. Lauren was so excited about everything going on; she greeted us with hugs all around! We departed with her autograph.

Jungle Jack Hanna at Antarctica

Former Miami Dolphins player Jason Taylor right before entering the ride.

Creative Director Brian Morrow by Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin

Lauren Alaina wasn’t the only celebrity at the party. As we walked around the area we ran into Animal enthusiast Jack Hanna, who was in town enjoying the new attraction and all of its penguins. Then, there was former Miami Dolphins football defensive end, Jason Taylor, with his wife and family ready to experience the freeze of Antarctica and those lovable penguins. And speaking of the penguins, guests were also able to meet the star of the attraction, the penguin Puck in a special photo session. For more of Puck, we ventured inside the gift shop, Glacial Collections to buy some adorable puck merchandise, among other Empire of the Penguin collectibles.

And as if all of that wasn’t enough, we were also invited to make our own Antarctica video at the augmented reality video set and “Become an Explorer” at the explorer photo station. 

Stay tuned for more details about the attraction Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin. And if you want to experience the attraction yourself you can find discounted SeaWorld Orlando tickets right here on Best of Orlando.

Preview of inside the queue

Puck is a cute hatchling


Just chilling

Orlando, FL - 05/23/13