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Sonia Thorpe, 39, a photographer from Nottingham, and her partner James Booker, 43, visited SeaWorld Parks in Florida with Sonia’s daughter Maisie, 10, and son Maxwell, six.
We spoke to Sonia on her return from the Sunshine State and here is her account of how they got on…
‘There is something magical about taking your children to a destination for the first time. I remember talking to my son as I was trying to squeeze everything into suitcases the night before we flew.
I explained that we were going to Orlando, where we would be visiting the top theme parks including SeaWorld, Aquatica, Discovery Cove and Busch Gardens’– that we would be catching a plane, and that when we landed, it would be sunnier, and that we would be able to see dolphins.
Maxwell is six. The look on his face when I said the word ‘dolphins’ is one that I will never forget – I thought his eyes would burst out of his head.
Sonia visited Discovery Cove with her husband James, daughter Maisie, 10 and son Maxwell, six
We were already working on our suntans when we arrived at SeaWorld’s brilliant neighbour Discovery Cove where you can swim with dolphins . When we first saw these incredible creatures gliding through the lagoon – well, it wasn’t just Maxwell who couldn’t believe his eyes.
Being in the water with these gentle – yet powerful – animals is an experience everyone should try. It was such a magical morning. I spent so much of it watching the childrens’ reactions. They were elated. I’m sure I will be able to hear Maisie’s happy giggles for years to come.
Little Maxwell couldn’t believe his eyes when he first saw the dolphin’s at Discovery Cove
We spent the following day at SeaWorld. Some people think SeaWorld is only about animals. Of course, this is a huge part of its appeal. We saw sharks, stingrays, sealions and seals as well as dolphins, and were astonished by all of them. But SeaWorld is also full of thrill rides and rollercoasters.
I must admit that, before we travelled, I was a little nervous about the rides. I have always been relatively confident with things which dip, dive and loop the loop, but it had been 20 years since I had tried anything as big or as fast as you find at SeaWorld. Of course, James is a lifelong fan of jumps, leaps and games with gravity, and the children, as all kids do, wanted to prove how brave they are. So we all prepared to scream our lungs out.
We all tried Journey To Atlantis, a family-friendly attraction which is a hybrid of a flume ride and a rollercoaster – with splash-factor to match. Maxwell especially loved the drop into the water at the end. Then James – who has never met a rollercoaster he does not like – went on to try Mako, Kraken and Manta.
James in particular was a fan of the rollarcosters- including Manta, a 50mph coaster guests experience face down for an incredible flying sensation!
Mako is Orlando’s tallest, fastest and longest rollercoaster, reaching a height of 200ft. Kraken is Orlando’s only floorless rollercoaster, so riders’ feet dangle from their seats – at heights of up to 150ft above the ground. Manta, meanwhile, is an amazing flying rollercoaster which replicates what it is like to be a manta-ray, skimming and gliding across water. James loved them all. I have a feeling that if we’d left him to his own devices, he’d still be raising his arms for the last big drop now.
Rollercoasters became something of a recurring theme. We also visited Busch Gardens, known for bringing the Serengeti to the Sunshine State.
James managed to convince Sonia to try Falcon’s Fury, Busch Gardens’ tallest thrill ride that lets you soar and dive like a magnificent bird of prey
But as well as animals from the African plains, including lions, giraffe and zebras, there are so many excellent rides here. James managed to convince me to try SheiKra and Falcon’s Fury – and I’m glad he did. SheiKra is a phenomenon, a diving rollercoaster where you climb 200ft to the lip of a 90-degree drop – where the ride stops for what feels like forever, as you wait for the 70mph plunge. Falcon’s Fury is even more adventurous. This is North America’s tallest freestanding drop tower ride, rising to 335ft. It hoists you up into the sky slowly, then drops you quickly. I screamed all the way down.
Maisie and Maxwell are still a little young for these really daring attractions – but Maisie was determined to try some of the family rides.
So I took her on Cobra’s Curse. This is a spin coaster which takes you on a journey along a 2100ft serpent-like track. This twists and turns to such an extent that the coaster trains can face forwards, backwards or rotate freely. However, it also runs at a family-friendly 40mph, so it was fine for Maxwell too (he had been rather sad that he isn’t yet tall enough for Mako, at SeaWorld).
Maisie and I also strapped in for Cheetah Hunt. At 4,400ft, this is Busch Gardens’ longest thrill ride. It was also Maisie’s first experience of an upside-down rollercoaster. Afterwards she told me that it was one of the highlights of her holiday, which is quite a recommendation.
One of our favourite days of the holiday was the one we spent at the fabulous Orlando water park Aquatica. This is full of slides and rides, and perfect for parents and children who want to spend quality time together. We tried everything we could. Maxwell adored Dolphin Plunge, and so did I. It involves two enclosed, transparent tubes, which send you racing down through an underwater exhibit of playful dolphins. I’m sure they tried to race with us as we sped through.
They loved Taumata Racer at Aquatica, in Orlando, SeaWorld’s water park, because it is set up as eight slides in a row, meaning they could race each other
He was also delighted by Whanau Way, a quadruple slide tower where you zoom down in a big rubber ring – which meant he was able to ride with me. Maisie, meanwhile, kept wanting to go back to Taumata Racer – because it is built as eight slides in a row, meaning families can line up together and race each other to the bottom. My favourite was Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, which is the tallest, steepest multi-drop tower slide in Orlando. You stand on a trap door, and wait for it to open beneath you. You never quite know when the big moment will be – I screamed very loudly on this ride too!
It all added up to a really incredible week, and we will definitely go back. We all made memories for life. But that’s the joy of family holidays. You can always make some more.
The Discovery Cove Ultimate Package offers the best of SeaWorld, Aquatica, Discovery Cove and Busch Gardens.
This deal lets you swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove – but also enjoy 14 days of unlimited entry to SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens, and free parking.
From £166 per person. To find out more, go to seaworldparks.co.uk
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Courtesy: Daily Mail Online