Imagine you’re basking in the sun, keeping an eye on your kids as they splash in the shallow water with life jackets, goggles and snorkels. Your spouse strolls up and hands you a beverage—complimentary, of course—and palm trees sway as you sip your frozen drink and you feel like you’re in paradise.
You might be imagining a cruise or a luxurious beach hotel.
In fact, you are right in the middle of an Orlando, Florida theme park. Discovery Cove is one of Orlando’s hidden gems. Sea World’s all-inclusive day resort offers animal encounters and plenty of water-based activities for every age and stage.
The Most Relaxing Theme Park in Orlando
My family and I had the opportunity to experience Discovery Cove first hand this September. I had no idea what to expect before our visit. As the pregnant mother of a 2-, 4- and 6-year-old, I was a little nervous about being around water all day with young children. I thought for sure I would be exhausted and crabby from trying to keep my kids safe in the hot Florida sun.
Our experience was nothing short of magical. I hesitate to use the word relaxing to describe any travel experience with my kids, but I can honestly say I left the park more refreshed than when I arrived.
What’s Included at Discovery Cove
The concept of the all-inclusive day resort is genius. Guests pay one entrance fee and have everything they could need or want for the day at their fingertips.
The basic package included animal-safe sunscreen, fresh towels, wet suits, life jackets, goggles, snorkel gear, unlimited food and beverage, two alcoholic beverages for adults and lots of animal encounters.
Our family of five walked in with just one backpack which basically contained a change of clothes for the drive home and a waterproof camera. Part of the stress of taking your kids to a theme park is making sure you have everything you need for the day, but Discovery Cove takes care of everything for you.
I expected the food at the main restaurant to be of the same quality as a fast-food restaurant, and about as healthy. Instead, I was greeted with a wide array of healthy options and treats, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Breakfast was a buffet, and for lunch, guests can choose their meal. I was blown away by the quality and taste of the jerk chicken, rice and steamed veggies on my plate.
Between meals, you can access snacks such as slushies, warm chocolate chip cookies, soft pretzels and chips at stands strategically located around the park. You can go ahead and assume that my kids asked to stop at those kiosks multiple times throughout the day.
Experiences Around the Park
As for swimming experiences and animal encounters, there is more than enough to keep you busy for an entire day. The 5 bodies of water around the park are the Wind-Away River, the Grand Reef, the Freshwater Oasis, Serenity Bay and the Dolphin Lagoon.
The Dolphin Encounter is definitely the highlight of the day. You can pet and feed a dolphin, swim with them and learn about their background and training from one of the trainers. Kids must be 6 to participate, but we were able to get a picture with our whole family at the end of the experience.
Anyone can snorkel in the Grand Reef to observe stingrays and tropical fish up close. Head on over to the Freshwater Oasis to see marmosets and otters playing in the water. Grab a pool noodle and relax in the Wind-Away River, floating through a cave and under waterfalls. Finally, you can splash around Serenity Bay, play in the sand or chill on a chaise lounge.
Discovery Cove is a Certified Autism Center
Discovery Cove, along with SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica Orlando, is a designated Certified Autism Center. Parents of children with autism and other special needs can rest assured that Discovery Cove is prepared to make a visit to their park inclusive and enjoyable for every visitor.
Team members at Discovery Cove are trained to interact with families with special needs. In addition, families can prepare ahead of time by downloading the sensory guide from Discovery Cove’s website to see how children with sensitivities may be affected by each of the attractions at the park. With attendance capped at 1,300 people per day, those with autism are less likely to be overwhelmed by crowds.
Guests with disabilities can participate, too! Discovery Cove provides specially designed wheelchairs with large tires that can maneuver through the sand.
An Orlando Oasis
A getaway to Discovery Cove in Orlando may be just the relaxing getaway your family needs. Not having to worry about packing food or swimming gear for the day takes all the normal stress out of this theme park experience. With unlimited snacks, a drink in your hand, swaying palm trees and happy children, you’ll forget that you’re in the middle of Orlando and be transported to a tropical island paradise.
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