The Cardinals played in Kissimmee on Friday and that town is right next to Orlando, the amusement capital of the United States. Being in close proximity to Orlando a trip to Kissimmee is a great opportunity to check out what Orlando has to offer. Sea World is our favorite.

Disney has a huge presence in Orlando with the amusement parks, many hotels, and "Downtown Disney" which is an area accessible from all the Disney Properties and also to the general public full of Disney themed stores, fun restaurants and many photo opportunities. There is also a water taxi ride that is free. Downtown Disney is a good place for families who don't want to spend the money or time on Disney World or Epcot.

Sea World has undergone tremendous growth over the years. They are getting ready to open a new Penguin section, "Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin". It opens in May.

The best show at the park is the Dolphin Show. Long gone are the shows where the trainer tells the animal what to do and they do it. This was an audio/visual spectacular with a storyline, actors and professional acrobatics. Along with the magnificent dolphins, is a mariner’s story that comes to life with flying athletic performers, gravity-defying aerial tumblers and amazing acrobatics. We found it very enjoyable.

The orca whale show-- Shamu and friends-- was a little scaled back than it used to be, probably due to the accident in 2010.  Despite the fact that the trainers did not go in the water and swim with the orcas, the animals are incredible to view and the beautiful black and white orcas thrilled the crowd with their "One Ocean." show.

Exhibits like the Shark Encounter, baby dolphin pool, flamingos, seals and walruses are all attractions that families love. The Shark Encounter, shown here at the right, as B.J. Rains and Karen Bailey stand in front of a stingray, has a St. Louis connection. Randy Burkett, owner of Randy Burkett Lighting in Webster Groves designed the lighting for the Shark Encounter.  It is a building with a tube-like walkway where visitors are surrounded by sharks, stingrays and other scary looking sea creatures.

Thrill-seekers like the roller coasters. They have names like Kraken and Manta but they are roller coasters that go upside down and all around. Sea World has many rides and also a children's area. Journey to Atlantas is a ride familiar to St. Louisians as it is like the Log Flume at Six Flags. Riders get in a long boat and take a peaceful ride through beautiful scenery and then climb to the top and their boat free-falls down an incline that is higher than the log flume at Six Flags in Eureka, Mo.

One of the most entertaining shows was called "Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island." It was a pirate story involving two sea lions, an otter, and a walrus and two talented actors.  As shown in the picture to the right there was a "pirate ship". One of the sea lions was waving to the crowd on the rail in this picture.

There is something for everyone at Sea World. For those who want more than the traditional theme park, there is a water park called Aquatica which is across the street. 

A big key to enjoying your trip to Sea World is get there early. If you get there early, just as the park opens, you can get a good, close parking spot and there are no lines on the rides. Starting about 11 a.m. it gets crowded and the lines get longer on the rides.

For more information on Sea World, park hours and prices visit their website: SeaWorld.com.