Orlando is the theme park capital of the world. The big three—Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld—each operate multiple properties. Disney has four main parks, water parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports, Disney Springs, Disney’s BoardWalk, and more. Then, there’s Universal Studios Orlando, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the under-development Volcano Bay water park, and so on.
SeaWorld has three local parks: SeaWorld Orlando, its water park Aquatica, and Discovery Cove (plus there’s also Busch Gardens and Adventure Island nearby in Tampa). For some reason, Discovery Cove is too often overlooked by tourists and residents alike; it offers a unique, educational, fun, and memorable experience for the visitors of all ages.
Families in west Orange County, Florida have this amazing attraction right down the road from home. The park is a mere 10 miles (about 20 minutes) from downtown Windermere and 20 miles (about 25 minutes) from downtown Winter Garden.
About Discovery Cove
As with SeaWorld, marine animals are the primary focus at Discovery Cove. And also like SeaWorld, Discovery Cove strives to balance education and entertainment and place real emphasis on conservation. But while killer whales are the most famous draw at the former, dolphins get top billing at the latter. The opportunity to swim with bottlenose dolphins is Discover Cove’s main attraction.
Discovery Cove opened to the public on July 1, 2000. Back then, it covered 15 acres and offered three signature experiences. Today, the park has expanded to more than 22 acres and features seven signature experiences.
Signature Experiences at Discovery Cove
Here’s a quick look at the seven signature experiences at the park:
- Dolphin Lagoon is where you interact and swim with dolphins, even grabbing hold of a dorsal fins to take a ride. You learn quite a bit about dolphin behavior and communication here.
- Explorer’s Aviary puts you in a habitat full of colorful singing birds. Let them perch on you and feed them some fruit directly from your hand.
- Freshwater Oasis, the newest of the signature experiences, lets you wade into sparkling clear water under a rainforest canopy to play with otters and marmosets.
- Grand Reef offers a reef habitat to explore, teeming with life, as well as a bridge to a shark observation area and other excitement.
- Seaventure requires an extra ticket purchase, but it’s worth it. Take an underwater walking tour in a diving helmet for the experience of scuba diving (without all the requisite training).
- Serenity Bay is a beach-like freshwater escape in the park, where you can relax and soak up some sun while the kids splash and play.
- Wind-Away River provides a lazy river experience, taking you past beaches and waterfalls and through rainforest and an underwater cave.
Trainer for a Day
For kids who are particularly enthusiastic about dolphins or marine science, this special experience is an unforgettable thrill. It includes considerably more interaction with dolphins, as well as interaction with tropical birds and small mammals, a behind-the-scenes tour of the park, working with one of the park’s professional animal trainers, feeding tropical fish in the Grand Reef, food and drinks, and more.
Head on Over!
Sure, Discovery Cove isn’t as famous a name as Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, or even its sister park SeaWorld, but don’t hesitate to take the kids there. It’s a truly inspiring theme park experience, and the day’s guaranteed to become a treasured family memory.