I spent a fantastic day at SeaWorld, learning and exploring with some of my favorite bloggers — a group I’ve enjoyed annual trips with ever since we first spent an unforgettable night sleeping in the penguin exhibit. The delightful sensory experience of sleeping in a room that smells like the inside of a mackerel can notwithstanding, it was STILL one of the most fun experiences I have had as a grown-up.
So today, it was exciting to be back, seeing old friends and meeting new ones, and creating great new memories to remember.
Sometimes, Kid-Free is the Way to Be
I know it seems like sacrilege at a family-friendly park like SeaWorld, but I chose not to bring my kids along for this trip. Sometimes, moms just need a day without anyone asking for Dippin’ Dots. (Also, we’ve been annual pass holders for several years, so it’s not like they were missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime chance.)
Michelle, another member of the liberated mommies club, didn’t bring her kids either — and as soon as we got out of the writing seminar, she was game for hitting as many thrill rides as we could fit in. SeaWorld San Antonio is not known for its scary rides, but the Great White, Steel Eel, and Atlantis still all pack an impressive adrenaline punch. Michelle and I hadn’t met before this weekend, but something about being belted into a machine that’s about to hurl you upside down just BONDS people.
Catching Some Rays
The excitement of the coasters, paled in comparison to the real excitement of the day, though — getting up close and personal with Stingrays. Aquatica, SeaWorld’s new water park, has a pool filled with 100 stingrays, and guests have the chance, in small groups, to get in the water to pet and feed the rays.
The Stingray interaction is usually $25 a person, but Debi won a drawing that gave 4 people a chance to get in the pool with the rays, and was nice enough to invite Michelle, Lee Ann, and I to join her. There’s no real danger being in with the rays — the barbs on their tails are all trimmed regularly, so they can’t sting — but it is still an eerie feeling to wade into a tank of full of them.
The first time my hand touched one of the velvety soft rays, though, my nerves faded into a sense of awe. The rays, sometimes dozens at a time, would swarm up and swim around us, gliding up and under my outstretched hands so I could pet them. These alien creatures are graceful and gentle, and there is something very magical when a species so different from us allows us to into their world. I expected getting in with the Stingrays to be fun, but the sense of wonder and amazement was truly something special.
As the afternoon wound down, a small group of us went on a photo walk with Nan Palmero, who is seriously one of the coolest people I know. Nan has many talents, but he is some kind of magical technology wizard and walking catalog of ways to make your iPhone shoot better pictures. My favorite things he introduced us to today were a couple of 99-cent apps:
- Group Shot that lets you take several pictures of a group of people, and then combine them to get the best picture of everyone. Someone closed their eyes or looked away? You can switch out their face from another shot.
- Dermandar which is a 360-degree panorama app. You turn slowly in a circle, it creates an interactive panoramic picture.
Sweet Little People
As the day wound down, I got to spend some more wonderful moments with Rachel’s beautiful children. Her daughter and I compared notes on roller coasters. Her son “Monkey,” who is all southern boy, gave me a penguin won at a midway game, and insisted on carrying my bag.
He’s 5, though, and all that gentlemanly behavior can get exhausting, so when he ran out of steam, he let me hoist him up on my shoulders for a ride to the Sea Lion show. Rachel was behind us taking pictures, and for the first time EVER in my life, I thought “oh good, someone is getting a picture of this.” Because sometimes, the treasure of getting to keep a moment even trumps the panic of OH MY HEAVENS DO NOT TAKE A PICTURE OF MY BUTT.
And Then, Disaster
Then, as I was strolling out to my car, still smiling from the day’s memories, the horrible realization came. As I stared at a sea of cars, it occurred to me that in my excitement to get into the park, I had not paid ANY ATTENTION TO WHERE I PARKED. All over the SeaWorld parking lot, there are signs with happy smiling animals and row numbers so you can find your car with ease.
But when you have forgotten to notice them on the way in, those animals are no longer happy and smiling. They are all laughing at you while you haul your exhausted self down row after row, clicking on your key with hopeless despair on the off chance you’ll get near enough to your vehicle to make the horn honk. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. ohsweetmoseswhereismycar? Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.
Finally, after 20 minutes of wandering in the minivan wilderness, I heard a faint honk in response to my desperate clicks. Nothing ever sounded sweeter.
So, if you go to a theme park this summer? Don’t be afraid to ditch your kids. Do try something outside your comfort zone. Look for the little moments of joy.
And for heaven’s sake, write down where you parked.
Standard legal disclaimer: I attended the AdventureCon blogging conference as a guest of SeaWorld San Antonio. All opinions expressed are nonetheless my very own.