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SeaWorld’s new Antarctica attraction gets you close to penguins

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SeaWorld’s new Antarctica attraction gets you close to penguins
You can get closer to the penguins than ever before at SeaWorld's new penguin exhibit, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin

You can get closer to the penguins than ever before at SeaWorld's new penguin exhibit, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin

When SeaWorld opened its new attraction, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin on May 24, my family was there for opening day. We had missed seeing the penguins on several visits — almost two years — and had to be among the first people at the Grand Opening.

Which way to Antarctica?

Which way to Antarctica?

(Lots of other SeaWorld fans were there opening day, too — there were so many of us that the Antarctica line got long, fast. We ended up waiting almost five hours before getting inside.)

SeaWorld visitors waited in line for hours to get into Antarctica on opening day

SeaWorld visitors waited in line for hours to get into Antarctica on opening day

My penguin-obsessed sons felt the long wait was worth it, though.

Learn about penguins while you wait in line

Learn about penguins while you wait in line

The boys had already heard about Puck, the animated gentoo penguin chick featured in the new attraction, because we had seen him on the SeaWorld Web site. When you enter the iceberg-covered Antarctica building, you see penguins gathered in Antarctica and watch Puck hatch from an egg.

The Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin attraction at SeaWorld tells the story of Puck, a gentoo penguin chick

The Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin attraction at SeaWorld tells the story of Puck, a gentoo penguin chick

Then you enter another room inside an iceberg and get in a round ride vehicle. The ride doesn’t run on a track like most theme park rides — it uses magnets to glide across the floor of the room with random movements, so rides aren’t always the same. Visitors can choose between a mild or wild ride (small children have to have a mild ride), but from the looks of both vehicles, I don’t think either option was too strenuous.

After the short ride, the vehicle takes you to the penguin exhibit. A door opens dramatically, and suddenly the penguins are right in front of you. That part was cool.

Literally cool — it’s about 30 degrees in the penguin exhibit! You step off the vehicle and get to watch the penguins in their habitat as long as you want (or as long as you can take the cold temperature).

SeaWorld visitors can get closer to the penguins than the old exhibit allowed

SeaWorld visitors can get closer to the penguins than the old exhibit allowed

(My younger son was tired and cold at this point — he doesn’t normally look this drawn.)

When you leave this part of the penguin habitat, the next room lets you watch the penguins swimming. A two-story glass wall shows how deep the habitat is, and you get a chance to see what amazing swimmers penguins are. I didn’t get a good picture of this, but SeaWorld has one:

Watch the penguins "fly" underwater at Antarctica

Watch the penguins "fly" underwater at Antarctica

Outside of the Antarctica building, which looks like icebergs everywhere, you can learn more about penguins.

See a life-size display of the world's penguin species outside the Antarctica attraction

See a life-size display of the world's penguin species outside the Antarctica attraction

Even the new restaurant across from the attraction, Expedition Cafe, has an Antarctic theme and more penguin displays, including a large touch-screen penguin game console.

Overall, the new Antarctica attraction is really fun. Even if you don’t do the ride — which apparently you can bypass when the lines aren’t so long — visiting just the penguin habitat is great.

(Just make sure to head there right at park opening so you don’t wait in line for five hours!)

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