We took the boys to Sea World the other day to show them some of the Christmas awesomeness at the park. The big highlight of the trip was the Polar Express exhibit. It's held in The Wild Arctic ride, which is a motion-simulator ride that takes guests to the frigid north and once you get there, you walk through into the cold exhibit with the beluga whales, polar bears and walruses. At Christmastime they change the simulator ride to a Polar Express ride and decorate the entire exhibit to match the scenes from the movie perfectly.
Like most little kids, my boys are huge Polar Express fans so they were coming out of their skin when they saw the Polar Express sign. When you first walk in they lead you to a small room and show you a short movie on the screen. This time the room was decorated just like the boy's room from the movie, complete with a hanging airplane from the ceiling and a radiator under the movie screen that let out steam when the train pulled up. The screen looked like a window, so when the train pulled up it was totally believable.
When his bedroom door opens, you're led to an area that looks like it's covered with snow - complete with the oven mitt snowman from the movie. The Wild Arctic ride has been painted to look just like the Polar Express train. The employees are in conductors outfits and they're pumping in a very realistic pine tree smell into the room that smells nothing like the little tree that hangs from the rear-view mirror of a car and everything like a real forest.
When you board the ride, it starts a simulator experience like you're going to the North Pole - just like in the movie. The boys were squealing with excitement. When the other doors open, everything is completely decked out with lights and garlands, but it's dark and cold and the beluga whales are swimming in a faux-ice enclosure. They're pumping a freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie smell into this area, which was so amazing.
They have a real-ice wall that my Florida boys are completely intrigued with and in the middle of the room is a replica of the big Christmas tree from the movie.
On the other side of the tree is something that made my boys do a dance and run around and stare - the Santa and sleigh from the movie, complete with the big red sack of presents. Do you see my little one looking up at Santa with a total WOW vibe?
The rest of the exhibit is filled with little props from the movie, from Billy's present to the Believe ticket.
Just past the polar bears you come to a stand where they're selling cups of hot chocolate for a dollar. They're also pumping a nice rich chocolate smell into this area, which all but forces you to buy some hot chocolate. Since sodas are about $5 at Sea World, getting a drink for a buck was great.
It was just a super fun experience for the boys and really added to the magic of the season for them.
When we left there we went to the sea lion exhibit and I got some great photos of a mama sea lion and her baby and a big fat sea lion that reminded me of my Lab that passed away earlier this year.
A note to parents: If you buy a basket of fish for your kids to throw to the sea lions, be sure to PICK UP your three-year-old so they can easily throw over the plastic barrier. If you don't, you risk the child chucking a fish at full force into the barrier causing a spray of raw fish juice to cover you and said child that doesn't go away for the rest of your day. I'm not going to say how I know this….trust me on this one.