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SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular features family-friendly frights

SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular features family-friendly frights

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Picking up where I left off with Tuesday's article ...

Apparently suffering from terrible nightmares that featured some of New Line Cinema's best -- Jason, Freddie and Leatherface -- has one redeeming quality. Mr. Hill got a little sick of hearing me whine about the long-lasting psychological damage caused by my recent visit to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida. He suggested that perhaps I could - well - get over it (as if the mental anguish of seeing those day-glo clowns on crucifixes will fade so easily!) by visiting yet another Orlando theme park's Halloween festivities.

The conversation went more or less as follows:

Jaime: What exactly are you smoking? I've just gotten my first undisturbed night of rest in eight days!

Jim: Five words: Anheuser-Busch and Sesame Street.

Jaime: Ok, I'm in. When?

 Copyright 2007 Anheuser-Busch Entertainment Corporation. All Rights Reserved

So I'm easily convinced. But really, those are some pretty magical words there. I was picturing an "Avenue Q" of drunken puppet debauchery. But instead we visited SeaWorld's "Halloween Spooktacular." Which was almost as good. Actually, even better. If you consider the fact that I, rather than the puppets, was drinking the beer.

In comparison to the rest of the Orlando theme parks, SeaWorld is very low-key. Anheuser-Busch is the sponsor of the park, and my favorite way to wile away some time is at the SeaWorld Hospitality Center's "Brewmaster Club" -- the complimentary VIP beer tasting. At each tasting (And you can visit once per day. More if you wear a disguise), you can sample four different beers (or other Anheuser-Busch beverages) with a small food pairing.

The Hospitality Center is also home to the endless streams of beer. At least eighteen taps of beer, from your basic Bud & Bud Light to the more adventurous Red Hook & Bare Knuckle Stout. Each guest over the age of twenty-one can sample two of these beers, complements of Anheuser-Busch. *

After sampling some of the best-tasting food/beer combinations that I've had recently, we decided to start our "Spooktacular" fun. SeaWorld's "Main Street" (i.e. that section of the park that stretches from the Dolphin Cove area all the way over to Shamu's Happy Harbor) is currently decorated like an underwater "fantasea" come to life. Children (and sugar-happy twenty-somethings) can trick-or-treat from one candy-station to the next amidst sea creatures like pumpkin fish, sea witches, octopi and mermaids before they finally end up in SeaWorld's "Frozen Fun Zone." Jack Frost is "Frozen Fun Zone's" DJ, playing classic and current hits. Covering anything from "YMCA" to "Who Let the Dogs Out?" while a polar bear dances with the crowd.

 Copyright 2007 Anheuser-Busch Entertainment Corporation. All Rights Reserved

The real draw of Spooktacular, though, is the puppets. More specifically, the Sesame Street "Countdown to Halloween" show. Starring Count von Count, the show features toe-tapping musical numbers including "Transylvania 1-2-3-4-5" and classic Halloween hits like "Monster Mash."

As an old-school Muppet fan, I was hoping for an up-close-and-personal with Grover, or maybe even Big Bird.To my dismay (and to most of the audience's distinct pleasure), my favorite Sesame Street characters were shunted aside in favor of the hottest Monster on the block - Elmo!

To be fair, the age of the average audience member was possibly six. And really, Big Bird might have hesitated visiting a park where every third guest seemed to be carrying a Big Bird-sized turkey leg.

But that said, it still doesn't excuse the rug rats in the audience for screaming like frenzied Beatles fans when Elmo took the stage. The show concludes with a quick Sesame Street meet & greet. At which, being the tallest person in the group by three feet, and the oldest non-parent by ... oh… <cough> twenty years <cough> I was promptly ignored in favor of excited three-year-olds.

"Countdown to Halloween" is cute. And two-to-six year olds or die-hard Sesame Street fans will enjoy it. Unfortunately, compared to my memories of the television program (which, being honest, I haven't regularly watched in years), it seemed dumbed-down. There was no snappy Ernie & Bert dialogue, no entertaining comments from Oscar the Grouch. Mind you, I wasn't actually expecting a Broadway-caliber production. But I was hoping for at least a few of those jokes that just the adults get, which then go sailing right over the heads of the preschool crowd. Overall, it wasn't the worst theme-park show that I've ever seen. But it was far from the best.

Copyright 2007 Anheuser-Busch Entertainment Corporation. All Rights Reserved

SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular is included as part of your standard admission and takes place during normal operating hours. Other Halloween-themed entertainment includes street performers and a children's music concert series featuring groups like "The Dirty Sock Funtime Band" & "Hot Peas & Butter." Costumes are welcome, and guests that were dressed up on the day that I visited the park ranged in age from toddler right up to senior citizen.

The atmosphere here was extremely relaxed and low-pressure. Which was a welcome relief to the "go-go-go" stresses that one encounters at those after-hours hard ticket Halloween events at the other Orlando theme parks. Even without the "puppet and beer" inducement, I'd definitely go back again next year.

Hey … Maybe if we start an email campaign now, we can get Big Bird and Grover to come to SeaWorld next Halloween ... It's just a thought.

* Please note that neither Jaime Burke, Jim Hill Media nor Anheuser-Busch encourages over-consumption. Alcohol should be avoided when pregnant or trying to conceive. Please drink and visit theme parks responsibly (We'll talk about Drinking 'Round the World at Epcot later).

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