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SeaWorld Orlando Penguin Up-Close Tour: Review

Nicole Thibault

My son came out of the womb loving penguins. When he was 3 years old, he would write stories about a penguin family and their adventures. He has penguins decorating his room - penguin stuffed animals, penguin blankets, penguin snow globes....  He's 12 years old now and still loves them. Penguins are his spirit animal.

When we were planning a trip to Orlando, I knew I wanted to book SeaWorld's Penguin Up-Close Tour. I had been reading about the tour online, and wanted to fulfill my son's dream of meeting a penguin in person. The tour is described on the SeaWorld website -  "Are you passionate about penguins? Go behind the scenes with us at Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin® on this approximately 45-minute walking tour to hear from our animal experts about what it takes to care for these unique birds. Plus, get a rare opportunity to interact with and touch a penguin." Our tour took place in mid-February, and the cost was $79. per person. 

The group size of our Penguin Up-Close Tour was 11 people, 6 members of my family, and 5 other SeaWorld guests; group sizes are limited to 12 people.  At a specified time, we met our tour guide in a pre-designated spot to review the tour itinerary and rules of the tour.

Our tour guide then led us "backstage" to meet our ornithologist, or penguin expert. Our tour started behind the Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin® attraction, where they care for the penguins.

Our ornithologist spent about 30-40 minutes telling us all about the different kinds of penguins that SeaWorld has (King, Adelie, Chinstrap, Rockhopper, and Gentoo), the breeding programs, diet, molting processes, and we even got to meet a baby penguin being cared for by the human handlers! 

We also got a chance to see the food the penguins eat.

After the ornithologist entertained us with penguin facts and stories for about 40 minutes, we were invited into the back area of the penguin enclosure for the Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin® attraction. Because I read many reviews of this experience, I knew to prepare my boys for the cold conditions of this enclosure. It was approximately 36 degrees in the penguin enclosure, so we wore pants, shirts and sweatshirts for comfort.

Once we were in the enclosure, our ornithologist opened a gate for our King penguin and he came strolling right up to us!

Our penguin's name was Cobie, and he was the most adorable creature! We were allowed to pet Cobie on the head, and his feathers were very soft. He waddled around the visitor's area, giving each guest a chance to pet him.


While Cobie was visiting other guests, it was an opportunity to check out all of the other penguins in the enclosure behind the gate.

We had approximately 20 minutes of "penguin time" to interact and play with Cobie. My boys loved being able to pet him and Cobie even tried to nibble on my pants!

But the best part was seeing my son's face as he came face-to-face with his beloved penguins. Getting to meet one in real life is hopefully a moment he will never forget.