New attraction spotlight: Penguin Trek at SeaWorld Orlando

January 14, 2024, 8:59 PM · SeaWorld Orlando will try to correct one of its most notorious flops with a new Antarctic-themed roller coaster ride this year.

When Universal Orlando rocked the theme park industry with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010, everyone else in the business knew that they needed to react. Especially SeaWorld Orlando, which Universal was surpassing as the clear top alternative to Walt Disney World in the Orlando market. The park's response? Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, a 2013 trackless motion base dark ride that promised a fresh, thrilling perspective on SeaWorld's penguin colony.

But the ride felt more like a spin through a lava lamp than a breathtaking visit into a penguin colony. Yes, there was an unobstructed view of the penguins after you exited the ride, but no windows separating you from the penguins meant that you had to brave their subzero cold. Few bothered, as they raced to return to the Orlando sunshine. The ride flopped, and never reopened after the pandemic lockdown.

Penguins remain wildly popular, however, so SeaWorld is trying again to provide a ride experience to complement its penguin habitat. In keeping with the company's recent attraction strategy, Orlando's new penguin ride will be a roller coaster. Penguin Trek, a Bolliger & Mabillard family launch coaster, will open later this year.

With a top speed of 43 mph and more than 3,000 feet of track, SeaWorld is theming this ride to a snowmobile trek, just as it did with sister park SeaWorld San Diego's Arctic Rescue, which opened last June. But Orlando's coaster will get traditional seating rather than the straddle seats found on San Diego's Intamin coaster.

Still, like in San Diego, Penguin Trek will begin indoors briefly before launching outdoors for the majority of the ride. Penguin Trek will have a 42-inch minimum height, with a 77-inch maximum height when it opens as the park's eighth coaster. Keep following for more details as we approach the ride's opening.

In the meantime, for discounts on tickets and admission packages to the park, please visit our partner's SeaWorld Orlando tickets page.

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Replies (10)

January 15, 2024 at 11:34 AM

Eh, I don't get it.

Is this a ride over the penguin colony? If so, then its a conceptual error to me. I don't want to see a penguin colony at 43mph, it defeats the purpose of going to see the penguins, and as they're not man eaters (or a raptor) they don't add a level of percieved risk.

If its a roller coaster that is just next to it, then why the heck call it "Trek" . Its too slow and has no excitement (the walking speed of a penguin just doesn't have any pop). Call it something like Penguin Rescue - you're speeding to go and help an injured penguin or rescue some penguins who have got stuck behind an avalanche or something starts to add pacing and excitement.

January 15, 2024 at 12:30 PM

@Chad - I think you're over analyzing things. If Sea World can integrate enough theming into the queue and on the attraction that finishes with the walk through the current penguin habitat, it will be a big success. The problem with the previous Antarctica attraction was that the dark ride was underwhelming. I don't think this coaster needs to be a thrill machine, because even Shamu Express was more thrilling that the old dark ride, so anything that ups the excitement from what was there before will be a big improvement.

In the end, the star of the show should still be the habitat, so if they can make the transitions on and off the coaster relatively seamless, it will work.

January 15, 2024 at 1:31 PM

Antartica has to go down as one of the biggest flops in the history of any Orlando theme park. That was big $ wasted at the worst possible time as the company was going down the tubes.

That being said a family coaster is long overdue and building the two hotels makes perfect sense to me. I still maintain that SWO/Aquatica/Discovery Cove/Busch Gardens is really damn formidable even in the Florida market. If they would just staff the parks properly and improve their operations SW Florida would be one of the best vacation destinations in the world.

January 15, 2024 at 3:24 PM

This is a much needed ride for SWO as they're really lacking a quality family coaster, and is honestly what SWSD should have gotten instead of Arctic Rescue as well. It's not a ride that's going to make anyone plan a special trip to Orlando, but something like this might encourage families to give SWO a better look as an option while in Florida rather than simply seeing it as the coaster park with rides they can do back home.

January 15, 2024 at 9:00 PM

I think it just needs to be fun. Sea World is heavy on thrills. If I find myself asking (aka Jeff Goldblum) there are Penguins on this ride right ??? Something could be amiss. A heathy mix of fun and Penguins should work.

January 16, 2024 at 7:49 AM

lerpyk - I doubt there will be actual penguins on the coaster itself. Sea World spend millions on renovating the penguin habitat when they built Antarctica, so I would expect that area will remain unchanged in the new attraction. It's possible that Sea World may add some rock work or statues to suggest penguins along the course, but there's no way they're putting a live penguin habitat that's visible from the coaster.

January 17, 2024 at 12:12 AM

SeaWorld Orlando's niche appears to be as a local's park, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that given the heavy influx of new residents in Orlando. This should help bolster season pass sales.

January 17, 2024 at 11:40 AM

I'm not interested in roller coasters at a "zoo"....
(That's about it > and it's why Sea World became a caricature of it's own original self)

January 17, 2024 at 1:14 PM

@Herwig - I completely disagree. I have always appreciated the meshing of the natural world with theme park attractions that allows families to enjoy spaces together. The thrill seekers can have their thirsts satisfied while the rest of the family still has something to do as they explore the nearby animal habitats.

Zoos and aquariums have included rides and other attractions (movies, simulators, and playgrounds) for decades. For my money, Busch Gardens Tampa and Disney's Animal Kingdom are the best at combining animal attractions and traditional theme park rides. Even Six Flags does a decent job at Discovery Kingdom, though that park does not place animal attractions and thrill rides next to each other.

January 17, 2024 at 9:33 PM

Jacob, while they have made more of an effort to attract locals, it is still very much a major tourist destination. Go on any given day and you will see/hear tons of people with British accents and speaking Portuguese, especially at Discovery Cove which is a major cash cow for the company. They sell Discovery Cove packages that include admission to all of SW's parks that is very popular for tourists. I went to SWO today actually and while it was a cold schoolday in January most of the people there were international tourists. I will say though Halloween Spooktacular is insanely popular with locals because unlike Disney and Universal (and Sea World's Howl O Scream at night) which are all upsell events, its included with APs.

It definitely has more of an Orlando tourist park vibe than say, Busch Gardens, which 100% has more of a locals park vibe. TBH if they want to greatly increase Brightline ridership they should stick the Tampa station right in front of Busch Gardens. More people would go there from Orlando (especially from the I-Drive station with their Sea World ticket package) than any other reason lol.

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