For the first time in quite a while, there was no rain, the sun was warm and the beer was flowing. Bands, Brew, & BBQ welcomed Willie Nelson this past weekend at Sea World Orlando and it couldn’t have been a better day for it. Journey to Atlantis also reopened, and the animals were out in full force soaking up the sun.
The crowds were fairly steady, but not as bad as you would think for a holiday weekend. Meanwhile, all of the animals in the park seemed to be relieved that the winter has taken a break and were all out in force.The end result were some pretty good animal shots. Plus, it’s always fun to catch things at just the right time. We were able to watch keepers feed the rays inside the Manta Aquarium. Very surreal to look up and see someone standing right on top of you. Honestly I’d love to see what it’s like from the other side.
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While around the Dolphin area we stumbled into the “Garden of Discovery”. While this may not be new, it was certainly the first time we witnessed it. It looked as if it was in the middle of transforming, as the impression that I got was that there’s supposed to be tons of flowers and butterflies. Perhaps the cooler temps forced the gardens to go on hiatus. Meanwhile Journey to Atlantis reopened after a rehab. The outside didn’t look as if it had much work done, while the inside…wow. There are still some minor effects that aren’t working, such as the sound not syncing correctly, but the vibrant colors of the set pieces just took you by surprise. There are a lot of things in there that you probably didn’t notice before. The second room, right before the final drop had a few things that looked like they took out such as the floating Medusa head, but added some minor animatronics instead. Overall it looks great, and hopefully we eventually get the full scale version back soon.
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Bands, Brew & BBQ will be going into week three of four this coming week. The remaining concerts are REO Speedwagon and Josh Turner. This past weekend was country legend Willie Nelson. An amazing concert, but we’ll get into that in a minute.
The Bands, Brew & BBQ is included in park admission, though it really could stand alone as a separate event….almost. This year the park invited “local” restaurants to join in on the action and sell their best dishes. For the most part the fare is the same, brisket, chicken ribs. However, it’s all about price point, the extras and flavor. After glancing around the rest of the booths we decided on Smoky Bones. I’m normally a fan of Sea World’s own BBQ, but I’ve got to say that this was a smart idea. Very good flavor, and for the price, it was more of a value than the rest. Of course it was also just standard BBQ. We saw a few booths offering different choices such as gator tail.
As for entertainment, it was a bit of a surprise to see a band performing. We didn’t stick around to see the girl play, but there was a local 13 year old singer belting it out. Add into it the Airborne Chorus, dance lessons, hot cowgirls dancing and of course Shamu and friends in BBQ gear.
The other surprise here was the Brew Sampler. For $20 dollars you could sample 12 different 3 oz. beers. Since Busch Gardens announced they were going to do the same thing a day later with unlimited beer samples for $25, I kind of poo poo’d on it. After all, why go for 12 when you can do unlimited? Well, I was wrong. 12, for me is enough….more than enough actually. Besides, who wants to drink on Sunday when you have to work the next day? Doesn’t work for me.
The brews are plentiful, and varied. A 3oz taste is plenty for a lot of the beers that have a varied taste. Not into the exotics? No worries, you can get a good selection of beers that you can find at local stores including Stella Artois, and Woodchuck Cider. The handling of the beer was also a high point with it separate from the rest of the event in it’s own little “Beer Garden”. Only complaint is that beer makes you hungry and you have to leave the sanctity of the beer garden of solitude to get some good BBQ. A small stand somewhere in the mix would have been awesome!
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With beers in hand, belly full of BBQ the afternoon was topped off by the Redheaded Stranger, Willie Nelson. Here’s a tip-the concert starts at 4:30 in the Bayfront Stadium. If you want to get a seat, get there at least an hour ahead of time. We strolled up 15 minutes before hand and were turned away. Seats are on a first come first serve basis, though you can upgrade to a VIP option…which is also a first come first serve basis. Did I say Willie is a Legend? We were directed to the area next to the stadium for a nice little grassy seat where you could still see and hear Willie. In fact if you are in the BBQ area they pipe the concert throughout the entire park.
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With only two weeks left, and the season getting increasingly busy next week will be the time to take in the Bands, Brew &BBQ. Of the three festival/concert events going on right now (Bands Brew at Sea World and Busch Gardens and Mardi Gras) in the Orlando area parks, Sea World takes it hands down so far.