Infinity Falls, Sea World's latest water ride has opened at the park's Orlando location.
Jeff Hornick, senior director of theme-park development for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, offers a look at the attraction’s details. Riders enter the attraction via a dotted trail with waterfalls along a pathway that allows glimpses of the ride itself. Two interaction stations are placed at the ride’s entrance, one using the power of a bicycle to teach the essential nature of freshwater habitats and ecology.
Riders will board at a continuous-load station. Once on their rafts, they’ll immediately see a peaceful open space with live flamingos. But riders shouldn’t get too comfortable – from this point on, Infinity Falls is an exciting wet ride through serpentine rapids, along an uneven surface that mimics the bottom of a river.
“That allows for a very dynamic rapids experience,” Hornick asserts. But that’s just the beginning. The ride’s centerpiece is a straight-vertical lift that takes riders up 30 feet. “You’ll go up the water wall,” Hornick notes. Going up is one thing, but going down is something else again. The dramatic fall takes passengers down again by 40 feet. The drop is unique in that it extends below the ground level of the park, creating a fast trajectory and one iconic splash.
Hornick reveals that the creative developers behind the ride worked hard to determine exactly what created the “appropriate level” as Hornick puts it – of wetness for riders. And there are many ways to get there: riders experience sprays from overhead fountains, in the rapids, after the fall, and from Sea World visitors on land who can use coin-operated squirters to take aim on riders, too. He says on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being completely drenched, the ride has a wetness factor of 6 to 7.
While getting wet is always fun – particularly on hot Florida days – the ride has more in store. It passes beneath spectators several times – allowing those extra squirts. At the end of the first rapids sequence, riders go beneath a crocodile figure carved into the pedestrian bridge.
The entire ride is a themed experience with encampments of explorers representing different cultures set up along the river. Creating a realistic jungle environment for the ride, Hornick says, was very important to developers. A whopping 700 trees were planted at the attraction to create just that illusion, and these are not just any average tree. One ficus tree weighed 22,000 pounds, requiring three cranes to lift and place it. The elaborate design features were all made to fit in a small space, Hornick notes that “It was a design challenge.”
While waiting to board, riders will see educationally oriented quizzes about water conservation as well as icons of SeaWorld animal ambassadors along the entrance.
The ride lasts just over 5 minutes and requires riders to be 42” and above. There will be 15 rafts, and 14 can be of use at any given time. The result is a capacity to load approximately 1,025 park guests hourly, which is a number similar to the loading capacity of the park’s major roller coasters. Other fun facts: the 8-person rafts will set sail every 26 seconds, and will sail over a pumped-in 269,000 gallons of water per minute.
Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink? For riders feeling thirsty after their trajectory down the rapids, the Terrace Restaurant, re-themed as the Waterway Grill, will have craft beer options. A dozen rotating taps will include a variety of local Florida beers, many unique to this specific park location. SeaWorld’s own custom beer, Mako Red Ale, will certainly be among the selections.
In fact, SeaWorld is already becoming well-known for their beer selections and promotions outside the Infinity Rapids area of the park. Through September 2nd, from 10:30 a.m. until an hour before the park closes, guests over 21 years old can claim two 7-ounce beers from the Mama’s Pretzel Kitchen Patio - free. SeaWorld says they will rotate the beer offerings throughout the summer starting off with SeaWorld’s Mako Red Ale; Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Light, Yuengling and other selections will also be available.
Beyond the brews at Waterway Grill, the menu selection will be exciting as well. Included will be dishes that were tested during SeaWorld’s recent Seven Seas Food and Wine Festivals. Many have flavoring and style inspired by dishes from Central and South America. Diners will be pleased by options that include salads and veggies for a healthier-than-average theme park experience.
SeaWorld is testing out a new ordering system with Waterway Grill, with guests placing their orders on a touchscreen kiosk, receiving a ticket, and using it to pick up their meal.
Positioned near the Nautilus Theater and the animal ambassadors’ home, the Waterway Grill, is designed to look like a commissary for people who have been on the “expedition.” The color palette in the revitalized eatery is bright green and blue, with banners suspended from the ceilings, each one representing a different animal that lives in the Everglades. The banners set the stage for a key feature of the dining experience: 5% of all sales go to the Everglades Foundation. These wild animal banners include images of alligators and panthers, and are educational, showing visitors the animals that live in the Everglades.
A new, open-air gift shop with items that give the shop the vibe of an REI store along with souvenirs, is also included in the Infinity Falls area.
From the gift shop to the grill and on the ride itself, guests will see references to the S.E.A. Collective – Scientists, Explorers and Adventurers. This is a fictional group that ties into a theme of research and exploration; there are blogs from the group posted online. Plans have been discussed by the park to leverage the group name outside Infinity Falls and throughout the park after Infinity Falls splashes open.