Adults now have an incentive to bring their kids to SeaWorld in Orlando: free beer. The giveaway, though seemingly unexpected, references SeaWorld’s history. The marine park was at one point owned by Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Budweiser. In the past, the park also featured a hitching barn that housed the celebrated Budweiser Clydesdales that strutted through the park twice a day.
"My husband loves free beer," said Charlena Spicer. Her husband managed to secure a spot at the head of line as the park began serving cold brews at 10:30 a.m.
The marine park, which serves Mako Red Ale, a SeaWorld brand, also keeps Bud Light on tap. Matt Feaster, who was at the park celebrating his 35th birthday, said, "There's nothing like cold beer on a hot day."
Free beer was also served for many years at Busch Gardens in Tampa to the extent that visitors would often disguise themselves to order more free samples. The parks stopped serving free beer in 2009, which angered many frequent visitors.
At the time, an editorial in the Orlando Sentinel stated, "Too bad. The cups of beer might have been small, but for a lot of visitors, they were a gracious and welcome touch."
Ranked the ninth largest theme park in the world, Seaworld has struggled in recent years to remain popular, though it still manages to draw 21 million visitors annually, according to a report by Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM, a global management firm.
Attendance at SeaWorld was negatively impacted by the 2013 documentary, Blackfish, which deals with Tilikum, an orca that was captured in Iceland in 1983. After being transferred to Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1984, Tilikum was moved SeaWorld Orlando in 1992. The orca gained notoriety after killing a trainer at Sealand and a trainer as well as a trespasser at Seaworld. The documentary highlights the trauma that orcas suffer after being captured, as well as how captivity limits their lifespan.
The marine park hopes that serving free beer in the summer will help bring in crowds. The beverages are limited to two per customer. Beers are available at the park’s Mana's Pretzel Kitchen Patio until September 2 from 10:30 a.m. until an hour before the park closes. In addition to Mako Red Ale and Bud Light, the park is expected to serve Miller Light, Corona, Yuengling, M.I.A. 305, Shock Top and Founders All Day IPA.