Terry Prather is the president of SeaWorld Parks & Resorts-Orlando. He leads the long-range planning, daily operations and conservation initiatives of the world’s most popular marine life park, SeaWorld Orlando, and its two sister properties, Discovery Cove and Aquatica. An industry veteran with 23 years of theme-park and museum-industry experience, Prather is recognized within the business and tourism industry for his breadth and depth of knowledge.
What are the must-see events happening now at SeaWorld Orlando?
We have a fantastic special event lineup to start the year with. In January we’ll be celebrating “Wild Days”—an all-new event where families can enjoy three weekends of even more interactive shows and up-close animal encounters. Then, in February and March, we’ll be rockin’ Saturdays and Sundays during Bands, Brew & BBQ—with everything from sizzling BBQ food, a thirst-quenching beer garden and live country and classic rock concerts. And we’re still celebrating our largest-ever expansion, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, which opened last May. It’s an all-family adventure ride actually transports you to the penguins’ icy world.
Anything exciting we should look for at SeaWorld Orlando's sister parks—Aquatica and Discovery Cove—this year?
We keep the waters heated at Aquatica, so all year long guests can enjoy 80,000 square feet of white sandy beaches, side-by-side wave pools, and, of course, our incredible animals! To top it off, we couldn’t be more thrilled about the new slide opening this spring called Ihu’s Breakaway Falls. And for anyone that’s ever been to Discovery Cove, our all-inclusive park, you know just what a gem that it really is. When you’re swimming with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, snorkeling among tropical rays and fish in The Grand Reef or encountering animals like otters, marmosets and exotic birds, it feels like paradise.
What would you say is your fondest SeaWorld memory?
I’ve had a very long career with the SeaWorld parks, but one that stands out in my mind is when my son proposed to his longtime girlfriend at our very own Discovery Cove. I got to be there to witness the special moment for the two of them, in such a picturesque and peaceful setting like Discovery Cove. The best news? She said ‘yes’! The two of them actually just married in October of 2013.
What's one of the most enjoyable ways that you spend your downtime in Orlando?
Believe it or not, when I’m not working, I do not go to theme parks in my spare time! I enjoy spending time with my family and playing golf. Central Florida is a great place to live if you like to play golf. Florida has more golf courses than any other state!
What is a perfect workday to you?
Greeting and mingling with guests is the highlight of my day, and I also spend a great deal of time reading letters from our guests; it’s amazing to hear what a difference we’re making in people’s lives and creating lifelong memories for them. I always look forward to days spent celebrating our Team Members of the Month or a getting to know our team members during a program we have called “Breakfast with Terry.”
Where's your favorite place to grab a bite in Orlando?
I spend a lot of time on “Restaurant Row” near the attractions, taking in the variety of dining options offered here in Orlando. Rocco’s Tacos and Big Fin Seafood Kitchen are some of my favorite places to enjoy a good meal and quality time with my family.
What's the best thing about running a theme park?
It’s got to be the opportunity to meet millions of people from all over the world. What’s really incredible is watching the reactions of our guests as they’re inspired by our animals or an attraction in the park. It never gets old!
What advice do you have for someone just starting their career in tourism?
To have a career in such an exciting and demanding field like tourism, there are two key things to remember: first, it’s not a job; it’s a way of life. Second, you have to love people.