Easter services at a theme park? It may sound a bit odd until you’ve experienced the annual Easter Sunrise Service at SeaWorld Orlando. The theme park is a beautifully landscaped spot that makes a perfect backdrop, and the size of Bayside Stadium allows it to accommodate a crowd that typically reaches 5,000 to 6,000 people. 2013 will make the 36th year for this beautiful sunrise service in an unexpected place.

You’ll want to plan now if you’re going to attend the wildly popular SeaWorld Easter Sunrise Service, which attracts both locals and tourists. Normally it starts at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m.  on Easter Sunday, but you’ll want to arrive at least an hour early because of the crowds that flock to worship each year. The gates open an hour head of time, but it doesn’t hurt to get there a bit earlier. Check the exact service time with SeaWorld as Easter draws closer.

While the beauty of the service is a big draw, you can also count on a recognized speaker and musical talent. For example, in 2012, the guest speaker was Angie Smith of Women of Faith, and Selah, whose works include “I Turn to You,” “All My Praise,” “Bless the Broken Road.” and “You Raise Me Up,” led worship.

The service is free to attend, and there’s no charge for parking, but you don’t get to stay for free admission to SeaWorld Orlando once the park opens. Everyone is cleared out before the day guests enter.

What can you expect at the service? It lasts about 45 minutes to an hour, with a guest speaker and stirring music. A voluntary love offering is collected during worship. If you’re lucky and the weather cooperates, you’ll be treated to the dazzling colors of the sunrise painting the sky as you celebrate the Resurrection.

The best way to get to the SeaWorld Orlando Easter Sunrise Service is by driving, since shuttles typically don’t run that early in the morning. If you don’t have a vehicle, you can take a taxi from your lodging, but that might be pricey, depending on where your hotel or vacation home is located. Lake Buena Vista area hotels, like the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel, the Holiday Inn Resort Lake Buena Vista, Grand Beach Resort at Lake Buena Vista, and Grande Villas Resort at Lake Buena Vista, are a relatively short distance from SeaWorld Orlando, as is Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Orlando Convention Center on International Drive.

Everyone in the family can come to the service, and you don’t have to worry about dressing up. You see couples, families, and worshipers of all ages, wearing every kind of attire you can imagine. The uniting factor is the desire to worship on Easter Morning. It’s a non-denominational Christian service, so everyone is welcome.

Because so many people attend this service, expect the parking lot to be packed, and plan enough time to negotiate the traffic. It gets especially heavy when thousands of people all leave at the same time.

If you’re interested in staying at the park after the service, be sure to ask about special ticket packages. Although SeaWorld Orlando tends to be crowded on the holidays, the same is true of all the Orlando theme parks. If you stay after the Easter Sunrise Service, you’ll get a jump on the crowds and have a chance to study the show schedule and plan out your day. SeaWorld’s actually a nice park to visit on crowded days because it has so many shows with stadiums and theaters that hold a huge number of people. As long as you get to the show venues early enough, you’ll be able to catch most of the performances, even on a holiday.

If you plan to visit Orlando for Easter and would like to book a hotel near SeaWorld Orlando, check www.orlandovacation.com or call 1-800-641-4008 for several great options.