Should you visit SeaWorld San Diego?

Posted By Allison on Dec 1, 2016


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Hi there!

SeaWorld San Diego has been one of San Diego’s top attractions for families for 50 years. Recent controversy has caused some families to re-think plans to visit the park. However, if you support zoos and aquariums, and you enjoy theme parks, don’t be too quick to write off SeaWorld.

I have visited SeaWorld San Diego with my family a few times in recent years, including a behind-the-scenes tour. My last visit was a couple of months ago. Here are my favorite attractions, along with all my tips for making the most of your day at SeaWorld San Diego.

Should you visit SeaWorld San Diego? Tips for families at SeaWorld San Diego | tipsforfamilytrips.com | vacation ideas | family travel | California | Southern California

Ways to Save

There are always deals available for SeaWorld.

  • Visit SeaWorld’s website HERE to see current offers.
  • Bundle your hotel and San Diego theme park admissions for the best possible price through Get Away Today Vacations. Get my exclusive coupon code at the end of this post.
  • Save 29% at SeaWorld, Disneyland and LEGOLAND with Southern California CityPASS. Learn more about CityPASS HERE. Get Away Today sells Southern California CityPASS for less than the official site. See the Get Away Today price HERE.
  • Active duty military get in free with their families.

Shows

You haven’t really visited SeaWorld until you’ve seen at least a couple of the shows. Pick up a show schedule as soon as you arrive – or find it online in advance – and plan your day around the shows you want to see most.

The dolphin, sea lion and pet shows are light and fun, with lots of energy and humor. They change seasonally. Clyde and Seamore’s sea lion show is my favorite, but just by a nose. The Dolphin show is high-flying, fast paced fun.

Pets Rule is the best kept secret at SeaWorld. In this show, rescued dogs, cats and other pets perform all kinds of fun stunts that my cat would never even consider.

The traditional killer whale show at SeaWorld San Diego is gone. The park has overhauled its orca presentations and habitat, and everything is new in 2017. Look for a new, more natural opportunities to see SeaWorld’s famous whales in action and up close.

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Aquarium Exhibits

The first time my family visited SeaWorld San Diego, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and abundance of its aquarium exhibits. SeaWorld is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), so it’s an aquarium and theme park in one.

SeaWorld’s main aquarium exhibits include Shark Encounter, Penguin Encounter and Turtle Reef. Shark Encounter has a tunnel where you can go inside the shark aquarium and admire the sharks and other fish from every angle. Turtle Encounter is nearly as immersive, with floor-to-ceiling views of sea turtles and other colorful marine life.

Wild Arctic is a ride and exhibit in one, though you can skip the thrill ride if you prefer. The ride is a simulated helicopter adventure – similar to Star Tours at Disneyland. Afterward, explore the underwater viewing for beluga whales, walrus and polar bears. This was possibly my family’s favorite SeaWorld exhibit overall.

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Hands-on Fun

The first exhibit visitors will see at San Diego is Explorer’s Reef – a series of touch ponds where families can get truly hands-on with small bamboo sharks and cleaner fish. Hold your hand still for a few moments in the cleaner fish pool and you’ll soon have a swarm of the tiny fish nibbling on your fingers. It tickles! This exhibit is just as fun for me as for my kids, though I think my teen daughter had the most fun.

Tips for visiting SeaWorld San Diego with kids | tipsforfamilytrips.com

Rides and Playgrounds

SeaWorld San Diego doesn’t have as many rides as most theme parks, but its coasters are the most thrilling in San Diego. SeaWorld San Diego has five thrill rides, including coasters and water rides. Height requirements are 42-48 inches, depending on the ride.

This was the year that both my kids (ages 9 and 12) were old enough to want to ride the coasters. We hit the Manta first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds. We walked right on to the ride and were pleasantly surprised to find that we didn’t wait more than 15 minutes for any ride, all day. It was fantastic!

The Manta is a stomach-churning masterpiece of a coaster. Definitely my family’s favorite thrill ride. Journey to Atlantis is a thrilling coaster/log flume hybrid. Skytower and Bayside Skyride are calmer rides that both offer outstanding views of San Diego.

For younger children, check out the Sesame Street Bay of Play. There is a big play zone here with a splash pad and rides for younger children. Look for photo ops with your favorite Sesame Street characters.

Tips for visiting SeaWorld San Diego with kids | tipsforfamilytrips.com

This is one of several sculptures at SeaWorld made from garbage recovered from the ocean.

Behind the scenes

Did you know that SeaWorld San Diego rescues hundreds of wild animals from local coastlines each year? The sea lion in the photo below was one of several I saw on a behind-the-scenes tour at SeaWorld that were recovering from life-threatening injuries often caused by debris lost by humans in the ocean.

When an injured animal is found, SeaWorld Rescue is alerted and sends a truck to help. If necessary, the animal is transported back to SeaWorld where it will be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. The SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has donated more than $11 million to conservation efforts worldwide.

Tips for visiting SeaWorld San Diego with kids | tipsforfamilytrips.com

What about Blackfish?

The allegations made by the documentary Blackfish about the condition of killer whales at SeaWorld are alarming. However, documentaries like this one always leave me wondering about the other side of the story.

I talked to trainers, animal rescuers, veterinarians, scientists and others. They all said the same thing: “This is my dream job. I have worked with these animals for years. I love them and care about their welfare.” Link to SeaWorld’s official side of the story here

I believe that there are legitimate arguments on both sides of this problem, and no simple solution. I like the changes that SeaWorld is making. As always, you need to make the decision that is right for your family.

Tips for visiting SeaWorld San Diego with kids | tipsforfamilytrips.com

Good to Know

Where: 500 Sea World Drive, San Diego, California

When: San Diego’s year-round sunshine makes SeaWorld a great year-round destination. Hours vary depending on season. Check SeaWorld’s website to see the park hours and show schedule during your visit. Arrive early to beat the crowds.

How Much: SeaWorld always has ticket specials going on. Here are a few options.

  • Visit SeaWorld’s website HERE to see current offers.
  • Bundle your hotel and San Diego theme park admissions for the best possible price through Get Away Today Vacations. Get my exclusive coupon code at the end of this post.
  • Save 29% at SeaWorld, Disneyland and LEGOLAND with Southern California CityPASS. Learn more about CityPASS HERE. Get Away Today sells Southern California CityPASS for less than the official site. See the Get Away Today price HERE.
  • Active duty military get in free with their families.

How Long: One full day was enough for us, but it’s not enough time to do everything.

Amenities: dining, gift shops, restrooms, charging station, wheelchair and stroller-friendly.

Website: www.seaworldparks.com/seaworld-sandiego

Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission to SeaWorld San Diego on our most recent visit for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

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Planning a trip to San Diego?

We recommend booking your San Diego trip with Get Away Today. Find a cheaper vacation package? They’ll beat the price by $10. Learn more about our partnership with Get Away Today here.

ANYTIME! Save $25 on any San Diego vacation package of 2 nights or more that includes 2 tickets (San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, etc) when you use the coupon code SDFamily.

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Allison
Hi there! I am the founder of Tips for Family Trips. I am a married mom of two children, ages 10 and 12, living near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our first child on a two-week road trip when she was four weeks old and we have been traveling as a family ever since. We love to get out of the house to see and do fun things, both far away and in our own neighborhood.

4 Comments

  1. If you want to learn your kids about US history you can take them to some of California Missions.

    Post a Reply
    • I love the California missions too! They are indeed good places to learn about local history and culture.

      Post a Reply
  2. could you give me an idea of what the cost of an average meal was. were planning on going but want to budget in food.

    Post a Reply
    • I don’t recall exact menu prices, but I’d estimate $10-$15 per adult for a quick counter service meal. Kids’ meals will be a little less. I believe that you can bring your own food in a day pack or stroller and that’s a great way to control costs.

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