Planning a trip to San Diego?
SeaWorld San Diego has been one of San Diego's top attractions for families for 50 years. I have visited SeaWorld San Diego with my family several times in recent years, including a behind-the-scenes tour.
Here are my favorite attractions, along with all my tips for making the most of your day at SeaWorld San Diego.
Ways to Save
There are always deals available for SeaWorld. Here are several ways that you can find discount SeaWorld tickets.
- Visit SeaWorld's official website to see current offers. SeaWorld frequently offers tempting multi-day deals, package deals and more.
- Bundle your hotel and San Diego theme park admissions for the lowest price through Get Away Today Vacations. Save an extra $25 on your Southern California vacation package when you use my exclusive coupon code: SDFAMILY.
- Save up to 55% on admissions with Go City – San Diego. This bundle-and-save pass includes SeaWorld, San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND California, USS Midway Museum and many other popular San Diego attractions.
- Save up to 29% at SeaWorld, Disneyland and LEGOLAND with Southern California CityPASS. This bundle-and-save pass may be a good option if theme parks are your priority.
- Active duty military get in free with their families.
- Go in October. Kids ages 3-9 get in free at SeaWorld San Diego during the month of October, and sometimes earlier.
Always do the math before you buy a bundle-and-save pass like Go City or CityPASS. These passes can be a great deal if you want to visit a lot of attractions. They don't always save money on short trips and full-day attractions like SeaWorld.
Related: How to Get “Kids Free San Diego” Deals in October
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. Sea Lions Live is my favorite, but just by a nose. The Dolphin show is high-flying, fast paced fun.
The traditional killer whale show at SeaWorld San Diego is gone. The park has overhauled its orca presentations and habitat, and everything is new since 2017. Orca Encounter is the new killer whale show. I haven't seen it yet, but SeaWorld calls it “the first experience of its kind.”
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.
Related: Tips for Visiting the San Diego Zoo
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.
Related: Best San Diego Beaches for Families
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 a few 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!
SeaWorld has added two new coasters since our last visit. 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.
Related: Tips for Visiting LEGOLAND California
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.
Related: Where to See Seals and Sea Lions in the Wild in San Diego
If your family enjoys zoos and theme parks, then you'll probably love SeaWorld San Diego. My family enjoys the shows, rides and high-quality animal exhibits. I appreciate SeaWorld's focus on education and conservation.
I hope that our experience has helped you plan a great SeaWorld trip for your family, and will hopefully save you money too.
Good to Know
Where: 500 Sea World Drive, San Diego, California
When: Year-round. 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: Regular price for a single-day ticket is currently about $90, but SeaWorld frequently offers deep discounts on its official website. Bundle and save options are also available.
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. SeaWorld has a dining plan that a lot of visitors love.
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.
Planning a trip to San Diego?
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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.
If you want to learn your kids about US history you can take them to some of California Missions.
I love the California missions too! They are indeed good places to learn about local history and culture.
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.
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.