Seaworld San Diego was the first Seaworld Park to open back in 1964 and was one of the attractions that we were really looking forward to visiting during our trip to southern California.
The girls (aged 7 and 9) in particular were so excited because they have a great appreciation of animals, especially Holly who loves dolphins and being able to get so close was very inspiring.
It has been several years since we had visited Seaworld Orlando and ever since, the girls have been asking to return.
The main reason why we love Seaworld so much is because it offers the perfect mix of animal interactions, great educational shows and rides that of us could enjoy. We were really interested to see how the San Diego park differed from its sister park in Orlando.
Tip – Set aside a full day for visiting Seaworld. There are so many shows, animal encounters and rides you need to stay at least 6 – 8 hours to have the full Seaworld experience.
After a short drive from our hotel, the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego, we arrived at Seaworld in plenty of time before the 10am opening.
The benefit of arriving early is the regular parking car park ($20 per car) was virtually deserted so we were able to park close to the entrance, so there was no need to pay extra for up-close parking ($25 per car) or the VIP parking ($35 per car).
Tip – The car park like all of the major theme parks is large, so it’s worth taking a note of which row letter and number that you have parked at to save you looking for the car at the end of your visit.
The Seaworld San Diego experience began as soon as we walked through the park gates. The kids ran to Explorers Reef – home to several species of reef shark and they had their first of many opportunities during the day to interact with the sea life at SeaWorld.
The park doesn’t fully open until 10am and since we arrived early, the touch pools provided a great way to have an hands-on opportunity to learn about creatures including wavy top snails, round rays, spiny sea urchins and opaleye fish.
Chloe in particular was a little hesitant at first to put her hands in the water, after all, she was about to touch a shark, but after some reassurance from her little sister, Holly and helpful information from the knowledgeable and friendly staff, it was an amazing way to start to our day.
Watching their faces as they dipped their fingers into the pools of sharks and gently stroked the backs of the sharks was such a memorable moment. I always find a hands-on approach is a great way to learn rather than just observing and listening to facts, it helps build the girl’s knowledge.
Tip – Its worth arriving for the 10am official opening to experience the raising of the American flag and the playing of the national anthem. Watching the crowds put their hands on their hearts and listening to the star spangled banner was a unique experience.
After a quick look at the map you realise just how many things there are to see and do at Seaworld San Diego and how different it is to its sister park in Orlando – yet what was similar was how many miles you cover by the end of your visit so wear comfortable shoes.
Tip- Either download the free map on the app store using the free wi-fi or pick up a park map and show guide as soon as you enter the park. We used this to plan our route and to check show times which we scheduled our day around.
The spectacular shows at Seaworld are really informative and are not to be missed.
Tip – Arrive at least 20-30 minutes early for the shows for the best seating and to ensure you can get into the show it its during peak periods such as weekends and school holidays. Also very important if you want to stay dry, stay away from the first few rows of seating, also known as the splash zone!
As we entered the large outdoor stadium home to the Dolphin Day’s show the excited look on Holly’s little face was a picture. Wearing her personalised dolphin trainer t-shirt, she has been fascinated by dolphins since her first encounter at Seaworld Orlando.
Any questions that she had about dolphins were answered in this fantastic show which really did wow all of us.
Using a combination spectacular water aerobics of the trainers when interacting with the dolphins and pilot whales together with a strong educational emphasis it was such a brilliant learning experience.
One of the main reasons why visitors come to Seaworld is to see the killer whales. En route to the stadium, we visited the underwater viewing area where we caught the first glimpse of these breathtaking animals – they are so beautiful and being able to get so close to them was a memory that we will all remember from our visit.
Tip – Take a hat and plenty of sunscreen. When waiting for the shows to start in the open air stadiums under the Southern Californian sun, it can get very hot, so make sure you come prepared.
The 5,500-seater stadium curving around the 1.7 million gallon tank along with natural rocks, trees and man-made waterfalls surrounding the 138-foot high video wall it was a spectacular setting for the Orca Encounter show which has now replaced the Shamu show.
Although the trainers no longer swim with the killer whales during the 22 minute show, they do still interact with these wonderful animals in a brilliant documentary style performance.
We are all fascinated learning how killer whales eat, communicate and navigate which is really well delivered via a seamless combination of entertainment and education.
The girls were constantly asking questions about the show which showed that they were really enjoying their day out and gave us all a greater understanding and appreciation of these awesome predators.
After the show, we couldn’t resist getting a Shamu-shaped ice cream to cool off from the heat!
We did try to get a reservation for lunch at Dine with Shamu but we left it too late in the morning as tables tend to get reserved early. This was a shame as it would have been so memorable to have lunch poolside next to the park’s family of killer whales.
Pets Rule and Sea Lions Live
We unfortunately missed the Pets Rule and Sea Lions Live shows because there was so much else to see and do at Seaworld, especially with lure of kids rides that you won’t find at Seaworld Orlando.
Although there are not the same amount of thrill rides compared to Orlando, there were rides that were unique to the San Diego Park, many of which were family-friendly, making it perfect for the kids.
We really were looking forward to riding on the Bayside Skyride which gives aerial views over the park and Mission Bay on a gently gliding gondola however with lines approaching an hour we decided to skip it to check out the Ocean Explorer area.
This is a new three-acre addition to the park which had three more animal encounters and four more kids rides which was another hit with the girls.
Our favourite of the four rides was Tentacle Twirl – a jellyfish twist to the traditional chair-o-plane rides.
For the more adventurous, the tallest fastest coaster in the park you should check out is the Electric Eel coaster but like Manta, it had too many twists and loops to entice us to ride.
The colourful Sesame Street Bay of Play area of the park had family-friendly rides like Elmo’s Flying Fish, Oscar’s Rocking Eel and Abby’s Sea Star Spin along with a play zone and a great water splash area.
If you arrive at the park early, it’s worth prioritising the rides first as there are significantly shorter queues compared to later in the da. This resulted in the girls being able to ride multiple times with no lines to wait in.
Tip – There are lots of opportunities for kids to cool down at Sea World San Diego such as the fountains at Sesame Street Bay of Play, so bring their swimsuits.
Next up was Wild Arctic, a family-friendly flight simulator which took us on an adventure through the icy landscapes of the Arctic Circle travelling through peaks and narrow ice valleys until we reached our base station at the Wild Arctic.
Tip – If you suffer from motion sickness its worth giving this a miss. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t visit the Wild Arctic – there is a separate entrance which bypasses the simulator ride.
Leaving the helicopter and arriving at basecamp, the theming of the frozen wonderland of the Wild Arctic was fantastic. Here we encountered freezing ice walls and crawling through a polar bears den – both were big hits with the kids.
At the Wild Arctic we got close to seals, walruses and one of our favourite animals during our visit, the beluga whale.
Keeping the sub-zero theme we ventured next door to see the parks coolest residents the penguins.
Home to 300 penguins the population included Adelie, Macaroni and our favourites the Gentoo King and Emperor penguins.
The viewing gallery was fascinating and great fun as the penguins followed my daughter’s fingers, she had us convinced that the penguins were following her every move.
As I’ve previously mentioned dolphins are Holly’s favourite animals and she was mesmerised at Dolphin Point, as she tried to talk in her dolphin dialect to them.
There are so many great experiences on offer at Seaworld and watching her make a connection with the dolphins was worth the entry fee alone.
That’s what we loved so much about our time at Seaworld San Diego there were so many excellent animal encounters throughout the park including watching the giant turtles at Turtle Reef.
We fed the sea lions and seals at Pacific Point – which was another memorable experience. Holding the slippery fish which you have to pre-purchase before interacting with these wonderful animals was fantastic.
We have been to lots of aquariums around the world that have a shark tunnel but none quite as impressive as Seaworld San Diego. Their shark encounter is home to the largest underwater viewing tunnel.
The panoramic views offered in the underwater tunnel are always one of our favourite parts and SeaWorld San Diego did not disappoint. We loved shark spotting, with the girls jumping back from the glass every time one of the sharks swam past!
The giant gift shop at the exit to the park was filled with so many tempting gifts and the girls couldn’t resist the cuddly dolphin and beluga whale soft toys. These were their favourite animals and these cute toys were a lovely keepsake from our visit.
If you are visiting San Diego, a visit to Seaworld should definitely be on your to-do list, it offers so much for families to see and do.
We had a such fantastic time, not only was it great fun we all learnt so much as well. With so many educational opportunities on offer our visit has created memories that we will always remember.
For the latest ticket prices, special offers, opening hours and more information please visit the Seaworld San Diego website.
Thanks to Seaworld San Diego and Visit San Diego for arranging our visit. All opinions are my own.