I’ve been a big fan of Sea World parks since I was a little girl. There was no way I was going to miss taking the kids to the San Diego Sea World on our California trip.
I have precious memories of visiting Sea World San Antonio with my grandfather and I remember having my socks knocked off by the experience of seeing these ocean creatures up close. I can admit to you that being at Sea World makes me cry. My grandfather is now 97 years old. I have spent some of the most precious moments of my life with him.
When Sophia was 2 and Miles was a baby, we went to Sea World San Antonio with him and I did not know that would probably be the last time. He kept offering to push the stroller and I was an idiot. I kept refusing, thinking he would overdo it. I wasn’t paying attention. He needed the stroller to walk. He was tired. But he was incredibly happy to be there with me and my own children. He has always loved Sea World and it will always, always, remind me of my childhood and the wonderful memories I have with him.
Travel is a gift and experiences like this are worth the saved pennies because they are so very special. Seeing the animals and the shows, learning about the ocean creatures, touching bat rays and and going on rides makes for an incredible day full of pictures we can look at forever.
I want to tell you what we love about Sea World San Diego to help you plan your trip, but I also wanted to share with you my little story. It matters why we travel and why we choose the places we do. For me, a day here is just an incredible experience.
Parking & Entry to Sea World
A word from the theme park wise – get there early! You will be able to knock out the rides that quickly build long lines and enjoy the rest of your day.
Parking is $15 for standard parking and $20 for VIP. After our terrible parking experience but amazing time at the San Diego Zoo we paid for the VIP but you don’t need to at all if you arrive before the park opens. It is only only two rows of parking spaces. We were suckers for it! I think the parking attendants were laughing at us as we paid them.
The gates open before the park opens and you can mosey around checking out the Animal Connections area. Who doesn’t want to see miniature horses, sloths and porcupines? To be honest, I don’t know that I have ever seen a porcupine before, and I have been to a lot of zoos. If I have, never one this big!
The park is nice and empty in the morning and you will have time to check out your map and plan your whale of a day! I also love the flag raising and national anthem at the parks. Early in the morning it just feels good!
The Sea World San Diego Rides
We love a good ride with no wait. We headed straight for Atlantis when the gates opened for a flume ride with a few surprises on the inside. Both Sophia and Miles (Ages 5 and 6) were tall enough to ride and Sea World does offer a stroller swap so one parent can stay with children who are not tall enough and not wait in line again. As usual, we sort of bribed Sophia. She is always scared until the ride is over, and then she loves it. First thing in the morning, there was no line and the operators were letting people stay on the ride to go twice. For smaller children there are two things to note about Atlantis. First, you will actually get wet and second, the ride does completely dark on the inside. Sophia is 6 and was scared. There are two water drops, which means that if your kid was terrified at the first one, you have to tell them there is another one. That being said, the drops are not that bad!
This is one of my favorite rides. The line was not too bad around 11 am so we did a stroller swap. None of our kids are tall enough to ride. The nice thing about Sea World is that the rest of your family can check out the Dolphin Encounter or the Bat Ray feeding area while you wait. No one is bored and the grown up gets to go on a big kid ride. I got caught with my camera out and they made me put it away, so I have no pics, but it is a really good coaster.
Sesame Street Bay of Play
Violet begged as soon as she saw Abby Cadabby standing atop a flower. We got the rides here done right away with no wait and came back in the afternoon to play on the giant climbing structures. There are character greetings here at posted times, but this time, the kids were way to busy playing to care. Ross was smiling on the inside and outside. The man does not love waiting for characters.
The rides are for little people and Violet (3) loved them all. There is a fun water play area too. It gets very crowded in the afternoons so keep a good eye on the kiddos!
We didn’t go on Shipwreck Rapids or Riptide rescue. We knew we were hitting a lot of theme parks on our trip and by the afternoon, we weren’t too keen on waiting in the lines.
Sea World San Diego Shows
One Ocean with Shamu
In one word – amazing! This show features the beautiful Orca (Killer) Whales we all know as Shamu. Actually, they all have their own names and personalities. The giant screen tells the story of the whales and speaks about conservation, rescue and what we can do to keep our waters safe and protect these gorgeous animals. It really is inspiring and these whales have got some killer moves. (I couldn’t help that one.)
The stadium is huge but later in the day it will fill up 15-30 minutes before the show starts so get some snacks and get there early.
And then be amazed by these spectacular creatures. They are loved by the staff at Sea World and once you see them in action, you will love them too.
Sit in the front to get absolutely, completely, totally soaked. And I mean soaked.
Blue Horizons Dolphin Show
This show combines dolphins with birds and fantastic aerialists and high divers. It is our favorite show at all the parks because there is so much to see. This is a don’t miss show at the park!
Violet was very impressed by the princess. Because of course.
We met the cast after the show. You can wait and they will come out. There was not much of a line and the kids love getting pictures with the stars.
There are about 10 aerialists and they are all fantastic. The costumes are superb and watching them fly above the water is really cool.
The show also includes a pilot whale and believe me when I tell you that if you sit in the soak zone at sea world in this show or One Ocean, you will get soaked. People start screaming and running out of the seats. Small children are scarred for the rest of the day. It is a lot of freaking water. They warn you, but some people do not listen.
Sea Otter Show
Hands down the funniest show I had seen in a very long time. The dude that entertains before the show is hilarious. With old school re-enactments of movie songs from the 70’s and 80’s your kids might be confused why there are tears rolling down your face. Because they haven’t seen Flashdance. Yes, Biff sits on a chair and a bucket of water falls on his head. He also harasses the audience and made my whole afternoon.
And that is all before the incredibly funny main stars, the Sea Otters Clyde and SeaMore! They do a little detective skit that the kids love and of course, they dance!
If you need a little break from the sun and your kids like Madagascar, this is a funny show and it is indoors. There is a lot of singing and dancing, of course. We thought it was really cute. After the show, the kids can meet the hilarious king or other characters from the movie.
There are other shows at Sea World, but we didn’t have time for all of them.
Throughout the park there are opportunities to see and sometimes touch or feed the most amazing creatures!
This is a really cool exhibit where you learn all about dolphins from a speaker and can ask any questions. The dolphins are very friendly and you are allowed to touch them if they are being good and their mouths are closed. Sadly for us, the dolphins were misbehavin’ so no touchie!
The Wild Arctic
Here’s where you find the Polar Bears, the Beluga Whales and the Walrus. The belugas are absolutely gorgeous, and seeing them underwater is fantastic as you watch the skin on their bodies move when they swim.
No, you don’t touch these guys!
Bat Ray Feeding
Buy the food, feed the bat rays. They are slimy and gentle and this is easy for kids to do if they aren’t afraid! They mosey right on up to the wall and come up for the food. Yum yum!
Touch the sea stars baby. This is so much fun for the kids and the staff at the pool answered all of the kids questions. Like, why are those big ones in a separate pool? Well, they are like cannibals…they eat the smaller ones!
World of the Sea Aquarium
Who doesn’t want to stand and watch a bazillion fish and amazing sea turtles? Miles is obsessed with Sea Turtles, so this was a highlight for him.
There are so many wonderful animals at Sea World it would be impossible to share everything in one post. Goodness knows I got close! Sea World San Diego did not disappoint and is a wonderful way to spend a day with your family!
Overall Thoughts on Sea World San Diego
The tickets are worth the experience, but I would not enter in the afternoon if you have only one day here. It is just worth it to get there early. It gets extremely crowded and the big shows let out an enormous number of people all at one time. We nearly lost Violet and it was really scary. By 5 pm the walkways were packed with people and we decided to call it a day.
The food at Sea World is pretty yummy and we found plain pasta for the kids. This is always a huge win!
The animals are the star of the show here, though the park has added fantastic rides and attractions to impress even the smallest of visitors. We found that the park was easy to navigate and if you did stay from opening to closing, you could cover everything in one day.
If you are headed to San Diego, put Sea World on your list!
Disclosure: My family was provided tickets to Sea World in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own. I love this place!