Visiting SeaWorld San Diego soon? Take our ten tips with you to ensure a smashing time seeing Shamu.
1. Have a good breakfast and get there early. Just like any amusement park, food isn’t cheap so start the day with a full stomach. If you’re staying in the area, I highly recommend The Olive Cafe in the Mission Beach area. Delicious food, kid-friendly ambiance and accommodating staff. And just like you get sleepy as the day goes on, so do the animals. Get there in the morning to see them in their prime.
2. Be sun smart. San Diego has an average daily temperature of 70°F which means for most of the year, you’re looking at temps in the high 70s and 80s. Wear sunscreen and pack it for re-applications. Bring hats for you and the kids (unless you’re looking to drop $15 each on SeaWorld hats). Consider investing in sunglasses for the kids. Depending on where you’re sitting in the stands for the shows, you may be looking directly into the sun to see Shamu. (Note to self: Do not take family picture directly facing into the sun.)
3. Plan your day around the shows. Zoos and aquariums across America have turtles, frogs and fishes, but SeaWorld is one of the few places you can see dolphins flip, whales splash and sea lions dance just feet away from you. Get the schedule of shows online here or check the back of the park map when you arrive. Fit in the other exhibits between shows.
4. Pack in frozen waters or consider buying one of the novelty drink cups ($7.99-$9.99). SeaWorld doesn’t allow you to bring in food, but water bottles are okay. Freeze them the night before if you can — San Diego is ridiculously gorgeous much of the time and an ice-cold beverage will offer welcomed refreshment. Or if you’re a soda drinker, pick up one of the SeaWorld novelty cups. They can be refilled at any restaurant or snack stand throughout the park for $1. We shared one for the family and that icy lemonade hit the spot.
5. Save the indoor activities for the heat of the day. The 4-D Pirate movie, the Wild Arctic exhibit, or the penguin, shark or turtle exhibit among others are all great to visit between 1:30-3pm. These indoor activities offer a nice respite from the heat and a chance to cool off.
6. Keep tabs on your stroller with an app. There are zillions of strollers in SeaWorld and many exhibits don’t allow you to bring them in. Often times where you park your stroller, where you enter the exhibit and where you exit are all different locations. If you’re forgetful, consider using a GPS app like ParkBud, Where Did I Park? or MyCar Locator to help you remember where your stroller is parked.
7. It’s called the Splash Zone for a reason. The bottom 13 rows of most shows are clearly labeled as “Splash Zone” seats. If you sit there, the show hosts try their best to get you wet. Be prepared or sit higher.
8. The rides are few but worth it. You don’t go to SeaWorld for the rides, but there are a handful of rides to take advantage of from the fairly subdued Elmo’s Flying Fish and Riptide Rescue to the you-will-get-wet Journey to Atlantis and thrilling newest addition, Manta. You can visit SeaWorld’s rides page to see ratings for thrill, wetness and height limitations if you want to plan ahead. One note: On Journey to Atlantis (shown here), non-riders can watch friends and family come down the final splash drop, and then – for a mere quarter – hit them with a water cannon at the end. Totally worth it.
9. Have a get-wet strategy. If you have kids (like one of mine) that will complain about being soaked from a show or ride, consider your options: a) telling them to tough it out, b) bringing a change of clothes (more viable if you’re visiting with a stroller), c) planning them for the hottest part of the day where you’ll dry quickly or d) the last ride of the day.
10. Be a kid. I found myself getting distracted by the masses of people and strollers and the insane consumerism (hats! bubble blowers! popcorn! ponchos! stuffed sea lions!). Until Shamu jumped out of the water right in front of me (granted there was emotion-building music in the background) and I realized my two-year-old and I had the same look of awe on our face. Yeah, killer whales are pretty awesome.
Visit Seaworld.com to learn more about SeaWorld San Diego or their parks in Orlando or San Antonio.
Kate Bayless is a writer, editor and reviewer based in Southern California. Visit her on LinkedIn, Twitter or Contently. Thanks for SeaWorld for providing media passes. As always, opinions expressed are the author’s.