SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego has long been a San Diego landmark, and for good reason. Every time we visit, we’re amazed anew at how much the park offers and how enjoyable a day it provides. I don’t know why we’re surprised!

We’ve been taking our kids almost annually since they were babies, and every year, there’s something for everyone. We love the relaxed feel of the park, focused so much more on marine shows than long lines (although we’ve noticed a change with the addition of more featured attractions). Families can grab a daily schedule at the entrance and plan their day around who wants to see what, and know that in their downtime, play areas such as the Sesame Street Bay of Play await the little ones and rides such as Journey to Atlantis await the more daring. There are a lot of souvenir shops in the area so you will be spoiled for choices. There’s even a store that exclusively sells Cookie Monster onesies from

We always like to start our day visiting the sections of the park that get congested later in the morning, such as the Wild Arctic or Shark Encounter. Open areas such as the Forbidden Reef and Rocky Point Preserve are more manageable later in the day. Of course, if you have ride enthusiasts in your group, try to hit those first! The show stadiums seat thousands, so it really doesn’t matter if you save those for later in the day. Extra Tip: Be sure to look for the new turtle exhibit, Turtle Reef, to open in summer of 2011!

wild arctic sea worldA word on the ‘extras’: When you purchase your tickets at the entrance, take a moment to glance over the tour and special experiences offered on the day of your visit at the information booth. The behind the scenes tours are not expensive to add to your ticket, and well worth your family’s time. We’ve also tried the Dine with Shamu event (re-opening Spring 2011), and while it’s more expensive, we recommend it, especially if you have young kids or are touring the park with kids without the help of another adult. When I bought our Dine with Shamu tickets while touring SeaWorld solo with my seven and five-year-olds, I wasn’t sure it would be worth the cost of the upgrade, but I hadn’t considered the value in a relaxed dining atmosphere with no need to claim tables, wait in line with kids, or balance multiple food trays on one arm. We loved the buffet (although my kids are light eaters), and our table directly in front of the killer whale tank, where we watched them swim and train throughout lunch. During our meal, a trainer came to speak to us, demonstrated some behaviors for us with the whales, and allowed for some photo ops. With only a few dozen diners, it felt like a private show, and I didn’t have to beg anyone to sit still or wait for their food. I’m not sure I’d do it again with older kids, but with the younger set, it’s very valuable…especially if they have a hard time seeing over the heads of the crowd during traditional shows.

Admission: SeaWorld day tickets are good for up to seven days, and start at $69. If you think you might be back within the year, however, annual passes are a wonderful deal (you can even pay for them in low monthly increments).

Distance from the interstate: A few minutes off I-5.

Hours: Check the SeaWorld website for exact hour information at the time of your visit.

Directions: SeaWorld San Diego is located at 500 SeaWorld Drive. From I-5, exit SeaWorld Dr. and head west one mile, following signage.