“You better stop your whining and start enjoying yourself!” I hear a hot, tired mother hiss at her offspring. I’m sitting on a bench, furtively massaging my feet after removing the shoes I insisted were comfortable enough for the day ahead.
If my internal monologue was out loud, it might have sounded a lot like that cranky kid. So learn from me, and opt to wear sneakers to SeaWorld instead of the cute strappy sandals!
But that wasn’t all I learned about making the most of my SeaWorld adventure. Read on for some tips and tricks on where to splurge and how to save at SeaWorld San Diego!
There is easily at least a full day’s worth of things to do at SeaWorld San Diego that are included with the price of admission. Even if you decide not to purchase any of the many optional upgrades or exclusive experiences, your family will have a good time exploring the exhibits, riding the amusement rides and taking in the free shows with dolphins, sea lions, orcas and more. The new Ocean Explorer area will be especially fun for the younger set, with gentler amusement rides and even a crawl -through tank where they can get a better look at a Japanese spider crab and giant Pacific Octopus. I tried to psych myself up to take a look inside the tunnel, but visions of park security helping un-wedge me put that idea to rest. The view from outside was still pretty cool!
SeaWorld has been making some changes to its orca programs, committing to end their breeding program and moving from entertainment based shows to more of an educational program with Orca Encounter. I would call the show “edu-tainment” as there is still some razzle-dazzle in with the learning, but you can appreciate the balance they are working towards.
It’s true, SeaWorld is not without its controversy, but if you decide to go, do yourself a favour and take the time to explore the Rescue Centre. You can watch a Sea Rescue show, or learn more with a behind the scenes tour. The animal hospital on site is first-rate, and they do more than just work with animals who live at SeaWorld. Part of their mandate (along with participating in research efforts) is helping local sea life whereby working with the public, the rescue team monitors and rescue animals in distress. When necessary, they bring the animals to the hospital, once the animals are healthy again and get the all-clear from the feds at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) the animals are released back into the wild.
The eat-all-day pass is perfect if you have kids who like to snack all day long rather than sit down to eat at common meal times, or if you are going to be at SeaWorld all day and will be eating at the restaurants. The plan gives you one meal—drink, entrée and side or dessert– per hour (yes, seriously) at any of the six participating restaurants.
For a bit of a splurge, look into Dining with Orcas (lunch or breakfast options.) where you get a yummy buffet meal on the patio beside the orca tank. There is an informational program presented during the meal with the orcas and their team. Word to the wise: don’t leave your camera on the ground. Those giant creatures displace a huge amount of water when they get going…the waves have to go somewhere, and that somewhere just might be over top the Plexiglass enclosure onto the ground beneath your feet!
Under the SeaWorld San Diego umbrella is SeaWorld Aquatica, a water park in the neighbouring city of Chula Vista. If you are a fan of water parks, Aquatica is a cool way to spend the day in the warm Southern California sun. This Canadian may have smirked ever so slightly when informed they close for the “winter” because it’s “too cold.” SeaWorld and Aquatica often partner to run promotions. In 2017 guests could take advantage of a two-parks/one-price promotion that included admission to Aquatica when you bought a day pass for SeaWorld. Check online before you go!
To upgrade your day, private cabanas are available for rent. With shade, a private beach, mini fridge and place to lock up your stuff, the cabana feels very VIP. Springing for the cabana would be especially good if you are travelling with little ones that need a quiet spot for a nap. If you have older kids that are good swimmers and don’t need supervision, a cabana would be a nice spot for mom and dad to relax. With really active kids who want to do everything and still need a watchful eye, a cabana might not offer great value as you won’t have time to spend in it. If your kids are like mine, I would recommend putting your money towards the front of the line passes and snacks instead.
Many of the area hotels offer packages in conjunction with SeaWorld San Diego. The Bahia Resort has a fun retro motor hotel vibe that is great for families. Right on the beach, they host fun activities like movies on the beach, complimentary boat rides in the evening on a Mississippi paddle wheeler (not a typical Southern California sight!) and a weekly beach party. It’s an easy walk to the eclectic Mission Beach area, complete with another gorgeous sandy beach.
For an altogether different experience, SeaWorld hosts sleepovers twice a year (at Father’s Day and Halloween) that include an evening full of education and activities and follows with a day of play!
SeaWorld San Diego is one of the attractions that participate in the SoCal CITYPass. If you plan to visit a few of the attractions in Southern California, the CITYPass is a good way to save a bit of cash. PLUS if you go in October, you can take advantage of Free San Diego for Kids. At SeaWorld San Diego, that means many of the exclusive tours and experiences are free for kids when you book online.