Planning a SeaWorld San Diego vacation?
Awesome, you will love the Sea World experience! SeaWorld San Diego invited us to experience the park first hand so we could help you plan your trip. We thank SeaWorld for this awesome opportunity!
Our SeaWorld experience was amazing and we learned so much on our trip! We are excited to share everything we know so you can plan the best SeaWorld San Diego vacation!
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All of the opinions in this post are our own. We do have affiliate links in this post that will give us a commission at no additional charge to you.
What to Expect From Your SeaWorld San Diego Vacation
SeaWorld understands sea life. It leans on decades of observation, training, and conservation to provide a unique experience for guests.
In this way, it is more than an aquarium or zoo, although it has elements of each. And although it has thrill and water rides, its shows and exhibits give a broader experience than an amusement park. SeaWorld’s blend of options makes it a wonderful place for families with children (and adults) of all ages.
One thing we loved about our SeaWorld San Diego vacation was that we had a lot of fun and most importantly learned a lot about the amazing animals. Our experience was phenomenal.
Rescue and Conservation Mission
For the last 50 years, SeaWorld San Diego has rescued over 36,000 sick, injured, or orphaned marine life animals. This has given many animals a second chance at life.
SeaWorld works with federal and state agencies in marine life rescue efforts. Information provided at shows and shown in exhibits educates attendees about sea life and the ocean, and their importance.
Protecting Marine Animals
SeaWorld’s mission is to help protect animal environments. It has donated over 17 million dollars to organizations that solely focus on animal conservation.
SeaWorld has received a lot of criticism in years past but from what I saw they are committed to helping animals. The trainers have great relationships with the animals and truly love the animals.
Where Is SeaWorld San Diego Located?
The address to SeaWorld San Diego is 500 Sea World Dr, San Diego, CA 92109.
It is conveniently located in the heart of San Diego. You can easily get here from Old Town, Coronado, Balboa Park, and the San Diego Zoo.
How Best to Get to Sea World San Diego
SeaWorld San Diego is located about 15 miles from the San Diego International Airport. It takes about 20 minutes to drive.
If you are coming in from the San Diego International Airport you have a few options. Obviously, renting a car is going to be the fastest and most convenient, but you can also take a shuttle or Uber from the airport for a reasonable price.
Traveling From Los Angeles
From the Los Angeles International Airport, it is about 123 miles. Which is about a 2-hour drive. If you are in California to experience the many amusement parks then this might be helpful information to navigate the time it takes to travel from LA to San Diego.
Are There Hotels On The SeaWorld Property?
Image courtesy of Agoda (which is where we booked from)
No, there are no hotels located on SeaWorld. When you are planning your SeaWorld San Diego vacation you will need to stay off property. There are many hotels located near the property that you can stay at, and many have shuttles that will take you to SeaWorld San Diego.
We stayed at the Comfort Inn Sea World/ San Diego Zoo location and it was about a mile away. The hotel was very family-friendly and offered large rooms which is one reason why we booked it. You will find many hotel options close to SeaWorld.
Parking at SeaWorld San Diego
General parking at SeaWorld San Diego costs $25 per car as of December 2019. There is priority parking that will get you a spot closer to the park for $35. Another option is to park in the first six rows for $28.
You can purchase parking vouchers as you pull into the park or if you would like to save time you can buy them online ahead of time.
Parking was very straightforward. We were close enough to walk right into the park without shuttle service.
Ticket Options For Your SeaWorld San Diego Vacation
There are many ticket options at SeaWorld.
- Single Day Tickets
- Single Day with Meal Plan
- SeaWorld Annual Passes
- Single Day + All-Inclusive Experience
- Multi Park Tickets to SeaWorld, San Diego Zoo, and San Diego Safari Park
SeaWorld also gives free admission to active military members and does have a program for veterans.
Also, if you live in California a SeaWorld annual pass might be a good thing to consider. The cost is equivalent to going two-three times (depending on promotions). There is an annual dining plan that is only $119 for the year.
Facebook Planning Away Travel Community
One great reason to join my Facebook Planning Away Travel Community is that SeaWorld sends me discounts all the time. You can just ask in this group and I will send you a link to the most current promotions!
What Do I Do if it Rains On the Day I Go To Sea World?
Weather is really something to consider for your SeaWorld San Diego vacation. If there is heavy rain in the forecast, you may want to skip the park. But if there is a forecast for light or even moderate rain, you may want to go to the park.
We have been to the San Diego area theme parks twice. On both trips, our first day had rain in the forecast throughout the entire day. For both trips, we arrived late that day, had no rain, and did everything we wanted to in the park in one day.
If you see rain in the forecast, we recommend buying ponchos off of Amazon or from a local store before your trip. SeaWorld also sells ponchos, but it will cost more in the park.
Our Experience On Our SeaWorld San Diego Vacation
On our most recent SeaWorld San Diego vacation, we arrived the day after Christmas. According to one crowd calendar that was the first result on Google, that day was supposed to be busy (ranked the highest crowd level).
It wasn’t. To our surprise, it was pretty much a ghost town!
Amazingly, we learned that if it rains while you are at SeaWorld, you can get a pass to go to the park again once any time during the next year.
Bottom line — unless it’s pouring, rain can be your friend!
What to Expect On Sunny Days at SeaWorld San Diego?
Depending on the time of year, it can be very crowded on sunny days. If there was rain in the forecast before a sunny day, there could be a surge of people resulting from pent-up demand.
Remember to bring sunblock. While there is shade in parts of the park and plenty of indoor options, the sun will find you!
That’s right, you may need ponchos on sunny days. There are two rides at the park Ship Wreck Rapids and Journey to Atlantis, that will get you wet.
While there are big family dryers ($6) to help get the water off after rides if you are like me and don’t want to get wet in the first place, put on your ponchos!
You can also get wet at shows. If you see the Orca Whales or the dolphins, there are “wet zones.” These should really be called “soak zones,” because these mammals don’t simply splash, they send waves over the glass walls to engulf the audience.
If you want to avoid the water, sit in the upper areas. Sitting in the lower areas, you will likely get wet. Ponchos and umbrellas come in handy. But watch out. Sometimes the whales and dolphins will catch you by surprise.
Stroller and Scooter Rentals at SeaWorld San Diego
I am ready to tell you about all the fun things at SeaWorld but I thought I had better mention that if you have small children or more seasoned individuals that stroller and scooter rental is available.
Strollers cost $22 (as of January 2020)
Electric Scooters cost $55-$65 (as of January 2020)
Wheel Chairs cost $15
I have rented wheelchairs and scooters in the past at different amusement parks and it has been very convenient and helpful.
How Are The Shows at SeaWorld San Diego?
On our SeaWorld San Diego vacation, one thing that we were looking forward to is the shows. I had been to SeaWorld years ago and still remember the incredible orcas.
Shows at SeaWorld San Diego are first and foremost about sea life. The quality of the shows are outstanding. Trainers have a great connection with the animals and you can tell they love their jobs.
There are different dolphin shows based on the time of year you go. We went at Christmas time and experienced the Dolphin Island Christmas Show. The show is about 25 minutes long but you should arrive earlier to get a seat.
SeaWorld San Diego has at least 12 dolphins and some small whales in this show. These whales were rescued; one in Japan, two others in Florida. The two from Florida were taken care of and trained initially at SeaWorld Orlando before coming to San Diego.
Most importantly, we loved the interaction between trainers and dolphins. It was amazing to see! Watching a trainer swim with a dolphin is quite the sight. And so is the height on some of the dolphin jumps. We won’t spoil all of the details of the show. What we will say is this is a show worth seeing. I would say that this really made our SeaWorld San Diego vacation worth it!
Orca Whale Encounter
The Orca Encounter is another fantastic offering. These mammals are a beautiful sight. Prepared to get wet if you sit close to the water!
SeaWorld has discontinued its theatrical Orca whale show’s but now the show demonstrates the beauty and nature of the Orca whales. These mammals are incredible animals. You will learn so many amazing things about the Orca’s as you watch.
It was really impressive to see these whales up close and personal.
Sea Lion and Otter Show
The sea lion show stars Seymour and Clyde. SeaWorld highlights the training of the sea lions, coupled with comedy.
The show could use some updating but is another solid offering. Our ten-year-old son absolutely loved it! It was his favorite thing about SeaWorld.
The show is about 30 minutes long but be sure to get there early for the pre-show!
Other SeaWorld Shows
SeaWorld San Diego also offers shows that do not have sea life. When we were there during the Christmas season, we went and saw a Cirque Christmas show that highlighted acrobatic feats. We also watched an ice skating show.
During the summer months, there is another Cirque show featuring acrobatics.
Both of the shows we saw were top quality and very impressive.
Do I Need to Arrive Early for the Shows?
You may need to arrive early for a show to get a seat. And remember, for the Orca whale and dolphin shows, the lower seating areas are wet zones.
We went on a day that was supposed to rain, and walked into the Orca whale show a few minutes late and had no problem finding a seat. Subsequently, we arrived for the other shows as they started or a few minutes prior and had no issues finding a seat.
But I think the forecast kept guests away from the park that day. We saw signs suggesting shows fill to capacity, and that you need to arrive thirty minutes early.
If you do arrive early, you will still be entertained because most shows have a pre-show with music and crowd involvement.
Other Options For Getting a Good Seat For The Shows
You can reserve seats in advance. You can either use the SeaWorld app or purchase a VIP pass. Both of these options cost money but can get you a seat and save you time.
Quick Queue Front of the Line Pass
SeaWorld offered us front-of-the-line passes and we loved them. Almost every ride had a special entrance where we were able to get right on the rides.
Although we went on a day that was not very crowded we still loved using them. On a crowded day, it would be a lifesaver.
There are two options. Option one is a basic quick queue unlimited pass ($20) which allows unlimited rides on most of the rides. Your second option is a quick queue premier ($30) which has the same unlimited rides but also gets reserved seating at the shows.
If you purchase the all-inclusive bundle for around $116. It includes this.
How Are The Rides at SeaWorld San Diego?
The most anticipated part of our SeaWorld San Diego vacation for my kids was getting to ride roller coasters. They were so excited!
SeaWorld has a range of ride offerings. From the intense Electric Eel (54 inches) to the rides at Sesame Street Bay of Play, there are both intense and slow pace rides.
We had a great experience getting to try out all the different rides.
There are two water rides: Journey to Atlantis and Ship Wreck Rapids. Ship Wreck Rapids is a traditional water raft ride. The ride could use a bit more waterfalls and caves, but you will get your share of drops and water. My four-year-old begged to go on it!
On the other hand, Journey to Atlantis is fantastic! It mixes portions of a log ride with a roller coaster; with a couple of drops! Our little ones could not get enough. They rode Journey to Atlantis seven times (and would have ridden it more but for the adults saying, “no mas!”).
Another favorite is Manta, a coaster that will send you flying from the get-go. This roller coaster is huge, but not intense. There are no upside-down turns or jerky movements. I personally like that it is a long roller coaster ride that is not too crazy!
Electric Eel is an intense coaster and looks like so much fun! Unfortunately, when we went it was closed all day!
Tidal Twister is a family-friendly coaster that goes upside down but only reaches speeds of 30 miles an hour. It was not intense.
The wild Arctic is similar to Disneyland’s Star Tours but not as intense. The exhibit it is located in is very detailed and really cool.
As you exit this ride, you will be at base camp arctic. You will get to see animals that live in the arctic. My kids loved touching a wall made of ice and caves you could climb through.
Will Little Kids Do Well at SeaWorld San Diego?
There are plenty of little kid rides for the younger children at SeaWorld San Diego. They will have a blast as they ride them all. There are three Sesame Street-themed rides and five ocean-themed little kid rides.
All of them are age-appropriate.
Sesame Street Bay of Play
There is also an area of the park called Sesame Street Bay of Play that is specifically for littles.
Sesame Street Bay of Play is so fun. There are three rides for the kiddos to jump on in this area as well as a splash pad and a climbing area.
Let’s explore the rides!
Abby Sea Star Swim
Abby’s Sea Star Swim is a spin ride (I compare this to the teacups at Disneyland). My little ones loved it! Really, what is not to love!
Elmo’s Flying Fish
If you have an Elmo fan then make sure to jump on Elmo’s Flying Fish. It is similar to Dumbo, but with Elmo. The carts go up and down as you go in a circle. I love how little kids get the biggest smiles on their faces when they ride this.
Oscars Rockin Eel
Oscar’s Rockin Eel is a great ride. It is a little pirate ship ride that goes back and forth. We think it is great for parents and kids alike!
Rope Climbing Play Area
The Sesame Street area also has a rope and tunnel section that is a blast! Once you climb the ropes, there is a bridge and tunnel area to play on.
Our four-year-old had a great time in Sesame Street Bay of Play. We spent about two hours there before we told him enough was enough. He easily could have spent another hour playing without complaint!
Kid Rides In The Ocean Explorer Area
Located nearby is another area called Ocean Explorer. It has five more rides specifically for littles.
This area is still designed for younger children but also attracts older kids as well. My 10-year-old didn’t want to do much in Sesame Street Bay of Play but loved the rides in the Ocean Explorer area.
The rides include:
Sea Dragon Drop
This ride is a child-size shot in a drop tower It is not very high but still is a thrill to ride.
We rode this ride at least three times. I loved that even my four-year-old could ride as long as I sat right beside him. It is basically, a spinning swing ride. Kids of all ages will love this one.
If you like a classic spinner ride then Riptide Rescue is for you. And if not, you can just watch from the sidelines.
Aqua Scout is a submarine ride that spins and bounces around. Younger children will love this.
I loved all the ride options for younger kids. The Octarock was really fun. It is a boat that rocks and spins.
So to answer the question “will your little kids love SeaWorld?” The answer is Yes!
I believe the SeaWorld San Diego vacation would not be near as exciting if these rides were not included in the park.
Will Teenagers Enjoy a Day at SeaWorld San Diego?
We think so. The oldest child with us was 12. She had a good time, and we saw lots of teenagers riding Manta. We think there are enough choices of roller coasters and shows at SeaWorld to keep teenagers entertained.
I actually, remember going at 19 to SeaWorld San Antonio and loved it. My favorite part was the orca whales and I still enjoyed them this trip.
How Is the Food at SeaWorld San Diego?
There are quite a few food options at SeaWorld. They have done a great job providing a mix of snacks, meals, and healthy selections for those that have dietary needs or nutritional preferences.
Maybe the best way to succinctly describe the food at SeaWorld is that you don’t come to SeaWorld to eat, but while you are at Sea World, there are food options that will fill your belly.
SeaWorld’s All Day Dining Pass
We went with friends who purchased the all-day dining pass, which allowed them to order food every hour. That allowed us to sample quite a variety of food.
The dining pass was not that much more than your base ticket. If you purchase a ticket and include the dining plan it is only $20 more.
Another option is if you want your base ticket + the front of the line pass for rides + dining meal it is only a few dollars more. Plus, you get a photo package with an all-inclusive pass.
We tested this dining plan out and thought it was really worth it. You really get a full meal every hour!
What Are The Best SeaWorld Restaurants On The Dining Plan?
The dining plan allows you to eat at a wide variety of restaurants. We had pizza, chicken, and even brisket. I was very impressed with the variety of SeaWorld Restaurants available on the plan.
Let’s explore all the options!
Mama Stella’s is located in the center of the park near the big tower. It is a pizza place. Surprisingly, they had many choices (not just pepperoni and Cheese) We tried a chicken barbecue pizza and different salads as well. I thought it was pretty good!
Ship Wreck Cafe
Ship Wreck Cafe is a great SeaWorld restaurant. This was actually the first place we stopped and I was shocked at how much food came in each meal.
The amount of meat on the plates could easily feed two people. At this location, there were ribs and rotisserie chicken. I thought the food was quality and I enjoyed the side. Moreover, I like to have healthy grapes and watermelon along with my protein!
Pineapple Pete’s Island Eats
Pineapple Pete’s is also centrally located. It has a Hawaiian feel and offers a pineapple dole whip treat. You can also get your classic chicken nuggets and fries here.
My kids loved this location. (of course) There is also pineapple upside-down cakes available here.
This was amazing but is not included in the all-day dining plan but worth trying if you are Pineapple Pete’s.
Explorer Cafe was the one SeaWorld restaurant that we did not get to try! It serves hamburgers and hot dogs. It is located near Ocean Explorer Area.
We just didn’t have enough time to try it out. If you have eaten there let us know what you think in the comments!
Calypso Bay Smokehouse
Calypso Bay Smokehouse was worth every penny paid on the all-day dining plan. If you were to go to this SeaWorld restaurant without having the plan it would set you back. Basically, the restaurant serves top-quality brisket and smokehouse-style food.
We enjoyed this meal immensely!
Does SeaWorld Have an App?
Yes, SeaWorld has an App that can be used for any of its parks, including its park in San Diego. I had some difficulty with the app. While using it, I tried to look up ride wait times, and show start times. I could not find wait times and only found showtimes in a menu that showed activities by hour (instead of by show).
However, we were new to using the app so maybe there is a trick we do not know!
Are You Ready For Your SeaWorld San Diego Vacation?
Hopefully, this post helps you plan your ultimate SeaWorld San Diego vacation! If you have any questions be sure to comment below or jump on over to our Facebook group!
Also, if you are planning an epic California trip, be sure to check out our recent post on the best cities to visit in California!