We bought the San Diego 3-for-1 Pass from Costco. The passes give you unlimited admission to San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Sea World for 7 days. They are about $105 per child (ages 3-9) and $130 per adult (ages 10+). The passes can take up to 7 business days to ship, so plan accordingly. If you are not a Costco member, you can still purchase the passes for an additional fee.
STARTING THE DAY
Begin your day at SeaWorld by feeding either the Seals and Sea Lions or the Bat Rays. It is $5 per tray of food. We suggest going early in the day (or even first thing in the morning during peak days) because once the food is gone, it’s gone! This was a huge highlight for our kids. The seals were so cute and would get so excited. But watch out for birds! They are fast and know exactly what you have and aren’t afraid to take it right out of your hand.
PLAN YOUR DAY AROUND THE SHOWS
The shows are incredible at SeaWorld. It is what we remember most about going as children. To see these amazing animals in motion and up close is unforgettable. Showtimes are available in advance on SeaWorld’s website or you can also plan your day once you arrive. The schedule is available with your map and is also posted around the park. While the majority of shows are on the schedule everyday, there are a few that rotate, so plan accordingly if there is one in particular you were hoping to see. As far as seating goes, people will start lining up at least 30 minutes or more before the start time during peak season. We would usually get there about 15 minutes before and felt like there were plenty of good viewing/seating options still available.
One Ocean: as you can see this show really fills up. I don’t think there is a bad seat in the stadium–the animals move from side to side. Our kids were dying to sit in the splash zone so we sat on the left side facing the ‘stage’. We really didn’t get too wet– not like the people in the middle did! It was a very hot day so it actually felt great. If you opt to sit near the front, we’d advise a few rows up as you want to sit at least eye level with the top of the water and not below. 2016 was also the final year for this amazing show. They have something else in the works that will replace it so stay tuned.
Dolphin Days: features more than just dolphins! This was probably our favorite show, but just barely. They were all so good.
Sea Lions Live: was hilarious and fun! Arrive early to watch the pre-show antics. You won’t want to miss this one!
Light Up the Night: was very cool! We sat directly in the center, a few rows above the platform. This is technically the splash zone. We had on ponchos and really only needed them once. They were great seats but it was definitely cooler so getting drenched might not be the funnest. This show is usually the last one of the day, right before the park closes. Lines start to form early so plan accordingly.
There are many other great shows (like Cirque de la Mer, Killer Whales Close Up, etc.) and even seasonal shows- visit SeaWorld’s website for a complete list.
ANIMAL INTERACTION PROGRAMS
Pictured above is one of the Dolphin Interaction Programs. There are many different programs, most have a minimum age and require an additional fee to participate. For more information on pricing, programs and availability, visit here. It’s also important to note that in the month of October, SeaWorld has a special that with a paid adult, kids are free to participate in some of the programs. When we were there over the summer, they also had special same day pricing at Dolphin Point.
BAY OF PLAY
This Sesame Street-themed attraction is filled with family-friendly rides geared toward younger children (we’d say around 10 and younger, although adults and older children can participate in all the activities).
There are a few little rides (minimum height requirement is at least 42 or 48 inches, depending on the ride), a giant climbing structure with a slide, bounce bubble, an obstacle type course, a section for 3 and under to play, and a spot to meet Elmo and pals (check schedule for times).
We would say to block out at least an hour here, two hours should be plenty. For more info. on the Bay of Play, click here.
SHARK ENCOUNTER AND TURTLE REEF
There are many attractions to see in between shows. Our kids loved both of these–riding a giant ‘escalator’ with sharks swimming directly above you was very cool!
The Turtle Reef was so calming and relaxing. Our kids were mesmerized by these giant sea turtles and colorful fish.
Dolphin Point has certain times throughout the day (refer to your map) where the trainers will practice different tricks with the dolphins in an up close and open exhibit. After the mini training session, they will have free play, tossing different toys into the water for the dolphins. Sometimes the dolphins will toss a ball into the audience and guests can toss them back. Our kids loved watching the dolphins up close, although they were very sad we never had the opportunity to touch one. We would definitely recommend you add this to your schedule, but be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early to secure a spot right up front. Little kids will have a hard time seeing the back.
During the heat of the summer, this cool exhibit is the place to go. Plan to go late afternoon when temps are at their peak.
The beluga whales were so playful and fun to watch. Bonus: There are benches near the back for mom and dad to rest tired feet 🙂
In addition to the whales, polar bears and walruses are also in the Wild Arctic. Penguins are just across the way so be sure to catch them too!
There are several touch pools throughout the park. The kids really enjoyed these! You’re guaranteed to touch these sea animals.
With a young family, the rides outside of Bay of Play weren’t really on our schedule. We did try out the Shipwreck Rapids. It was a lot of fun, but you will get wet. Drenched! We were freezing after and were glad for the family-sized dryer near the exit! For a complete list of rides, click here.
If you’ve done any research on SeaWorld, you’ve probably seen that they offer an all day dining option. We weren’t sure initially if it would be worth it, but after researching we decided it would be the best (and easiest) dining option for our family of five. So, what do you get for the money? Every single hour you can get 1 entree, 1 side (fries, salad, fruit cup, veggies, etc.) OR dessert (cake, pudding, whale cookie, jello, cheesecake, etc.) and 1 beverage (including the ice cold bottled water- our fave!) Each participating member gets a wristband that they scan every time you go through the line. We ate lunch, dinner, and then grabbed fruit cups and water every hour and finished with a late ‘dinner/snack’. As you can see below, individual meals were all priced around $12 or more, so it was definitely worth it to us! All restaurants were ‘cafeteria style’ meaning most of the food was already prepared and we could quickly grab it and go!
At our time of visit, the following restaurants were included in the all day dining option:
Shipwreck Reef Café (baby back ribs additional charge)
Mama Stella’s Pizza Kitchen
Calypso Bay Smokehouse
(baby back ribs additional charge)
Hand Crafted Burgers — located inside Café 64
Flatbreads & Fry Cones
Pineapple Pete’s Island Eats —
(Funnel Cakes & Waffle Cones not included)
The dessert options were pretty much the same at every restaurant. Different cakes, jello, cheesecake cupcakes, etc.
Calypso Bay Smokehouse & Shipwreck Reef Café were our favorite places to eat. Shipreck Reef Cafe was very crowded at lunch, but if you turn right after the cash registers (past the bathrooms) there were more tables. Calypso Bay had plenty of tables and wasn’t crowded for dinner at all.
Menus and individual meal pricing from Shipwreck Reef Cafe.
For more information on the all day dining, click here.
Well, that’s how we do SeaWorld! How do you?