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SeaWorld San Diego Guide

A Visitor's Guide to SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego is located just north of downtown San Diego along Mission Bay and is ranked 23rd on TripAdvisors Top 25 Amusement Parks in the United States.  It is a family friendly marine park and theme park offering aquariums, great shows, exhibits and rides for people of all ages.
We recently visited SeaWorld San Diego and enjoyed the holiday festivities they had to offer.  SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration runs from November 21 - Jan 3 this year and adds a festive overlay to the park with decorations and holiday themed shows.  

While I understand the controversy surrounding SeaWorld and realize it may not be on everyone's wish list of places to see, I felt it was a nice place to visit and learn more about marine life.  

It can be a great place to visit as you not only get to enjoy the park and the various attractions offered, but also can become educated about the wildlife and marine life at the park and the different rescue and conservation efforts SeaWorld is a part of to help protect and preserve wildlife.

Plan Your Day at Seaworld:
If you plan on trying to see every exhibit, I would recommend getting to SeaWorld early and having a plan. Planning your day at SeaWorld is a must as there are lots of shows, rides and exhibits to see that will require lots of energy and good walking shoes.

The SeaWorld Map, shown below, offers a great visual of the overall layout of the grounds and lots of good information on where everything is located. I would recommend reviewing the map before your trip and planning your way around before you go and having an idea of what shows you'd like to see during your visit.

Since the show times are fixed and only offered once (maybe twice) throughout the day, I would recommend figuring out what shows you want to see and planning your day around those times.  In between the shows, you can visit the different exhibits and aquariums throughout the park or go on rides.  

  • One Ocean 
    • The classic SeaWorld show featuring Shamu and runs approximately 25 minutes.  Sit up front in the soak zone if you'd like to wet, otherwise head to the upper level of the stadium.
  • Sea Lions LIVE
    • Shows featuring Sea Lions mimicking TV shows and music spoofs and runs 20 minutes.
  • Blue Horizons (Dolphin Island Christmas)
    • Show featuring dolphins and their trainers performing to music
  • Pets Rule!
    • High-energy show featuring dogs, cats, birds and pigs performing tricks and showing off their training techniques
  • A Sesame Street Christmas
    • For the holidays, the live action Sesame Street characters performed a medley of classic Christmas songs set to a story.  This show will be different other times of the year.

Exhibits & Aquariums:
There are lots of exhibits and aquariums to see during your visit and include the following:
  • Explorer's Reef
  • Dolphin Point
  • Penguin Encounter
  • Aquarium de la Mer
  • California Tide Pool
  • Freshwater Aquarium
  • Pacific Point
  • Aquaria: World of Fishes
  • Shark Encounter 
  • Turtle Reef

  • Shamu's Underwater Viewing
  • Wild Artic

  • Manta - Classic roller coaster ride
  • Journey to Atlantis - Water ride featuring special effects
  • Shipwreck Rapids - Ride along a tube style raft down a winding river
  • Riptide Rescue - Go on a sea turtle rescue mission
  • Wild Artic - Flight simulator ride
  • Bayside Skyride - Enjoy scenic views riding along the bay in a gondola
  • Skytower - Offers great views of the surrounding area (see below)

Kids Rides:
The kids rides are located in the Sesame Street Bay of Play and include Elmo's Flying Fish, Abby's Sea Star Spin, Oscar's Rocking Eel, arcade, carnival games and water attractions for the little ones to have fun in.

Other Tips You Can Use:

Some general information about SeaWorld:

Hours: SeaWorld is typically open every day of the year, including holidays, but I'd recommend checking the website for updated hours for when you plan on visiting.

Tickets: $89 for adults, $83 for children (ages 3-9).  

I would recommend checking the following options for saving money on tickets to SeaWorld: 
  • Check the SeaWorld website for any deals or packages available on tickets 
  • Check Costco or AAA for any deals they may be offering for tickets
  • Consider the GoCard for San Diego:
  • You can buy a multi-day pass to multiple attractions around San Diego or build your own pass and save a minimum of 15% - 20%, when adding at last two attractions to your pass.  
  • I used this option on my most recent visit to San Diego and added tickets to SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo.  I was able to save 20% off of the total combined price when adding both to my San Diego GoCard.
Parking: $16 for cars and $21 for 'up-close' parking, which is the first four rows of parking available.

Location: See map below for SeaWorld's location relative to other places in San Diego.

Dining Options:
Note that outside food and drinks aren't allowed inside the park, but bottled water is allowed.  If you plan on being at SeaWorld for a few hours, there a few dining options available onsite that you can read more about at their website here.  

During our visit, we grabbed snacks available at vendor stations throughout the park and had lunch at Cafe 64, which offered indoor dining and classic American food like burgers and fries.

Photo Key - Photo Service
SeaWorld offers a photo service similar to the PhotoPass service offered at Disneyland that allows you to get photos from spots throughout the park and from some rides. The photo key card itself is free, but if you want the pictures taken using it, it will cost you $79.  

We were offered a photo key card from the first photographer we met and took two other pictures with other photographers throughout the park.  Based on my experience with Photo Key, there weren't a lot of spots available to take photos and the price was a bit steep for what was being offered, in my opinion.  Considering a Disneyland PhotoPass costs $99 at the park or $69 when ordering it before your trip online, I didn't see the value of the Photo Key service being offered at SeaWorld, as we were able to get lots of pictures using our own camera.

Download the SeaWorld app
SeaWorld offers a mobile app for iPhone and Android that can help you navigate your way around the park and includes shows times, ride wait times and gives you access to other information.

If you're planning a trip to Sea World in San Diego or have previously visited the park, what tips would you recommend?