From swooshing and swooping rides to interactive animal experiences and world-class attractions, SeaWorld San Diego truly makes a big, big splash. See—and learn about—the amazing undersea worlds of animals from around the globe, including penguins, turtles, walruses, beluga whales, and sea lions. Behind the scenes, SeaWorld is also home to marine animals that were injured or orphaned on Southern California beaches, and are being nursed or rehabilitated before they can be returned to the wild.
Located just off San Diego’s Mission Bay, the park offers a variety of ways to learn about and celebrate marine life. Dive into a deep-sea adventure in the Ocean Explorer area, the family-friendly realm that opened in 2017. There, you’ll find five children’s rides and unique aquariums with giant Pacific octopuses, Japanese spider crabs, and California moray eels. See (and touch) harmless rays and sharks, or just be inspired by the killer whales in one of the park’s latest additions, Orca Encounter. Rather than a traditional show, the area with a Pacific Northwest-themed setting features the orcas breaching, spouting, and generally acting naturally in the water, against the backdrop of an infinity screen showing a documentary-style presentation with interesting facts about the majestic mammals. Or, take one of the park’s exclusive tours and you can get up-close encounters with resident dolphins, sea lions, penguins, or gentle beluga whales, also known as the “canaries of the sea.”
Climb aboard a host of rides, too, including the teacup-style Abby’s SeaStar Spin, the flume ride Journey to Atlantis, or Manta, a high-tech, double-launch coaster that has you twisting and diving like a ray. Stay late during the summer (through September) for the Electric Ocean, a light show that transforms rides, shows, and attractions into vibrantly coloured displays inspired by the phenomenon of ocean bioluminescence.
The aquatic animals aren’t the only ones who get wet at SeaWorld San Diego. Climb aboard water rides like Journey to Atlantis to sploosh through flumes and kersplash at the bottom of a 60-foot/18-meter plunge. On Shipwreck Rapids, board a tricked-up inner tube to follow a winding watercourse through a peaceful island setting, then hold for the finish—over waterfalls and into watery cave (and this version of a shipwreck happily includes a café at the end).
Other rides transport you in different ways: Bayside Skyride offers a scenic ride above the bay—and be sure to take the elevator up the Skytower, with its panoramic view of Mission Bay, the Pacific Ocean, downtown San Diego, and beyond. Or, climb aboard a simulated jet helicopter to zoom above icy landscapes on the Wild Arctic ride, which transports you to find a realistic Arctic research station with up-close looks at beluga whales, seals, and walruses.
The Ocean Explorer area, new in 2017, includes the Submarine Quest ride, the swing-style Tentacle Twirl, and little-explorer-friendly rides Octarock, Aqua Scout, and Sea Dragon Drop.
Gentle ride options abound at SeaWorld San Diego, especially for the smaller set. On Riptide Rescue, kids climb into seats styled to look like yellow life rafts before setting off on a simulated sea turtle rescue mission. Preschoolers will love the rides along the Sesame Street Bay of Play, like Elmo’s Flying Fish, the teacup-style Abby’s Sea Star Spin, and the not-too-rocking Oscar’s Rockin’ Eel.
Big kids, meanwhile, will love Manta. Shaped like a giant ray, this coaster uses advanced technology and computerized imagery to make you feel like you’re swooshing, soaring, twisting, and diving through the air, just like a ray. After the ride, see the elegance of these amazing underwater creatures in giant aquarium and check out the grotto, where you can touch the harmless California bat rays as they glide by.
Insider Tip: Lines tend to dip during the most popular shows. For speediest entry, get a Quick Queue Premier all-day pass for express entrance to rides.
Mission Bay and San Diego Bay trim the edge of the city like sparkling gems. Dozens of outfitters can get you out on the blue via every imaginable conveyance; kayak, stand-up paddle-board, motorised water craft, sail boat or kite board. For a more novel approach, board the Bahia Belle, a Mississippi riverboat, snuggle aboard a romantic Venetian gondola or try jet-packing to skim across the water like James Bond.
Cruise in style too. Hornblower and Flagship Cruises let you get a millionaire’s view of the bay on scenic tours, as well as dinner and brunch cruises.
You can have fun on land here, too. Mission Beach, the narrow strip of land between Mission Bay and the Pacific, is chock-a-block with surf shops, t-shirt joints and funky beach bars, and there’s a 3-mile oceanfront boardwalk that rivals Venice Beach for people watching. At Belmont Park, classic amusement rides include the Big Dipper wooden roller coaster. Mission Bay also has 27 miles of water’s-edge pathways, perfect for strolling and biking.
Come watch acrobats of the ocean jump, flip, spin, and exude their natural charm in both SeaWorld’s classic shows and its all-natural marine life experiences.
Go to the lively yet intimate Dolphin Days show to see Bottlenose dolphins and short-finned pilot whales take to the waters—a great chance to see how SeaWorld San Diego’s professional trainers work closely with these marine mammals. It’s also a lot of fun, and a chance to get doused in designated splash zones.
Sea Lions LIVE, meanwhile, offers up SeaWorld’s take on a sketch comedy show, starring the park’s beloved pinnipeds Clyde and Seamore, and their fun-loving O.P. Otter; the trio are pretty pop-culture savvy, with their marine-life-based spoofs on TV shows (as evidenced in “Dancing with the Pinnipeds” and
“SLSI: Sea Lion Scene Investigation”). For furry-animal entertainment, go to Pets Rule! and watch a talented cast of dogs, cats, birds, and pot-bellied pigs (most adopted from shelters) entertaining stunts with their trainers—and watch for cameos by emus and kangaroos.
During summer 2017, SeaWorld San Diego debuted an experience with the park’s majestic resident killer whales: Orca Encounter features a Pacific-Northwest-themed backdrop and a three-story-high video screen that shows a documentary-style presentation about how these mammals move, hunt, and communicate in the wild. And taking centre stage, you can watch the resident orcas splash, breach, and otherwise act naturally in the waters.
Even from your first few steps into the park, SeaWorld aims to transport you to the edges of the ocean and beyond. At the park’s entrance, walk under a huge wave sculpture to discover the edge-of-the-sea world of the Explorer's Reef. Wrap-around touch pools let you stroke brown-banded and white-spotted bamboo sharks (don’t worry, they’re harmless), plus round rays and other creatures. For one of the world’s weirder sensations, dangle your fingers and let some of the exhibit’s 4,000 cleaner fish, each about the size of a child’s pinky, harmlessly nibble on your skin. Explorer’s Reef also has dining and shopping options.
It’s one thing to see SeaWorld San Diego’s remarkable collection of exotic animals performing in shows or in their enclosures. It’s another
(unforgettable) thing entirely to get up close to the creatures—and even touch them. Two of the most remarkable exclusive experiences have you climb into a SeaWorld San Diego wetsuit to get right into the pool with gentle, snow-white beluga whales, found in Arctic waters. The Wild Arctic tour includes a behind-the-scenes chance to see other Arctic creatures, including walruses and seals, safely in enclosures they use when they are not on view to the general public.
At Dolphin Encounter, you get to feed, touch, and use special signals to communicate with bottlenose dolphins; the Dolphin Interaction Program lets you get right in the pool with the creatures and play with them. Go behind-the-scenes again with the Penguin Up-Close Tour to learn everything about the little black-and-white seabirds, including what they eat and how to help protect them in the wild. If your family still hasn’t had its fill of wildlife, take them on the new Sea Lions Up Close Tour, for an insider’s look at how SeaWorld San Diego’s animals are cared for.
The aquatic animals are not the only ones who get wet at SeaWorld San Diego. Climb aboard water rides like Journey to Atlantis to splash through flumes and at the bottom of a 60-foot plunge. On Shipwreck Rapids, board a tricked-up inner tube to follow a winding watercourse through a peaceful island setting, then hold for the finish—over waterfalls and into a watery cave. Climb aboard a simulated jet helicopter to zoom above icy landscapes on the Wild Arctic ride.
Tamer options abound, especially for the smaller set. On Riptide Rescue, kids climb into seats styled to look like yellow life rafts before setting off on a simulated sea turtle rescue mission. Classic rides get a watery twist, with names like Elmo’s Flying Fish, Abby’s Sea Star Spin and Oscar’s Rocking Eel. Tip: Lines tend to dip during the most popular shows. For speediest entry, get a Quick Queue Unlimited all-day pass for express entrance to rides.