Sea World San Diego, California – Family TripAugust 25, 2011 No Comments
On a recent trip to San Diego, California my husband and I took our 3-year old son and 10-month old daughter to Sea World. Like so many other places, it was a destination we had visited in our pre-children days so venturing out as a family was a new experience. Our hotel in Hotel Circle was conveniently located just a few miles from the Park so the drive took less than 15 minutes. This was a welcome bonus for both ourselves and our children considering that we’d spent over seven hours in the car the day before travelling from Southern Utah!
I did some research before leaving for the Park and found that Sea World charges a parking fee: $14 for regular vehicle parking and $19 for closer Preferred Parking. This last option, although more expensive can be worth the money when travelling with young children and all their accessories since the spots are much closer to the entrance. Although we’d planned on taking advantage of this option, we found upon arriving that we were early enough that the available parking spaces were just as good as those in the Preferred section, so we didn’t end up needing it after all.
After picking up our already-paid-for tickets at the Will Call window (we’d booked our trip through a travel website so our tickets were waiting for us), we headed into the park. The first area we decided to visit was someplace we had not seen before. It was called the Sesame Street Bay of Play and was a large section specially created for children. It had attractions for kids of many ages including a couple of different rides (these had height requirements), a very large splash pad (warning, your kids will get soaked), a bounce house, maze, climbing net, rope bridge, and a play area for infants 18 months and younger. Our daughter enjoyed this little play area and also had fun at the splash pad.
Our son had a blast on everything although he said he especially loved the bounce house and splash pad. Fortunately we’d brought changes of clothes (San Diego weather can be rather unpredictable) so after they got drenched we were able to put them into dry sets before exploring the rest of the Park. Had I realized before we left that Sea World had such an area, I probably would have packed their bathing suits instead and will certainly be sure to bring them along on future trips!
After leaving the Bay of Play we decided to watch one of Sea World’s many animal shows. The “Sea Lion Live” show looked interesting so we headed across the park to try that one.
While the show itself was entertaining and our son enjoyed watching it, having to get there early enough to get seats was a bit problematic. Most of the ‘theaters’ open their gates about a half hour before the show starts and while it’s a good idea to get there when they do in order to find a spot to sit, entertaining young children during the wait can be difficult. Our son did okay for most of the wait but our daughter was not so happy about it and I’m afraid there were a few disgruntled guests sitting on the benches around us. Fortunately even she seemed to be absorbed by the Sea Lions once they finally made their appearance, but it was definitely more of a hassle than I would have liked!
After leaving the show we decided to take a look at some of the nearby exhibits. We made sure to visit Shark Encounter which our son loved. Part of the exhibit includes a moving sidewalk which runs through a tunnel beneath the water. The sharks (which are visible from above in a huge tank at another point of the attraction) are now swimming above and on both sides of the visitors providing a stunning view of them from every angle. This exhibit is always worth seeing and seemed to be an especially huge hit with all the little boys that were visiting!
Once we left that area we went on to see the Penguins, (our daughter loved watching them dive off the rocks) and then to see the Dolphins. When we first arrived however, we found the viewing area was closed for their Dolphin Interaction Program. While this was going on, the exhibit was shut down so we went and had lunch while we waited. The Shipwreck Reef Café was the closest restaurant to the exhibit so we decided to give it a try. The food was good and it was set up in a semi-buffet style, but it was also very expensive. The portions were quite large however, which worked out well since our kids were young enough to share with anyway! Once we were done eating the dolphins were open for viewing again and our son had a wonderful time reaching over the side, (with Daddy’s help) to touch the dolphins as they swam by. This was one of the most crowded attractions at Sea World as the dolphins are absolutely always entertaining to watch and they often swim close enough to the sides to touch. Since it’s an interactive exhibit and touching is allowed, it is always packed! It’s certainly worth it though as the adults enjoy it every bit as much as the kids!
For our last stop of the day, we decided to take in yet another show. Despite the frustration of dealing with the early seating, we felt we couldn’t miss seeing Shamu since the Killer Whale is of course, the star of Sea World! The Shamu shows have two different seating areas: the “Soak Zone” and what I like to think of as the “safe zone.” If you sit in the “Soak Zone,” (which takes up the first 16 rows all the way around the theater), you really should be prepared to get truly wet. Although the day was warm and it would have been nice to cool off a bit, our daughter was sleeping, so we sat higher up where the water would be sure to miss us. Our son really loved watching the whales swim around the enormous tank and slide up onto the platform to ‘wave’ at everyone. Our son enjoyed him so much in fact that it was the stuffed animal he chose to take home as a souvenir!
Although we really enjoyed our time at Sea World, my husband and I both agreed it probably would have been more fun if our kids were older. Of course our daughter was too young to take in much, but we also felt our son would have enjoyed it more had he been a little bit bigger. Even though the kids got to ride in the stroller, they still got bored with all the walking and we were all in the sun a lot. Shade in the park is limited—especially during the shows—and sunblock is a must! The distance between exhibits was often considerable, and once we got inside they usually weren’t interactive enough for our children to thoroughly have fun. While our son enjoyed watching the shows, they were more geared toward an older audience. At the end of the day, it was obvious that our kids’ favorite part of Sea World was the Bay of Play and that they could have spent a lot more time there and have been perfectly content. While I know we’ll visit Sea World again, we will probably wait until most of our kids are a bit older!
For more information on Sea World San Diego including admission prices, show schedules, and exhibits, please visit their website at http://seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-sandiego/.