San Diego Sea World Visitor Tips

These San Diego Sea World tips for visitors are to help ensure you have the best experience. These suggestions are based on our own family's trip a few years ago.  

I admit I was a bit nervous about going on a major holiday (Labor Day), as I hate standing in long lines in the heat. But we were pleasantly surprised; our longest wait was an hour for Shipwreck Rapids and most of that was shaded. We also easily found seats at all the shows we attended and only showed up about 15 minutes in advance.

And that leads me to tip number one for a San Diego Sea World visit:

  • Bring a hat. When you arrive early at the shows, there is no shade and the sun was intense while we were there.
  • Bring a spray bottle. If you go to San Diego Sea World in warm weather, this may bring you welcome relief while waiting in line or for the shows to start.
  • Bring a towel When they asked us to slide over to make room for more spectators, I nearly burned my buns on the hot metal bench. A towel would've helped. But mainly, if the day isn't so hot and you're sitting in the "soak zone" rows, the dolphins and Shamu family can and will splash you quite a bit, maybe even drench you.
  • Bring your own rain poncho. You can find the very cheap versions at your local dollar store. But you only need one if you want to stay dry, and/or protect your bags, camera and cellphone. Of course, they sell the nice quality Sea World San Diego souvenir versions of ponchos there at the park, but if you don't want to fork out the extra cash, why not bring your own? They don't take up much room in your bag and you can toss it when done. They are mainly needed if you want to sit in the "soak zone" of the shows, or on the Shipwreck Rapids or Journey To Atlantis rides.
  • Bring a light change of clothes. Just in case you get soaked and the bay breezes start getting more intense. Which leads me to...
  • Take the Sky Ride while the winds are calm. It costs a few dollars extra for tickets to this ride, which is like a gondola which goes out over Mission Bay. Unfortunately, it closed down early while we were there due to winds, even though other parts of the park had nary a breeze. We could've gotten our money back, but we waited until 15 minutes before closing time, then we were told it had reopened. I think we were one of the only ones in the park to enjoy a post sunset, moonlit sky ride. It was lovely.
  • Don't miss the Wild Arctic exhibit. My daughter wanted to go on it, but I'd heard it was one of those stationary helicopter rides where you move around a lot, but don't actually go anywhere. Those make me quite ill, so my husband risked losing his lunch instead and went with her.

Alternative:  While my son and I waited, we accidentally discovered that you can actually walk through the exhibit that follows the "ride/show" and forego the helicopter bit, so we did. The path takes you underground into an icy, subterranean world where you can view magnificent Beluga whales swimming, monstrous walruses, and even a couple of polar bears, all in an Arctic habitat.

  • Check with your hotel to see if they offer a free shuttle to Sea World. This is a great deal, because  you can save on the hefty parking fee the park charges.  Unfortunately, our hotel did not have a shuttle, plus they charged $10 per night to park there as well! So try and get a hotel with free parking and a free shuttle!
  • Check around for discounts before you go. Ask your hotel if they offer discount San Diego Sea World tickets. Many do. Our hotel offered $4 off per adult, but we also had a Burger King coupon that offered $7 off on weekends and $10 off on weekdays per adult. But the concierge told us our best bet was to use our AAA (auto club) card at the gate. That was good for $10 off per adult, plus half off per kid. A total of $64 off for our family of four.

Please note:  Prices and discounts may be totally different at the time you are reading this. So check it out!

Check these discount SeaWorld Cares tickets here before you go.

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