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Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions

by Mommy Frog on March 1, 2024 4 San Diego

San Diego is home to the world's very first SeaWorld. The park was founded in 1964 as a marine zoological park along Mission Bay. Today, the park is as much a theme park as it is a marine park, with fantastic shows, animal exhibits, aquariums and, yes, a growing list of hang-onto-your-hat thrill rides. Plus the play areas keep the tadpoles hoppin’. There is plenty to see and do in a day at SeaWorld, and we definitely recommend you plan in advance so that you don't miss out on anything. Here are our favorite SeaWorld San Diego shows and attractions.

You'll want to check the showtimes for your visit online or in the SeaWorld San Diego app and plan your day around the show schedule. Keep in mind that you may even get to experience additional seasonal shows, depending on when you visit. Our post on SeaWorld San Diego events will fill you in on special entertainment and 60th anniversary fun that may be hoppening when you visit in 2024.

Keep an eye out for new family-friendly entertainment debuting in 2024! There's a new Shamu and Crew - Together Again character show as well as a new character parade in summer.

The Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Boy looks at fish with excitement

Here are the top things to do at SeaWorld San Diego. Keep in mind that the Jewels of the Sea: The Jellyfish Experience is coming in spring 2024! It will be the newest immersive and interactive aquarium at SeaWorld San Diego.

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions - Jellyfish concept art


1. Rescue Jr. (formerly Sesame Street Bay of Play) 

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Kids play in splash zone

Your tadpoles will have some splish-splashin' fun with the water play area, air bounce, toddler mat and rides that are just their speed. Your tadpoles can explore a three-story-high climbing area. Bring swimsuits for the splash pad.

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Air bounce

What's new? Your tadpoles can test their rescue skills in an ocean-themed Mini Rescuer Training Zone. The soft play area is full of ocean themed play structures! They can sit and play on a Rescue boat or plane, climb on a sandcastle, some ocean rocks and a pier.

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Kids pet and meet a tortoise at Rescue Jr.

Your family can meet Animal Conservation Ambassadors and learn about and meet rescued animals (including marsupials, primates and reptiles) during presentations (during busier times). Get a close-up look at real rescue vehicles such as a pickup truck and a dinghy boat.

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Kids enjoy a ride at rescue Jr.

You'll also find some tadpole-friendly rides at Rescue Jr. There are a few more kid rides located just outside Rescue Jr., between the park entrance and Electric Eel. In fact, if you are are visiting with tadpoles who do not quite measure up to big rides, these rides can be a lot of fun. The bouncy Aqua Scout looks tame, but it had our whole family ribbiting with laughter. Visit in the morning for the shortest ride wait times.

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Family laughs on Aqua Scout

2. Sea Lion & Otter Spotlight

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Sea Lions perform tricks in show

Those talented, clever sea lions, Clyde and Seamore, are up to their usual hijinks. Joined by their buddy, OP, an Asian small-clawed otter, they show off their skills in this silly but educational 20-minute show.

3. Journey to Atlantis

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Boat makes a Splash on Atlantis

While it shares the same name as the SeaWorld Orlando water flume ride, the San Diego version is more of a coaster than a water ride — although you will get wet! If you ride early in the day when it's cooler, you may need your poncho. The tadpoles love standing in the splash zone and watching the boats come down on a hot day. They don't even have to ride to get wet!

4. Turtle Reef

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Guests watch turtles pass by

Head below to watch the turtles swim above you while you stay dry. Come face to face with peaceful green sea turtles, loggerheads or hawksbill turtles (along with tropical fish). As you exit, you'll be in the perfect spot to hop in line to visit the sharks at Shark Encounter.

 Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Shark passes overhead

5. Shark Encounter

You’ll start out this exhibit by looking at the sharks from above, but then you’ll enter a glass tunnel that allows you to view them from below. The tunnel sends you through the middle of the prehistoric creatures’ water (keeping you dry, but surrounding you with sharks). Enjoy every heart-pounding minute of watching white shark bellies gliding over your head and being able to get up close and personal with hundreds of pointy teeth that are safely on the other side of the glass.

6. Manta

Like Journey to Atlantis, Manta also shares its name with a coaster at SeaWorld Orlando. Again, the two are very different. SeaWorld Orlando's Manta is the smoothest coaster I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing, but its thrills scare off plenty of would-be riders. The San Diego version is a fun family coaster (for those 48 inches and up) and a must-do, but it's nowhere near the scare level of its Orlando counterpart. It has a thrilling and surprising launch. Say "Cheese!" as you scream during takeoff because that moment will be captured by a camera.

SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions - Manta

7. Beluga Whales and Walruses

Explore a frozen exhibit where you can come face-to-face with walruses, beluga whales and harbor seals. Run your hands along a frozen ice wall and let the tadpoles crawl through a frozen den. We love to take our time in this exhibit and spend time looking at the animals.

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Kid and walrus look at each other

While you are in the area, hop next door to visit nearly 400 penguins! SeaWorld San Diego is the only place in North America to see an Emperor Penguin. And soon you'll be able to dive like one, too, on the new Emperor dive coaster (opening March 12, 2022)! This looping coaster is California's first floorless dive coaster. With top speeds over 60 mph and a dive plunge over 150 feet (and over 90 degrees), this is the tallest and fastest dive coaster in California.

8. Dolphin Adventures

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Dolphins leap out of water in show

Watch bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales leap high out of the water and interact with their trainers. If you are a dolphin lover — and who doesn’t love dolphins? — then spend some time at Dolphin Point after the show. They like to watch you almost as much as you like watching them! The dolphins love to keep their audience guessing, so hop by for a second show if you have the time. You just might get to see some different tricks.

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Guest interact with dolphin during a dolphin encounter

If you cannot get enough of dolphins, your family will flip for exclusive face-to-face Dolphin Encounter and Dolphin Interaction experiences. These interactions do cost extra, but the memories are priceless.

Dolphin does tricks on command during an encounter with guests.

9. Orca Encounter

The majesty of the orcas and their amazing size and strength are the focal points of this show. Learn about how orcas hunt, communicate and play. You can witness their behaviors, learn about the role of family and find out what people can learn from these orcas to help whales survive in the wild.

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Kids at touch poolEven if you do not catch a show, hop by to visit the beautiful orcas. There is an underwater viewing area to help you get a better look. If you bring props, such as a small ball or toy, you just might capture — and keep— their attention!

10. Explorer's Reef

As soon as you enter the park, you can immediately immerse your hands in the water and your mind in the world of various sea animals at Explorer’s Reef. While this experience isn't a show or a ride, it’s still exciting to start your visit by touching a reef shark and getting educated about the animals from the people who work with them. At Explorer's Reef, guests can go under the wave sculpture and get up close to a number of underwater sea creatures. If your little ones are anything like Tad and Lily, putting their hands in the water and touching the animals will be the highlight of their trip!

11. Emperor

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-Emperor coaster

Heres one for you true thrill seekers out there. Emperor is an all-new floorless dive coaster. In fact, it's the tallest, fastest and longest dive coaster in all of California! The views of San Diego and Mission Bay from the top are breathtaking. Better catch your breath through before you plunge 90 degrees down 14 stories and soar up to 60 m.p.h, because you're going to need it to scream your way down.

For those taller (54 inches) family members who really crave thrills, also add Electric Eel to your must-ride list. Did we forget to mention the twists and rolls, and that you’ll be moving forward AND backward? It’s shocking! But ride it early in the day because the line can get long.

12. Arctic Rescue 

Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions-People on coaster return to indoor loading area.

This new family-friendly launch coaster is a fast, outdoor snowmobile-themed ride. As the fastest and longest straddle coaster on the West Coast, Arctic rescue has three launches and reaches speeds of up to 40 m.p.h. All this on 2,800 feet of track. Tad is a huge fan! It's a great coaster for people who do not like huge drops or loops.

We hope our look at our favorite SeaWorld San Diego shows and attractions has you ready for your visit! If you're looking for more help in planning your San Diego vacation, look no further than our San Diego Planning Guide. You can also save money with our discounted SeaWorld San Diego tickets and passes.

Related: Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Height Requirements

Related:  15 Tips to Maximize Your Time at SeaWorld San Diego

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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Nov 9, 2017 at 3:59 p.m. Zachary Says...


Jul 9, 2014 at 10:19 p.m. J Beresford Says...

For those staying into the evening during summertime, I'd skip Sea Lions Live in favor of the much funnier Sea Lions Tonight show. Be sure to arrive at least 20 minutes early to catch the hilarious pre-show. Also recommended (but not on list) is the Cirque de la Mer show featured during summer days only.

Sep 15, 2014 at 12:50 p.m. G-Factor Says...

I HIGHLY agree on the "Sea Lions Tonight" show!!! I do not remember the last time I laughed so hard!!

Jul 14, 2014 at 4:16 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Great tips! Thank you so much for sharing. I would love to see more suggestions from readers.

Mommy Frog

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