SeaWorld San Diego is home to the world's very first SeaWorld, 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 few hang-onto-your hat thrill rides. Plus, the Sesame Street Bay of Play keeps 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. (Get started with our SeaWorld San Diego Touring Plan). Here are our favorite SeaWorld San Diego shows and attractions.
9 Best SeaWorld San Diego Shows and Attractions
1. Sea Lions LIVE
Those crazy, clever sea lions, Clyde and Seamore, are up to their usual hijinks as they perform live-action TV and music spooks in this 20-minute show. For even more laughs, catch Clyde and Seamore in Sea Lions Tonite — the nightly spoof of Sea World attractions and shows.
2. Pets Rule!
It may seem surprising that one of the best SeaWorld San Diego shows and attractions has no sea animals in it! But you’ll have a lot of fun seeing a spunky lot of mostly rescued dogs, cats, birds and even potbellied pigs show off their best training moves in this high-energy show demonstrating fun — and humane — animal training techniques.
3. Sky Tower
One of the oldest rides in the park, Sky Tower offers spectacular 360-degree views of SeaWorld, Mission Bay and surrounding San Diego from 320 feet in the air. There is a $5 entrance fee to ride. The best times to view are on a clear day and after the cloud cover has lifted over San Diego.
4. Shark Encounter
You’ll start out this exhibit by looking at the sharks from above, but then you’ll enter a glass tunnel that 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.
5. Journey to Atlantis
While it shares the same name as the SeaWorld Orlando water flume ride, the San Diego version is more coaster than 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.
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. For those taller (54 inches) family members who really crave thrills, also add Electric Eel to your must-ride list. It’s the tallest and fastest roller coaster at SeaWorld. Did we forget to mention the twists and rolls, and that you’ll be moving forwards AND backwards? It’s shocking!
7. Wild Arctic
This combination motion simulator and animal exhibit explore the icy landscape of the Arctic Circle. Guests, especially those who experience motion sickness, have the option of skipping the ride and heading straight for the beluga whales and walruses, but we think the perilous jet helicopter ride perfectly sets the stage for the awesome animal encounters. Once you enter the exhibit, you can come face to race with walruses, beluga whales and harbor seals. There’s a frozen ice wall and kids love crawling through a frozen den. Be sure to hop next door to see the penguins while you are in the area.
8. Dolphin Days
Watch bottlenose dolphins leap high out of the water and interact with their trainers. If you are a dolphin lover — and who doesn’t love dolphins? — then be sure to spend some time at Dolphin Point after the show where you can touch, watch and maybe even play catch with a dolphin. They like to watch you almost as much as you like watching them!
9. Orca Encounter
The majesty of the orca whale 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 and find out what people can learn from these orcas to help whales survive in the wild.
Bonus: 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 stingrays and other animals will be the highlight of their trip!
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.