Leap's note: SeaWorld San Diego has partially reopened as a zoo following a temporary closure due to COVID-19. During this period, rides, play areas and certain attractions may be unavailable. Hop over to our SeaWorld San Diego reopening post for the latest ticket information, details, safety measures and SeaWorld San Diego tips.
SeaWorld San Diego is one of the premier attractions in San Diego and a must-do for any visit to Southern California. The marine park offers incredible views of sea life and other animals through up-close and even hands-on encounters, shows and exhibits. Alongside the animals, there are some incredible attractions that can make it hard to decide what to do first. With a little planning and these SeaWorld San Diego tips, you can maximize your time and have a splashing good time!
Our Top SeaWorld San Diego Tips to Maximize Your Time
1. Buy your tickets in advance.
You will save money and time if you purchase your tickets in advance, since you can find great discounts and you won't have to stand in line at Will Call. In fact, during the SeaWorld San Diego reopening period, park capacity is limited, so you will need to purchase your dated ticket in advance or make a reservation if you have a pass, Fun Card or a discount ticket from Undercover Tourist. You can even purchase parking in advance to save a few dollars and some time when entering the lot!
2. Pick the best times to visit.
The summer months and days around major holidays are when SeaWorld San Diego is busiest. Basically, whenever kids are out of school, you can expect major crowds. But this is also when SeaWorld San Diego hours of operation are the longest. You'll find more shows and more showtimes, so you have to decide whether you want to visit with fewer crowds or fewer shows. There are a number of fun SeaWorld San Diego events and holiday celebrations that may make it extra fun to visit at certain times. Many of the events take place on weekends. We were excited to see an in-park sign detailing some hoppin' park events to come — there are lots of family-fun events heading our way!
3. Consider purchasing Quick Queue and Quick Queue Premier if you are visiting during the busiest times.
Quick Queue allows you unlimited single-day access to the express entrances at Electric Eel, Journey to Atlantis, Wild Arctic, Shipwreck Rapids and Manta. Quick Queue Premier includes all of the benefits of Quick Queue, PLUS reserved seating at most SeaWorld shows, including Orca Encounter, Dolphin Amphitheater and Sea Lion & Otter Amphitheater. This is the easiest way to maximize your time at SeaWorld San Diego. If shows are more important to you than rides, you can purchase reserved seating for just shows and presentations.
4. Eat breakfast before you get to the park.
You'll save time and money if you fuel up before you head to the park. While there are great dining options at SeaWorld San Diego, we think your money is better saved for lunch. When your tadpoles enter the park, they will want to visit the animals and are not going to want to sit and eat. Plus you'll encounter low crowds in the morning, so you'll want to take advantage of the less crowded times.
5. Arrive ahead of park opening.
That old saying, "the early frog gets the fly" is especially true at SeaWorld San Diego. We're not sure if it's just San Diego's laid-back vibes, but the crowds really start building around lunchtime. Therefore, arriving just before park opening gives you plenty of touring time. We like to get a jump on the rides, animal encounters and exhibits at this time. Personally, we like to tour the park counterclockwise, visiting Journey to Atlantis, Wild Arctic and the penguin exhibits first since they are closer to the park entrance and then head to the other side of the park.
During normal operation, you can get a jump on your day with Animal Morning Moments. Check the SeaWorld San Diego hours and arrive early on select days to learn interesting facts about the animals. Connect with various marine life at Explorers Reef Interactive Touch Pools, see orcas up close at Underwater Viewing, visit with dolphins at Dolphin Point and learn about otters at Otter Outlook. Trainers are available to share information about the animals. Look on the calendar for Animal Morning Moments at 10:00 a.m. on days when the park opens at 10:30 a.m. This is not available right now, but you can still enjoy light crowds when you arrive at park opening.
6. Prepare for the water rides and Soak Zones.
Bring along inexpensive ponchos so that you can ride the water rides without a drenching (unless you want to get wet). This is especially hopful if you decide to ride Journey to Atlantis first thing! You can decide when you get to the shows whether you want to sit in the splash zone or stay dry. Know that you're also liable to get a good soaking on Shipwreck Rapids, although the name should be a good giveaway!
Our tadpoles love to sit close to the front of shows and enjoy getting wet, as many frogs do. Mommy Frog? Not so much. The compromise is to wear a poncho or to sit towards the back of the Soak Zone rows.
7. Bring your own water.
Water bottles and baby food are the only food and drink items that SeaWorld San Diego allows you to bring into the park. Coolers, straws and glass containers are also prohibited within the park, although guests are welcome to leave those in cars and use the picnic areas near the park entrance plaza. SeaWorld's official policy on guests with medical diets and baby formula is to seek a park representative for assistance before entering.
8. Eat lunch at off-peak times.
Especially during the busiest times of the year, you will maximize your time at SeaWorld San Diego if you eat lunch earlier or later than the standard lunch hour.
9. Visit Sesame Street Bay of Play in the afternoon.
Sesame Street Bay of Play is full of pint-sized rides that are perfect for toddlers and young children. Lines don't get as long for these attractions as they do for the bigger rides, and we suggest coming back to them since they are close to the park exit. Children must be 42 inches tall to ride by themselves.
10. Consider purchasing a Quick Queue Junior Pass.
If you are interested in skipping the lines with little ones who are not tall enough for the big thrill rides, you can get an inexpensive Quick Queue Junior Pass for rides the tadpoles will love in the Sesame Street Bay of Play.
11. Research height requirements in advance.
You don’t want to get your tadpoles hyped for a ride only to have them turned away because they aren’t tall enough or because you cannot accompany them due to a baby in your arms. Know the height restrictions in advance so you can schedule rides that meet your family’s interests and needs. Some rides require a supervising companion who is at least 14 years old or do not allow a hand-held infant.
Here are the height requirements for each attraction at SeaWorld San Diego:
- Abby's Sea Star Spin - 42 inches (107 cm) or accompanied by a supervisor. No hand-held infants.
- Aqua Scout - 36 inches (91 cm) or accompanied by a supervisor.
- Bayside Skyride - 56 inches (142 cm) or accompanied by a supervisor.
- Electric Eel - 54 inches (137 cm) or taller.
- Elmo's Flying Fish - 48 inches (122 cm) or accompanied by a supervisor. No hand-held infants.
- Emperor (open spring 2021) - 52 inches (132 cm).
- Journey to Atlantis - 42 inches (107 cm) or taller. Guests between 42 inches (107 cm) and 48 inches (122 cm) in height must be accompanied by a supervisor.
- Manta - 48 inches (122 cm) or taller.
- Octarock - 31 inches (79 cm) or taller.
- Oscar's Rocking Eel - 42 inches (107 cm) or accompanied by a supervisor. No hand-held infants.
- Riptide Rescue - 45 inches (114 cm) or taller. Guests between 45 inches (114 cm) and 50 inches (127 cm) must be accompanied by a supervisor.
- Sea Dragon Drop - 36 inches (91 cm) or accompanied by a supervisor.
- Shipwreck Rapids - 42 inches (107 cm) or taller. Guests between 42 inches (107 cm) and 48 inches (122 cm) in height must be accompanied by a supervisor.
- Skytower - 48 inches (122 cm) or accompanied by a supervisor.
- Tentacle Twirl - 40 inches (106 cm) or taller.
- Wild Arctic - 42 inches (107 cm) or taller.
12. Download a park map and the app.
The SeaWorld park map has gone digital. The SeaWorld Discovery Guide is the official app. Use the app or your phone's camera to scan the map code in the park. There are also large park maps located throughout the park. The app lists hours for the park, rides, restaurants, characters and showtimes.
13. Schedule your day around the shows.
You can do this before you leave home by checking the date on the calendar to see the show schedule a week or so ahead of your visit. Plan to arrive at least 20 minutes ahead of the shows (and even earlier during peak times) to get seats in the best viewing area. In between the shows, we ride the rides and experience the animal encounters. (Tad and Lily both especially love Dolphin Days and Sea Lions Live!)
14. Take advantage of festivals and special events.
If any SeaWorld San Diego special events are taking place during your visit, you can attend them for a nice bonus in addition to all of the regularly-scheduled shows and activities. During certain weekends in spring, you can enjoy unique flavors from around the world at the Seven Seas Craft Beer & Food Festival. Bring the tadpoles to Kids' Weekends in May and June.
Summer nights, you can immerse yourself in family-friendly, exotic worlds of music and light for Electric Ocean. Enjoy BBQ & Brews late summer. Dress the tadpoles up in costumes and prepare to trick or treat park-wide at the Halloween Spooktacular during select weekends in September and October. Come back at night without the kids for the new Howl-O-Scream event. SeaWorld salutes veterans on and around Veterans Day. Then, come Thanksgiving through early January, you can join Rudolph and friends for a Christmas event with games, photo ops, decorations, festive foods and drinks, live shows, the Merry Manta ride overlay and a visit with the big guy himself — Santa!
15. Book a tour or animal interaction program.
There are a lot of shows, rides and animal interaction opportunities that come included in your park ticket, but if you really want to get up close and personal with some of the animals, you can book toadally special encounters for an additional fee.
These tours are sure to make lasting, hoppy memories for your tadpoles. If you are early risers, you can take a Family Adventure Tour to meet some dolphins and bat rays before the park even opens — getting an extra early start is a great way to maximize your time at SeaWorld San Diego! Some of the animals you can meet up close, or maybe even feed, on other tours include penguins, flamingos, belugas and walruses, dolphins, seals and sea lions, whales or sea otters. Check out the new sloth encounter (it's on the backside of the Dolphin Days amphitheater where the Dolphin Interaction Program takes place). You can even dine with the orcas during breakfast or dinner!
Another fun thing to do is feed the rays or the sea lions. Those sea lions will do anything for the fish. They vocalize, wave fins and some even steal fish being thrown to other sea lions. The entertainment is toadally worth the small cost — and having to wash fish slime off your hands! Bring gloves if you wish to avoid touching fish.
Now you are set to maximize your time with these SeaWorld San Diego tips! The only thing better than visiting SeaWorld is getting a great deal on SeaWorld San Diego tickets. Hop over to check out the deals on SeaWorld San Diego tickets from Undercover Tourist, including tickets with all-day dining. If you have a few days to spend in San Diego, you might consider a Go San Diego Multi Attraction Pass, which includes Sea World admission and other major attractions like the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park (which now require dated tickets or reservations), LEGOLAND and many more!
Related: When to Visit San Diego