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 splashin' 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 and pay high gate prices. You can purchase a pass, Fun Card or a discount ticket from Undercover Tourist. We even sell two-park tickets to SeaWorld and Sesame Place!
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's 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. A weekend in January is uncrowded, but you'll find fewer show times as well. 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. There are lots of family-fun events and new events heading our way!
3. Consider purchasing Quick Queue and Quick Queue Premier if you are visiting during the busiest times.
Quick Queue is the easiest way to maximize your time at SeaWorld San Diego. With a new ride — Emperor — you can use Quick Queue skip the lines and save time for more animal fun. The offerings recently changed for Quick Queue:
- Quick Queue Unlimited allows you unlimited single-day access to the express entrances at Electric Eel, Shipwreck Rapids, Manta and Emperor.
- Quick Queue Premier includes reserved seating at most SeaWorld shows, including Orca Encounter, Dolphin Adventures and Sea Lion & Otter Spotlight, PLUS the Regular Quick Queue Unlimited rides.
- Year-Round Quick Queue Premier is for you local frogs and tadpoles. You can get skip-the-line and reserved seating all year long.
- SeaWorld San Diego reserved seating in the SeaWorld San Diego app. If shows are more important to you than rides, purchase just the shows in the SeaWorld San Diego app to save money. Just tap on the show in the schedule to purchase.
- Quick Queue Junior is for the tadpole-friendly rides including Octarock, Sea Dragon Drop, Aqua Scout, Tentacle Twirl, Elmo’s Flying Fish, Oscar’s Rocking Eel, Abby’s Sea Star Spin and Riptide Rescue.
You may purchase Quick Queue online in advance or through the SeaWorld San Diego app. It does sell out on busy days. Prices vary by day, and pass members can log in to save money. At times, you may be able to purchase smaller or seasonal select shows individually.
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 wait in long food lines or take time 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 Emperor, 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.
If rides are important to you, the shortest lines of the day are in the morning. So hit a few rides before you visit the animals.
6. Prepare for the water rides and Soak Zones.
Bring along inexpensive ponchos so that you can ride the water rides without getting drenched (unless you want to get wet). This is especially hopful if you decide to ride Shipwreck Rapids 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 Journey to Atlantis!
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 toward the back of the Soak Zone rows.
7. Bring your own water.
Water bottles and baby food/formula are technically the only food and drink items that SeaWorld San Diego allows you to bring into the park. There are exceptions for people with special dietary needs, such as allergies. Coolers, straws and glass containers are prohibited within the park, although guests are welcome to leave those in cars and use the picnic areas near the park entrance plaza. We have brought small snacks for the tadpoles in many times without a problem. You can find fill stations around the park (as well as a charging station near the Sea Lions if your phone is running low on power).
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 with tadpoles before shows to get the wiggles out.
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 but you'll find the shortest lines at the beginning and end of the day. Children must be 42 inches tall to ride by themselves.
There is a splash pad if your tadpoles need to cool off and plenty of opportunities to run, crawl and jump around the Net Climb or Air Bounce to get the wiggles out. After running free, your small children just might be willing to sit still for a show, with a snack and beverage, of course.
10. Travel light to save time and money.
The downside of bringing a bag is that you cannot bring a bag or loose items on thrill rides such as Manta or Electric Eel. You can either leave your belongings with a family member who is not riding or rent a locker. The ride lockers have a fee. It's $2 for three hours. You might see if you can get two rides in before you retrieve your belongings to save money. Wearing clothes with a pocket that zips or snaps shut can save you from having to store your stuff.
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. Infants must be able to walk to ride.
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 - 52 inches (132 cm) with a max of 78 inches (198 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. Download the latest version of the SeaWorld app for the best experience and cool new features. 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, character meet and greets and showtimes. You can even use it to get walking directions to your next attraction.
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. We like the back rows of the soak zones, where we can see well but not get wet. In between the shows, we ride the rides and experience the animal encounters. (Tad and Lily both especially love Dolphin Adventures and Sea Lion & Otter Spotlight)
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. You might encounter dance parties, get freebies or catch a parade.
Enjoy circus acts and food from New Orleans during Mardis Gras. Then during certain weekends in spring, you can enjoy unique flavors from around the world at the Seven Seas Craft Beer & Food Festival. Each summer night ends with a bang with nightly fireworks! Dress the tadpoles up in costumes and prepare to trick or treat park-wide at 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, lights, festive foods and drinks, live shows 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. With close-up encounters, you can meet dolphins, penguins, sloths, beluga whales walruses and more! Some of the animals you can meet up close, pet or maybe even feed. We got to pet a penguin on one tour and give a dolphin a command and feed it a fish in another!
Check out the new sloth encounter (it's on the backside of the Dolphin amphitheater where the Dolphin Interaction Program takes place). You can even dine with the orcas, but you need to reserve online in advance!
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. There are sinks nearby for hand washing.
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 such as the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, LEGOLAND and many more!
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