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11 Tips to Maximize Your Time at SeaWorld San Diego

by Leap on November 5, 2014 29 San Diego   Video

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, 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 tips, you can maximize your time at SeaWorld San Diego.

Maximize Your Time at SeaWorld San Diego

Here are 11 tips to maximize your time at SeaWorld San Diego:

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.

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's park hours are the longest, and there are more shows and more showtimes. So you have to decide whether you want to visit with fewer crowds or fewer shows.

3. Consider purchasing Quick Queue and Quick Queue Premier if you are visiting during the busiest times. 

Maximize your time at SeaWorld San Diego - Manta

Quick Queue allows you unlimited single-day access to the express entrances at Journey to Atlantis, Wild Arctic, Shipwreck Rapids, Bayside Sky Ride and Manta. Quick Queue Premier includes all of the benefits of Quick Queue PLUS reserved seating at most SeaWorld shows, including One Ocean, Blue Horizons, Shamu Rocks (during Summer Nights), Pets Rule, Sea Lions Live and Sea Lions Tonite (during Summer Nights). Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation is not included. This is the easiest way to maximize your time at SeaWorld San Diego.

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.

5. Arrive ahead of park opening. 

Maximize your time at SeaWorld San Diego - Wild Arctic Exhibit

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 lunch time. 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 counter-clockwise visiting Journey to Atlantis, Wild Arctic and the penguin exhibits since they are closer to the park entrance and then head to the other side of the park.

6. Prepare for the water rides. 

Bring along inexpensive ponchos so that you can ride the water rides without a drenching (unless you want to get wet). This is especially helpful 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. Know that you're also liable to get a good soaking on Shipwreck Rapids, although the name should be a good giveaway :)

7. Bring your own water. 

Water bottles are the only food and drink items that SeaWorld San Diego allows you to bring into the park. Coolers 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. 

Maximize your time at SeaWorld San Diego - Dining

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.

Maximize your time at SeaWorld San Diego - Sesame Street Bay of Play

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 for the bigger rides, and we suggest coming back to them since they are close to the park exit. Children must be 42 inches to ride by themselves.

10. Check the park map for character meet-and-greet times and more. 

All of the park's character encounter times are listed on the park map. Additionally, the Sesame Street characters come out to pose for pictures after each Sunny Days show in the Bay of Play. The park map also lists open and close times for the rides, restaurants and shows.

11. Schedule your day around the shows. 

You can do this before you leave home by checking 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 the Bat Rays and Shark Encounter!)

We hope you've enjoyed our tips to maximize your time at SeaWorld San Diego. Have a tip we haven't listed? Share in comments below!

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Leap!
View Comments
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Sep 17, 2018 at 10:20 p.m. Jennifer Langan Says...

Is is less busy during the week in the summertime, or is it about the same as a weekend? Want to come the last week of August of next year. Is it still pretty crowded during that time? I know that school is back in session in different parts of the country.

Sep 17, 2018 at 11:52 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jennifer!

You can check out our Crowd Calendar for a good idea of what to expect in August.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Aug 25, 2018 at 4:18 p.m. Antonio Says...

Can you come and go from the parking area. We want to arrive in the morning, leave for a bit then return later in the day.

Aug 28, 2018 at 7:29 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Antonio!

Yes, you can!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Aug 22, 2018 at 11:36 p.m. AshleyD Says...

We're planning our first ever trip to the area. It'll be my husband and me, our three sons ages 3, 6, 9, and my husband's parents. We will be hitting SeaWorld San Diego on Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Will it be crazy busy with huge crowds and ridiculous waits? We plan to be at the park before opening both days, but any other tips for enjoying our trip? Thanks!

Aug 25, 2018 at 2:54 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Ashley!

That sounds like it will be an absolute blast. It will definitely be more crowded than usual with holiday crowds, but don't be scared off. Be sure to arrive early and have a game plan of which rides and experiences are your top priority.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Aug 17, 2018 at 5:43 p.m. Pauline Says...

We have triplets 3 yrs old. Last time 2 strollers were a bit too much w the crowds. Do you allow wagons? It's easier for them us to manage and allows them to nap better.

Aug 25, 2018 at 3:08 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Pauline!

Yes, SeaWorld does allow wagons.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Apr 28, 2018 at 12:49 a.m. Lexy Says...

Can we leave SeaWorld San Antonio to go eat outside and then fo back in to SeaWorld?

May 3, 2018 at 1:13 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Lexy!

Yes, you can! Just keep your parking receipt for re-entry.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Apr 9, 2018 at 6:14 a.m. Julie P Says...

What is the easiest way to get from the Cruise port (Princess Cruise) to Sea World? The cruise line no longer offers a Sea World excursion.

Apr 10, 2018 at 3:59 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Julie,

We'd recommend renting a car to get to San Diego from the port.

Keep hopping!


Mar 5, 2018 at 10:24 p.m. Shane king Says...

About how long are the shows? I'm trying to plan out a general itinerary to see as much as possible and knowing how much time to allow for each show would really help

Mar 6, 2018 at 12:07 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Shane!

Shows at SeaWorld run an average of 20 minutes!

Keep hopping!


Oct 20, 2017 at 6 p.m. Jenny Says...


Would you recommend the up close parking over general parking for a visit on a Saturday in October? We will most likely be getting to the park about 2 hours after it opens.

It is only a $3 difference so very negligible but since it is so little that makes me wonder if it really matters. Typically the better parking spots at theme parks run at about $10 more.

Thanks in advance :)

Oct 20, 2017 at 2:38 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jenny,

We find that since we're walking so much that parking closer isn't a big deal. If you have little ones then the premium parking may be worth it.

Keep hopping!


Oct 2, 2017 at 1:54 a.m. G Says...

We are thinking of taking our kids 4 and 6 years old to SeaWorld, Zoo and Lego Land during either the last week in Dec or the 1st week in January. Any recommendations? Do they still have animal shows and swimming with dolphins during that time of the year?

Oct 2, 2017 at 9:47 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi G,

All of those places offer unique experiences for kids that age, especially LEGOLAND. As for SeaWorld, the animal shows and experiences should be running during the holiday season.

Keep hopping!


Aug 29, 2017 at 5:07 p.m. Kandi Says...

Hi, question for you. We are coming the end of September 2017 and we are wanting to visit Sea World and the Zoo. We have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday open to attend those two places. What day do you recommend for us to visit the zoo and Sea World? Appreciate your help! Thanks so much!

Aug 30, 2017 at 8:47 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Kandi,

Looking at our San Diego Crowd Calendar, we're forecasting low to average attendance at those parks throughout much of September. Any day should be fine!

Keep hopping!


Aug 17, 2017 at 11:08 a.m. Maria Says...

If I purchase the three day in advanced tickets today on Thursday can I visit on Saturday?

Aug 17, 2017 at 6:57 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Maria,

Yes. Select the e-ticket option and bring them to the park with you on Saturday.

Keep Hopping!


Feb 19, 2017 at 6:32 a.m. Bsquared Says...

Wondering if the All a day Dining is worth it? How many "meals" can we get?

Feb 19, 2017 at 4:03 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Bsquared,

The All Day Dining allows you one entree, one side and one non-alcoholic beverage once every 60 minutes. If you're staying in the park all day, it may be worth it. Note that it's only at select locations and doesn't include outdoor vending things like soft serve. Check out the details right here.

Keep Hopping!


May 10, 2016 at 2:50 a.m. lorie Says...

I am 53 yrs old ihave not been to seaworls since my 34 yr old son was 6 mo. old and I took my grandchildren on mothers day they as well as I hade the time off our lives everyone one was kind,helpful,and so polite . I could not have ask for a better day it brought back great memories that we created when my grandmother was alive and I just want to take a minute to tell you how wonderful you made our day together for now and until we visit again thank you so much ,sincerely,the Collins /kandalepas family

Apr 28, 2016 at 10:47 p.m. Guy Says...


Planning on coming in October and hear its kids free month. We will be going to the both the zoo and seaworld on sunday and Monday.

Was wondering in waht order would be best. If the queues worked well than maybe seaworld on the busier day ?

Does seaworld offer more things for the above 3-11 get in free age ?

Thank you


May 20, 2016 at 10:45 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Guy,

Visit SeaWorld on Sunday in October to take advantage of free trick or treating in the park, which may be offered only on weekends. There is plenty for kids 3-11 at SeaWorld from shows to rides to Halloween events. We visited SeaWorld in October last year and crowds were low. Halloween was low-key but fun. Hey, free candy and wearing a costume is always fun!

Keep hopping!


Feb 20, 2016 at 10:55 a.m. Shay Says...

I am trying to plan a trip with my 11 Yr old daughter from entitle to san diego and go to all the main places like San Diego zoo, seaworld and swim with the dolphins, maybe the water oark, maybe the safari, maybe drive to disneyland. I have never planned a trip on my own and would like any advice on how to do this. Do I go thru a travel agency, or what do I do to find the best flight orice, hotel, car rental, the works. I am a single mom and hope to find the best price and it seems something like this could be bought in a bundle type thing, but I have no clue on where to look for something like this. I want us to get the full experience because this, for us, is probably a once in a life time trip. I want her to have a day at the beach and everything. I was thinking I wanted to stay at the hotel that has the water slides, but then I thought maybe money should be spent on other things and we should put hitel at the bottom of the list because maybe we should plan on having all our fun out side of the hotel and only use the hotel for sleep time. So maybe we could save money on not care g too much about the hotel we stay in and spend our money on the fun places to go to.

Feb 24, 2016 at 6:23 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Shay,

Sounds like it's going to be fun. You could use an agency, but you don't always get the best price by doing this. We have found it's often better to do a little research. If you buy park tickets from us, you are then entitled to up 50% savings on car rental.

Here is a link to our San Diego tickets:

Here is a link to our San Diego planning guide:

Keep hopping!


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