SeaWorld San Diego is making a splash with Zoo Days: Bayside BBQ & Brews. The park is open on select days Aug. 28 to Sept. 27. The theme park has been temporarily closed since March due to COVID-19. SeaWorld San Diego got the green light to open its doors ahead of other California theme parks because the marine park can operate under state guidance for zoos and aquariums. That means only certain areas of the park are open, such as the animal-focused areas (now including some indoor aquariums with limited capacity) and shows. However, rides and other attractions will remain closed a little longer until theme parks and indoor exhibits are cleared to reopen. That's OK. We were so hoppy to be back for the SeaWorld San Diego reopening event!
SeaWorld San Diego Zoo Days Details
Let's dive into the yummy and fin-tastic details of SeaWorld San Diego Zoo Days. This special event takes place on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day from Aug. 28 through Sept. 27. SeaWorld San Diego Zoo Days Tickets are on sale now! Admission includes a tasting lanyard with up to six selections each of chef-created BBQ, craft and domestic beer or nonalcoholic beverages of your choice. You can purchase tickets from your favorite semi-aquatic froggy friends! Don't froget to purchase discounted SeaWorld parking at the same time to save both money and time!
What's on the menu at this event? Your lanyard punch card gets you food tastings (or beverages) from a wide variety of chef-designed items, such as specialty beer-infused BBQ brisket sliders, shrimp tacos, grilled fish tacos al pastor, German bratwurst and more. Healthy menu items such as the BBQ chicken caesar salad, and vegetarian options such as the Impossible Burger, fried green tomato sliders, are also available. You will find plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy your food.
Beverages are included on your lanyard, such as a curated selection of cold brews, wine, cocktails and nonalcoholic drinks. Look for SoCal favorites from Stone Brewing Co., Ballast Point Brewing Company, AleSmith Brewing Company, Mike Hess Brewing, Thorn Street Brewing Co. and Coronado Brewing Company. If you choose bottled water or soft drinks, you get two drinks per punch!
If you have been missing your favorite theme park snacks, we have good news! You can use your punches for treats such as cotton candy, churros, pretzels and more. At restaurants, a side salad or dessert, such as a slice of cake, each count as one punch.
Do you want to get a taste of Zoo Days and see it in action? Check out Tad's video on our YouTube channel!
The following dining establishments are open (subject to change):
- Shipwreck Café
- Mama Stella’s
- Calypso Bay Smokehouse
- Explorer’s Café
- Craft Beer Carts
- Shark Market
- Orca West & Orca East
If you are still looking for more food and drink after using your six punches, you may purchase additional punches. You cannot purchase food and beverage with cash or credit card outside of the punches. In order to limit contact, restaurants and carts are not equipped with registers.
The event is held the following dates (subject to change):
- August: 28, 29 and 30
- September: 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26 and 27
Reservations are required as capacity is limited. All guests must purchase a date-specific ticket in advance. If you purchase through Undercover Tourist, once you receive your E-ticket via email, you will visit Partner Ticket Reservations to make a reservation. SeaWorld San Diego Fun Card holders and annual pass holders must also purchase advance tickets to Zoo Days (for a deep discount through SeaWorld). Keep in mind that if you have an annual pass or Fun Card during Zoo Days and the partial reopening, the expiration is automatically extended for a temporary period at least as long as the temporary closure of the full park.
You may purchase tickets for Dolphin Encounter (reservations required) or reserved seating for shows when you go to reserve your ticket. Once in the park, you can purchase Sea Lion Feeding and Ray Feeding, as well. Those sea lions do tricks (and bark for attention) to get those fish!
Bring your ticket, reservation, pre-paid parking (optional), ID and face covering with you to the park. You'll receive your tasting lanyard at the park turnstile (after security and temperature check).
Open Attractions During Zoo Days
Available attractions include orcas, sharks, stingrays, sea lions, sea turtles, otters, penguins, dolphins, flamingos and others. We caught sight of some additional sea turtles when we ate at Shipwreck Café. You'll have access to Sea Lion Point, Otter Outlook (although we never saw any otters there on our visit), Dolphin Point and the Explorer's Reef Touch Pools! The underwater orca viewing is open. Initially, only outdoor exhibits reopened; however, Zoo Days now includes indoor exhibits with 25 percent capacity. That means you can now visit the sea turtles, penguins and sharks indoors. The turtles and sharks hoppen to be some of our tadpoles' favorite underwater exhibits.
You can attend educational presentations at the dolphin, sea lion and orca exhibits. World-famous shows such as Dolphin Days, Sea Lion Show and the Orca Encounter have returned. Check the calendar for showtimes. Shows run about 20 minutes, and are designed so you have time to make it to the next show on the schedule. Click the date of your visit for the entertainment schedule. The shows allow for socially distanced seating with skipped rows and markers on the benches. There is plenty of room to spread out and have a great seat! Coasters, rides, Sesame Street Bay of Play and arcade games remain closed for now. Some games of skill are open though.
Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away ... Sesame Street characters are excited to greet you (from a safe space)! You can wave hello and take pictures with them! Sadly, the characters did not make an appearance during our visit.
The following shops are open:
- SeaWorld Store
- Whale Shop
- Strollers/Rentals (You may also reserve stroller or wheelchairs in advance)
We've missed our time with the dolphins, sea turtles, and penguins. We were hopping with excitement to see some of these aquatic friends again! We really enjoyed our visit to the San Diego Zoo reopening in June. Like the zoo, SeaWorld operates a little differently to keep guests, employees and animals healthy right now. It's the temporary new normal in theme parks and zoos. Let’s jump in to discover what you can expect during SeaWorld San Diego's reopening!
SeaWorld San Diego Reopening Dates, Hours and Details
We do not have a date for SeaWorld San Diego's official reopening with rides and all exhibits yet. Keep hopping back for updates! The park has been approved to reopen in phases, with the outdoor, animal-focused areas reopening (as with Zoo Days) before the rides can reopen. The park (along with other California theme parks) is waiting on a response from the governor as to when it can safely reopen the entire theme park. San Diego is off the California governor's watch list, so hopfully we will hear more reopening news soon!
During the phased reopening, we can expect the park to operate a little differently than before the pandemic. The SeaWorld Orlando reopening offers us a glimpse of what to expect when SeaWorld San Diego reopens.
SeaWorld San Diego initially is operating with modified schedules and park hours. Check the schedule before your visit, as park hours are updated periodically.
Guests can expect special safety measures including capacity limits, required face coverings, temperature checks for employees and guests, modifications to animal exhibits and closures of interactive play areas. Some guests simply walk past thermal scanners. People with strollers and their tadpoles are checked manually with a contactless thermometer. Once rides can reopen, single rider lines are likely to be closed (they are closed in Orlando). Guests can expect contactless interactions from park entry to shops and restaurants.
SeaWorld San Diego Reservation System
In order to meet social distancing guidelines, SeaWorld San Diego will limit capacity through the use of date-specific tickets and a reservation system found on the park's website. Hop back soon for details (and deals!) on tickets for the modified reopening.
Much like the procedure for Zoo Days, all guests with SeaWorld San Diego tickets, Fun Cards, Multi-Attraction Cards or annual passes must make a reservation prior to visiting the park. Guests need to bring their reservation E-ticket and their original ticket, card or annual pass to the front gate for entry into the park. Besides offering discount SeaWorld tickets, your semi-aquatic froggy friends can help you save money by purchasing SeaWorld parking in advance to also help you reduce contact when you arrive.
You may make park reservations for up to six people at a time. Have your tickets or pass barcodes available to verify that they are active. Children under 3 years do not require a reservation or ticket for entry. If you have a valid multi-day ticket, you will need to make reservations for each day that you plan to visit.
SeaWorld San Diego Reopening Safety Measures
As mentioned, you can expect capacity to be limited and controlled by a reservations system. But you’ll also encounter a variety of safety measures to keep guests, employees and the animals safe from COVID-19 during the SeaWorld San Diego reopening. Masks are required, so hop over to our post on wearing masks in theme parks to learn some hopful tips and tricks for traveling with tadpoles and masks in this time.
SeaWorld San Diego will follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as mandates from federal, state and local government agencies. That includes the San Diego Tourism Authority’s San Diego Attraction Reopening Health and Safety Plan. The plan incorporates the sanitation strategies and protocols for all of the San Diego attractions. The guidelines outlines the types of changes taking place at most other theme parks around the country. Hop over to our post on what to expect when the California theme parks reopen to get a sense of policy changes and safety measures in place at other theme parks, zoos and aquariums.
Here are the safety measures and changes you can expect during a visit to SeaWorld San Diego:
Face Coverings and Temperature Checks
- Face coverings are required for all guests ages 2 and up.
- All face coverings must fit within CDC guidelines.
- Guests undergo contactless temperature checks. If a guest's temperature reads higher than 100 degrees F, they will be moved to a separate area for a second screening.People with strollers are checked manually and head to the right.
- Most guests walk to the left to walk past thermal scanners.
- Guests can remove face coverings when eating or drinking and when in relaxation areas.
- SeaWorld sells themed masks in gift shops.
Employee Screenings and Protection
- Mandatory health and safety COVID-19 training for all employees.
- Wellness checks for employees prior to the start of the workday.
- Employee temperature checks using contactless infrared thermometers.
- Employees are required to wear protective face coverings.
Entrance and Security Checkpoints
- Parks must reduce attendance capacity to ensure adequate social distancing.
- Parties must maintain six feet minimum distance from others at ticket booths, security queues, inspection tables and park entrances.
- Hand sanitizer stations are available at ticket booth windows and park entrances.
- Visitors are asked to open their own bags for security inspections to minimize contact.
- All visitors required to wear protective face masks.
- Display signage throughout parks with state new health and safety guidelines.
- Markers and signs throughout park and parking lot will be in place to maintain social distancing.
- Pedestrian flow will be managed by implementing one-way traffic on narrow pathways.
- Photo opportunities with costumed characters will be modified to maintain six feet minimum distance.
- Guest flow will also be managed with directional traffic in narrow paths.
- Signs indicate high-touch areas.
Sanitization and Disinfection
- Additional hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer are found throughout the park.
- Reduced restroom capacity to maximize social distancing.
- Maintain six feet minimum distance in restrooms.
- Employees will frequently sanitize restrooms.
Rides and Attractions
- Rides are not operating during the initial reopening phase.
- Hand sanitizers will be added to each ride entrance and exit.
- Markers will be installed throughout rides and queues to maintain six feet minimum distance between guests.
- Riders will be instructed to wait in family groups in attraction queues.
- Seating will be staggered on each ride.
- Clean and disinfect ride vehicles, queue railings and touch points on a frequent basis.
Dining and Shopping Safety
- Maintain six feet distancing between groups in restaurants.
- Use contactless or single-use menus.
- Serve more pre-made or prepackaged food and snacks.
- Contactless payments to limit hand-to-hand interactions.
- Plexiglass shields for cashiers and food stations.
- Reduce unnecessary contact during food delivery.
- Limited touch points such as closing condiment stations.
- Frequently clean and disinfect door handles, counters and common areas.
- Chairs and tables disinfected after each use.
- Tables are either spaced far enough apart or have signs that indicate not to use them.
- Floor markers remind guests to socially distance.
SeaWorld San Diego Shows, Exhibits and Rides
Even some of the best SeaWord San Diego shows and attractions are affected by the new measures. Be sure to check the show schedules and plan your day around them. We have a ton of hopful tips to maximize your time at SeaWorld San Diego. They mostly still apply, but you might encounter a few exhibits and play areas that are temporarily closed for safety reasons, so be flexible.
The biggest differences to the shows is modified seating and that there are fewer shows. Three shows are available during Zoo Days. Marks on the benches indicate which rows are open and which rows are closed. Markings every three feet can help guests figure out how to distance from other parties, and employees help guide too. It's easy to get a great view a safe distance from other guests. The trainers in shows wear facial coverings.
Stadiums have modified seating arrangements. Keep an eye out for where to sit and where not to sit. Look on the bright side: Fewer people near you can mean a better and unobstructed view! And beware of the soak zones down in front!
At the end of the show, be patient. Employees will dismiss each section row by row to avoid crowding. The ends are dismissed first and the middle sections are last to be released. This allows everyone to keep a safe distance from each other.
At animal exhibits, look for markers on the ground to indicate where to stand so you don't get distracted and too close to the humans! Look for hand-washing stations after leaving touch pools and animal feeding encounters. Also, "high-touch area" signs are a good indication that you should pull out some wipes or hand sanitizer after you leave that exhibit, especially for your tadpoles. They touch everything! Indoor exhibits may operate with limited capacity.
Rides are not available during the initial SeaWorld San Diego reopening Zoo Days. Once rides reopen, queues and vehicles will have some changes, as well, to promote social distancing. Ride queues have floor markings to remind everyone to stay six feet apart. On roller coasters, attendants will seat parties together with empty rows in between separate groups. For water rides, you still need to wear a face covering in the queue, but you can remove it on the ride itself. Bring a resealable plastic bag to keep it dry. Each party has its own raft for Shipwreck Rapids — yes, even a party of one! So remove that mask and take a nice clean breath. You'll need it for the screaming.
If your mask gets to be too much, take a breather. You can remove it when seated for dining, but you can also remove it in Relaxation Zones located throughout the park. Some have tables and are placed near snack areas so you can safety enjoy your treat. All food must be consumed while you are stationary in specific areas and distanced from other people.
Are you as excited as we are for visiting during the SeaWorld San Diego reopening? Don't froget to purchase your discount SeaWorld San Diego tickets and parking before you visit!
Related: LEGOLAND California Reopening