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What's SeaWorld San Diego Like Right Now? Let's Dive into the Details!

by Mommy Frog on April 4, 2021 18 San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego Reopens with Zoo Days - Dolphin leaping in air in Dolphin Days ShowOh hoppy day! SeaWorld made a splash when it partially reopened as a zoo and aquarium. Furthermore, Lily was beyond frogcited to visit the characters at Sesame Street Bay of Play. We've enjoyed attending the various SeaWorld events, the latest of which is the Seven Seas Food Festival. But we are hopping with excitement now that SeaWorld San Diego rides are open as of April 12! Keep in mind that SeaWorld is slowly rolling out rides, so not all rides may be open when you visit. You can count on Sesame Street and other small rides, but not all the thrill rides are back every day yet. Check the SeaWorld app for updates before you visit.

Aquatica, SeaWorld San Diego's off-site water park, is expected to reopen May 29, 2021. Aquatica is the future location of Sesame Place San Diego!

We have been hoppy to visit our water-loving friends since August 2020! At the new R is for Rescue show, we got to see some other non-aquatic animal friends, as well as shake the wiggles out by dancing with Sesame Street characters such as Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Big Bird. Moving is huge when you visit SeaWorld with a toddler.

What's SeaWorld San Diego Like Right Now?-Walrus in Wild Arctic

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, but now the park is complete (although not all attractions have fully returned). We were hopping with joy to watch fireworks at the end of the night during spring break, March 26 through April 4! There were great views all over the park from the Orca Encounter stadium seats to plenty of physical distance space in front of the Penguin Encounter. You can read about the latest in theme park reopening guidelines in our post on what to expect when the California theme parks reopen.

California has a "Blueprint Refresh" for the four-tier Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which rates each county's risk level as it relates to COVID-19 cases. San Diego is currently in the Orange Tier 3. Let's take a look at what reopening guidelines look like for each Tier:

  • Tier 1 (Purple) - Theme parks are closed except for limited food and shopping events (no rides). Only outdoor exhibits can open at SeaWorld.
  • Tier 2 (Red) - Theme parks can reopen at 15% capacity. Indoor exhibits can open with capacity limits.
  • Tier 3 (Orange) - Theme parks can reopen at 25% capacity.
  • Tier 4 (Yellow) - Theme parks can reopen at 35% capacity.

SeaWorld is now selling tickets to fully vaccinated out-of-state adults ages 16 and up under certain conditions. Here is a statement on the SeaWorld site:

"SeaWorld San Diego is now operating as a theme park. Per state COVID-19 restrictions, attendance is limited to California in-state visitors, and now out-of-state visitors will be required to show proof of a fully completed COVID-19 vaccine (you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second shot, or two weeks after the one-dose vaccine). Guests may also be asked to present proof of residency upon entry. Party sizes may not contain more than 3 households. To adhere to capacity guidelines, and for the health and safety of our animals, employees and guests, reservations and proper face coverings are required to enter the park."

That means out-of-state tadpoles 15 and under cannot visit yet since they cannot be vaccinated.

What's Hoppening at SeaWorld San Diego Right Now?

What's SeaWorld San Diego Like Right Now?-Cookie Monster Greets Guests in Sesame Street Bay of Play

When you visit, check the calendar and park hours so you can maximize your time and take advantage of fun hoppenings in the park. Hours do vary per week, and even if there are weekday hours, festival food and entertainment are generally Fridays through Sundays. Here are all of the details from our most recent visits!

The Sesame Street Bay of Play reopened partially March 26, 2021, with character interactions, new presentations, a dance party, a storytime with Big Bird and the all-new Big Bird's Bistro. Rides are now open! Our toddler, Lily, is literally jumping to enjoy SeaWorld experiences that are designed just for her. (Hop over to our post on taking toddlers and small children to SeaWorld San Diego  for tips.) There's a new animal show designed for tadpoles called R is for Rescue at the Nautilus Amphitheater. Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Big Bird sing, dance and present animal ambassadors to show how SeaWorld rescues and cares for all kinds of animals in need.

What's SeaWorld San Diego Like Right Now?-R is for Rescue Show

We've been enjoying the various themed Sea World San Diego events. The whole Frog Family has rumbling tummies just thinking about the Seven Seas Food Festival taking place Fridays through Sundays March 5 through May 2. That means we have new foods and beverages from around the world to taste (125 flavors this year — it's so hard to choose!) and more entertainment (live music and Polynesian fire dancers) to enjoy. What fun!

What's SeaWorld San Diego Like Right Now? -Sea Turtles swim overhead at Turtle Reef

And of course, the indoor exhibits reopening has added so much to the park experience. We have enjoyed visiting our friends the sea turtles, sharks, penguins, beluga whales and walruses. In order to limit capacity, lines form outside the exhibits. We found the lines moved fairly quickly and were much shorter than promised. And the views of the animals were toadally worth the wait!

But the moment we've all been waiting for has arrived. Rides are now open! You'll want to check online to see which rides are open before you visit, because SeaWorld is slowly reopening rides.

Diving into the Details from SeaWorld San Diego's Reopening-Man getting lanyards punchedSeaWorld San Diego Reopening Tickets and Reservations

SeaWorld San Diego Dated Tickets are on sale now! You can purchase single-day tickets from your favorite semi-aquatic froggy friends to save money! The weekday tickets and meal package tickets can especially save you some green. Don't froget to purchase discounted SeaWorld parking at the same time to save both money and time!

If you purchase discount SeaWorld tickets 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 passholders get in for free, but they still need to make reservations. Did you know you can save money by purchasing Fun Cards and the SeaWorld San Diego Silver Pass from UndercoverTourist?


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.


You may purchase tickets for Animal Encounters (reservations required) or reserved seating for shows (recommended as the park is getting busier) 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! It's toadally worth it!

If you purchase the meal package, you can use your save on food and drink at restaurants . Try dishes and treats at these restaurants:

  • Shipwreck Reef Cafe
  • Mama Stella's
  • Calypso Bay Smokehouse
  • Explorer's Café

Each location offers cold sides, hot sides, main dishes, seasonal specials, desserts and beverages. Kids' options may include favorites such as mac & cheese or chicken tenders and fries.

Open Attractions at SeaWorld

What's SeaWorld San Diego Like Right Now? -Boy feed sea lions while separated from other guests with plexiglass dividers

More and more attractions open every time we visit! Available animal encounters include orcas, stingrays, sea lions, otters, outdoor penguins, dolphins, flamingos and others. Most exciting is that indoor exhibits are open again. That includes sharks, sea turtles, walruses, beluga whales, otters, penguins and more. Keep in mind that Dolphin Point and Otter Outlook is temporarily closed for refurbishment until June or July. On our most recent April visit, the beluga exhibit was under repair to fix some pumps. Croak! We hope they return soon.

What's SeaWorld San Diego Like Right Now?-Children Looking at Dolphin

We caught sight of some outdoor sea turtles when we ate at Shipwreck Café. You'll have access to Sea Lion Point, Otter Outlook (under refurbishment), Dolphin Point (under refurbishment) and the Explorer's Reef Touch Pools! Viewing areas now have plexiglass dividers that separate parties from each other. You may wait in line at peak times to allow for physical distancing in viewing areas. The underwater orca viewing is open. We are so hoppy that indoor exhibits are open again! The turtles and sharks hoppen to be some of our tadpoles' favorite underwater exhibits.

What's SeaWorld San Diego Like Right Now? -Boy pets ray

You can attend educational presentations at the dolphin, sea lion and orca exhibits. World-famous shows include: 

  • Dolphin Days
  • Sea Lion Show
  • Orca Encounter
  • R is for Rescue

Check the calendar for showtimes. Shows run about 20 minutes, and you'll want to arrive 30 minutes early. 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!

Arcade games remain closed for now. Some games of skill are open though, as well as face painting and caricature artists.

Sesame Street Characters

What's SeaWorld San Diego Like Right Now?-Ernie Waves from a Ship

You can meet your favorite Sesame Street characters from a safe distance. They stand up on floats, stages or ships and you can wave to them, blow kisses and take photos. You can find them in Sesame Street Bay of Play. The water play and climbing structures in the area remain closed for now. But you can attend Sesame Street dance parties and storytime.

In the new kid-friendly show, R is for Rescue, Elmo and Abby Cadabby (along with Big Bird) present animal ambassadors who have been rescued by SeaWorld. You'll get to see birds of prey, primates and reptiles, as well as give your little ones a chance to dance in their seats with Sesame Street pals.


No trip to SeaWorld is complete without a stop at the gift shop!

The following shops are open:

  • SeaWorld Store
  • Whale Shop
  • Strollers/Rentals (you may also reserve strollers or wheelchairs in advance)
  • Shark Shack
  • Turtle Rescue Shop
  • Penguin Gifts
  • SeaPixels
  • Arctic Trading Post
  • Photos with Elmo & Friends
  • Strollers/Rentals
  • Lockers are open too

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 last June (and to the Safari Park). Like the zoo and Safari Park, SeaWorld operates a little differently right now to keep guests, employees and animals healthy. 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 Safety Measures

What's SeaWorld San Diego Like Right Now?-Child reaches for sea star

SeaWorld is a bit different from other theme parks as it is a zoo, aquarium and theme park all in one. During the phased reopening, we can expect the park to operate a little differently than before.

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 some play areas. Some guests simply walk past thermal scanners. People with strollers and their tadpoles are checked manually with a contactless thermometer. Single rider lines are closed. Guests can expect contactless interactions from park entry to shops and restaurants.

Check the SeaWorld San Diego site for current hours and schedules. We highly recommend arriving before park opening. Those parking and entrance lines can get pretty backed up about two hours after opening, especially on busy days. Plus you can get a jump on an early show before the crowds show up!

SeaWorld San Diego Reopens with Zoo Days - Family in SeaWorld Masks

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 follows 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 outline 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.

SeaWorld San Diego Reopens with Zoo Days - Dad with stroller gets temperature check

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. This is a government mandate. Face shields are not an acceptable face covering.
  • All face coverings must fit within CDC guidelines. No exhalation valves allowed.
  • 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 Sesame Street and animal-themed masks in gift shops.
  • SeaWorld provides a disposable mask for guests who do not arrive in an appropriate face covering.

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.
  • SeaWorld will use a reservation system to limit capacity.
  • 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.

SeaWorld San Diego Reopens with Zoo Days - Distance Reminder SignsSocial Distancing

  • Display signage throughout parks with state new health and safety guidelines.
  • Markers and signs throughout the park and parking lot will be in place to maintain social distancing.
  • One-way traffic on narrow pathways directs pedestrian flow.
  • Photo opportunities with costumed characters will be modified to maintain six feet minimum distance.
  • Signs indicate high-touch areas.
  • Plexiglass dividers separate guests at animal exhibits.
  • Employees limit access to popular exhibits to prevent crowding.
  • Indoor exhibits limit capacity to allow for distancing.

What's SeaWorld San Diego Like Right Now? - Capacity is limited to allow for distancing at Shark Encounter

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

  • Hand sanitizers located at each ride entrance and exit.
  • Markers throughout rides and queues indicate to maintain 6 feet minimum distance between guests.
  • Riders wait in family groups in attraction queues.
  • Seating is staggered on each ride.
  • Employees clean and disinfect ride vehicles, queue railings and touchpoints on a frequent basis.

Dining and Shopping Safety

SeaWorld San Diego Reopens with Zoo Days - Ground Markings and Plexiglass in Gift Shop

  • Maintain 6 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 touchpoints 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

What's SeaWorld San Diego Like Right Now?-Sea Lion Show with Trainer in Mask

Even some of the best SeaWorld 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.

SeaWorld Shows

The biggest differences between the shows are modified seating and that there are fewer shows. Four shows are available (more during events):

  • Sea Lions Live
  • Dolphin Days
  • Orca Encounter
  • R is for Rescue (new!)
  • Polynesian Fire Dancing during weekends of Seven Seas

Stadiums have modified seating arrangements. Keep an eye out for where to sit and where not to sit. Marks on the benches indicate open and closed sections of rows. Markings have changed since our first reopening visit in August. Now the benches have alternating red (no seating) and green (seating for one group only) sections to help guests figure out how to distance from other parties. Employees help guide too. It's easy to get a great view at a safe distance from other guests. The trainers in shows wear facial coverings.

As crowds return, it's getting harder to find a seat. Shows are filling up quickly. Arrive about 30 minutes early (45 minutes early on busy days) or use Reserved Seating.

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! The front half of the soak zones are particularly wet.

At the end of the show, be patient. Employees will dismiss each section row by row to avoid crowding. They dismiss the edges first, going section by section towards the middle sections. This allows everyone to keep a safe distance from each other.

What's SeaWorld San Diego Like Right Now? - Signs on stadium seats keep parties separated from others.

SeaWorld Exhibits

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! Plexiglass dividers have made it much easier to allow more guests to be near the animals but kept away from other 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.


Queues and vehicles have some changes, as well, to promote social distancing. Ride queues have floor markings to remind everyone to stay 6 feet apart. On roller coasters, attendants seat parties together with empty rows in between separate groups.

Relaxation Zones

SeaWorld San Diego Reopens with Zoo Days - Tables and Seats in Relaxation Zone

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. You might find them near snack stands. Safely enjoy your treats at a table. Be sure to consume all food while stationary in designated areas and distanced from other people.

Are you as excited as we are about visiting during the SeaWorld San Diego reopening? Don't froget to purchase your discount SeaWorld San Diego tickets and parking before you visit!

Related: San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Reopening

Related: LEGOLAND California Reopening

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
View Comments
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Mar 31, 2021 at 4:14 p.m. Alex Says...

Will the rides be open by April 24th ? Or more stuff to do

Mar 31, 2021 at 12:40 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Alex!

Right now, the park is still operating as a zoo - no opening date for rides has been announced just yet, but we've got our eyes and ears open!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Mar 19, 2021 at 9:06 p.m. Christina Says...

Do you have to reserve a spot to enter the indoor experiences? I have already purchased my single day ticket and was trying to reserve the indoor stuff too? Helo! Can't find on the website how to.

Mar 20, 2021 at 11:13 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Christina!

You'll need a reservation to the park itself, but not to the individual experiences, including the sharks. You would need an advance reservation for dining or premium experiences that you would pay extra for, such as tours. Hope this helps!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Mar 15, 2021 at 2:39 a.m. Andrea Says...

We r planning on visiting on April 1st. You think the tunnels will open by then ?

Mar 17, 2021 at 3:17 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Andrea!

Just a quick update that these have reopened :) Have fun!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Mar 15, 2021 at 3:41 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Andrea!

San Diego is expected to hit the red tier this week, which would allow SeaWorld to reopen some indoor aquariums. But there is no official word yet. Sea World is bringing back fireworks March 26 through April 4, so that’s toadally exciting. We’ll update this post as soon as we hear any more good news!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Mar 10, 2021 at 3:21 p.m. Victoria Says...

Are the underground tunnels closed?

Mar 17, 2021 at 3:18 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Victoria!

Just a quick update that these have reopened! :)

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Mar 10, 2021 at 3:13 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Victoria!

The exhibits such as shark and sea turtles which do go down and under the aquariums (as wells as any other indoor exhibits) are closed until San Diego County makes it into the Red Tier 2.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Feb 11, 2021 at 11:13 p.m. Tina Says...

would you recommend purchasing reserved seating for the shows, or should we be able to get seated pretty easily? not sure how busy it is going to be around mid-march...

Feb 12, 2021 at 3:03 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Tina!

With limited seating due to physical distancing, bleachers can fill up quickly. If you get to shows at least 20 minutes early, you should be fine without it, but if you are racing to get to each show last-minute as we sometimes find ourselves doing, you’ll likely be sitting in the upper levels without reserved seating. Hope this helps!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Feb 9, 2021 at 5:04 a.m. Daniel peterson Says...

When will the rides and other encounters be open

Feb 9, 2021 at 7:52 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Daniel!

Rides opening will come with government approval, as San Diego reaches a different COVID-19 tier (currently in purple). That date is still TBD for now, but we'll be sure to update as soon as we hear more!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Feb 6, 2021 at 2:08 p.m. Aisha Says...

Hi, Good Article. I have a query do we purchase seperate ticket for dolphin dancing show and others. Please let me know. I have already booked ticket entrance for seaworld.

Feb 8, 2021 at 8:56 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Aisha!

Shows are included in the price of your admission - so no need for a separate purchase! Enjoy! :)

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Aug 30, 2020 at 10:41 p.m. sandra roth Says...

i have the pass that includes my food so do i still have to purchase a food card or do you honor my two meals. also i have parking so is that still included or do i have to purchase parking

Sep 1, 2020 at 4:04 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Sandra!

Passholders and food plans are not valid yet since the park has not fully reopened, and most restaurants are closed except for the ones listed on the lanyard. You would need to purchase a reduced price Zoo Days ticket/lanyard by logging into the SeaWorld site (it’s about $30). Good news! Passholders do get to use their free parking entitlements. Your expiration on your pass will be extended from the closure through Zoo Days until the park is ready to fully reopen.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

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