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Tips for Sea World San Diego with Kids

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Sea World, San Diego is a great place for kids and adults alike. With rides, shows, and attractions for all ages, it’s hard not to have fun at this popular attraction. If you’re planning a visit to SeaWorld in San Diego, here are some helpful tips on how to make the most of your day!

Entrance to Sea World San Diego.

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Sea World is one of my favorite places to visit with my family! With rides like Journey To Atlantis and Sesame Street Bay of Play, Sea World San Diego is a great place for kids and adults alike.

With rides, shows, and attractions for all ages, it’s hard not to have fun at this popular attraction. But with so much to do and see, it can be tough navigating the park.

Sesame Street Bay of Play at Sea World San Diego.
Sesame Street Bay of Play

Whether you are looking for an educational experience, or just want to have some family fun there are plenty of things to do. With so many options it can be hard to know where to start.

Luckily, I am here to help. I have We’ve some of my favorite tips on how to make your visit enjoyable! 

What is Sea World San Diego?

Sea World is a marine theme park in San Diego, California. It first opened its doors in 1964 and has remained on the cutting edge of animal training since then.

Sea World is famous for their longstanding Shamu shows, which features killer whales leaping out of the water and doing tricks with their trainers.

Three little boys looking at an orca in a tank.

Beyond this most iconic show, Sea World offers a wide variety of other entertainment options. There are rides and water shows, animal habitats and educational opportunities galore. The park offers something for everyone from children to adults!

What is in the Park? 

Sea World San Diego consists of different areas that house a wide range of exhibits featuring sea creatures and marine mammals from all over the world. There are also many attactions, rides, and shows.

Before we get into the fun stuff, here is some general information about the park that is important to know before you go!

Journey to Atlantis at Sea World San Diego.
Journey to Atlantis

Sea World San Diego Hours

Sea World is open every day of the week throughout the year, but the park’s hours vary by season. Below are Sea World’s hours by month. You can check for current information here.

July 2021

  • Weekdays 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
  • Weekends 9:00 am – 10:00 pm

August 2021

  • Monday – Thursday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm
  • Friday & Saturday 10:00 am – 10:00 pm
  • Sunday 10:00 am – 9:00 pm

September 2021

  • Monday – Friday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (except September 1, 2, 3, and 6)
  • Saturday & Sunday 10:00 am – 7:00 pm (except September 4 and 5)
Cookie Monster character at Sea World.
Cookie Monster Character Meet and Greet

October 2021

  • Monday – Friday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Saturday & Sunday 10:00 am – 7:00 pm

November 2021

  • Monday – Friday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, 6:00 pm, or 7:00 pm
  • Saturday & Sunday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, 7:00 pm, or 8:00 pm

December 2021

  • Monday – Friday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm, 7:00 pm, or 8:00 pm
  • Saturday & Sunday 10:00 am 11:00 am – 7:00 pm or 8:00 pm
A boy touching a sting ray at Sea World.

Sea World San Diego Health & Safety Policies

As of June 15, 2021 Sea World San Diego has lifted all out of state visitor restrictions. Here is what their website says:

Based on the recently announced guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, we are modifying our policy regarding face coverings at SeaWorld San Diego and Aquatica San Diego. Face coverings will no longer be required for guests who are fully vaccinated in accordance with CDC guidance. We will not require our guests to provide proof of vaccination but ask everyone to respectfully comply with our revised policy. The safety of our guests, Ambassadors and animals in our care remains our top priority. We will continue to monitor and address this changing environment as necessary.

Parking

If you plan to park your car at Sea World San Diego, there is parking available on site. Parking rates range from $22 for general parking to $80 for VIP parking.

Parking Rates at Sea World.

Map of Sea World San Diego

Because Sea World San Diego is so big, it’s important to have a map of the park before you go. I like to look at the map before our trip and have a plan on which direction we want to head first. It helps save time at the parka and ensures that we can fit everything in! Here is a map of the current park.

Although this park map is helpful, I also recommend downloading the official Sea World San Diego app on your phone before you go. It’s very helpful! If you don’t have a smart phone, there are also maps at the front gate of the park and in all the lands when you get inside.

Map of Sea World San Diego.
Map of Sea World

Tips for visiting Sea World San Diego With Kids

So you’re finally ready to make the trip and go see Sea World San Diego. What should you know before getting in line for Shamu? Here are some of my best tips for visiting Sea World with children!

Plan Ahead

Even though there is a lot happening at Sea World, it can still be overwhelming to look at the park’s schedule and try to figure out when and where everything is happening. To keep it simple, choose a few must see things such as one of the shows or a ride you really want to go on and then plan your day around them.

Sign for Electric Ocean event at Sea World.

Consider the Weather

Keep in mind that Sea World San Diego sits right beside the Pacific Ocean. This means that the weather can be unpredictable and sometimes cold!

Make sure to pack a jacket no matter what time of year you go because it might get breezy or rain on you while visiting Sea World San Diego. If it’s hot, make sure to wear lots of sunscreen and bring plenty of water with you.

Lost Child/First Aid station at Sea World.
Lost and Found

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Sea World San Diego is a huge park, and it’s easy to get tired while walking around. Pack some comfy but cute shoes that will also be good for all day walking on the concrete.

Bring a Backpack

If you plan on buying merchandise or food while at Sea World San Diego, you might want to bring along a small backpack with you. This is an easy way to carry around items you might collect throughout the day, and you can store your jackets in there until you need them!

Entrance sign for Electric Eel roller coaster.
Electric Eel Roller Coaster Entrance

Don’t stress if it’s crowded

With a lot of attractions and activities going on at once, Sea World San Diego can get pretty busy. The park does a good job of handling the crowds and keeping everyone safe, however wait times can be long for certain rides. Just make sure to plan your day around the ride waits and make sure you have everything set up before you get in line.

Entrance to Journey to Atlantis
Entrance to Journey to Atlantis

Bring Cash and a Credit Card

Sea World San Diego is mostly contactless when it comes to payment options at the park. However, I find it handy to bring a little bit of cash with you if possible. It never fails that I need to use it to buy a small snack or tip someone.

Items to Bring into the Park

Not only do you need to bring your map, cell phone, sun glasses, and sunscreen, but also make sure you have the following important items on hand at Sea World San Diego:

  • Food- Most outside food is not allowed inside the park, but I have never had a problem bringing in a few small snacks for my kids. There have been a few times when we have packed a lunch to enjoy out in the parking lot, while also giving us a break from the park.
  • Bottled Water or Refillable Water Bottle- Make sure to bring lots of water with you during the day. There are many fountains around the park and restaurants for free refills however they do charge a pretty penny if you want to buy a bottle. So save your money and bring your own!
Orca Encounter entrance sign.
  • Camera- Sea World San Diego has some great photo ops and you can’t bring them home if you don’t take photos of them! I use my phone’s camera, but I also like to take along our GoPro because it is waterproof! Make sure to charge up all your batteries before leaving for the day so you can capture the best moments!
  • Sunscreen- Sea World San Diego is located right next to the ocean and gets pretty hot, so make sure you take precautions and bring plenty of sunscreen with you.
A 2-pack of sunblock
  • Portable Battery Charger- With all of the pictures you’re going to take, you’ll want to make sure you keep your phone charged before going on the rides if you want to take pics or use social media!
  • Disposable Ponchos- These are not only good for the rain, but they can protect you from getting wet on water rides or if you choose to sit in the front rows at one of the shows! Check out these ponchos on Amazon.
A boat splashing on Journey to Atlantis.
Journey to Atlantis

Get There Early

Most of the exhibits at Sea World San Diego get crowded between 10am and 4pm, so make sure to get there before that time if you want to avoid long lines. The line for Journey To Atlantis is usually around 20 minutes by 11 am, however it gets up to an hour by 3pm. Not only that, but the animals will also be more active early in the morning as well so this is a good time to see them!

A dolphin jumping out of the water.
Dolphin Days Show

How Many Days Do You Need to Spend at Sea World San Diego?

While my family has always been able to accomplish the attractions and shows we wanted to see at Sea World in one day, you might want to consider two days if you want to take a more leisurely approach to your day or want to ride the thrill rides multiple times.

A boy touching tide pools at Sea World.

The Best Time of Year to Go to Sea World San Diego

If you are looking for amazing weather when you go to Sea World, I recommend visiting in the summer or spring months. If you are wanting fewer crowds, January, February, September or November would be the best months to go to Sea World San Diego.

October is a great time to visit as well. Most years, San Diego attractions offer free admission for kids during October, which can be a big money saver, but can also increase crowd sizes. Another reason to visit in October would be for the Sea World Spooktacular event held weekends from September 18 – October 31, 2021.

Octarock sign at Sea World.

If the Christmas season is your favorite, you might want to visit Sea World San Diego in November or December for the Sea World Christmas Celebration!

Sea World San Diego Tickets & Discounts

Sea World San Diego has a few different types of tickets available to guests. You can purchase single day tickets directly from Sea World’s website as well as two-park tickets that include admission to Sea World’s water park, Aquatica.

Electric Eel roller coaster.

If you are looking for Sea World San Diego tickets at a great price, you can purchase them from my travel partner, Get Away Today. They often offer tickets for less than what you would pay at the gate and they have the best customer service!

If you purchase a Southern California vacation package that includes Sea World San Diego tickets, you can save even more with the coupon code: MommyMouse at checkout. Click here to check ticket prices!

Octarock swing ride at Sea World.
Octarock Ride

What to Wear to Sea World

The weather at Sea World San Diego can be very warm in the summer and early fall months, so make sure to dress for it! Bring a sweatshirt or light jacket as the evenings can get cool. Also don’t forget your sun block and sunglasses. As far as footwear is concerned, sneakers are recommended unless you plan on doing water rides (then flip flops are recommended).

Orca encounter at Sea World San Diego.
Orca Encounter

Rides at Sea World San Diego

Sea World San Diego has a wide range of rides for different ages. There are cars and boats that you can ride in, sky rides where you float high over the park, and even coasters for thrill seekers.

Oscar's Rocking Eel ride.
Oscar’s Rockin’ Eel

Low Thrill Rides (for Little Kids)

  • Elmo’s Flying Fish- Parents can ride with little ones as you sit in an Elmo-themed car that slowly moves up and down.
  • Bayside Skyride- This relaxing gondola ride will give you a birds-eye view of the park and Mission Bay. Guests under 56″ must be accompanied by a supervising companion. Be aware that there is a $6.00 fee per person over the age of 3.
  • Tentacle Twirl is a Jellyfish-themed swing ride. Guests between 40″ – 48″ must be accompanied by a guest 14 or over. Guests over 48″ may ride alone.
Tentacle Twirl ride at Sea World.
Oscar's Rocking Eel ride at Sea World San Diego.
  • Aqua Scout bumps you up and down while riding in a tiny submarine. Guests need to be at least 36″ or accompanied by an adult.
  • Octarock is a fun giant swing. The height requirement is 31″. Guests between 31″ and 36″ must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Sea Dragon Drop is a small drop ride. Children under 36″ must be accompanied by an adult.
Sea Dragon Drop at Sea World.
  • Skytower takes you high over the park with views of the Pacific Ocean and downtown San Diego. Guests under 48″ must be accompanied by an adult. There is an extra fee of $6.00 per person over the age of 3.

Medium Thrill Rides

  • Shipwreck Rapids is a water ride that takes you down white water rapids finally splashing through a waterfall finale. You will get wet! The height requirement is 42″.
  • Riptide Rescue is a classic spinner ride where you get to pretend to rescue sea turtles! The height requirement is 45″.
Sea World Sky Tower.
Sea World Skytower

High Thrill Rides and Roller Coasters

  • Manta is a launch roller coaster that shoots you up high before coming back down all while riding in a train car themed after amazing Manta Rays. The height requirement is 48″.
  • Electric Eel is a multi launch coaster that towers high over the San Diego skyline. The height requirement is 54″.
Electric Eel roller coaster at Sea World San Diego.
Electric Eel
  • Journey to Atlantis is a water coaster that immerses guests in the lost city of Atlantis before sending you through twists and turns and down a large hill. The height requirement is 42″.
  • Tidal Twister is a brand new roller coaster at Sea World San Diego. It is unique because some guests will face forward and some backward during the ride. The height requirement is 48″.
Aqua Scout ride at Sea World.

Sea World San Diego Animal Exhibits and Presentations

There are so many great shows at Sea World it is hard to know which one to attend. The parks website has a great description of the shows and which ones will best fit your child’s interest.

  • Sea Lions Live- Enjoy a presentation by some clever sea lions. My boys thought this show was hilarious!
  • Dolphin Days- Catch a glimpse of some talented bottlenose dolphins and their amazing trainers!
Dolphin Days show at Sea World San Diego.
  • Orca Encounter- With this presentation you will learn all about the magnificent orcas, their family structure and their hunting habits.
Sea lion show at Sea World San Diego.
Sea Lions Live Show

Interactive Animal Exhibits at Sea World San Diego

There are also some fun interactive animal exhibits at Sea World San Diego. Both indoors and outdoors. Here are a few to check out:

Ocean Explorer Sign at Sea World.

Animals You Will See at Sea World

Kids looking at flamingos at Sea World.

Dining Options at Sea World San Diego

There are many restaurants to choose from at Sea World San Deigo. You can choose to have a quick lunch or sit down for a formal dining experience. Dining options include:

  • Big Bird’s Bistro Menu items include: Specialty Smoothies, Funnel Cakes, Vanilla Soft Serve, Pineapple Soft Serve, Fresh Fruit, Dasani Water, Milk, Assorted Beers, Coca Cola Products.
  • The Waterfront Menu items include: Assorted Beer, Wine and Cocktails, Assorted Coca-Cola Products, DASANI Bottled Water, Assorted Milks.
  • Calypso Bay Smokehouse Menu items include: Quartered Chicken, Chef’s Fall Season Special, St. Louis BBQ Ribs Fried Green Tomato Slider, BBQ Chicken Caesar Salad, Potato Salad, Fried Brussel Sprouts with Sriracha Agave Glaze and Bacon Bits, French Fries, Colossal Onion Rings.
Orca Encounter at Sea World San Diego.
  • Mama Stella’s Pizza Kitchen Menu items include: Caprese Salad, Fontina Cheese Meatballs, Mama’s Rigatoni, Grilled Veggie & Hummus Wrap, Chicken Caesar Salad. Kid’s Meal choices: Mac & Cheese, Cheese Pizza.
  • Shipwreck Reef Cafe Menu items include: Grilled Bacon Cheeseburger, Kickin’ Fried Shrimp, Hot Honeyracha Chicken Wings, Honey-Hoisin Glazed Salmon, Grilled Veggie & Hummus Wrap, Impossible Burger, Chicken Caesar Salad. Kid’s Meal choices: Tenders & Fries, Mac & Cheese.
Three boys standing in front of an aquarium at Sea World.

Dining Specials

All-Day Dining – The All-Day Dining Deal allows you to visit a Sea World restaurant as often as once per hour. Each hour you are entitled to receive 1 entrée, plus 1 side or dessert as well as 1 soft beverage or iced tea. The price is $44.99 for adults (ages 10+) and $22.99 for children (ages3-9).

Brunch with Elmo & Friends – Enjoy eating brunch while being entertained by Elmo and his friends followed by a character meet & greet. The price for this character meal is $39.99 for adults (ages 10+) and $34.99 for kids (ages 3-9)

Dine with Orcas – Experience a delicious buffet while enjoying an amazing view of orcas. The price is $39.99 for adults (ages 10+) and $29.99 for kids (ages 3-9).

Dine with Orcas sign.

Can You Bring Outside Food into Sea World San Diego?

You might find yourself wanting to bring in food from outside. However, there are a few rules you need to be aware of when bringing food into Sea World San Diego.

Depending on the type of food you want to bring in, some restrictions may apply. Food may be brought in for those with specific dietary needs as well as baby food and snacks. We have brought small items like fruit snacks in for our kids without a problem.

Exit at Sea World San Diego.

Where to Stay near Sea World San Diego

My family takes a trip to San Diego at least once a year and we definitely have a favorite place to stay! If you are looking for a hotel near Sea World, I highly recommend you check out Best Western Plus Island Palms Hotel & Marina.

I have a full review here and you can watch my video tour here. You might also want to check out my favorite places to eat in San Diego!

Best Western Island Palms Hotel in San Diego, California.

If you have a family of little ones or are looking for an exciting place to visit with friends, Sea World San Diego might be the perfect destination. From interactive shows and thrilling rides to educational experiences that will teach your kids about different species in our oceans, there’s something for everyone at this Southern California theme park.

Remember this article when the time comes to plan your trip! And don’t forget to check out their discounts page while you’re online too! Let me know how your experience was at Sea World San Diego in the comments below!

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