SeaWorld San Diego Attractions

There’s Something for Everybody

FYI, we’ve broken this down into three parts.

  1. First the SeaWorld San Diego attractions and rides are given some pithy commentary– this involves the action-oriented activities.
  2. That’s followed by some rambling about the great shows, all presented in first-rate stadiums and other venues.
  3. Finally we talk about the exhibits; these typically have no scheduled start time but are no less fascinating.

SeaWorld San Diego Attractions and Rides

SeaWorld offers just enough action-oriented rides to break up the day and make it more enjoyable to slow down to appreciate the shows and exhibits. Here is a brief rundown on the action rides (there are a few other kiddie rides in the Sesame Street Fun zone that we won’t describe in detail). If you’d like to check out the official SeaWorld San Diego Attractions page, click here.

Journey to Atlantis
Journey to Atlantis

For rides that get you wet, there’s Shipwreck Rapids and Journey to Atlantis. If one of the six Shamus did not get you soaked, here are two additional ways to get really wet.

The Rapids send you down the river without a paddle; actually you are splashing through rapids and an underground cavern in a 9-person round raft. Check out the photo. Friends and enemies can pay a quarter or so to shoot you with water as you pass by. This is not Six-Flags exciting but it is fun, and will cool you down on a hot summer day. These are some of the most fun San Diego attractions.

Shipwreck Rapids
Shipwreck Rapids

Journey to Atlantis might get you even wetter than Shipwreck Rapids if you play your cards right. It’s a roller coaster of moderate thrill level, ending with a big ol’ 60-foot drop into a lake. The first part of this 6-minute ride offers some impressive special effects and surprises. The lines can get a little long for this ride on a hot day, but older kids will enjoy it as one of the better SeaWorld San Diego attractions.

Then there are the rides that won’t get you wet. The Wild Arctic takes you on a simulated jet helicopter trip to a fictitious remote research station, with breathtaking views of serene countryside. Serene until an impending snowstorm starts to move in on you, causing your pilot to take evasive measures to get you safely to the base. Once you arrive, you have a chance to see what it is like in that foreign environment.

If you find you’re about to get wet in the Skytower, it’s probably because it it raining. For a small additional fee ($3 for one ride; $5 for any two rides, which could include the Bayside Skyride below) you take the tower all the way to the top. They say you can see up to 100 miles on a clear day. Take advantage of this to enjoy the dramatic skyline and surrounding San Diego attractions.

Sky Cab

Another of the most unique SeaWorld San Diego attractions is a ride offering impressive views, and a chance to rest your feet: the BaySide Skyride. It’s a 6-minute round trip across Mission Bay; kind of like a ski lift across the Bay without the long underwear. Older kids will find being suspended way up high is pretty cool, and may bug you to go a second time.

Some other theme parks (like Disneyland) have removed these kinds of aerial rides, perhaps because of unruly kids emitting improper materials from the moving buckets (some call that spitting) and causing trouble on the ground. Those juvenile knuckleheads did not realize that each car displays a prominent ID number for identification purposes.

I vaguely recall learning that lesson the hard way long ago as a kid, but I’m sure I was the innocent victim of an overly diligent Disney cast member. Actually my friend Brian did most of the spitting; I tried to stop him. Yeah, that’s it. He wouldn’t listen to me. But enough about my past misfortunes. Bring the camera for these SeaWorld San Diego attractions.

You can check out the SeaWorld website for information on the three rides for small children found around the Sesame Street Bay of Play; these include Elmo’s Flying Fish, Oscar’s rocking Eel and Abby’s Sea Star Spin.

SeaWorld Shows

We’ve already talked a bit about the Shamu Show Believe. I would hit this early as it gets you in the mood for the rest of the nature-oriented park. Also, if you decide to sit down close enough to get wet, an early show will give you more time to dry off before the cool of the evening sets in. It is a very well-done show and the stars (both human and orca) seem to enjoy their work. All are mammals, but the whales are the ones that get fish treats when they do their routines.

SeaWorld's Show: Riptide
SeaWorld’s Show: Riptide

At night Shamu gets down with music, animation and cool lighting. They wisely back off on the crowd-drenching at night (although if a mischievous whale decided to splash the daylights out of an unsuspecting nighttime crowd, what are they going to do about it?).

By the way, if you want to see the world like a killer whale, visit the Shamu Cam. Ignight is another good evening show as are the Shamu SkySplash fireworks. Last but not least of the nocturnal shows is Riptide, a wild show with amazing gymnastics, rock music, world-class dancing and cool specialty acts.

This show is presented twice nightly during the summer on the stage near the main entrance.

It seems that sea lions are natural comedic actors, especially if they spent their growing up years watching Saturday Night Live. It’s only natural that they would be the stars of Sea Lions Live, a humorous show that offers their own version of beloved shows like Sea Lion Idol. Throw in a crazy sea otter or two and you have nonstop madcap mayhem.

This show is presented several times throughout the day; the website has a schedule of showtimes. Get there early as they sometimes engage in pre-show antics according to the official website.

Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil

Other daytime shows include dolphins, sea lions, everyday gifted pets and Sesame Street characters. If you are familiar with Cirque du Soleil, you won’t want to miss Cirque de la Mer in the Cirque Stadium. There you will see humans doing some pretty amazing things, although they do not get fish treats when at the end of successful tricks.

This is one of the more unusual San Diego attractions. This show runs Memorial Day through Labor Day. Here’s a link to find out more about SeaWorld shows.

SeaWorld Exhibits

Sesame Street Bay of Play
Sesame Street Bay of Play

Speaking of Sesame Street, the Bay of Play is an inspired 2-acre fun zone for little kids. It includes the three age-appropriate action rides along with numerous sophisticated play areas and some really great ways to get as wet as they’d ever want. The Bay offers multiple SeaWorld San Diego attractions in close proximity to one another and to the rest of this spacious “over-the-top” play yard.

Other exhibit areas are too numerous to describe in great detail here, but are shown on the website. Some are worth mentioning here, just to get you a little excited. We mentioned Wild Arctic above; the harrowing chopper ride always seems to end successfully, thank heavens.

It then leaves you in the cold, where you can visit penguins, polar bears and other animals who live in this forbidding environment. Keep this in mind if the weather really heats up as you can cool down nicely in the Arctic.

Shark Encounter
Shark Encounter

Most of us have a pretty strong respect for, and at least a moderate level of interest in sharks. Don’t miss Shark Encounter, where you walk through a tube running through the 280,000-gallon shark tank. They won’t let you bring in drills, chisels, sledge hammers or dynamite for fear of tube breakage.

Other exhibits bring you up close with manatees, freshwater fish, stingrays, dolphins, sea otters, turtles and tide pool creatures. Here is what SeaWorld says about its exhibits.

More Thoughts on SeaWorld San Diego Attractions, Exhibits and Shows

I would mix things up, depending on your group, with visits to exhibits interspersed with shows and action rides. If one of your group is wanting non-stop action, help prepare them ahead of time and plan out the day to give them some action at regular intervals (they can hit Atlantis and Shipwreck Rapids several times if necessary).

If you’d like to see some creatures that don’t live in the water, trot on over to Clydesdale Hamlet. there you’ll find stables and get close to these huge, beautiful, beer-drinking horses (Editors note: somebody has been watching too many Budweiser beer commercials).

Ok, we’ve no doubt left some fun stuff out, but that will give you some incentive to spend time on the SeaWorld website linked above. But don’t forget that there is some fairly serious science behind the fun at this great theme park, and you can participate in a number of creative ways. They offer educational camps where kids and families can sleep over , actually spending days and nights learning about the animal stars.

There are special tours behind the scenes (extra charge as you might have expected), animal encounters and opportunities to dine “with” Shamu and other critters. So do some poking around the official site if that might be of interest. At SeaWorld you’ll find some of the best San Diego attractions all in one place.

Here's to the HeroesAnd don’t forget about the Here’s to the Heroes complimentary admission tickets to military families; this is a particularly meaningful gesture by Anheuser Busch in this Navy and Marine town.