Sea World, San Diego: Show and Attraction Review

Sea World "Killer Whale" Show

Orcas perform at Sea World, San Diego. Trainers are no longer allowed in the water with the animals.
Orcas perform at Sea World, San Diego. Trainers are no longer allowed in the water with the animals. | Source

Guest Ratings for Sea World San Diego

5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of SeaWorld, San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego History

On March 21, 1964, a small marine animal theme park in San Diego, California opened its doors. Originally conceived as an underwater restaurant with a sea life show, Sea World was the brainchild of four UCLA graduates. The original restaurant/show idea was scrapped in favor of a theme park, and the four men created a small, 22 acre park with a few dolphins and sea lions. The concept was a hit with the public, and drew in over 400,000 visitors in the first year.

Sea World San Diego now spans over 200 acres and has aquariums featuring sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, "killer" whales (orcas), beluga whales, pilot whales, and more. Several themed rides and other attractions have been added, including two roller coasters and a children's play area.

The park is not without controversy, as organizations like the World Society for the Protection of Animals are against the captivity of whales and dolphins. In addition, employee safety has been under the microscope recently, and the animal trainers are no longer allowed in the water with the orcas.


Sea World Show Pictures

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The One Ocean show allows guests to view orcas as they swim and perform tricks.The Clyde and Seamore show is hilarious and features sea lions (and an otter).
The One Ocean show allows guests to view orcas as they swim and perform tricks.
The One Ocean show allows guests to view orcas as they swim and perform tricks. | Source
The Clyde and Seamore show is hilarious and features sea lions (and an otter).
The Clyde and Seamore show is hilarious and features sea lions (and an otter). | Source

Review of Sea World Shows

Sea World offers many shows, including:

  • Clyde & Seamore, a humorous sea lion show.
  • Blue Horizons, a dolphin show.
  • One Ocean, a multimedia orca show.
  • The Shamu Story, an educational (and seasonal) orca show.
  • Pet's Rule! An entertaining show featuring rescued cats, dogs, and other domesticated animals.

I visited Sea World in August 2012 with my husband and two young sons (ages 4 and 6). I saw all of the shows listed above, with the exception of The Shamu Story, which is seasonal. My personal recommendations are below:

Clyde and Seamore: this show is hilarious, and a "must-see" show. Get to the stadium in time for the pre-show, as the pre-show entertainment is almost as good as the show itself. This stadium is located directly across from the Blue Horizons dolphin show, which makes it easy to catch two shows in a short period of time. This show features two sea lions, an otter, and a cast of human characters.

Blue Horizons: I was disappointed in this show, primarily due to the lack of educational information during the show. This dolphin show features a human cast dressed as birds and a female trainer dressed as a young girl, who chases her dream to swim with dolphins. The acrobatics are great and the dolphins are fantastic, but I found myself longing for the "old days" of educational programming at Sea World. My two young sons enjoyed the show immensely.

One Ocean: Trainers are no longer allowed in the water with the orcas, but this doesn't affect the "wow" factor of the show in any way. The orcas are the real stars, and are impressive as they swim and leap in front of the audience. Large video screens are involved in the show, and aid in the narration of events.

Pets Rule!: This show is highly entertaining and is another must-see. Hundreds of cats and dogs have been rescued by Sea World San Diego. The message of the show is excellent, as these animals were all unwanted or relinquished due to "behavior problems." With proper training and care, these unwanted animals perform amazing tricks and demonstrate that many animal behavior problems are caused by a lack of training on the part of humans, and are not an intrinsic problem of the animal. Cats, dogs, geese, and a pig are the stars of this funny (and educational) show.

Manta Ride-Through Video

Rides at Sea World, San Diego

There are several rides at Sea World, San Diego - all rides outside of Shamu's Happy Harbor have height limits that preclude young children from riding. The rides at Sea World include:

  1. The Manta Ray: a thrilling roller coaster.
  2. Journey to Atlantis: a combination flume ride/roller coaster.
  3. Riptide Rescue: a spinning/rocking thrill ride.
  4. Shipwreck Rapids: a white-water raft ride (you will get wet)!
  5. Wild Arctic Ride: a flight simulator over the arctic.
  6. Sky Tower: a slowly revolving observation platform.
  7. Abby's Sea Star Spin: a spinning cup ride for children (Bay of Play).
  8. Elmo's Flying Fish: fish fly in circles as young children make them go up and down (Bay of Play).
  9. Oscar's Rocking Eel: an eel "boat" slides back and forth along a track while spinning (Bay of Play).

Sea World Ride Height Requirements

Attraction
Location
Height Requirement
Manta Ray
Near Dolphin Point
48" minimum height requirement.
Riptide Rescue
Outside Turtle Reef
45" minimum height requirement to ride with an adult. 50" height requirement to ride independently.
Journey to Atlantis
Between Wild Arctic and the Animal Connections buildings
42" minimum height requirement.
Shipwreck Rapids
Near the Shipwreck Reef Cafe and the Shamu Stadium
42" minimum height requirement.
Wild Arctic
Near the Pet Stadium
42" minimum height requirement.
Sky Tower
Center of the park
Children under 48" must be accompanied by an adult.
Abby's Sea Star Spin
Sesame Street Bay of Play
Children under 42" must be accompanied by an adult.
Elmo's Flying Fish
Sesame Street Bay of Play
Children under 48" must be accompanied by an adult.
Oscar's Rocking Eel
Sesame Street Bay of Play
Children under 42" must be accompanied by an adult.

Sea World Ride Pictures

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The author's two thrill-seeking sons pose in front of Journey to Atlantis. Journey to Atlantis begins with a 60' drop.The author's sons, husband, and mother on a second ride. Riptide Rescue is a spinning, rocking, and wild ride. Abby's Sea Star Spin is located in the Bay of Play and is perfect for the preschool set.
The author's two thrill-seeking sons pose in front of Journey to Atlantis.
The author's two thrill-seeking sons pose in front of Journey to Atlantis. | Source
Journey to Atlantis begins with a 60' drop.
Journey to Atlantis begins with a 60' drop. | Source
The author's sons, husband, and mother on a second ride.
The author's sons, husband, and mother on a second ride. | Source
Riptide Rescue is a spinning, rocking, and wild ride.
Riptide Rescue is a spinning, rocking, and wild ride. | Source
Abby's Sea Star Spin is located in the Bay of Play and is perfect for the preschool set.
Abby's Sea Star Spin is located in the Bay of Play and is perfect for the preschool set. | Source

Journey to Atlantis Ride Through Video

Sea World Ride Review

I did not ride the Manta roller coaster or Shipwreck Rapids on our most recent trip to Sea World. The minimum height requirement for the roller coaster prevented our sons from riding, so we simply skipped the coaster. We avoided Shipwreck Rapids only because we had no plans for getting drenched in the early evening, when we approached the ride. We have experienced many other "white water rafting" rides at other theme parks, and did not feel like we were missing anything. The rides we experienced were:

Journey to Atlantis:

My youngest son barely made the height requirement for this ride. At the age of four years, I was a little concerned about what his reaction would be to a 60' flume drop and a steel roller coaster. The ride starts as a boat ride, and quickly drops down a 60' long flume. Riders do get wet, but the extra water cannons had been turned off since evening was approaching. The boat goes into a dark "cave," and riders are rocked back and forth as an elevator carries the ride vehicle to the top of a steel coaster track. The coaster then swoops down a hill and completes a circuit on a smooth (and fast) steel track. Both of my sons loved the ride. My younger son cried when he had to get off the boat! They rode twice, while I gathered my shaking legs and watched from the sidelines the second time around.

Riptide Rescue:

My younger son could not ride this attraction, as he did not make the minimum height requirement. This caused some tears, but he was distracted by a local gift shop while I rode with my six year old son. This flying boat vehicles swing back and forth as the ride spins rapidly - do not attempt this ride immediately after lunch. The ride was extremely fun and my older son wanted to ride a second time.

Wild Arctic Ride:

This simulator ride is quite outdated, and the movie shows its age. My two young sons enjoyed it immensely, however, and I did like the fact that the ride and ride building were educational. The ride is fairly mild, but does feature a simulated avalanche and helicopter crash scene that may frighten sensitive children. My children were not bothered by any aspect of the ride.

Sky Tower:

This slowly revolving tower is the only ride that allows hand-held infants. The tower is a nice way to get away from long lines and out of the heat of the mid-day sun. The view is impressive and my four year old exclaimed, "it's like being in an airplane!" Young children will enjoy this gentle ride and observation tower.

Abby's Sea Star Spin:

This is a typical spinning "teacup" style ride. I rode this attraction with my husband and two boys - three of us enjoyed the wild spinning, while my husband went in search of a nice, stable bench after the ride was complete. Guests have complete control over the ride vehicle, and may spin (or not spin) the Sea Star to their heart's content.

Elmo's Flying Fish:

This ride is a classic "flying" kiddie ride, where several ride vehicles spin around a central axis. Kids can control the height of their flying fish as it navigates the circle.

Oscar's Rocking Eel:

A slightly thrilling rocking/spinning motion is created as the "eel" slides back and forth along a small track while gently spinning. My boys enjoyed this ride, and it appeals to the preschool set.

Turtle Reef, Shark Encounter, and Other Attractions

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Turtle Reef offers a serene, air conditioned aquarium filled with sea turtles and fish.The author's' sons throw fish to a waiting sea lion at Pacific Point.A sea lion at Sea World, San DiegoThe author's six year old son waits patiently for a dolphin to swim by. The tide pool exhibit allows children to touch sea stars and other ocean invertebrates.A viewing area behind Shamu Stadium allows guests to get close to the orcas.
Turtle Reef offers a serene, air conditioned aquarium filled with sea turtles and fish.
Turtle Reef offers a serene, air conditioned aquarium filled with sea turtles and fish. | Source
The author's' sons throw fish to a waiting sea lion at Pacific Point.
The author's' sons throw fish to a waiting sea lion at Pacific Point. | Source
A sea lion at Sea World, San Diego
A sea lion at Sea World, San Diego | Source
The author's six year old son waits patiently for a dolphin to swim by.
The author's six year old son waits patiently for a dolphin to swim by. | Source
The tide pool exhibit allows children to touch sea stars and other ocean invertebrates.
The tide pool exhibit allows children to touch sea stars and other ocean invertebrates. | Source
A viewing area behind Shamu Stadium allows guests to get close to the orcas.
A viewing area behind Shamu Stadium allows guests to get close to the orcas. | Source

Sea World's Wild Arctic Area

Sea World Poll

What is Your Favorite Sea World Attraction?

See results without voting

Aquariums and Other Attractions

Nearly all of Sea World's exhibits and aquariums feature interactive exhibits, which helped to engage my boys in the experience. The other attractions at Sea World include:

Turtle Reef:

We all enjoyed the magnificent tanks filled with sea turtles and fish. This building is cool and air conditioned, and offers a welcome relief from the heat of the day. After viewing two shows in the blazing hot sun, this building offered a bit of a cool rest. My two young sons loved the interactive video game near the exit of the building - they helped guide their turtles safely to a nesting beach.

Shark Encounter:

This exhibit is outstanding and should not be missed. The tanks are first viewed from above, and guests descend as they walk through the exhibit. Touch pools with baby sharks are accessible from the line,and my boys loved this feature. The exhibit ends with a walk through an acrylic tube that passes through the shark tank.

Pacific Point:

Sea lions are on exhibit in this location, and fish can be purchased for a fee at certain times of the day. My boys were thrilled to feed the sea lions. Be sure to wash your hands after this attraction, as the smell of the fish will linger!

Dolphin Point:

This attraction is filled with dolphins in a "touch pool," though the dolphins rarely come close enough to the guests for a pat. My boys were a bit frustrated, as they wanted to touch the dolphins - Sea World does offer a dolphin encounter experience for a hefty price tag, but we declined and simply enjoyed watching the dolphins swim in their pool.

Wild Arctic:

Beluga whales are the stars of this attraction, which houses a flight simulator of the same name. After exiting the ride, take the time to walk through this excellent exhibit. We toured this area of the park at sunset, and the colors of the setting sun over the beluga whale tanks was stunning.

Penguin Encounter:

This exhibit features many different species of penguins, and visitors may ride a moving sidewalk as it travels past the penguin's enclosure. The lighting in the exhibit mimics the antarctic, so in the summer the lights will be dimmed. This helps maintain the bird's natural mating characteristics.

Sesame Street Bay of Play Pictures

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Playing chimes at the Bay of Play.A xylophone at Sea World's Bay of Play.Slides are plentiful in this giant playground.The author's four year old needed some assistance on the cargo nets, but kids over the age of five should be fine on this play structure.The Bay of Play is an excellent place to let kids burn off pent-up energy.
Playing chimes at the Bay of Play.
Playing chimes at the Bay of Play. | Source
A xylophone at Sea World's Bay of Play.
A xylophone at Sea World's Bay of Play. | Source
Slides are plentiful in this giant playground.
Slides are plentiful in this giant playground. | Source
The author's four year old needed some assistance on the cargo nets, but kids over the age of five should be fine on this play structure.
The author's four year old needed some assistance on the cargo nets, but kids over the age of five should be fine on this play structure. | Source
The Bay of Play is an excellent place to let kids burn off pent-up energy.
The Bay of Play is an excellent place to let kids burn off pent-up energy. | Source

Sesame Street Bay of Play: SeaWorld San Diego

The Bay of Play is a massive playground for preschool and elementary school aged children. Cargo net climbers, bridges, tunnels, and slides help kids burn off extra energy. Stop by this area for the kiddie rides or when the kids don't feel like standing in another line. A splash pad area is also located in this area - we opted to stay out of the water since we were still drying off from our Journey to Atlantis ride! Bring bathing suits, a change of clothes, and a towel for kids who want to play in the splash pad.

My boys enjoyed the bridges and cargo nets the most, and we had a hard time convincing them it was time to leave the playground area. Kids under the age of five may need help climbing the cargo nets, but most elementary school aged children will be able to play in this area independently.



Location of Sea World, San Diego

A markerSea World, San Diego -
Sea World Dr, 500 Sea World Dr, San Diego, CA 92109, USA
[get directions]

Sea World is located in San Diego, California near Mission Bay.

More by this Author


Comments 12 comments

CassyLu1981 profile image

CassyLu1981 4 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

I LOVED Sea World San Diego. My favorite part were the Clydesdales (only because they are my all time favorite animal). The kids of course loved being in the "splash zone" and they also have great prices for Military members and their family :) I would go back in a heartbeat! Excellent hub, voted up, interesting, useful, shared and pinned :)


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

We all had a great time. My kids are insane little daredevils and absolutely loved the thrill rides. I didn't fare as well, CassyLu! The Journey to Atlantis ride was a bit much for me! The shows, aquariums, and animal encounters are absolutely fantastic there. My husband kept walking around looking for the free beer, but I don't think they hand out free beer anymore (ha)!


Kyricus profile image

Kyricus 4 years ago from Ohio

I miss going to Sea World. We had one here in Cleveland until 2001 and I'd go about every other year. I haven't been to one since ours left.

Your review brings me back to some of the things I miss.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

I live in Western NY, Kyricus, and I wish there was still a Sea World in Ohio! From my understanding, Sea World sold the park to Six Flags because the harsh weather created such a short operating season. Six Flags then sold the park to the company that owns Cedar Point, which closed the marine park and turned the property into a water park.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

We have a Sea World in Orlando and it is exciting to visit. I think the San Diego one is much bigger though, lots more interesting things to do and see. Very well done and so interesting.


agusfanani profile image

agusfanani 4 years ago from Indonesia

This Sea World has very attractive shows and I think the one at The One Ocean which performs Orcas is spectacular since this whale is not easy to be trained.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

I have never been to the Sea World in Orlando, but we might visit if we ever do a Disney World trip in the future. We live in Western NY and are actually closer to Florida, teaches12345, but our parents all live in California so we make frequent trips to visit.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

The "Shamu" (orca) show is really spectacular, agusfanani. Sea World uses positive reinforcement to train the animals, and their techniques are very successful.


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago

Sounds like you guys had a great time there. I'd love to see all the interesting shows and try those fun rides, especially the Journey to Atlantis. Maybe I'll cry when I have to get off the boat, too. LOL


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

It is a fun ride, if you have the stomach for it! I couldn't believe my then FOUR year old was in love with that ride, Om - it is a pretty serious thrill ride for a little kid! He also loves Space Mountain at Disneyland and any other roller coaster he's tall enough to get on. I predict a lot of dramamine in my future....


lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

I lived in Carlsbad, CA for 5 years and always enjoyed taking out-of-town visitors down to Sea World. Now I am going to read your Hub about Legoland!


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

Lindacee, I grew up in Riverside, CA and we used to take regular vacations to San Diego. I have always loved Sea World, and it was really fun to take the boys to see the shows and exhibits. They have added a lot since my last visit - they have many more rides and exhibits than they used to have.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working