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Sea World San Diego: More Than Just Shamu Shows and Killer Whales
Shamu at SeaWorld
Sea World San Diego is a unique, incredible place, and you already know why . . .
Where else in the world, other than at Sea World San Diego, could you:
- watch killer whales, sleek creatures larger and heavier than your car, leap completely out of the water?
- swim with dolphins?
- walk right under sharks?
These are just highlights of the amazing shows and exhibits at at Sea World San Diego. Here on this page, I recommend some of the best shows and attractions at Sea World as well as basic tips on enjoying the park. I first visited Sea World over 20 years ago, and the park gets better and better every year. What I love is while Sea World improves every year, the best things about the park--the killer whales, the dolphins, and the sharks--are always there.
Sea World San Diego Must-See Shows and Attractions
Sea World is a big park, and it is crowded. It is very hard to see everything you might want to in just one day, so you may have to pick and choose. These are shows that are must-sees: they are unforgettable and it would be a real shame to visit Sea World and miss them:
- Shamu/Killer Whales. You simply cannot go to Sea World and miss Shamu and the other killer whales. Killer whales are longer (20-26 feet long) and heavier than cars (up to 12,000 pounds or 5,300 kg) and are among the fastest creatures in the sea (reaching 35 knots or 65 km/hour). To see a killer whale leap completely out of the water, or to lift a full-sized human trainer 25 feet in the air is simply amazing. Your best bet is to see the killer whales in a live show: either "Shamu Show: Believe" (previously called "The Shamu Adventure") during the day or "Shamu Rocks" at night. You can even see both--they are different. You can also see killer whales between shows at Breakfast with Shamu and at other places in the park. (And yes, if you sit in the first 15 rows of one of these shows, you will get wet!)
- Dolphin Discovery. A show with acrobatic bottlenose dolphins. They're smaller, lighter, and faster than the killer whales, and do absolutely amazing things. With the killer whales, it is amazing to see such large creatures jump out of the water. With the dolphins, it is simply amazing how high and how far they can jump out of the water, and how many spins and front flips they can do! This is the dolphin show by which all other aquatic shows should be measured. Don't miss it.
- Shark Encounter. Sea World San Diego has a unique aquarium with a clear tunnel right under the water that lets the sharks swim right above your head! Shark Encounter has a 280,000 gallon tank of water full of sand tigers, white tips, and bonnetheads--you walk through a 57-foot long tunnel at the bottom of the tank, You may have seen sharks before in aquariums, but not like this--as if you were swimming right under them.
- Dolphin Experience. Step into a wetsuit and dive into the water and swim with real live bottlenose dolphins! You must make reservations and pay for this in advance--it is not included in the regular price of admission and is not cheap ($199 per person). Still, it may be worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime memory.
Some Sea World Gifts and Guides
Other Outstanding Shows and Attractions at Sea World San Diego
Other than the "must sees" described above, there are a number of other excellent exhibits or shows to visit:
- Skytower and Bayside Skyride. Take in a wonderful view of San Diego and Mission Bay from either of these rides. Skytower goes straight up into the sky and, on clear days, gives you 100 miles of visibility in San Diego. Bayside Skyride takes you on a six minute scenic journey over Mission Bay.
- Shamu's SkySplash. During the spring and summer, there are fireworks nightly above Mission Bay--you don't have to wait for the Fourth of July!Sea Lions Live and Sea Lions Tonight. A show with humans and sea lions on a stage. What is so amazing and surprising about the show is how expressive and funny the sea lions are--they communicate and act out so many different emotions you would swear they were people with sea lions' bodies.
- Pets Rule! This show is one of the few non-aquatic acts, but I have never seen a show like it--household pets--dogs, birds, cats, and one potbellied big--perform difficult tricks.
- Interact with sea animals. Take your children to pet the (harmless) bat rays under the water, or to feed dolphins and sea lions fishes!
- Aquariums. In various places in the parks, you can see up close and personal Shamu and the other killer whales at rest, dolphins, beluga whales, tropical fishes, freshwater fishes, manatees rescued from Florida.
- Land animal and bird exhibits. Sea World is--aside from the shows--a zoo, where you can see exotic animals: penguins, polar bears, flamingos, and otters. You can see the flamingos, and the author of this page with the flamingos, below.
Flamingos at SeaWorld San Diego
Tips to Enjoy Sea World San Diego
- Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. You might not think to put on sunscreen, since you're not going to the beach, but please do! Visiting Sea World San Diego is usually an all-day affair, and most of that time you will spend either walking outside or watching an aquatic or other show in an outdoor stadium.
- Wear waterproof clothing and protect electronic devices. Many of the aquatic shows--anything with the killer whales, dolphins, and sea lions--famously have a "splash zone." If you sit in the front rows of one of the amphitheaters, you will get wet. You might even get wet if you are not in the official splash zone. Be prepared, and bring a windbreaker or clothing that dries quickly (if you don't mind getting wet).
- Eat lunch or dinner outside the park. Sea World San Diego has decent but somewhat overpriced food. On the other hand, and conveniently, San Diego has great food and great restaurants. If you are going to spend all day at Sea World, you might think seriously about taking a short break and having lunch outside, maybe at Ocean Beach or in Old Town, which are fairly short drives away from Sea World San Diego.
Some other hubs on San Diego tourism tips
- Sea World History
The strange, bizarre, and entirely fascinating history of SeaWorld.
- Best Legoland Hotels in Carlsbad
Some tips on the best places to stay if you're going to Legoland California, whether you want a luxury hotel, beach hotel, discount hotel, or one right next to Legoland itself.
- Pacific Beach San Diego
Some tips on where to stay, and what to enjoy, in Pacific Beach San Diego.