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What You Need to Know About Visiting SeaWorld San Diego in 2020

March 28, 2019 By CityPASS

Planning a trip to SeaWorld San Diego? You’ve come to the right place to learn all about the ins and outs of the West Coast’s favorite animal theme park. Get the inside scoop on the best rides, animal encounters, times to go, and places to stay, as well as how to score discount tickets. Sometimes a little planning is all it takes to take a trip from ho-hum to amazing!

Planning A Trip to SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego is, above all, a theme park centered on ocean life. Thrilling rides and delicious eats serve to enhance the experience, but make a point to catch at least one show and prepare to be wowed by the natural and entertaining interactions between trainers and animals.

It’s a medium-sized park, but it’s packed with so many exciting attractions, you should definitely plan to spend a whole day there. Choose from 16 rides, multiple shows, ongoing interactive exhibits like the Explorer’s Reef touch pools, and even Animal Tours, where you’ll get to experience a close-up introduction to various creatures from flamingos to walruses.

SeaWorld San Diego’s FAQ page has a lot of great information like what not to bring to the park, a guide for visitors with disabilities, and other tips. Keep in mind that if you prefer to bring your own food, you’ll have to enjoy it in the picnic area located near the entrance, but water bottles are permitted – and highly recommended as it gets hot in the summer.

With San Diego’s unpredictable winter weather, you’ll be relieved to know that SeaWorld San Diego offers free Sunny Day tickets to those visiting on days when it happens to rain. Visitors who get rained on are free to use this ticket for a complimentary return visit on a day with better weather.

The best time of year to visit SeaWorld San Diego is in springtime or fall. You’ll avoid the summer crowds and heat and potentially wetter winter weather, and enjoy a better chance for gorgeous blue skies that will serve as a dazzling backdrop for your visit. If you are genuinely looking to avoid crowds as much as possible, visit in the winter. But be warned: lingering rain, fewer staff members, and cooler temps may await you.

While you may want to hit the snooze button more than once on your vacation, if you can get yourself to the park right when it opens, you’ll enjoy at least an hour or two of shorter lines and fewer crowds. If you’re more excited for the animals than the rides, try to plan your day around their feeding schedule, which you’ll be able to access when you enter the park.

SeaWorld San Diego Discount Tickets, Hours, and More

SeaWorld San Diego is located at 500 Sea World Drive in sunny San Diego, California. While it’s open all year, operating hours vary based on day of the week and time of year, so be sure to check their calendar before planning a trip. However, SeaWorld usually opens at 10am every day, so make sure you get an early start!

For holiday schedules, check the calendar. They offer longer visiting hours during the winter holidays, opening at 9am on a few select days.

You can purchase tickets online at the official website… or you can save some money (perhaps enough to purchase Quick Queue, which provides express entry to popular rides) if you buy CityPASS® tickets. With a CityPASS® tickets, you’ll save on the best attractions San Diego has to offer, including LEGOLAND California and even the home of the mouse himself – Disneyland.

SeaWorld San Diego Attractions

If you think SeaWorld San Diego is just for kids, think again. Its awe-inspiring shows and up-close animal encounters are sure to delight visitors of all ages. (Of course, if you like thrill rides, they’ve got those too!) And the fun doesn’t stop with the entertainment. SeaWorld San Diego has a range of tasty dining establishments – even ones where you can dine while gazing at killer whales – and plenty of shopping options for souvenirs.

Between the animal experiences, topsy-turvy rides, and amazing shows, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any visitor leaving without a smile on their face.


SeaWorld San Diego is home to hundreds of species of aquatic and marine life, including dolphins, penguins, sea turtles, sharks, killer whales, and stingrays. In many cases, you can even arrange for a personal encounter for an additional cost. They boast multiple aquariums filled with a colorful assortment of ocean species and even offer four touch pools at the Explorer’s Reef front entrance, where you can touch sharks, cleaner fish and other inhabitants. Here are some of the top-ranked animal experiences at SeaWorld San Diego:

  • Beluga Interaction Program – While it is a trifle pricey, this up-close encounter with the "canaries of the sea" is sure to top your list of all-time favorite memories. You’ll get to touch and feed the gentle creatures and learn all about their habits from knowledgeable trainers.
  • Shark Encounter – You’ll be dazzled by an array of passing sharks as you wander through a clear tunnel positioned beneath their watery home.
  • Otter Outlook – Admire these playful creatures as they frolic in the clear blue water. Try to catch them during feeding time, when you’ll also be treated to a short presentation given by otter behaviorists.
  • Ocean Explorer Animals – Did you know Japanese spider crabs can grow to be over nine feet long from claw to claw? Find this gentle giant along with California moray eels, a secretive giant octopus, and many other amazing ocean residents at this wondrous aquarium.
  • Orca Underwater Viewing – Come face to face with one of nature’s most fearsome creatures, whose gentle features belie the fierce survival instinct of a predator.


SeaWorld may be known for its sensational animal attractions, but the rides and roller coasters can definitely hold their own. There are adrenaline-charged rides for thrill junkies, sedate ones for visitors looking for a more relaxed experience, comfortable options for pint-sized animal lovers, and even a raft ride that will leave you dripping. Here are the must-try rides and roller coasters:

  • Electric Eel – Currently the highest and fastest roller coaster in San Diego, this spine-tingling adventure will leave you gasping for breath as it whips you down from a peak of 150 feet at 60 mph toward inverted loops and a heartline roll.
  • Tentacle Twirl – Kick up your feet and enjoy the breeze on your face as you soar through the air on this jellyfish-themed swing ride. Kids of all ages will approve!
  • Skytower - Enjoy breathtaking views up to a hundred miles in every direction, from the beauty of Mission Bay to the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean to San Diego’s historic skyline.
  • Manta – This exhilarating roller coaster includes multi-media to amp up the excitement factor. You’ll hurtle down steep descents and thunderous curves at breakneck speed – we dare you not to scream!
  • Shipwreck Rapids – Expect to get soaked as you traverse thrashing white rapids and plunge down a waterfall’s sheer face.


SeaWorld San Diego is, at its core, an animal conservation environment where endangered and rescued animals can thrive. This commitment to animal happiness extends to their shows and presentations, where the connection is so strong between the trainers and residents, it’s almost palpable. You’ll be amazed by the dramatic behaviors performed by the talented animals. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Orca Encounter – Learn all about these majestic creatures as trainers take them through a series of their natural behaviors in front of an expansive infinity screen that helps tell their story.
  • Sea Lions Live – Don’t miss the zany antics of the winsome sea lion duo, Clyde and Seamore, as they join their otter friend O.P. in a series of hilarious parodies of popular shows.
  • Dolphin Days – These intelligent sea creatures show off their zest for life and acrobatic prowess as their trainers take them through a series of truly astounding behaviors.
  • Cirque Electrique - Part of SeaWorld’s Electric Ocean summer extravaganza, Cirque Electrique is a nighttime spectacular. Lighting up the waters of Mission Bay with daring acrobats in cutting edge LED suits, this summer-only show features performers who bounce and fly over and into the ocean.

Where to Stay Near SeaWorld San Diego

When the park closes and it’s time to head somewhere to rest your weary feet, you’ll have plenty of options for where to spend the night. SeaWorld San Diego is close to a bevy of choice hotels that are also close to San Diego’s top attractions. Many of the hotels are even within walking distance of the park (if the weather cooperates and you’re feeling energetic). Here are some of the most beloved by guests:

  • Bahia Resort Hotel – This Mission Bay-facing beauty is less than two miles from SeaWorld San Diego and features amenities like access to a private beach and free beach cabanas stocked with plump pillows. Note to those looking for a deal: it ranks on TripAdvisor’s Best Value Hotels in America.
  • Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Old Town/SeaWorld Area – Those looking to splurge a bit may want to consider this lushly appointed hotel. It’s a quick drive to SeaWorld San Diego and under a 30-minute walk if it’s nice out, and you’ll enjoy all the extra-special touches you’ve come to expect from the Hilton brand. Don’t forget to take a dip in the heated pool at night under the beautiful San Diego skies.
  • Cosmopolitan Hotel & Restaurant – With a terrace for every room, charming atmosphere and décor, and close proximity to SeaWorld San Diego, it’s no surprise this historic boutique hotel has garnered top ratings from guests.
  • The Dana on Mission Bay – You won’t get much closer to SeaWorld San Diego – this hotel is just a 20-minute walk from the park. Take advantage of the fitness center, spa, and gorgeous location right at the shores of the glittering Mission Bay.

What You Need to Know About Visiting SeaWorld San Diego

With so much to explore, people usually spend one full day at SeaWorld San Diego. However, if you’re a die-hard animal lover who wants to take advantage of the VIP tours, see all the shows, and go on rides, you may want to consider adding an extra day – depending on your stamina! Annual passes are available for those who like to visit frequently, but if you’re only visiting, two days would be more than enough to get your fill of the park.

Even if watching animals perform exciting feats doesn’t generally excite you, make it a point to catch the Orca Encounter presentation at SeaWorld. The sheer size of these magnificent creatures is impressive, and you’ll learn a lot about them. Thrill-seekers should make a beeline for the Electric Eel as soon as they enter the park. Lines build up quickly and this is one coaster you’ll want to ride more than once!

While most people visit SeaWorld San Diego in the summer when the park stays open later and the weather is bright and sunny, if you can accommodate a spring or fall visit, you’ll get the best of both worlds: fewer crowds and pleasant weather.

SeaWorld Autism Services

SeaWorld Special Access is designed to allow guests to enjoy SeaWorld attractions without waiting in queue lines if the guest is not able to do so due to their disability. Guests will be placed in a Virtual Queue which equals the estimated wait time at that respective location. Guests have the ability to enjoy other attractions throughout the park during this time and then proceed to the specific attraction at the estimated time.

For full details on Special Access and the full list of accessibility services offered by Seaworld, please visit their official website.

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