For me, SeaWorld is one of those magical places that allow you to tap into your inner child, no matter what your age. That’s probably what made it the perfect spot to spend my 38th birthday with my family this past summer; what better way to forget about 40’s impending approach than to act like a kid for a day??
SeaWorld was the first major attraction on our laundry list of parks, beaches and general merriment in California. Two years ago, we visited the SeaWorld located in Florida; so we were not totally new to it. I had fallen in love with SeaWord Orlando, and SeaWorld San Diego certainly did not disappoint either.
Although we arrived bright and early on a Monday morning, the entrance to SeaWorld San Diego was busy! In fact, it ended up being the longest admission process to any of the big parks that we visited. Not only was there a long, slow-moving line for tickets, there was also a hefty wait to pass through security (after getting your tickets). We decided to divide and conquer; my husband, Ian, stood in line for tickets while the kids and I waited in the security line. Ian secured the tickets and joined us at the front of the security line, effectively cutting our wait time in half.
Once we were in, however, everything flowed smoothly and the park didn’t feel overly busy at all. We kicked off the day with a few amusement park-style rides for the kids (there are 10 to choose from). About half the rides have no minimum height requirement, meaning that even the little kids can ride. Our girls totally loved ‘Oscar’s Rockin’ Eels’ which was essentially a classic pirate ship ride with a sideways twisting motion thrown in.
After the girls had their fill of rides, we sat down in the stands to watch the ‘One Ocean’ show at Shamu Stadium. It was fun to see the quintessential Shamu and his posse, but the show lacked the diversity of the one I remembered from Orlando. Looking back, I realized that the real show-stopper was the ‘Blue Horizons’ show – which presents almost like Cirque du Soleil over water, with beautifully-costumed acrobats and a large variety of trained animals. SeaWorld San Diego does indeed offer the same show, but we didn’t have the chance to take it in this time around. If you’re just planning to see one of the aquatic shows during your visit, I would definitely recommend the Blue Horizons show over One Ocean.
This was about the half-way point in our day, so we hit the ‘Shipwreck Reef Cafe’ for lunch (yes, the SeaWorld marketing team clearly had a hay day coming up with aquatic names for just about everything!). Since food places at theme parks tend to be way heavy on the grease and sugar, I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of fresh and healthy lunch offerings here; there were tons of salads, fruit and yogurt available. (Did we eat them?? Well, no…but the healthy options were there had we been disciplined enough to choose them!)
Our first destination after lunch was the ‘Shipwreck Rapids,’ which is a splashy family ride down a simulated river. This one was a bit of a wait (about half an hour) but it was worth it; the kids loved the ride and fellow park-goers took some good shots at our family from the riverside water cannons – leaving us good and soaked by the end of it. Clearly we were not the first ones to be saturated, as the adjoining gift shop was completely sold out of towels. We opted to spend $5 on a family-sized, walk-in dryer for a few minutes.
Between handling live starfish, watching a trained animal show called ‘Pets Rule!’ and taking the kids to a massive play structure and enclosed bouncy area, the afternoon passed by in a total flash. Before we knew it, it was after 4 p.m. and we were slowly – but surely – starting to get hot and tired.
We found refuge from the heat in the lovely, air-conditioned theatre for ‘Madagascar Live: Operation Vacation,’ which is a live musical show with professional dancers and the whole fuzzy Madagascar crew. It was a well choreographed, high-energy presentation which was great to sit back and watch from the cushy theatre seats.
Our final stop before exiting the park was the ‘BaySide SkyRide,’ a gorgeous gondola ride that takes you right over the San Diego harbour. It was fantastic to feel the breeze as we glided above the water, waving to friendly jet-skiers below us.
The beauty of being the birthday girl is that nobody can really say anything if you ask for treat after treat throughout the day – especially at a theme park like SeaWorld. So on the way out, I called for an ice-cream stop.
It seemed only fitting that the girls choose Shamu-shaped, chocolate-covered ice cream before we hit the road, marking the end of an awesome day for the kids and a memorable birthday for this kid at heart.