SeaWorld San Diego

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There’s nothing more synonymous with southern California than the ocean, but the beauty of the Pacific is not only skin deep. The life forms that call the ocean home are as much a part of its beauty as the rolling waves. It is this love of sea creatures that called four UCLA graduate students to found the country’s best-known marine animal zoological park: Sea World. Though it now boasts two additional locations in Orlando, FL and San Antonio, TX, the original Sea World Park is one of the area’s most beloved San Diego attractions.


The original idea that George Millay, David Demott, Milton C. Shedd, and Ken Norris had in 1964 was to bank on the popularity of the California coast and create an underwater restaurant and marine animal show for San Diego’s growing tourist population. But, alas, the technology and architectural possibilities in the 1960s were limited. Instead, a 22-acre marine zoological park opened on March 21, 1964 along the shores of Mission Bay.

Though the original Sea World only housed sea lions, a few dolphins, two saltwater aquariums, and six total attractions it was immediately popular. As many as 400,000 people visited the park in its first year, allowing for rapid expansion. The company began trading publicly in 1968 and opened additional park locations in Ohio, Orlando, and San Antonio over the next two decades. The Ohio location has since been sold to the Six Flags franchise.

The popularity of the Sea World name is perhaps no more apparent than in its most famous face, or, more like, faces: Shamu.  The original killer whale named Shamu was brought to San Diego Sea World in 1965. She was the first successfully captured Orca (Killer) whale in history and was immediately acquired by Sea World to perform a live show. Though the singular tricks of a former wild creature pale in comparison to the flips and immense water splashes of the Shamu Show of today, the image of a giant black and white whale have become an emblem of the Sea World brand. The legend born back then lives on today in several killer whales located at each Sea World park. Today, San Diego’s “Shamu Stadium” houses nine killer whales that perform daily shows including a night show (Shamu Rocks) complete with neon and glow sticks

Main Attraction

Going to Sea World is an all-day affair. Far more captivating than a typical zoo, this park literally has it all, from live shows starring killer whales, dolphins, sea lions, and Muppets, to thrill rides and zoological exhibits. Sea World in San Diego is equipped to serve as a fun destination for tourists and locals alike as well as an educational stop for those interested in marine life and oceanic conservation. This includes an extensive outreach program (Sea World Cares) and educational opportunities that include interactive teacher lesson plans and children’s camps.

Feeding the dolphins at Seaworld San Diego

The activities one chooses to do while visiting Sea World will vary greatly depending on interest and time. As part of the Busch Gardens family of parks, Sea World has a close partnership with Sesame Street which includes a 4D adventure starring everyone’s favorite Sesame pals and the Sesame Street Bay of Play which includes family-friendly rides and a chance to meet your favorite characters such as Elmo, Big Bird, and Cookie Monster.

For older kids and adults, several rides, including Shipwreck Rapids, the Manta roller coaster, and Journey to Atlantis combine thrills and the marine theme of the Sea World Park. Daily shows feature not only marine life, but other favorites like silly pet tricks and fireworks. Finally, zoological exhibits and interactive programs allow visitors the chance to get to know the animals that call Sea World and the ocean home.

The park is open year-round, though the hours of operation vary depending on the season. Most shows last between 15 and 25 minutes and, like the rides, are included with the price of admission. Additional charges are levied for special dining packages (including Breakfast with Shamu), in-park educational tours, and animal interaction experiences. There are also several dining opportunities throughout the park including Mama Stella’s Pizza Kitchen and Pineapple Pete’s Island Eats.

Why It’s a Must-See

A trip to San Diego Sea World is a must for those who love sea life, amusement parks, and the California sun. Though this region is not short of all-day amusement parks and character-rich fare the unique qualities of Sea World make it stand above the rest. Combining the educational wonder of a zoo or aquarium with the fun and action of rides and shows, a trip to San Diego without Sea World is just incomplete.

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Save up to 20% online at Smart Destinations. If you add more than one attraction to the cart, you will get an automatic savings of up to 20%. It’s called Make Your Own Pass.

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from SeaWorld San Diego either online or in person.

Purchase a Tourist pass. SeaWorld San Diego is available on the Go San Diego Card and Southern California CityPass and San Diego 3 for 1 Pass.