Our family visits SeaWorld more than any other of our frequented attractions or theme parks. We are about a six hour drive away from San Diego and find ourselves there a couple of times each season. Our seven year old daughter was just a baby during her first visit and we have watched her great knowledge of the oceans and marine animals mature with every park visit. We started the process again with our second baby’s first visit at just four months old last year. I receive emails all year long asking about tips for visiting SeaWorld with young children and I’ve finally compiled my suggestions here instead of responding with a copy and paste.
Last year our daughter, the SeaWorld guest kid blogger, shared her favorite things to do at SeaWorld. She included everything she likes to do in a perfect day in her “My Favorite Things to Do at SeaWorld in the Summer” post on the Inside SeaWorld blog.
My daughter’s most favorite SeaWorld exhibits and activities
1) Face painting
“Definitely start the day by getting your face painted! Sometimes I pick a princess design and sometimes I get a swan.”
2) Feed fish to the sea lions
“The first animal I want to see is always the sea lions. They are so funny and love it when I feed them fish.”
3) Ride Manta
“There are so many fun rides at SeaWorld. My favorite in San Diego is Manta. It goes really fast! Last time I was there I rode it 10 times in a row with my dad. It’s so fun sitting in the front row because you can see when you’re about to blast off!”
4) Explore at Explorer’s Reef
“Explorer’s Reef is where I want to spend most of the day. The cleaner fish feel really funny when you put your hands in the water. You can see sharks and horseshoe crabs there too. Horseshoe crabs were around when the dinosaurs were here. That’s awesome.”
5) Watch shows
“There are lots of fun shows to watch. I really like seeing my favorite sea lions, Clyde and Seamore, but shows like Cirque de la Mer are pretty cool too.”
6) Visit the Otter Nursery
“Sometimes there is even a rescued baby otter in the Otter Nursery. Make sure you go there and look in the window because my friend Marcia might be taking care of a little baby otter.”
7) See the whales
“I always make sure to stop by and see the killer whales too. They are so beautiful!”
Of all the parks we visit, SeaWorld is the best to navigate with children. With wide walking paths, engaging exhibits, many resting stops, and great dining options, visiting SeaWorld with young children is a great way to spend the day.
What to bring
A big umbrella is great all year. We use a SeaWorld umbrella to shade our baby while she is sitting in the stroller and it’s also been carried by our older daughter during rainy day visits.
A long day at a theme park usually sees more than one nap during our visit. Little legs get tired and a stroller is always a good idea. If your child is just outgrowing the need for a stroller, I suggest bringing it along. Most SeaWorld exhibits offer views at eye level from a stroller making exploring with a baby or toddler convenient. If you make the mistake of not bringing a stroller when you probably should have or are traveling and don’t want to pack the stroller for the day, SeaWorld has onsite rentals.
3) Sunscreen and hats
Even the cloudiest days in San Diego bring the sun out eventually. Be prepared with sunscreen and hats for the entire family.
4) Baby carrier
If your baby is young, a carrier is great for shows and walking around the park. Strollers are not permitted in show seating areas so up until our last visit, our baby was in a carrier most of the day during park visits.
5) Water bottles
SeaWorld’s conservation efforts have provided convenient water bottle refill stations throughout the park. Bring a reusable bottle to refill during your visit.
What to do
Plan your day around theme park hours and show schedules. SeaWorld has a great lineup of daily shows including some of our favorites like Sea Lions LIVE and Pets Rule!. During our last visit, our baby watched in awe clapping and saying “wow” over and over. She loved all the shows!
With the news of SeaWorld ending their Orca breeding program and soon changing their whale experience, I highly suggest planning to watch the Killer Whales: Up Close show. Our seven year old daughter recently shared what she has learned about killer whales and the show in her “Guess Who I Got to See Up Close – Killer Whales” blog post. She has been fascinated by the ocean since a very young age and I credit learning opportunities to our many visits to SeaWorld.
Thrill rides like Journey to Atlantis and Shipwreck rapids are great for children over 42″. Our older daughter is now tall enough to ride everything in the park including Manta and Riptide Rapids. If you are visiting SeaWorld with young children, plan to spend time at the Sesame Street Bay of Play. With many rides suitable for toddlers along with plenty of space and activities to safely play and run, it’s a great area for younger guests.
The all day dining deal is a great option for families with children varying in age as it provides you the opportunity to eat up to three times at different restaurants including an entree, side or dessert and drink. Dining at SeaWorld is a culinary experience, even for parents on the go with young children. Our daughter’s personal favorite meal includes mac and cheese while I am a big fan of the seasonal grilled cheese cart. At the suggestion of our seven year old daughter, don’t forget to have a Shamu cookie for dessert.
Dine with Shamu is an excellent opportunity to learn about killer whales and enjoy a buffet lunch. This is not your everyday buffet – you’ll find favorites like mac and cheese paired with sensational seasonal items. Chef Axel has guaranteed your SeaWorld dining experience is not what you would expect in average theme park food. Even if it’s just walking along with a fry cone snack on your way to a show, plan to enjoy at least one meal at SeaWorld.
Explore at your child’s pace
Some of our most favorite SeaWorld visits were spent simply following our daughter around the park to her favorite exhibits. Explore at your child’s pace and revisit their favorite exhibits more than once.
Where to stay
We love visiting the San Diego area but frequently stay in Carlsbad during week long visits. The Carlsbad Inn and Grand Pacific Palisades are family favorite resorts but they do come with a short half hour drive to SeaWorld. If you’re looking for something closer to the park, Paradise Point or the Hilton Mission Bay are excellent options.
The most common question I’m asked is how to save on ticket purchases. Check out online purchase options directly from the SeaWorld website. While the deals change, currently you can save just by purchasing your tickets online instead of onsite when you arrive.
What is your favorite thing to do during your visit to SeaWorld with young children?
See more about our experiences at SeaWorld San Diego and read my why I still choose to support SeaWorld. A few of my favorite visits include my daughter learning that girls can be anything they want to be from Miss California and learning about a killer whale trainer’s first hand experience with whales.