SeaWorld for the Holidays

During a recent trip to San Diego, we got to visit one of our favorite places, SeaWorld. Although we had visited earlier in the year, we were not able to experience the new Turtle Reef attraction which was still under construction at the time of our last visit.

Upon entering the park we made sure to purchase a dining option that for roughly $30 per adult offers unlimited dining at several of the parks restaurants. This is an exceptionally good value as you can have breakfast, lunch & dinner throughout the day and evening with cuisine ranging from burgers to barbecue or sandwiches to Italian food.

After a nice breakfast al fresco at Seaport Market we took the time to admire some of the Christmas attractions that were still under construction for the upcoming holiday. We got especially excited at at the preparation of the “SnowWorld at SeaWorld” – a 6,500 square feet arena at SeaWorld’s Arctic Plaza. With fresh snow each day and impromptu visits with SeaWorld’s arctic foxes, who could ask for a more wintery experience? SnowWorld is now open daily through Jan. 1.

Our next stop was Journey to Atlantis and sadly I chose to sit in the very front of the boat which resulted in me being drenched by two gigantic waves during the ride. Even though I was soaked thoroughly I had an amazing time and the gigantic dryers that are available helped dry me out quickly.

Next up we took in the Blue Horizon show which replaced the long-running dolphin and pilot whales show. While dolphins remain a part of the show, the vast majority of it is made up of aerial performers in elaborate costumes doing routines over the water. The dolphins still do some amazing work in this new show.

Up next, we checked out the new Turtle Reef and were just amazed at the variety of sea turtles in a beautiful, and very relaxing, setting. The grace and unique characters of these creatures were truly awe-inspiring and the very informative exhibition even included an interactive sea turtle videogame for guests to enjoy.

Upon exiting the exhibition, we decided to give the new Riptide Rescue ride a shot. Sadly the small ride boats were not built for my 6’4″ frame to comfortably sit with another person, so the wife and I had to take separate boats. The very helpful staff told me that during its design there was concern that the boats were not big enough for many guests and that this is something that is being looked into. It was a bit of a squeeze to get the safety bar down to the required two clicks, but once it was in place, the ride was a twisting and twirling thrill that needs to be experienced.

After stopping for a pizza and pasta lunch at Mama Stella’s Pizza Kitchen , we took in the Sea Lion Live (SLL) show, which was a hilarious show of prank-loving sea lions starring in TV-show spoofs in the style of Saturday Night Live, complete with dancing by the sea lions. The charm and comedic timing of the sea lions stole the show as they interacted with their human performers in and out of the water. Get seated early to catch a bonus act from one of the human entertainers who re-creates some of the greatest dance routines from a bevy of Hollywood classics. This time of year, the stars of SLL, Clyde & Seamore, are putting on their version of “Night Before Christmas.”

We spent the rest of the afternoon experiencing the numerous rides, exhibits, and shows that the park had to offer and noted with anticipation how well the new Manta roller coaster is coming along. Tremendous progress has been made since our earlier visit and the spectacular Bayside Sky Ride gave us amazing views of not only the progress of the construction but the scenic bay.

As night fell, our noses lead us to the Calypso Bay Smokehouse to dine on barbecue tri-tip, ribs and chicken before we made our way to the Shamu Rocks! show which blends music and lights to impressive routines with the world-famous Orcas. While the trainers did not interact in the water with the show’s stars, it was still incredible to see the grace and splendor of these majestic creatures up close. If you visit now, Shamu and friends celebrate Christmas with music and merriment, including live singers, a saxophonist and Christmas carolers spreading good cheer. Shamu Stadium transforms into a winter wonderland with Christmas trees, decorations, and beautiful Christmas scenes on the 80-foot-wide LED screens.

I was sad to see that one of my favorite attractions, Shipwreck Rapids, was down for maintenance during our visit, but we certainly had no shortage of activities and relished being able to experience such beloved classics as Wild Arctic, Pets Rule, Journey to Atlantis, and countless other offerings SeaWorld has available. For children, the Sesame Street themed rides like Elmo’s Flying Fish and Oscar’s Rocking Eel offer fun thrills. Now through New Year’s Day, the talented shelter animals that present Pets Rule offer more silly antics as they take over the house for Christmas and throw their own holiday party.

We were a little early for the holidays, but knowing what SeaWorld has to offer for Christmas, we’ll definitely include it in next year’s holiday travels. Frequent guests will want to look into the 2012 Fun Card, Silver or Platinum season passes as they quickly pay for themselves within a couple of visits and offer a full year of visits and perks.