Monday, August 1, 2016

Family Trip to SeaWorld San Diego

Author: Jose G. Barr

This past Saturday we decided to take Joseph and his cousin to SeaWorld San Diego.  When it come to going to amusement parks I want to maximize the fun, so I plan on getting up bright and early...sometimes too early for my wife Ruby.  On this day, since we had about a 2 hours trip ahead of us, I set the alarm for 4:30 AM! Bright and early is my motto. I had wanted to be on the road by 6:00 AM, stop for breakfast along the way and arrive at SeaWorld by 9 AM when they opened.  My plan didn't survive past the alarm.  While I was ready and willing, the family, not so much.  

I'm getting ahead of myself, let me first tell you about this amazing park.  SeaWorld opened to the public in 1964. Since then more than 160 million visitors have enjoyed the park and all that it offers.  SeaWorld's founding principals are still evident today, education, entertainment, research and conservation are all there. Kids of all ages are learning while having fun.

One of their greatest functions is their rescue teams.  SeaWorld rescue has been on the job for over 50 years.  Their goal for every animal is to rehabilitate them and return them to the wild.  For the small percentage of  animals whose conditions would prevent them from surviving in the wild a home is provided for them at SeaWorld or another accredited facility.

OK, so now I can continue with the adventure we had. The drive down wasn't so bad, my brother-in-law and I were up front, our wives in the middle and the kids in the back row.  We did stop in Northern San Diego to have breakfast at one of my favorite spots, the International House of Pancakes or IHOP.  After almost 2 hours on the road, everyone was hungry and had a great breakfast.

We arrived at the park about 9:30 AM, with only a small crowd at the gate. Here is a tip for you, buy your tickets online prior to going to SeaWorld. Our tickets were discounted and rather than have paper tickets I was able to save them to my smart phone, saving me from having to print them out.  The entry gates at the park are all outfitted with barcode scanners that are able to read the tickets right off the phone.

As you we entered the park we encountered the Explorers Reef where SeaWorld has both fresh and saltwater tidal pools containing over 7600 fish available for guests to explore.  Joseph took a bit to get warmed up to being able to actually touch a shark.  He loves all things shark, and now he can say that he has touched one, a brown banded bamboo shark.  There are other types of small sharks as well as horseshoe crabs, round rays, guitar fish as well as cleaner fish.  Joseph and his cousin had a great time learning more about these amazing creatures.

From here we headed over to Journey to Atlantis a water ride that combines flume ride with a roller coaster and adds amazing special effects to give the riders a great ride.  The wives did not want to get wet, so it was the kids and their dads for this wet and wild adventure.  It has been almost 12 years since I last visited the park when Journey to Atlantis first opened.  The effect is still the same, its a thrilling ride and a must when we next visit the park.  Joseph and his cousin love the ride, it was perfect for kiddos about 7 and older.

Mother and Baby Killer Whale
Image by Mike Aguilar/SeaWorld San Diego
Killer Whales: Up Close Show
Image by Mike Aguilar/SeaWorld San Diego
We caught the Killer Whale: up Close show at Shamu stadium. Trainers share information on what it takes to care for these amazing animals and answer questions that they have received online.  The killer whales demonstrate some amazing talents and their playfulness while interacting with both trainers and guests.  The whales did a great job of splashing water all over the splash zone guests.

Dolphin Days Show
Image by Mike Aguilar/SeaWorld San Diego
The dolphin stadium, in use since 1971, received a much needed refurbishment recently and looks amazing.  The Dolphin Days show can be seen here several times a day and is a treat.  Hear from the trainers that work with the dolphins about developing a relationship with these amazing creatures.  We truly enjoyed watching this amazing show and the dolphins playfulness.

We were all excited to catch a performance of Cirque De La Mer in the Cirque Stadium off of Perez Cove.  The sets are amazing.  There were 2 aquatic clowns that came out  to entertain the crowd prior to the show starting.  Its a lot of fun for guests of all  ages my son and niece thoroughly enjoyed the performances.  The athleticism of the performers is amazing. all stunts and acts are performed over the bay that the stadium sits in.

Once the show starts the performers have the audience in the palm of their hands.  We were mesmerized by the sheer strength and grace of many of the stunts being performed.  The 2 sea clowns kept us intrigued by what would happen next to the hapless audience volunteer (a plant as it turns out, can't imagine anyone putting up with all those situations out on the water if they were just visiting). My favorite part of the show, and this is all the tech nerd in me, is the X-Jet stuntman.  WOW! He was amazing, soaring up to 30 feet in the air on a pair of water jets strapped to his feet.  When I first noticed him, it seemed that someone was walking along the bay, chest deep in water pulling a jet ski.  Turns out, that was the X-Jet operator with the jet ski power source for the jets.  Absolutely amazing!

Sandtiger Sharks
Image by Mike Aguilar/SeaWorld San Diego
Thanks to Josephs fascination with shark we ended up at the Shark Encounter exhibit. This exhibit has been at the park for a long time and it is still one that I love to go see. When you enter you begin at a tidal pool area and work towards the deeper ocean dwelling sharks.  One thing to note, there are no great white sharks at the exhibit. Great white sharks do not do well in captivity, the longest lasting had to be returned to the ocean after only 6 months (it died soon after being released).  But, there is enough of a diversity in the tanks to keep everyone looking in all directions, especially in the acrylic tunnel that runs under the exhibit.

Shipwreck Rapids Ride
Image by Mike Aguilar/SeaWorld San Diego
We took some time to cool off in the hot afternoon by riding Shipwreck Rapids. Oh what a ride that was.  You board a large round raft with up to 9 riders and head down some white water rapids.  Needless to say that the signs seen in the line are correct "You will get wet, but you may get soaked!" As always I seem to be the water magnet in our little group. I was drenched by the time I got off. Had it been a cooler day it wouldn't have been as much fun, but lucky for me the water helped keep me cool in the hot afternoon.

We wandered the park and took in many more sites including the Manta ray pools by Manta roller coaster ride.  One of the biggest mantas in the pool seemed to get annoyed at the folks next to us and splashed a significant amount of water on them before retreating to a shaded part of the pool.  We took the time here to rest and enjoy the shade provided around the pool before heading out for our final destination, the Arctic Zone.

Polar Bear at the Wild Arctic Attraction
Image by Mike Aguilar/SeaWorld San Diego
Entry through to the Arctic Zone area is through a simulated jet helicopter ride to Base Station Wild Arctic.  We boarded the full motion ride (which had me closing my eyes in order to not get motion sick, there is a not motion version for those that would rather do that).  When we "landed" we disembarked the helicopters at the base and proceeded through the exhibits that included polar bears and beluga whales.  The area is refreshingly cool after being out in the hot sun most of the day.  SeaWorld did an amazing job on creating this area for guest enjoyment and education.

Our day ended back at the tidal pools by the entrance. We took one last look at the inhabitants of this exhibit, including the sharks and headed out of the park with a lot of wonderful memories and anticipation of our return to this amazing park.

Until next time my friends, love your kids,
Cherish your family.


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