My family of three took a trip to Sea World San Diego Saturday February 21, 2015. Here is my advice to enjoying the park (for free if you are an active duty military family- Thank you Sea World!) and with a one year old.
Military FREE tickets
Option 1: Get tickets at the park
We did not get tickets in advance, we waited in an hour line (YIKES) and received our free tickets at the ticket counter. (Our 1 year old daughter was free anyway- all children under 3 receive free admittance). DO NOT WAIT IN A KIOSK LINE, you cannot get military tickets using the self serve kiosk.
Option 2: Print or email tickets using TroopID verification on the Sea World Site. We should have done this, as it would have saved us an hour in line. (Their website states that in order to get free tickets you MUST do it online, this is not true, as we were able to walk up and get tickets at the ticket counter)
Parking: $16 (you can pay $21 to get “closer parking” but we felt the normal parking was not too far-even with a stroller and giant diaper bag in tow.
1. This is covered above, but I must state again: purchase your tickets in advance. We were there on a Saturday (arguably one of the busiest days) and the ticket line took one hour. Save yourself!
2. Skip the shows for your one year old’s sake. Your little one is too small and too wiggly to get anything out of the shows. There were long lines and often standing room only available (which we all now would NOT work with a wiggly toddler). Alternative- visit the Dolphin Point and Shamu’s Underwater viewing. Your toddler will enjoy seeing the animals and watching them interact (and when they get tired of it , it is a lot easier to walk away from the display than leaving one of the shows!)
3. Bring your own food and stroller (you can rent a stroller, prices start at $18). You can save money (and calories) by bringing your own snacks, lunch and drinks. (I notoriously travel with too much but was thankful for the changing pad and extra clothes I brought when there was a diaper leak and the changing table in the bathroom had a line three babies deep…changed Reagan’s diaper and pants on a bench and voila, on the the next adventure)
4. Hit up all of the aquariums.
– Aquaria: World of Fishes: We started our visit here and spent 30 minutes watching the fish in the tanks. The large indoor fish tanks have a perfect ledge for your toddler to sit or stand on to get a close up look of the fish. There are three large tanks in there. One with piranhas (that they feed at 1:30 – save a spot on the left side of the tank to watch this…we were on the right and could see none of the action), the second was filled with colorful fish and tea turtles, the last with leopard sharks.
-Aquarium Del la Mer: This was under construction at the time of our visit- the temporary displays held no interest to our toddler- skip this until it is fully functional again.
-Freshwater Aquarium: The tanks here were less accessible for a tiny viewer, Reagan had to be lifted up to see the fish and she was more interested in walking… so, we did not spend much time in here.
-Shark Encounter: Our favorite exhibit. This was the most enjoyable for the adults and Reagan. You cannot bring the stroller into this exhibit and we did not feel comfortable leaving it unattended outside (they have stroller parking areas), so we took turns walking through this exhibit. It is a great balance of small pools to view sharks and the beautiful and impressive underwater viewing tunnel. (Don’t make the same mistake we did and take NO pictures in the tunnel!) Reagan went through this exhibit twice and was captivated both times.
-Penguin Encounter: Another enjoyable exhibit they have some warmer weather penguins swimming outside (great to sit and watch) and the colder climate penguins inside. WARNING you have to walk through the gift shop filled with adorable stuffed penguins to exit. We managed to make it out without a purchase, but Regan did stop to hug a few of the stuffed penguins (I will be honest, I would have bought one had my husband not been the voice of reason).
By the time we had visited all of the aquariums, it was nearing nap time and we wanted to make it back to the hotel so Regan could get a solid nap so that we could have a nice dinner out! We had a wonderful time at the park and you cannot beat the price!
Total Money Spent: $16 (for parking)
Total time at the park: 4 Hours (1 hour spent in line waiting for tickets)
I hope this information helps you have a fun and successful visit to Sea World!