Mindy Bergen, left, formerly of La Verne, now a teacher in Aurora, Colo., and daughter Ryann, inspect a starfish at SeaWorld’s hands-on tide pool in San Diego. Photo by Stan Wawer
SeaWorld, San Diego: 115 miles
By Stan Wawer
“Oh no, whale!” my 21-month-old granddaughter, Ryann, exclaimed as Shamu breached the water, flipped over, and slid back into the pool with barely a ripple.
Ryann clapped and giggled in a child’s wonderment as Shamu, the star of the SeaWorld show, entertained a packed stadium for 25 minutes in San Diego. We sat in the “wet zone,” the first 16 rows, for an added bit of fun.
“Believe,” the name of the show, is the best family entertainment anywhere. Well worth the high admission price of $61 for anyone older than 9, and $51 for guests 3 through 9.
The captivating and visually stunning Shamu show transports hearts to the edge of wonder. The inspirational show reflects the close relationship SeaWorld trainers have with the killer whales as the Orcas go through a series of incredible behaviors.
Another show, “Shamu Rocks,” combines the flash of a rock concert with the splash of Shamu in a nightly performance. The show blends dazzling lighting effects, rock ‘n’ roll music and killer whales.
SeaWorld San Diego also has a number of other excellent family activities, including Cirque de la Mer, Dolphin Discovery, Clyde and Seamore’s Risky Rescue, Sea Lions Tonite and Pets Rule.
The electrifying Cirque de la Mer combines mysterious creatures, acrobatics, music and special effects. The show is full of organic ocean shapes, whimsical characters and amazing physical feats. It’s offered through Labor Day.
My granddaughter loved the California tide pool. The tide pool, representing one of the ocean’s richest environments, allows young and old alike the chance to touch a starfish, sea urchin and other fascinating sea creatures.
The Freshwater Aquarium offers many species, including four-eyed fish, electric eels and stingrays.
Aquarium de la Mer is home to many exotic and beautiful creatures, ranging from tiny seahorses and the giant Pacific octopus to the venomous, but beautiful, lionfish and delicate jellyfish.
The World of the Sea Aquarium features a tropical display of warm water fish found in the Caribbean, South Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Indian Ocean.
Its local marine display simulates a snorkel trip or scuba dive off the coast of San Diego.
And, of course, SeaWorld has rides. Journey to Atlantis is top of the list for thrill seekers. This water coaster twists you around serpentine turns and plunges you eight stories as a grand finale.
Shipwreck Rapids spins and splashes through river rapids, an underground cavern and dripping cargo nets as you swirl around a tropical island. A small raft carries nine shipwrecked passengers on a five-minute journey through an isolated South Pacific island.
SeaWorld Skyride is a six-minute roundtrip across beautiful Mission Bay. SeaWorld Skytower, closed the late June day we visited, takes you up 265 feet for a panoramic view of the San Diego skyline and Mission Bay.
SeaWorld has three animal interaction programs that can be booked online at www.SeaWorldSanDiego.com.
The Dolphin Encounter lets you feed, touch and interact with dolphins without getting wet. The exclusive Dolphin Interaction Program allows you to splash and play with dolphins. Learn about these intelligent creatures, then wade into the dolphin pool to practice behaviors with these amazing animals. Wetsuits and booties are provided. The cost is $150. Participants must be at least 6 years old and at least 44 inches tall.
The Wild Arctic Interaction is new. Put on a wetsuit to interact with awesome Beluga white whales. The price is $160, and everyone must be at least 10 years old.
Trainer For a Day costs $495. Participants must be at least 13 years old and be in good physical condition. This five-hour program includes admission, souvenir T-shirt, dolphin training and lunch. It’s not cheap, but what an experience!
Whatever you decide, SeaWorld is family entertainment at its best.
SeaWorld park hours Saturday and Sunday are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Hours for Monday, Labor Day, are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Hours for the remainder of September are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. weekends. Times vary the remainder of the year.
To reach SeaWorld, take the Santa Ana (5) Freeway south and exit at SeaWorld Drive or take the Ontario (15) Freeway south to Interstate 8 west, to the 5 Freeway north. Exit at SeaWorld Drive and follow the signs.
Hotels are plentiful in the area with Hotel Circle just a short drive away. Check out a number of online sites by typing in San Diego Hotel Circle.