There are a lot of things I love about raising my family in San Antonio. We never sit around on the weekends saying, “There’s nothing to do in this town.” The opportunity to learn about marine life by seeing it up close and in person is a perk for our San Antonio kids, and being home to one of the nation’s three SeaWorld parks allows us to do just that.
We’ve always been big supporters of zoos and aquariums because of the educational opportunities offered, and when I say “we,” I mean me, because my kids just see SeaWorld and the San Antonio Zoo as fun places their parents take them on weekends. And that’s fine with me.
If you haven’t checked out SeaWorld in a while, you should put it into your spring/summer rotation. Here’s a glimpse of what you can do:
Check out the shows.
Check the park schedule once you get through the gates for the times of various shows. Hint: this schedule also includes feeding times for the alligators if you want to watch that, as well as any specifics on special events that might be happening at SeaWorld on the day you visit…and there is usually something special going on.
The main shows are One Ocean with the killer whales, Clyde and Seamour’s Sea Lion High, and Ocean Discovery: Dolphins and Beluga Whales. If you haven’t been out to SeaWorld San Antonio in awhile, you’re going to want to see the new Sea Lion stadium—it was renovated about two years ago, and there’s a nice play area for the kids adjacent to that. (See also: a great place for adults to park their behinds and rest from all that walking because we get tired.)
There is also Pets Ahoy, a show featuring rescue animals from right here in San Antonio: dogs, cats, rats, birds, pigs, and more. No marine life, so it’s kind of different than what you might expect from SeaWorld, but definitely worth taking in. These critters have some mad performance skills. I’m pretty impressed with myself when I say “get down from there” and my cat shows signs of having heard me.
Pets Ahoy is one that’s for the kids, but adults will like it, too.
As most people probably know by now, SeaWorld recently announced its decision to discontinue Orca breeding in captivity. If you want to read about SeaWorld’s reasoning behind the decision, you can see it here. I appreciate the decision, but at the same time, I’m glad that my children have had the opportunities to learn about and experience the Orcas. We saw One Ocean on our most recent visit to SeaWorld. My kids had seen the Orcas in action before, but it had been a couple of years and they didn’t remember.
With the way the shows are spaced out, it’s possible to catch them all on a one-day visit if you stick to a pretty rigid schedule. There is so much to see and do, though, so if you’re only going for a day, I definitely recommend making a list of your family’s “must dos” before you go. There is a lot to do and a lot of walking, and the day seems to go by in a flash.
Ride the rides.
SeaWorld San Antonio has two adult coasters—the Great White and the Steel Eel—although the Great White has been closed for some time and I’m not sure about the specifics on when/if it will re-open.
One of my sons is dying to ride the Steel Eel, but that’s probably a couple years away. Every time we pass by, he has to measure himself to see how close he’s getting to the minimum height requirement.
If you’re looking for something really different, there’s a new ride opening up this summer: Wave Breaker the Rescue Coaster. Construction is in progress, and I can’t wait to see this open. I’ve never seen a ride exactly like this one. It’s called a “water coaster,” which sounds really interesting. You can follow the progress here. Unfortunately for my little wannabe roller coaster rider, there’s a height restriction of 48”.
For younger kids, there’s the Bay of Play. They have a great splash pad and playground, and there are several kid-friendly rides, most of which adults can also ride. There are frequent appearances by the Sesame Street characters, which make for some fun photo opps.
My kids could probably spend the entire day in this area. My one complaint is that there’s not enough seating for parents in the shade. Because Texas summers (and Texas spring, fall, and sometimes winters).
Visit the exhibits.
You can learn about flamingos, alligators, and penguins at SeaWorld.
The penguin encounter is one of our favorites. There are a couple of extra options for “upgrades” that allow you to go behind the scenes, talk to the animal ambassadors, and even meet a penguin up close. This is really cool—it’s not something we’d have the budget to do every visit, but it’s fun for special occasions.
You can also spend time at Pacific Point Preserve, see the seals and sea lions in their habitat, and feed them. If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between seals and sea lions, it’s really easy to tell them apart when you see them next to each other.
If you have younger kids, feeding the seals and sea lions is a don’t miss. OK, even if you don’t have younger kids, it’s still pretty fun. I think I enjoyed this as much as my kids did!
Discovery Point is listed as an exhibit, but it’s almost a park of its very own. My kids love checking out the underwater dolphin viewing and the explorer’s reef, which is home to sharks and living coral reefs. We could easily spend a couple of hours in Discovery Point—it’s a newer addition and the landscaping is beautiful. My recommendation is to see it first. Go left after you go through park security instead of going right to go into the main part of SeaWorld.
In addition to the regular quick service meals, there are special packages for purchase, such as the Sesame Street Breakfast at Rosita’s. Rosita’s is our go-to place for a sit-down meal in the park because all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta offers the best value and my kids are human eating machines. Plus, it’s right next to the alligator exhibit, and my kids always enjoy checking them out after lunch.
If you’re thinking alligators don’t quite fit with the other inhabitants at SeaWorld, you’re right, but there’s an interesting conservation story behind why they live there. If you can manage to catch the info session on alligators and get the opportunity to talk to the animal ambassador, do it. The time should be posted near their exhibit.
Experience special events.
When you’re planning your SeaWorld visit, check the “events” tab on the main menu to see what’s happening. There’s usually something special going on or coming up.
My family went to the Wild Days celebration during Spring Break and got to see Jack Hannah from Animal Planet and a whole bunch of cool animals that you would NOT expect to find at SeaWorld.
If you visit the park during October, you can choose the Halloween Spooktacular or the Howl-O-Scream events—both are really fun, but Howl-O-Scream is pretty scary and not suited for younger kids.
SeaWorld has amazing holiday lights, and since our San Antonio winters are, well, not really wintery, the park can be a nice outing during Christmas break for when you’ve got to leave the house because your kids are driving you crazy.
By far, my favorite event at SeaWorld is the Seven Seas Food and Wine Festival in the spring. The quality of the food and wine (as well as craft beer) is absolutely top notch, and although the event is very family friendly, my husband and I have never taken our kids and don’t plan to. If a date day works better for you than a date night, give this a try.
Splurge on extra special encounters.
If you’re willing to spend a little extra money, there are some fun experiences and add-ons to be had, such as up-close encounters with the animals. I did a dolphin swim last year, and it was really incredible. One of my sons is DYING to do this when he’s just a little bit taller. This would make a great birthday, Christmas, or graduation present if you’re not into giving stuff.
Cool off in Aquatica.
Aquatica is SeaWorld’s adjoining water park. Admission isn’t included in the price of your admission to SeaWorld. You can buy a water park-only ticket or a special pass that will get you in to both parks (two-park annual passes are available).
My thought is that doing Aquatica and SeaWorld all on the same day is about impossible. You’d run your family ragged trying to see everything, and I don’t see how you’d manage to have any fun because you’d be so rushed and exhausted.
There are several hotels adjacent to SeaWorld, if you’re looking to do a “staycation” of some type. My family and I did this a couple of summers ago. We hit the parks all day and relaxed at the hotel pool at night. We didn’t have to spend much gas money or travel far, but to my kids, it was just like a “real” vacation.
In addition to great pools, slides, and water rides, Aquatica also has a stingray encounter and an aviary full of tropical birds. The landscaping is lovely and lush, and it is one of my favorite water parks in the San Antonio area—and we have a lot to choose from.
There’s a lot of stuff to do in San Antonio this spring and summer, but SeaWorld is one thing definitely worth putting on your list.