I’m kind of a theme park junkie. Sometimes I think I enjoy theme parks more than my kids do. Our family has had SeaWorld San Antonio annual passes for the last seven years or so, and I love that they enable us to visit the park for a few hours at a time without feeling rushed or like we have to see everything in one day. Over the years and dozens of visits, we have definitely found our favorite areas and features of the park, and my friends and family often ask me about SeaWorld. Here are my tips for visiting SeaWorld San Antonio with kids.
First Things First: Shows
If you’re visiting SeaWorld San Antonio, you probably expect to see some shows. While I personally love all of the shows, my kids sometimes lose interest. The orca (formerly Shamu) shows are a no-brainer, as most kids are awestruck by the giant killer whales. (And what kid can resist sitting in the Splash Zone?) But you may be surprised to learn that my kids’ absolute favorite show at SeaWorld is “Pets Ahoy,” a funny, fast-paced show featuring trained dogs, cats, birds, pigs, and even a skunk! This show is indoors, and the cool AC is a welcome respite from the Texas summer heat. Make sure to show up at least 30 minutes early for this show on busy days because it fills up quickly.
Keep The Kids Active
If your kids are like mine, they probably don’t like to stay in one place for very long. This is the reason we generally do more moving around the park than sitting at shows. If you’re looking for experiences that will keep your kids moving, try some of these.
- View the dolphins from both above and below water at Discovery Point. It’s so much fun to watch these majestic mammals play and swim. And the underwater viewing area is an amazing backdrop for photos!
- Visit Explorer’s Reef to see a stunning underwater habitat of sharks, tropical fish, seahorses, living coral, and much more. And, once again, AIR CONDITIONING is a major bonus here! See if your kids can spot the colorful dart frogs and sneaky eels at the end of the exhibit.
- Feed the sea lions and seals at the Pacific Point Preserve behind Sea Lion & Otter Theater. This one is easy to miss, and I actually visited the park many times before I even realized it was there! Kids love watching the sea lions and seals play around in the water, and for a few dollars, you can buy fish and feed them.
- Visit the alligators in Alligator Alley. You can feed them too!
- View the penguins and puffins. (Sometimes you can even see penguin chicks!) Kids love riding the moving walkway while watching the penguins waddle around and dive through the water.
- If it’s open, head to “Chill Out,” SeaWorld’s new 50-degree dance party/cold drink location where it’s always a cool time (literally!). This place is great on a hot day and has a live DJ, ice-cold drinks (adult beverages too), and a glowing atmosphere. It is located in the Games Center next to The Great White roller coaster, so you might want to play some games while you’re there too!
- Check out the giant sea turtles in the new Turtle Reef aquarium. My kids love getting face-to-face with these endangered and rescued turtles.
- Play in the three-acre Sesame Street® Bay of Play®, which features kids’ rides (a carousel, small roller coaster, Ferris wheel, and more), a large net-and-tunnel play area, a huge splash pad (and a small splash area and playground just for toddlers), a Sesame Street® show, and sometimes, friendly Sesame Street® characters hanging out, ready to hug and take pictures with your kids. This place is always a hit with the kids, and you may have a hard time dragging them away! Make sure to bring a swimsuit or change of clothes and a towel if you plan to let your kids use the splash pad.
- Look for the large, shady playground just outside of the Bay of Play®, across from the Sea Star Theater. It’s easy to miss (and sometimes I’m thankful for that), but this is a great place to let the kids run off some energy in a small, somewhat contained space, while parents can take a break on a bench. This playground is more low-key than the Bay of Play® play area, usually less crowded, and much more contained. Though sometimes I find myself wondering, “Why did I bring my kids to SeaWorld just to play at a playground?” Nonetheless, it’s a nice option when everyone needs a break from the busy-ness of the park.
- During certain times of the year (usually summer and Christmas), SeaWorld offers a Sesame Street® evening parade that runs through the Bay of Play® with elaborate floats and all your favorite Sesame Street® characters. Line up early for this, because the viewing areas are limited, and it can be hard to find a spot if you wait too long. Check the SeaWorld San Antonio schedule for dates/times. Also offered is a parade and dining package with a dinner buffet and reserved parade seating.
- You might also like to know that there are diaper changing stations located in all restrooms, and both SeaWorld and Aquatica have at least one nursing facility inside each park.
It’s Feeding Time!
SeaWorld has many options for feeding your family. Harbor Market offers the largest variety in a food court-style cafe. Options include Asian, Italian, and American favorites. I tend to stay away from this cafe for two reasons: (1) The lines can get VERY long, and they often don’t have enough registers open; and (2) seating is limited, and we’ve had a hard time finding a table at times.
I prefer Rosita’s Cafe, an all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta buffet; Pizza & More, a small counter-service place near the Bay of Play® featuring pizza, turkey legs, and other small snacks (can you tell I like pizza?); the new Pretzel Kitchen located in the Sea Star Market, which features delicious pretzel dogs, freshly-made pretzels, and pretzel bites with yummy dipping sauces (try the pepperoni pretzel!); or Spanky’s Fresh-cut Fries, where you can get fries with a variety of toppings, such as Loaded Baked Potato or Buffalo Chicken.
SeaWorld San Antonio does not allow you to bring in coolers or meal-type foods. They allow one water bottle per person and single serving-sized snacks only. And they do check your bags at the entry point! I have seen many people asked to throw away perfectly good food.
Meet the Animals
In recent years, SeaWorld San Antonio has shifted from a focus on shows and entertainment to a focus on education and experiences. One of my favorite experiences we’ve had at SeaWorld San Antonio was the Penguin Interaction. For an extra fee, you can get all bundled up and actually go inside the penguin habitat and meet the penguins! You will learn all about the different types of penguins housed at SeaWorld and how the staff cares for them, and best of all, you will get to TOUCH the penguins! We did this for my daughter’s eighth birthday, and she was in heaven! Participants must be at least 48 inches tall, so keep that in mind if you’re interested.
Play in the Water at Aquatica
Aquatica is the waterpark located within SeaWorld San Antonio. Admission to Aquatica requires an additional fee, but if you are visiting for more than one day (or are a local resident), I think it’s worth the cost. This waterpark is very family-friendly, and we even enjoyed visiting with our toddler.
Kata’s Kookaburra Cove® is a shallow pool with several water features just for toddlers and preschoolers. Slippity Dippity® and Whanau Waters both have small body slides that are also perfect for this age. My eight-year-old still loves them as well!
For the bigger kids, Walkabout Waters is a huge play structure with sprinklers, sprayers, and geysers galore. It also has a giant bucket that dumps water on the excited children below every few minutes. Cutback Cove is another fun area with an activity pool and larger waterslide.
Of course, there are also the classics like Big Surf Shores (a giant wave pool) and Loggerhead Lane (a splashy lazy river). Be warned that it is impossible not to get soaked in Loggerhead Lane, because there are unavoidable water sprayers along the way. Because of this, my kids took a while to warm up to this attraction.
There are many other slides and attractions that may be available to your family, depending on height requirements (which range from 36″–48″). Stingray Falls™ is a family-style raft ride that ends in an underwater grotto where you can view stingrays and other tropical fish as you float by. This one only has a 36-inch height requirement and is a great place to see how your kids will react to the larger slides.
Don’t Forget the Cooler Months
My favorite times to visit SeaWorld San Antonio are during the seasonal events throughout the year when the weather is cooler. The Fall brings Howl-O-Scream and Spooktacular, Halloween-themed festivals with trick-or-treating for the little kids and spooky pathways for the big kids. During the Christmas Celebration, the park is transformed into a winter wonderland with millions of breathtaking lights, Christmas-themed shows and characters, and delicious new foods and drinks. And perhaps my favorite event, the Seven Seas Food Festival is held in the spring and offers food and beverage selections from all over the world.
Check the Website Before You Go
Lastly, make sure to visit SeaWorld San Antonio’s website before your visit. Their opening and closing hours often vary, as do the showtimes. And never pay full price for a ticket! You can almost always find a deal online, and if you plan to visit more than one day it’s often cheaper to buy an annual pass that includes free parking (otherwise you will pay at least $20 for parking) and gives you 10% off purchases, including animal experiences. Then you can go back and enjoy the park’s various seasonal offerings. Who knows? You just might become a theme park junkie too!