Photo caption: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom

Photo caption: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom

Since its founding in 1964, Sea World San Diego – located on Mission Bay – has been known for its animal attractions, marine exhibits and shows that are fun to watch but not particularly hands-on. Over the past several years, however, some innovative new additions have changed all that! Here are the top ten thrills, chills and spills – old and new – that take park goers out of the spectator seats and into the fun seat.


1. Manta

Let’s kick off the list with Sea World San Diego’s newest and most exhilarating ride to date – Manta. This coaster is fast and thrilling, simulating the moves of a manta ray. The track is long and the ride is marvelously smooth. This super fun coaster gives riders a taste of what it’s like to be a manta ray. It features a 54-foot drop and plenty of twists and turns.

2. Sesame Street’s Bay of Play
When this area of the park opened in 2008, my son was right in the throes of his Elmo obsession, so this was a highlight for us. An interactive children’s play area, the Sesame Street’s Bay of Play has an oversized ropes course, ball pit, and three rides: Abby’s Sea Star Spin, Elmo’s Flying Fish, and Oscar’s Rockin’ Eel. Bay of Play also offers park goers a chance to meet and take pictures with Sesame Street characters. Now that he’s older, Bay of Play no longer is the favorite, but if you are visiting Sea World with kids, this is the place to be!

3. Sky TowerDestinationReview
Opened in 1969, Sky Tower is one of the oldest rides in the park. The 6-minute ride offers spectacular views of SeaWorld, Mission Bay, San Diego and beyond, all from 320 feet up in the air. Until 2011, there was an extra charge to ride, but now it’s included in park admission.

4. Bayside Skyride
Built just two years prior to Sky Tower, Bayside Skyride also initially required an extra charge to ride, but now it’s included, too. The ride takes guests 80-feet up and travels over Mission Bay and back aboard suspended gondolas.

5. Pets Rule!
Perhaps the one departure from marine life, Pets Rule! is a flat-out fun show featuring a motley crew of trained dogs, cats, birds and even potbellied pigs. The animals show off their moves – everything from tight rope walking to dating. Best of all? All the animals in this high-energy show are rescued from local shelters. After the show, visitors are invited to come on down to the stage and say hello to some of the show’s stars.

6. Wild Arctic

This is where the “chill” comes in. This combination motion simulator helicopter ride and animal exhibit explores the icy landscape of the Arctic Circle. The attraction features encounters with several arctic species, including harbor seals, polar bears, beluga whales and walruses.

Photo credit: Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld® San Diego

Photo credit: Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld® San Diego

7. Journey to Atlantis
Be prepared to get wet! Part water flume, part roller coaster, this ride is a favorite among all ages tall enough to ride. Very cool ‘lost city of Atlantis’ theming makes this as visually interesting as it is thrilling to ride.

Photo credit: Gwen Kleist / Healthy TravelingMom

Photo credit: Gwen Kleist / Healthy TravelingMom

8. Blue Horizons
One of Sea World’s most popular shows, Blue Horizons features bottlenose dolphins, birds of flight and talented aerial performers. It all comes together in this dazzling display of acrobatics, flight and of course those world-famous synchronized leaping dolphins.

Tip #1. Sit in the first couple of rows if you need a cool-down splash. Tip #2: Get to Dolphin Stadium early as this show fills up fast!

9. Shipwreck Rapids

A traditional raft ride that ventures into the shipwrecks of the deep with twist and turns. A huge waterfall and get everyone on board wet, so beware if you go on a chilly day and know the ride closes all together on days when the temperature drops below 60.

10. Explorer’s Reef
Explorer’s Reef is Sea World’s newest interactive attraction, opened in March 2014. Kids will love putting their hands in the water and touching stingrays, star fish, crabs and other animals.

Healthy Tip for this Destination
Instead of a high-calorie snack, visit Fusion Smoothies & Wraps – located near Pets Stadium – for a healthy treat or delicious smoothie made with fresh fruit and all natural ingredients.