Who’s big, beloved and likely to make you feel like you just got hit by a polar tidal wave?

Yes. Its…Shamu!

It doesn’t take much to work my kids into a Shamu seeking frenzy. You just mention the giant marine mammal and they are chanting, jumping up and down and begging to head to San Diego’s answer to Anaheims happiest place. Disney may have the 7 Dwarves, but Seaworld San Diego is the Splashiest.

Last week we had a real treat as we visited the park along with a group of some of our favorite local mom bloggers (see links to their blogs at the end of this post!) and got to dine with Shamu and get a behind the scenes tour of the park. There were many surprises to be had. First of all: the food! The Dine with Shamu buffet was just delicious and ofterred plentiful servings of healthy entrees, fresh fruit, desserts and more. We got to sit poolside and get a close up view of three of the Orcas. Their performance, during our lunch, was narrated by knowledgeable trainers. My kids came away with all kinds of facts about Orcas. Which they are sure to teach me in the weeks to come. If they don’t drag me back. It’s tempting. The park is offerring a bunch of summer specials including adult-at-kids price passes and extra day passes.

During our tour behind the scenes we got to catch a rare glimpse of a baby dolphin calf and see where the tanks are that filter the water from the bay for use in the Seaworld San Diego tanks. Seaworld San Diego is currently the only Seaworld using ocean water (cleaned, filtered) for their residents. Seaworld has a Sea Turtle preservation program and we got to help out a little, bringing the turtles a yummy snack of Romaine lettuce. I managed to remain calm even when the tour guide told me how easily a turtle could snap off your finger and my four yr old did his best to test this by trying to pat the turtle’s head. Fortunately his arms were too short! Not touching the cute creatures on the tour was a little bit of a challenge for F. He desperately wanted to pet the baby penguins as well. Lucky for him that there are opportunities to touch and feed dolphins and to explore other marine life in the park.

No visit to Seaworld is complete without some time set aside to play on their giant play structures, and splash in their fountains. We got some of our yayas out on the Sesame St themed Bay of Play playground and then hit the attractions. Cirque De La Mer delighted everyone with their performance and the older kids rode the river rapids. Three times. They managed to hit the ride at dusk when all the sane and shivering people were sick of getting wet.

My kids? Only just getting started. We closed the park with the nighttime performance of Shamu Rocks, followed by fireworks. If you’re on the fence about sticking around an extra hour or two, let me give you a little push in the yes direction! The nighttime shows are most magical. Grab an illuminated lightsword, rock out with the crowd doing the wave, and rest assured, your kids are making major memories. It’s a great and memorable show. Particularly in the Splash Zone. Where I was not seated, but two of my four crazy kids were, and yes, they got drenched. No worries. I packed for the trip. Which brings me to my list.

What to pack for a trip to Seaworld:

  • A stroller with a large basket, sunshade and full seat recline. If you plan to spend the day with a young child, even one who normally does not nap, you will be glad you have this. Don’t worry about getting it on the tram as there is none. Once out of your car, you are good to go.
  • Sunscreen, sunscreen, more sunscreen. I see more sunburn victims at Seaworld than at the beach. It gets hot, you are surrounded by water and even on a hazy day you can get a bad burn
  • A hat
  • Snacks such as power bars, baggies of cereal, dried fruit etc. Food is expensive at Seaworld. Consider the all day dining pass if you are staying the whole day.
  • A refillable water bottle
  • Swimsuits and sweatshirts. If your kids want to play in the waterpark, sit in the Splash Zones, Ride the Rapids and Atlantis Rides, they are going to get WET. Make them ride, play and watch in their swimsuits and then get dressed again afterwards. It gets quite chilly at night, more so if you are damp, so be prepared with a warm sweatshirt or jacket.
  • A lightweight fleece blanket – optional but much appreciated after dark when you are chilly!
  • A thin, lightweight plastic poncho. Were you considering riding the rides with the kids? Sitting in the Splash Zone? While carrying your good camera no less?
  • Your own light up toys. If you want to avoid shelling out for a light saber, swirling flashlight, etc at the nighttime shows, pack your own. Kids love to wave them while waiting for the performance and it also give them something to do “light the way!” during the meltdown hr when you are headed back to the car

Check out some of the bloggers who we hung out with at Seaworld! Meeting them was as much a thrill for me, as seeing Orcas was for my kids.