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Comparison of SeaWorld® Orlando with SeaWorld® San Diego

The SeaWorld® theme parks are some of the best-known aquariums in the world, and SeaWorld® Orlando discount tickets remain popular some 45 years after the park first opened. The Orlando location is very similar to SeaWorld® San Diego, which opened ten years before the Orlando park. However, there are some key differences between the two parks, and visitors looking for specific animals or rides should check carefully before buying tickets.

Both parks balance thrill rides, sea animal shows, and conservation efforts to make the aquariums sustainable. SeaWorld® San Diego has a larger selection of kids’ rides, but SeaWorld® Orlando has slightly better thrill rides. Regardless of which park you end up going to, your whole family will surely find plenty to enjoy.

Size and Location

SeaWorld® Orlando is slightly larger than SeaWorld® San Diego, with 200 acres compared to the latter’s 189 acres. You probably won’t notice the difference, though, especially since both parks are noticeably smaller than other theme parks. Both are located near major metropolitan areas, though SeaWorld® San Diego is a little easier to get to via public transportation.

Both locations are significantly less crowded than other, more popular theme parks, despite being smaller than average. While crowd sizes at all SeaWorld® locations can vary based on season and special events, the park’s emphasis on animals instead of rides means that visitors are less hurried and impatient. This helps give the parks a more relaxed feel even when they are more crowded than usual.

Thrill Rides and Roller Coasters

SeaWorld® San Diego has a range of thrill rides, including Manta, Journey to Atlantis, and Electric Eel, the tallest and fastest roller coaster in San Diego. In 2020, the San Diego location will open Mako, which is based on a roller coaster of the same name at the Orlando location.

SeaWorld® Orlando has slightly more to offer in terms of rides for adults. Infinity Falls is one of the best water rides of its kind and features the highest water rapids ride drop in the world. Wild Arctic is a fantastic flight simulator that kids and adults alike can thoroughly enjoy. It also has coasters like Manta and Journey to Atlantis that are nearly identical to their San Diego location counterparts.

Kids’ Rides

Both parks have a decent number of rides for kids, though the 48” height requirement on some family-friendly rides will keep very young children on the sidelines. SeaWorld® Orlando has flamingo paddle boats and a Merry Go Round. Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is excellent for kindergarteners and grade-school children who aren’t afraid of the dark. Older kids will probably enjoy Infinity Falls and other medium-thrill rides, but very young children won’t have as much to do.

SeaWorld® San Diego has more kids rides, and can probably keep a child occupied for days! Tentacle Twirl and Dragon Drop are great for kids who can handle moderate heights, and Aqua Scout and Oscar’s Rockin’ Eel are good for nervous or very young children. Like at the Orlando location, some of the more thrilling rides can still be enjoyed by brave grade-schoolers.

Sea Animal Shows

Both parks have similar show lineups and have almost the same types of animals participating. SeaWorld® San Diego has sea lion, dolphin, and orca shows in stadiums that are slightly smaller than those at SeaWorld® Orlando. SeaWorld® San Diego also has Sea Rescue, a show that focuses on thrilling animal rescue and conservation efforts, and a summer fireworks show.

In the summer, each park has a range of limited-time performances, including concerts. Sea Lions Tonite is a great show for the whole family, with tricks and stunts that kids will enjoy and jokes that the whole family can appreciate. The evening concerts are family-friendly, but may not be as interesting for younger visitors. Both parks also have fireworks in the summer, too, when weather permits.

Animal Exhibits

The exhibits at both parks are similar, though the exact species at each one vary somewhat. There is an abundance of sea lions, dolphins, orcas, and sharks in various locations at each park. Both locations have a cold-water animal exhibit featuring beluga whales and walruses, as well as underwater tunnels where you can get an up-close look at various animals. There are also exhibits that focus on animal rescue and rehabilitation efforts at each location.

The turtle exhibit at the Orlando location is supplemented by the Turtle Trek theatre, which adds incredible video footage of turtles in their natural habitat. SeaWorld® San Diego has a slightly wider variety of dolphins, and also has piranhas, flamingos, otters, and sloths!

Animal Tours

For an extra fee, both parks offer a selection of educational behind-the-scenes tours that give you a closer look at the animals and their habitats. SeaWorld® Orlando has up-close tours in or beside the penguin, dolphin, sea lion, walrus, and orca enclosures. SeaWorld® San Diego has all of those, plus flamingo and sloth tours! Both parks’ tours have a handful of restrictions on participant age and group size, so make sure to double-check those before booking.

If you want to swim with the dolphins, SeaWorld® San Diego allows you to book swim sessions for an extra fee. SeaWorld® Orlando does not offer dolphin swim sessions in-park, but you can book them at the neighboring Discovery Cove park, which is also managed by SeaWorld Entertainment.

Other Attractions

Both parks now have a Sesame Street character area, which features character meet-and-greets that small children will love, and restaurants next to the orca enclosures. The Orlando location also has a restaurant next to the shark tank, so you can watch enjoy an underwater view of the sharks while you dine.

In addition to the regular animal tours, both parks offer great day camps and sleepovers for school-age children. The San Diego location also has weeklong sleepaway camps for students in grades 5-11! While the day camps are multi-day experiences that are better for locals, the sleepaway camps can be a great experience for serious animal enthusiasts from across the country.

SeaWorld® Orlando has the Sesame Street Parade and Pets Ahoy, two child-friendly performances that are worth making time for. Pets Ahoy is an indoor performance, making it a great option for anyone who needs a break from the sun. SeaWorld® San Diego has Atlantis Ignites, a truly unique show that features a giant Tesla coil and performers wielding electricity.

Dining and Shopping

In addition to the sit-down restaurants next to the orcas, both parks have a range of fast-casual dining options, breakfast options, and even restaurants with craft beer. There are healthy options in addition to the usual pizzas and burgers, so health-conscious visitors don’t need to worry.

Shopping at both locations includes typical theme park toys and inexpensive gifts as well as more upscale jewelry shopping. Pearl jewelry and other aquatic-themed designs are especially popular. Visitors to the San Diego location should make sure to check out the Pearl Factory store inside the park.

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