Review: Sea World San Antonio: A Vacation with Kids
by Stacy Curtis
Sea World was my 'tween girls' first pick for vacation destination this year. Something about large killer whales sparked their excitement. To round out our San Antonio experience, we also included the San Antonio Riverwalk, tubing the Guadalupe River, staying at a bed & breakfast, and outlet shopping. In spite of all that extra fun, there was no question that Sea World dazzled us as our favorite part of the trip. We will remember this trip for years. Why was it so perfect?
Why Sea World Was Perfect
1. The easy combination of shows, water rides/roller coasters, and swim/splash facilities ensured everyone was happy. I wanted to visit the shows, my older daughter wanted to swim the wave pool and lazy river, and my younger daughter wanted to experience the rides. All three of us got our wish. 2. Walking the park was easy with a great layout: not too big, not too small, with wide walkways. In fact we were there from open until they closed the park. Yes, we were tired, but we packed a ton of fun into the day without being stressed. Naturally, I had a few questions when planning the trip. Where do I get the best priced tickets? Do I wear shorts, swimsuit, or both? What's the food like? Will we have to wait in very long lines? Is there a 'best' time to go? Here is my experience:
I'm a single mom on a budget, so getting the best ticket price was of utmost concern. I surfed the web, searched for corporate discounts, and scoured Groupon. Ultimately, I discovered that indeed, all discounts are pretty much created equal. The online discount was exactly the same as my "corporate only" rate and even the same as the clipped coupons my neighbor gave me. I clicked to purchase once I found the 2-day pass that allows us to return free any time til the end of the year. It was only $10 more—well worth it! I'm already checking weekends to return.
While I was researching my options online, opportunities popped up to purchase hotel/ticket combos and additional behind-the-scenes animal experiences. The combos were priced reasonably, so keep this in mind if that interests you, but I decided to go with a B&B this time. I opted to keep the animal experiences for "someday" in order to remain on-budget.
We knew we would get wet, but also see shows and ride 'coasters. So what's the appropriate attire? My answer to that is "appropriate" swimwear. We saw people in all kinds of clothing. Those that looked most comfortable were in swimsuits. No matter what you do, you will get wet. Remember, though, that this is a public park, so what you wear in your back yard may not be appropriate. Both my girls have swimsuits with loose swim shorts that were both modest and fashionable. I wore a shorts outfit until Shamu doused me with cold, salty water. Then I gave in and changed into my skirted swimsuit. With my tank-like top and swim skirt, it felt appropriate as well.
The greatest surprise here was the selection of healthful food choices. Main dishes included taco salad, turkey wraps, and grilled chicken alongside the fried fish, hot dogs, smoked brisket (my fav!) and hamburgers. Sides included grapes, watermelon, chef salad, pudding, carrots/celery and more. Of course, standard theme park food was there too. I appreciated the options./p>
One reason we chose a Sunday to visit SeaWorld was to avoid some of the crowd. We accomplished that, though it could have been that others just wanted to avoid that week's heat streak. We did have the option to purchase Quick Queue for faster line actio,n but declined. At $25 (one time per ride) and $35 (unlimited) it wouldn't have been worth it for our family. If you're a roller coaster fan and plan to ride them all several times, this might be a good option for you.
I saved the best for last. I knew the shows would be good, but these ones were "gotta get back here again" good! We were able to fit in four shows amongst our wave pool, eating, and 'coaster excursions. Our first was One Ocean—the new Shamu show, A Shamu Story—which brought tears to my eyes. Just amazing!
We also caught Azul, which was even better, if that's possible. Costumed divers, colorful swooping birds, dolphins, beluga whales, a water clown, and Circus-like acrobats all combined to tell a wonderful water and air love story. This one, you HAVE to see!
Later, we took in the 4D Sesame Street show (for kids of all ages). If you've never experienced a "4D" movie experience, this is a great place to check it out. (It's a combination of a 3-D film in a theater with physical effects in the same space that synchronize with the film.) My 'tweens were reluctant to enter a show that had Sesame Street in its title, but they were glad they went.
Finally, we saw the water ski show, Cool Vibrations. Love, love, loved it! It was not only entertaining, but a great place to sit and relax after walking. These guys made me want to take up water skiing.
- Be sure to take a large ziplock freezer bag to put your camera and valuables in. Get one that has a zipper. Take it from me, you don't want to mess with trying to fit the plastic tracks of a traditional baggie together when a splash is coming your way.
- Don't mess with the sun in Texas! Bring along sunscreen, a hat or sun visor, and sunglasses. The ones in the gift shops are very pricey.
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©2011, Stacy Curtis.
Stacy Curtis is a freelance writer based in Fort Worth, Texas.