Hiya, everyone! Who's ready for a report on SeaWorld San Diego? You are?! That's wonderful! First, though, you're going to have to listen to me prattle on about the adventure that preceded SeaWorld. A trip spanning multiple states, cities, climates, and geographical phenomena! Come, join me as we travel from Las Vegas to Laughlin, Bullhead City, Phoenix, Gila Bend, Yuma, Calexico, and San Diego! Or you can skip ahead to the emboldened "SeaWorld" and start there. My feelings won't be hurt...jerk.
SeaWorld was really a spur of the moment decision early on Wednesday morning. Both my roommate and I had Monday through Wednesday off this week so originally we were just going to do a road trip. I was thinking a trip up to Yosemite or Zion but apparently they have a massive amount of road closures thanks to snow and ice. My Civic sure wasn't going to risk that, so I figured to head south. There was a dam in Laughlin / Bullhead City we wanted to see, we had never been to Phoenix, Gila Bend has a friggin' hotel and restaurant themed to space, Yuma is home to one of the most infamous prisons in history, Calexico just had a funny name, and San Diego we figured we'd enjoy the town.
Davis Dam in Laughlin / Bullhead City was pretty, but tiny compared to Hoover Dam about 70 miles upstream on the Colorado River. The wind was extreme when we showed up. Combining that with the mid-30 degree temperatures and we weren't having a great time. We got out of the car, too some pictures, then bailed before turning into ice cubes, haha.
After taking our time driving into Phoenix, we were met with what I can only describe as disappointment. Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, home to the Diamondbacks and the Cardinals, and a nice looking city, is a ghost town. We arrived just before dinner time, the time when people would be getting off of work and going to grab a drink and watch some Monday Night Football. Nothing. We were in the middle of downtown, we walked over 20 blocks around the area we parked. The entire city was dead. Sure, we passed a person every now and then, but we only saw three open bars, maybe five open restaurants (in the same shopping complex), and a few drunk college kids. There were hardly any cars on the roads, too! I quickly came to the conclusion that the entire population of Phoenix is the cult from Hot Fuzz and that we should watch our step. That being said, we did manage to entertain ourselves wandering around. The downtown area is beautiful and clean and we found a great place to eat called Copper Blues that serves homemade potato chips (instead of fries) with their french onion dip that is made in-house. It wasn't healthy in the slightest but it sure tasted good.
The next morning we were on our way to San Diego by way of Yuma. The plan was to grab breakfast somewhere closeby, Yuma for lunch, San Diego by sundown. We ended up driving an hour and a half before reaching Gila Bend, home of the Best Western Space Age Lodge & Restaurant. Of course we got breakfast there. Are you kidding?! Two platters of Flying Saucer Pancakes and a few gallons of coffee later and we were back on the road!
Yuma was another hour and a half to two hours down the road. However, we happened along a sign advertising the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, so we decided on a small detour. It was 11 miles off the beaten path and slightly underwhelming, but funky nonetheless.
We went to Yuma for our second history lesson of the day with our tour of the Yuma Territorial Prison. Admission to the park was only $6 per person and it included a guided tour of the cell blocks and prison yards, as well as free roam of the grounds at your leisure. We ended up wasting over 3 hours here before I realized what time it was and got us back on the road.
Heading towards San Diego we drove a few miles out of our way to drive through Calexico for no other reason than the town's name. It sounds awesome, and that was all that mattered. Keep on keepin' on, Calexico!
Once we arrived in San Diego we parked in the Gaslamp District and spent about five hours wandering the area. I've always loved San Diego and the Gaslamp District is the center of activity. There are a ton of restaurants, bars, theatres, parks...everything that can keep your attention is here. There were some nice holiday decorations all over town and we even ran into an orchestra performing in the outdoor mall for free. Good times!
That night we stayed at a hotel that happened to be directly across the bay from SeaWorld. In the morning I made the executive decision and we headed towards the park just in time for opening at 11am.
I have never been to SeaWorld San Diego before. I've been to Orlando's but that is all. When I walked up to the ticket booth I immediately opted for the One-Year Membership option. I could just tell I was going to love this place even though the entire entrance was under construction. There's an air about the park that feels warm and inviting. After getting our tickets we went into the temporary entrance which fed us past some Christmas decorations and right up to a Sloth and her handler catching some morning sun. Welcome to SeaWorld! Home of...land-based animals...which are still totally awesome!
After watching the Sloth be awesome and nothing-at-all like a stoner we went through Animal Connections. There were some huge porcupines, tree frogs, all kinds of awesome things! Past that, we went around the corner for Journey To Atlantis.
Journey To Atlantis - I've always been a fan of Mack's water coasters. This one was loads of fun and the inclusion of the vertical lift is always good for some funkiness, but it was REALLY lacking in themeing. The plaza looked excellent and the ride itself is great, but after you've ridden Orlando's superior version it doesn't hold up. I'm just glad that we didn't get drenched. We rode in the third row and had the occasional refreshing splash but nothing ridiculous (like Orlando's front-row cheap shot mini-drop),
Now it was about this time that I noticed a sever lack of Polar Bears and Penguins in my life. Off to Wild Arctic!
Wild Arctic - Oh yeah...that's why I don't remember it too well. My brain has been trying to suppress the memory due to the cheese. Simulators don't get much more 90s than this one. The motion was off from the film, there were unexplained jolts, just all kinds of weirdness happening. Not to mention the OMG MOST INCREDIBLE PRESHOW EVER! I really hope they renovate this attraction soon. It would have been a perfect project for the 50th anniversary! It could be awesome!
The animal exhibits following the simulator were great! We saw a bird hitching a ride on a Walrus' back, two Beluga Whales swimming sideways and upside-down with big goofy grins, a huge Polar Bear with paws the size of my head, Penguins that would make Mr. Popper jealous, and PUFFINS! THE COOLEST BIRDS EVER!
Seeing the Penguin and Puffin exhibits really highlighted what exactly SeaWorld does with the money they make. There were a bunch of Penguins missing flippers and a few Puffins missing legs. SeaWorld was able to rescue and rehabilitate these animals and they now live happy, playful lives in the park!
Turtle Reef was next up on the agenda (read: park layout) and it did not disappoint. There were turtles and brightly-colored fish EVERYWHERE in there! We happened to visit just before feeding time and got to witness the frenzy over shrimp and lettuce, haha! I wasn't aware of it before, but Sea Turtles are mean when it comes to lettuce! I didn't see any biting each other, but I did see plenty of fin-slapping and stealing!
This was also another opportunity to see what SeaWorld does for these animals. We got to talking with one of the guides inside and she was very informative. Unfortunately I don't remember her name but you rock, SeaWorld girl! She gave us plenty of information on the turtle and fish in the exhibit as well as information regarding the in-house breeding programs. The one that stuck out, though, was her mention of the Sea Turtle rescue program and how one of their resident turtles was a repeat offender. He was rescued the first time in 2011 having been found injured with buckshot pellet lodged in his neck. The SeaWorld team brought him to their facility and got him all patched up and let him back into the wild after tagging him with a GPS unit. About a year later, in 2012, he was found again, this time tangled up in fishnets unable to free himself. They got him loose and brought him in for rehabilitation and he is now one of the largest three Sea Turtles in the exhibit. They're not 100% sure if they want to let him into the wild again, so for now, for his well-being, he is being kept at SeaWorld where he is free from harm.
Another cool aspect of Turtle Reef was their interactive touch screen that had live GPS maps of some of the tagged Sea Turtle. You could follow their path from release to present day and read some quick backstory on each turtle. It was a great touch!
We decided to run into Shark Encounter before Blue Horizons. This is just your typical underwater tube that is now commonplace at most aquariums, but it's still fun!
Blue Horizons - Think Dolphin Show meets sub-par Cirque Du Soleil on a budget. The stadium was gorgeous, the fountain effects all over the place were a nice touch, the bright colors were great. However, it seems like it was trying too hard sometimes (like the too-long diving sequence). Whenever the Dolphins were doing their thing, though, the show was rockin! I loved when one Dolphin leapt into the air towards the audience and yelped at the height of the jump!
We saw some Sea Lions at Pacific Point and MAN are they loud! All it takes is one fish and every last one of them flips out! Meanwhile, just next door where the Seals are, not a peep. Just a bunch of Seal swimming and laying around. All of them are cute, though!
Bayside Skyride - Short, sweet, to the point. Excellent views of the bay, the Pacific, downtown San Diego, and the park!
Manta - Excellent! This is the perfect example of a family coaster. Forget the boring Roller Skaters. This ride is full of twists, drops, airtime, and two launches, all while being approachable enough that anyone can ride! I loved the effect in the launch room but the thing that really struck me was the amount of interaction the coaster had with the plaza and queue line! It was all over the place! I love when parks put the ride on display like that rather than tucked away behind everything. This ride snaked its way through the entrance plaza, the queue line, the surrounding gardens, all over the place! Again, it isn't the most thrilling ride out there but it is sure to make you grin like an idiot! The back seat is the best!
After Manta we slowly made our way towards the front of the park to Shamu Stadium.
One Ocean - The Shamu Show! This one was much slower and more serious than Blue Horizons. It showcased the majesty of the Orcas rather than trying to wrap a story around it. Magnificent show, full of big splashes and jumps!
At this point we had done almost everything in the park except for Clyde & Seamore's Christmas Show, so we wandered around a bit taking in the Christmas decorations that were EVERYWHERE! Seriously, the park is absolutely gorgeous for Christmas! I believe there are over 400 Christmas Trees as well as countless other decorations throughout the park. I highly recommend a trip at this time of year!
Clyde & Seamore's Christmas Show - I've always been a fan of Clyde & Seamore. They're always a good time with the slapstick comedy! The Christmas Show is no different than you'd expect. The show is the same style as the regular show just with new, holiday-themed bits. The Perfectly Polite & Proper Christmas Dinner skit was very Monty Python-esque!
Once Clyde & Seamore finished up we hit Manta three more times in the dark. The ride is great in the dark but right now it is even better. They have a ton of Christmas Trees throughout the plaza that the ride sits in, so they're blowing by you the entire time. It's almost like riding a roller coaster through a blue and green kaleidoscope! Awesome!
We finished up the day with a trip up the SkyTower to get a good look at the park's decorations. The place was stunningly beautiful with every area of the park having a different lighting personality!
I cannot recommend a trip to SeaWorld enough. Every time I have been to a SeaWorld park or a Busch Gardens park (SeaWorld owned) I have always been blown away by the effort everyone puts in. Every single employee we encountered at SeaWorld San Diego was extremely friendly and more than happy to answer any questions we had, no matter how goofy they were. The same goes for the other parks in the company, as well! Their devotion to the rescue, rehabilitation, and care of their animals is unmatched and I cannot applaud them enough for everything they do. Thank you, SeaWorld!
Davis Dam! It's puny compared to Hoover.
The top of Davis Dam.
The empty ice rink in downtown Phoenix.
Cool feature outside of ASU's theatre.
Wait...isn't Fry's an electronics store?!
Awesome streetlight in Phoenix.
The ultimate sightseeing...
Petroglyphs are always fun!
We happened across a controlled fire on the side of I-8. Don't worry, the farmer was right there making sure everything was hunky dory!
Guard tower at Yuma
The original prison entrance.
The bridge over the Colorado leading to California.
Home of the Padres!
These exist now?
Nice Christmas lighting in downtown San Diego.
SeaWorld's decorations at the temporary entrance.
Just hitchin' a ride on this walrus. Nothing to see here.
I see a distinct lack of Coca-Cola!
Extremely crowded today.
Christmas decorations by the sharks.
View of the bay from the skyride.
One Ocean Stadium
40-foot Christmas Tree by the entrance that has a light show a few times throughout the night.
Ha, the moon is directly over the flags.
The entrance to Snow World, home of a snowball shooting gallery, snow play area, and sledding for the young'ns!
Hit a target, hear a sound! Harder than it looks!
Awesome Whale-Tail sunset clouds over SeaWorld. Appropriate!
Great trip report. I can't wait to check out all of these Christmas decorations at SWSD in a few weeks.
Also, I had a double take when I saw the Fry's Foods sign.
1: Lightning Run, 2: El Toro, 3: Maverick, 4: Xcelerator, 5: Voyage, 6: TTD, 7: Gold Striker, 8: El Loco (Vegas), 9: Millennium Force, 10: Kingda Ka Coaster Credits: 110 (89 steel, 21 wood); Last Coaster Credit: Raptor (CP) [8/22/14]; Last Park Credit: Waldameer [8/21/14] What a season pass??
That was interesting to hear about downtown Phoenix. Maybe it was because the predominant residents there are senior citizens/snow birds and they were already home in bed?
Your guess is as good as mine. One of my coworkers used to live in Scottsdale (just northeast) and told me today he's amazed how much the town has changed over the last ten years. When he lived there is was a very active and vibrant place that always had things going on. It's just gone downhill fast. That's not to say it's a bad town, of course. Like I mentioned, it's still a very pretty and clean city and I can easily see how it used to be a great place to live. It's a shame that the life has gone away, though.
Great report! How were the crowds for one ocean?
What crowds? The park was practically empty all day. One Ocean's stadium was about half full, but it was also the only performance of the day.
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