SeaWorld San Diego is an animal theme park, oceanarium, outside aquarium, and marine mammal park, located in San Diego, California, United States. The park is owned by SeaWorld Entertainment, a division of Blackstone Group. SeaWorld San Diego is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Adjacent to the property is the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, which conducts research on marine biology and provides education and outreach on marine issues to the general public, including information in park exhibits.
SeaWorld was founded in March 21, 1964 by four graduates of the University Of California, Los Angeles. Although their original idea of an underwater restaurant was not feasible at the time, the idea was expanded into a 22-acre (8.9 ha) marine zoological park along the shore of Mission Bay in San Diego. After an investment of about $1.5 million, the park opened with 45 employees, several dolphins, sea lions, and two seawater aquariums, and hosted more than 400,000 visitors in its first year of operation.
Initially held as a private partnership, SeaWorld offered its stock publicly in 1968 enabling them to expand and open additional parks. The second SeaWorld location, SeaWorld Ohio, opened in 1970, followed by SeaWorld Orlando in 1973 and SeaWorld San Antonio (the largest of the parks) in 1988. SeaWorld Ohio was later sold to Six Flags in January 2001. The parks were owned and operated by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich between 1976 and 1989, when they were purchased by Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. After Anheuser-Busch was acquired by InBev, SeaWorld San Diego and the rest of the company's theme parks were sold to the Blackstone Group in December 2009, which operates the park through its SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment division.
SeaWorld currently leases the land from the City of San Diego with the lease expiring in 2048. The premises must be used as a marine mammal park, and no other marine park may be operated by SeaWorld within 560 miles of the City limits.
As of December 31, 2012, there are 26 animal habitats, 10 rides, 20 shows, 2 play areas, 4 special limited-time events, and 11 "distinctive experiences" (including special experiences such as swimming with dolphins). Note that some of the shows may vary during dayparts or seasons, but are counted as separate shows.
- One Ocean (Shamu Stadium): A Shamu show that features the park's killer whales and their trainers.
- The Shamu Story (Shamu Stadium): A seasonal educational presentation that provides facts about killer whales and how they are trained and cared for. Generally shown during off-season weekdays.
- Blue Horizons (Dolphin Stadium): This show features Bottlenose dolphins, various birds of flight, Pacific short-finned pilot whales, and aerialists.
- Sea Lions LIVE (Sea Lion & Otter Stadium): A show that spoofs TV shows and music featuring California sea lions and Asian small-clawed otters.
- Pets Rule (Pets Stadium): A show that mainly features dogs, cats, and a pig, but a variety of exotic birds and mammals might make appearances.
- Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation (Mission Bay Theatre): A live musical show features singers, dancers and rock/pop music performed by a live band.
- Cirque de la Mer (Cirque Stadium): Cirque de la Mer takes guests on a journey to the island of Amphibia, where brightly colored Amphibians combine characteristics of humans and sea creatures. These whimsical creatures captivate the audience as they demonstrate their super-human abilities through exhilarating acrobatic feats of strength and discipline.
Bayside Skyride is a 1967 VonRoll type 101 gondola ride located in the northwest corner of the park that travels over Mission bay for a 6 minute ride. It travels over part of Mission Bay on two 80-foot (24 m) towers, and lands on the other side. The Sea World
Skyride has the longest span between towers out of any VonRoll Skyride ever built—925 feet (282 m). From 1967 to 1988, the skyride was known as the Sea World Atlantis Skyride.
Journey to Atlantis
Journey to Atlantis is a joint flume and rollercoaster. The boat leaves the station and climbs the first lift hill, once at the top of the lift the boat takes a small decline to pick up a little speed and then travels around a right-hand turn that leads to the first tower building. The boat then enters the tower and plunges down a flume drop into a small man-made lake of water below.
During the next section of ride the boat slowly travels along a flume of water, makes a left-hand turnaround and approaches the second tower. Speakers placed along the side of the flume reveal the story behind Atlantis. The second tower contains a brief flood before entering a duel-elevator style lift that can lift two boats at a time. In the elevator " a projection of Commerson's dolphins is shown, then a Humpback whale which comes in and "causes" the elevator to rise. The boat slowly rocks side-to-side as it climbs to the top. Inside the tower there is more Atlantis style theme and spiel.
Once at the top of the lift the boat leaves the tower and prepares for the end of the drop. The boat then travels down a right-hand twisting drop that turns about 270 degrees, then rises back up onto a flat section of track containing some block brakes. From here the boat descends down another drop that banks to the right, and then climbs up slightly and makes a banked left-hand turn before descending down a small drop into another pool of water. The boat then slowly travels along a flume of water before making a left-hand turnaround and then heading back towards the station.
At the exit of the ride is a large aquarium home to Cownose rays, Spotted eagle rays, Southern stingrays, and Leopard sharks.
Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation
Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation is an original live musical show features singers, dancers and rock/pop music performed by a live band. Features effects such as fog and strobe lights.
The park's popular Bottlenose dolphins are on exhibit here in a multi-pool complex where guests have free access to pet the dolphins. Guests can also interact with the dolphins during scheduled presentations hosted by trainers that give them the opportunity to touch, feed, and give training signals to the dolphins. The Dolphin Encounter and Dolphin Interaction Program also take place at this exhibit. Adjacent to Dolphin Point is Otter Outlook, home to the park's California Sea Otters.
SeaWorld Sky Tower
The Sky Tower is a 320-foot (98 m) Gyro tower that was built in 1969. The ride was refurbished in 2007 with a new capsule. The ride gives passengers a six-minute view of SeaWorld and San Diego. It rises at a rate of 150 feet per minute (46 m/min) while spinning slowly (1.02rpm). The attraction hosts views of Mission Bay and parts of San Diego.
Sesame Street's Bay of Play
Sesame Street's Bay of Play is an interactive children's play area that opened in 2008 and is based on the long running Sesame Street children's television series. The area includes three rides: Abby's Seastar Spin, a spinning "teacup" attraction, Elmo's Flying Fish, an attraction in the style of Disney's "Dumbo" ride, and Oscar's Rockin' Eel, an eel themed "Tug Boat" ride.
Shipwreck Rapids is a raft ride that themes on ventures into the shipwrecks of the deep with twist and turns. At one point riders pass by a Sea turtle exhibit.
Turtle Reef is an attraction housing over 60 sea turtles in an aquarium with a variety of fish and other creatures.
Wild Arctic is a simulator ride through the Arctic set in a giant helicopter. It features both a simulator or the option to go straight to the exhibits of the wild arctic. After the ride, guests can view animals of the Arctic from both underwater and above. The first exhibit features four adult beluga whales and, as of 2010, a beluga calf. The second exhibit features a male and female pacific walrus. The third exhibit has polar bears, and does not feature trainer-performed feeding due to safety concerns.
A spinning flat ride located at the exit of Turtle Reef themed after rescue rafts.
On May 26, 2012, SeaWorld San Diego opened a new mega-attraction called Manta, a Mack launched roller coaster featuring two launches LSM of up to 43 miles per hour (69 km/h) accompanied by a bat ray aquarium and touch pool. A shallow pool for touching bat rays, white sturgeons, and shovelnose guitarfish lies at the entrance of the attraction while two-sided underground aquarium (for riders and nonriders) can be accessed downstairs or via the queue. Manta begins with 270 degree projected media experience at the first launch. The train rocks forward and backward in synchronization with the projected film of a coral reef and school of rays. The two minute, 2,800-foot (850 m) long ride stands at a height of 30 feet (9.1 m) and features a drop of 54 feet (16 m). The layout is characterized by multiple turns, short but sudden drops, and crossovers.
Just like SeaWorld in Orlando & San Antonio, SeaWorld San Diego also includes a water park called Aquatica. SeaWorld Entertainment purchased one of the Cedar Fair-owned "Knott's Soak City" water parks in late 2012. In 2013, the water park opened as Aquatica San Diego. The park is located approximately 22 miles from its sister park, in Chula Vista