First of all I highly recommend if you will be doing many SD attractions (zoo, etc....) look into the GO San Diego card. This card gives free admission and sometimes other benefits for a certain number of days (we bought 3 day cards, but there are longer and shorter options).
Considering that the regular adult admission to Sea World is $78, paying $155 at Costco for this card was easily covered by also going to the zoo, Safari Park and some other activities.
I was prepared to be a little disappointed in this park as it seems equal parts animal park and amusement park. However, with our 9 & 11 year olds, we all had a great time dividing it between rides, shows and the up close time with certain animals.
I would suggest arriving shortly before opening time. You will get close parking ($15) and will get to enter the park to a certain point before opening. We did this and were located close to the new Manta roller coaster. My kids and husband were able to ride it 4 times in a row with almost no waiting and this set the day well as the kids got their fill and then we could enjoy looking at animals. The up close/touching of the rays, and star fish was a treat. The kids also enjoyed the dophins who would tease and splash just out of reach of their hands. We were all laughing at the seals who do the funniest antics to try to get fish.
A highlight was the Shamu show. Although it may seem like quite a production with music and dancing, we couldn't help but be impressed with these animals and their tricks. FYI - we sat in the last row of the "soak zone" (it's labeled so you'll know!) and we didn't get wet at all. My kids were disappointed and ran up to the front to get wet. The whales seemed to repeat the exact same spot when they did their splashes. However, sit in that spot and you will get soaked as did the family literally sitting right next to me.
If we had paid $300 regular admission price I'm not sure I'd be glowing as much or perhaps we literally would have stayed from open to close. Using the GO card was perfect for us - we saw Sea World and so many other places. Enough to enjoy and know for future where we would really want to spend our time.
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