On Submarine Quest, guests glide through coral reefs and collect data. // © 2017 Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
Feature image (above): Guests can see giant Pacific octopuses in 1,000-gallon aquariums with a special viewing pop-up bubble built into the habitat.
Founded in 1964, SeaWorld San Diego has been a Southern California institution for more than 50 years. Its original concept was an underwater restaurant, but it quickly grew into a 21-acre marine zoological park providing guests with unique water-based experiences and interactions with marine animals.
Over the years, the park has evolved to meet the “wish lists” of its visitors, from adding thrill rides such as Manta and Journey to Atlantis to providing opportunities for intimate in-water animal encounters.
SeaWorld San Diego has continued to bring guests a fun-filled theme park experience, but it also strives to educate them about marine wildlife and about efforts around the world to protect the animals and their ocean homes.
The newest area of the park, Ocean Explorer, features five new family-friendly rides, plus three new animal encounters, including ones with a giant Pacific octopus and massive Japanese spider crabs. Kids can crawl through clear, kid-size viewing tunnels inside the specially designed aquariums to get a look at these sea creatures.
“What we’ve done is gather some of the world’s most distinctive aquariums, ocean exhibits and oceanographic exploration experiences, and fused them with the latest advances in technology,” said Brian Morrow, vice president of theme park experience design for SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment. “The result is what we think is the most unique way to experience the mysterious creatures that dwell in a submerged universe most will never see.”
At the center of Ocean Explorer is Submarine Quest, an interactive and educational attraction where adventurers of all ages board a mini-sub and embark on a virtual mission to learn how we can all help ocean animals. Riders also use the vehicle’s touchscreen dashboard — the first use of “smart play” technology, according to SeaWorld — to guide their mission and participate in fun challenges along the way.
Also in the area is a jellyfish-themed swing ride called Tentacle Twirl. For smaller explorers, there’s the Octarock swing ride, the Aqua Scout mini-sub ride and Sea Dragon Drop, a child-size “shot-n-drop” tower. Another cool activity in Ocean Explorer — and a particular favorite of my 8-year-old nephews — is the Skill Training Pod, where kids can race to hit lighted targets before time runs out.
When the stars come out, SeaWorld San Diego’s spectacular new nighttime experience, Electric Ocean, transforms the entire park into the deep bioluminescent ocean, where guests feel as if they are walking through moving currents.
“These extraordinary new attractions not only ratchet up the fun and exciting atmosphere our guests have come to love and expect at SeaWorld, but they also maintain our company’s focus on animals,” said
Marilyn Hannes, park president for SeaWorld San Diego. “We are thrilled to inspire current and future generations to help protect wild animals and wild places.”