Top 10 Reasons to Visit SeaWorld During the Holidays

SeaWorld shines the brightest at Christmas time, and this year, I’m counting down the top 10 reasons why you should stop by for a visit on your holiday vacation.

10. “Elmo’s Christmas Wish” – This is a very popular show and fills up fast. I’d say this is mostly for the younger crowd, but if you have some time to kill, it’s an upbeat and air conditioned presentation that is full of fun.

Tasha and Yar were a blast to learn with.  Image: Dakster Sullivan
Tasha and Yar were a blast to learn with. Image: Dakster Sullivan

9. Dolphin training experience – SeaWorld replaced the feeding experience with a new interactive training experience. For $15 a person, you’re given a time and paired up with a trainer and two dolphins. This is a more intimate experience than hoping a dolphin will swim your way when you dangle a smelly fish over the water.

If you want pictures, note that no cameras or loose items are allowed in the experience for the safety of the animals. Instead, there is a spot across the lagoon where the SeaWorld photographer stands that you can hang out. The experience only lasts between six to eight minutes, but in my opinion it was well worth it. Guests 10 and younger are permitted do this on their own.

8. Clyde and Seamore High – Okay, so this isn’t a Christmas experience, but it is a new show that is not to be missed. It doesn’t hold a candle to the pirate show of the past, but it does have some cool special effects. And when they say that the first seven rows are a splash zone, they mean all seven rows and not the first six get soaked and the seventh gets dribbled on (I learned that one the hard way). Sea lions don’t splash per se, but the special effect water cannons on the stage will soak you to the bone.

7. Shamu Christmas Miracles – There are two different Shamu shows during the holidays. The everyday Shamu “One Ocean” and “Christmas Miracles” in the evening. My favorite is the evening show because the atmosphere bursts with holiday cheer. Music is provided by upbeat classic holiday favorites and the Prince of Egypt soundtrack.

Seaworld recently announced that it plans to expand the orca environment to reach 50 feet in depth and hold 10 million gallons of water. If San Diego can get approval for the expansion, they will be upgrading their current environment first (to be completed by 2018) with Orlando and San Antonio parks receiving their upgrades last. SeaWorld has denied that these expansion plans were in response to the documentary, “Blackfish”, which claims at the mistreatment of the orcas, though the makers of “Blackfish” have claimed otherwise.

6. Winter Wonderland on Ice – This humble ice show packs some power with amazing stunts and popular musical numbers featuring music from the Polar Express and popular classics. The Sea of Trees and surrounding fountains get synced up to the show during certain numbers and adds a cool effect to the dazzling skaters. This show fills up fast, so if you plan on going on a peak night, I suggest purchasing the Christmas Celebration package which gets you reserved seating to the top three holiday shows. This is great if you have little ones and they don’t want to wait outside a theater for an hour just to get a seat.

My son had fun at the Christmas Village.  Image: Dakster Sullivan
My son had fun at the Christmas Village. Image: Dakster Sullivan

5. Christmas Village – The village opens up around 5pm each night and is full of trains, games, and plenty of entertainment. My husband and I wish we had waited to eat dinner in the village, because we discovered a bit to late they have frito pie as well as hot chocolate, steak burgers, and a selection of barbecue. This is definitely an area you want to take your time walking through and enjoying all the sights and sounds.

4. Sea of Trees – The lagoon area between the front of the park and Shamu Stadium is lit up with trees that dance to music. Take some time to grab a seat by the water and enjoy the view as the trees dance to traditional and modern Christmas numbers. If you can get on the bridge during the show, you will be surrounded by holiday goodness.

Santa and the Sullivans.  Image: Dakster Sullivan
Santa and the Sullivans. Image: Dakster Sullivan

3. Meet Santa at the North Pole – When you exit the Polar Express, you are transported straight into the movie. As soon as you turn the corner into the main arctic environment, you are greeted by the massive tree from the movie, and to your left, Santa Claus is waiting by his sleigh. Santa’s elves keep the magic going by giving the families in line a great first experience and personally escort each group up to the big man himself. Santa calls each child by name and takes time with each one to find out what they would like for Christmas. SeaWorld has their own photographer here, but the elves are happy to take photos for you as well.

Stepping into the movie at Polar Express  Image: Dakster Sullivan
Stepping into the movie at Polar Express Image: Dakster Sullivan

2. Take a ride on the Polar Express – The changes SeaWorld makes to turn the Arctic Encounter into the Polar Express is well worth waiting for. From the moment you step into the pre-show room, you are transported into the world of the book. The ride itself was even overlayed with new decor to hide the regular attraction. My family rides this at least twice each visit.

1. O’ Wondrous Night – This is the must see show in the park. If you can only see one holiday show during your visit, make it this one. The show tells the story of the night Jesus was born, but through the eyes of the animals that were there. A donkey, sheep, and a dove all tell a new baby goat why they are the reason the child was born in the barn in Bethlehem. It’s a musical experience that is as much a pleasure to watch as it is to hear. Towards the end, all the puppets are replaced with their real animal counterparts, so I suggest getting a seat on the aisle for a chance to see them up close. Make sure to arrive at the theater at least one hour prior to show time to secure a seat. The theater is small for the demand. And if you have anyone with sensitive ears (like my husband), grab a seat in the back where the speakers are not so demanding on your ear drums.

SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration runs through New Year’s Eve and is included with park admission. Tickets start at $89 for a one day one park ticket and go up from there depending on if you want to add the all day dining experience (if you’re an adult and don’t mind eating off the kids menu, grab a kids’ band for a few bucks cheaper).

Disclaimer: GeekMom was given tickets into this event.