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Top 10 tips for having a great time at SeaWorld

By CARY ORDWAY

No one can resist the charms of SeaWorld, the San Diego theme park that has attracted visitors for many decades. If you're visiting sunny Southern California there's no question that SeaWorld deserves a checkbox on most everyone's SoCal to-do list.

But the thing about SeaWorld is you have to do it the right way. If you just stumble into the park without any forethought, you'll miss a lot of things you really wanted to see and do. And with adult ticket prices this summer at $69.99 a person, no one wants to go home without seeing most of the park's major attractions.

And so we offer a Top 10 list for SeaWorld – a list of 10 things you need to know before you go to SeaWorld. Presented in no particular order, these tips will give you all the information you need to get the most from your visit to SeaWorld California.

Plan ahead. Yes, we know this probably goes without saying but it's important you know what you need to plan and when. On our recent trip to the park the first thing we did was download a schedule of the many shows that are presented each day, ranging from the Pets Rule! Show featuring domesticated pets to the the Shamu Show. Plan what time you will see what show, keeping in mind you have to arrive a few minutes early for the most popular shows such as Shamu. You'll want to plan some time in between shows so that you're not rushed to get to a particular show and so that you'll also have plenty of time to see and do things on the way.

Keep an eye on weather. The thing to realize about SeaWorld's rides is that many of them – and even the shows – will get you wet. If you like to avoid crowds, for example, you can plan to go on wet rides first on a cloudy day – it's likely you'll not even have a line. On the other hand, if you chill easily, you may want to plan those rides later in the day when sunshine is more likely, or skip the wettest rides altogether. Keep in mind you can buy a poncho at SeaWorld to keep your clothes relatively dry, or even buy one ahead of time and take it to the park.

Plan on spending money. Visiting a Southern California theme park these days is not inexpensive and the admission price is just the beginning. The rides are included in admission but there will be all kinds of food available – some of it rather good – with prices a little higher than you might expect. For example, a hot dog, coke and small bag of potato chips is $9. A churro is almost $4. An ice cream sundae is $6 and smaller ice cream treats start at about $3. If you're on a tight budget, there are a few picnic tables outside the park near the parking lot where you could bring your own lunch.

Go to Splash Zones early. Shows featuring Shamu the killer whale or the dolphins all have splash zones closest to the pool and those actually are among the more popular places to sit as kids love to get drenched by the splashing of the whales and dolphins. So if your kids want to get drenched, be sure to show up early for those shows because those seats are gone very early.

Look for deals. At certain times of the year, SeaWorld offers great deals for California residents such as letting you come back for the rest of the year free when you buy a one-day admission ticket. There are also combination passes with the San Diego Zoo, as well as Seasons Passes. If you're taking a carload of kids, keep in mind that only kids 2 and under are free, and kids 3 to 9 are about $62 each, with 10-year-olds and older paying adult admission prices.

It's easy to get separated. With 200 acres, SeaWorld is a huge park and when you combine that with the thousands of visitors the park receives on a typical day, it can be easy to get separated from other members of your party. Equipping everyone (or each mini-group) with a cell phone is good for starters but we got separated when one of our cell phone batteries died and we were unable to communicate a location where we could meet. You can solve this problem by A/ keeping cell phone numbers of your kids and spouse in your wallet or B/ giving everyone a contingency “go-to” location in case you get separated. Some families all wear the same color clothing to make it easier to pick each other out in a crowd. You can also take a photo of your group on arrival and refer to that if you need to remember what any person was wearing.

Pay attention to how you dress. More than most amusement parks, SeaWorld requires a little forethought on what you're wearing. You'll want to dress in layers and preferably in clothing that dries quickly. It's no fun walking around for hours in wet clothes and, if the sun's not out, there is no easy way to dry out your clothes. Also be sure to wear comfortable shoes because you'll be doing a lot of walking. And finally, a waterproof bag is just the thing for those rides where you will be drenched with water.

You can bring your pets. There are pet facilities available if you don't know what to do with your pets while you're going to SeaWorld. These day areas are first-come, first-served.

Try something different. There are several ways you can have a very unique experience at SeaWorld. For example, you can jump in the water with the dolphins, or you can also get in the water with the trainer in the Wild Artic exhibit where you'll touch, feed and communicate with the Beluga whales. SeaWorld also offers an adventure camp where kids can sleep at the park.

Keep an eye out for special events. When we visited the park in May, the park was featuring Viva La Musica, a series of concerts by internationally known latin music groups and singers. More special events are planned throughout the summer.

AT A GLANCE

WHERE: SeaWorld is in San Diego, located in the Mission Bay area of the city and close to Mission Beach, Old Town and the city's downtown district.

WHAT: SeaWorld is like a zoo for animals of the sea and includes a combination of thrill rides, live entertainment shows and animal exhibits as well as shopping and dining opportunities for the whole family.

WHEN: SeaWorld is a great place to visit any time of the year since San Diego has a sunny year-round climate, but summer is best for some of the wettest rides. A lot of times the weather will be cooler in the morning hours with a marine cloud layer gradually burning off by mid-day leaving sunshine for the rest of the day.

WHY: SeaWorld is both fun and educational and is ideal for a family outing. Kids are eager to learn more about the animals at SeaWorld and the staff is good at both entertaining and teaching the youngsters about marine life.

HOW: For more information on Seaworld, please visit www.seaworld.com.

RECOMMENDED LODGING: Click here for several options in San Diego.

OTHER DESTINATIONS: If a Southern California beach city is your idea of a great California vacation, be sure to check out other California Weekend articles on Laguna Beach, La Jolla and Coronado.

Visit-NewYork-Online.com offers New York travel and vacation information to help plan your getaway to New York.

Houseboating is a great way to get out and see California from the water. For tips on houseboating, check out these two sites: Houseboat Getaways and Watervvayadventures.

RECOMMENDED LODGING: Here are some examples of lodging available in the San Diego waterfront area: Embassy Suites San Diego Bay - Downtown; Hilton San Diego Resort; Paradise Point Resort and Spa; Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina; San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina

Visit Locallife for the best San Diego Discounts

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