Make a splash this summer at one of Southern California’s most popular attractions—SeaWorld! Known best for its celebrity orca, Shamu, SeaWorld hosts a whole sea of ocean creatures that will excite and amaze your little ones. With so much to see, touch, hear, and experience, your kids will marvel at all SeaWorld has to offer. We’ve assembled a few tips in this Insider’s Guide to help you make the most of your family’s trip to SeaWorld.

Planning Your Trip/When to Go:
The warm summer months are the best time to visit SeaWorld, though they do attract the most crowds. Do some planning before you book your trip to figure out the specific feeding and show events your little ones will want to see. The SeaWorld website has updated calendars and schedules that make planning your trip to SeaWorld a breeze!

Check the SeaWorld website for hours of operation, as they do change throughout the year. As with most attractions, try to arrive close to opening hours to minimize your wait time. Crowds usually start building an hour or so after the gates first open.

Buying your tickets online before you go to the park can not only help save you time waiting in line, but save you some money too! Look for discounted family packages on the SeaWorld website.

Want more SeaWorld action? If you’re thinking of coming back for another visit, look into upgrading your ticket to a multi-day or annual pass before you leave. You can usually apply the cost of that day’s ticket to a new pass.

What to Bring:
Water. It’s easy to forget how dehydrated you can get in a park that’s full of it! However, you will be doing a lot of walking around and sitting in the sun, so make sure you bring plenty to drink. Wear comfortable walking shoes and clothing that you don’t mind getting wet. Or, wear your swimsuit and bring a few towels and a change of clothes so your kiddos can enjoy all of the park’s water attractions.

Be prepared for some serious sun exposure at the park. The majority of SeaWorld does not have shaded areas, so you will be spending a lot of time in the sun—sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses are a definite MUST for everyone in the family.

What to See:
Whether your kids are animal lovers who want to see the live shows, thrill seekers looking for excitement on the rides, or merely hoping to get wet at the shows, SeaWorld has attractions for everyone. Here are some of the popular attractions at the park:

Shark Encounter – Ride a moving walkway underneath a tunnel full of sharks. This indoor exhibit is a great place to beat the heat!

Rocky Point Preserve – Where else can you pet and feed a dolphin by hand? These friendly creatures swim right up and take fish right from your hand. Watch out for seagulls though, they are known to appear out of nowhere and steal the fish!

Forbidden Reef – Pet the friendly and surprisingly cute manta rays that swim all around the huge pool. It only takes a few minutes and it’s lots of fun!

Penguin Encounter – With over 300 penguins at SeaWorld, the Penguin Encounter is a must-see exhibit. Watch these playful critters hop and swim around in their rocky outcrops. The best part? The exhibit is air-conditioned, so it’s a great escape from the daytime heat.

Finish out the day with Shamu’s feature show: Shamu Rocks! During the summer months, this nighttime show is dazzling with visual effects and colors that make it a truly magical experience.

Don’t miss the fireworks after the show!

Try and catch as many of the shows as possible—they are definitely the highlight of the park. Seating does fill up the longer you wait, so try to stake out a spot early to get the best spots (otherwise, you might end up sitting on the edges of the amphitheater). If you’re traveling with a group, have someone save seats while you take your little ones around the park.

Insider Tip: Temperatures in the park can get pretty high, especially during midday. Check out these cool spots for a break from the heat: Wild Arctic, Penguin Encounter, Turtle Reef, Shark Encounter or any of the three Aquariums.

Insider Tip: Thinking of getting up-close for the Shamu show? Want to splash around with your kiddos? Bring a few zip-lock bags to store your valuables, that way you don’t have to worry about them getting damaged while you’re getting soaked.

Where to Eat:
SeaWorld does not allow any outside food or coolers to be brought into the park (water bottles are OK). If you do want to bring some snacks to munch on, there are picnic areas located right outside the park where you can take a break from walking. Just make sure to get your hand stamped before you leave for re-admission.

If you are planning on eating in the park, try and grab a bite between 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm when most park-goers are attending the shows and feedings.

Insider Tip: Bring individual packets of Crystal Light or other drink mix in your snack bag. Most of the food shops in the park will give you a glass of water free of charge, and you can make your own ice tea or lemonade.

Just for Kids:
Any Sesame Street fans in your family? If so, then don’t miss Sesame Street’s Bay of Play. This interactive play area will appeal to Sesame Street fans of all ages. They have tons of space for kids to run, play, and climb, a giant sand box full of toys, and kid-friendly rides (Elmo’s Flying Fish is a recommended favorite).  If you stick around, your little ones can take a picture with their favorite Sesame Street character.

So grab those swim suits and make your way out to SeaWorld for a day of serious fun with some seriously cool creatures. If we missed anything, leave us a comment below to fill us in on your family’s insider’s tips!

– Scott Wardell