X-boy’s school had a mass trip to Sea World San Antonio today. It’s a bit of a trek, but I definitely want the boy to experience this kind of thing. In spite of the changes to Sea World and whatever your feelings about having these creatures in captivity (I’m torn on the issue), there’s still a lot of wonder and power there.
Over the next few days (after sorting through a couple hundred pictures), I’m going to be posting about the mammals that we observed at the park.
Today, you get a review and some tips for your visit.
I originally went to Sea World San Antonio over 20 years ago, when it first opened. Boy has the park changed since. Now, it’s almost a theme park rather than a place for science and knowledge. A friend of mine who went with us commented on that. It’s much more about the rides and the shows are shows, not information filled presentations.
On the other hand, the shows are extremely well done. They are powerful and moving and you cannot watch these amazing creatures and listen to their stories without feeling the awe, majesty and amazement. It is, in spite of the entertainment focus, still a place that can promote the science and conservation in the world, just very subtly.
Besides, where else with 600 miles of anywhere in Texas, can you pet bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Those don’t participate in the shows, but you can pet them and it’s truly an amazing experience.
Yep, that me after rubbing the dolphin’s head. It’s amazing.
Go on a Sunday. The parking attendant told us that Saturdays are upwards of 50,000 people and most weekdays are about half that. Sundays average around 10,000 – 12,000. The wait for rides was on the order of a few minutes and the shows had plenty of seats. One downside to Sunday is the shorter operating hours. Unless you plan VERY carefully, you can’t see and do everything in one day (especially the shows). Most can be done, but not all.
Parking is $15. There is absolutely no reason to pay for ‘privileged parking’ (an extra $5 over the $15 required) if you get there before opening time. If you go on a Sunday and don’t get there before it opens, you might as well not go.
The coolest (in terms of temperature) place in the entire park is the back corner of the dining room in Shamu’s Smoke House. It’s also the only place to get Mac and Cheese for those picky kids. (I highly recommend the Apple Cobbler there too.)
Ice is free in the park, if you provide the container. Bring a big, non-insulated cup and the ice will melt quickly, providing plenty of drinking water.
The path to a very nice and inexpensive souvenir is to go to the Boardwalk Games area and play the water pistols. If it’s just you and your kid, the total cost is $6 and one of you will get a $12 stuffed dolphin (two colors available).
Shamu’s show should not be missed under any circumstances, get there early, especially if you want seats in the splash zone. If you sit towards the middle, but not directly behind the middle platforms (you’ll see), then you can sit really, really close with very little actual splash.
The Azul show is… interesting. It’s a pure show and very intricate and well choreographed. It’s up there with Vegas shows. I really enjoyed it, but was kind of bored when the dolphins weren’t present.
Food is not that expensive really. It’s not any more than a roughly comparable fast food place. All the food we ate was certainly palatable and some was actually quite tasty. Drinks are killers however. Once your core body temp starts going up, I suggest the frozen lemonade (at various stands around the park).
Honestly, the exhibits are not that great and should be a low priority against shows, except at feeding times. That’s a little more interesting. Also, if you can get to the conservation centers when they bring out the ‘animal ambassadors’ that can be worth it too.
Feeding the dolphins costs! It’s $6 for a pack of 4 big anchovies (or whatever they are) or $15 for 3 packs. They go fast. I spent $30 and would have happily spent another $30. Be there BEFORE the announced feeding times to get a good spot.
Strollers are not permitted in most of the exhibit halls and shows. We had no problems, so don’t worry about it.
If you go on a Sunday, don’t get the meal deal. That’s basically an all-day, all-you-can-eat pass for all the food in the park. We ate lunch, and had several small snacks and didn’t come close to the price of the meal deal thing ($30 for each adult and $20 for each kid). OTOH, if you plan to spend all day there and into the night for a concert or fireworks show, that could definitely be worth it.
There’s definately some tricks to taking pictures. Digital cameras really help. You can watch the show and keep the camera low and just glance at the screen. Set your camera for ‘sports’ mode, which takes pictures much faster. There’s plenty of light, even under the awnings of the ‘theaters’. Watch the trainers arms. When the raise up, something is about to come out of the water. I would also encourage you to practice with your camera. Digital cameras have different response times and that tenth of a second will make the difference between a stunning shot and nothing but a splash. If your camera has a multi-shot mode, use it. That usually takes 3-5 pictures faster than you could and it doesn’t display them on the screen until after they are all shot.
There are lots more that just one day there didn’t provide. If you go and do one of the behind the scenes tours or something else cool, let me know. We will be going back…