My family and I recently visited SeaWorld San Diego as their guests. Not being regular theme park patrons, we made a lot of stupid mistakes (such as lining up for water rides in the heat of the day, crisscrossing the park repeatedly with exhausted children, and consuming enough churros to sink a ship).
We made a few interesting discoveries too, here are the top five:
1. Shamu has multiple personality disorder
The famed killer whale Shamu is a lot like Lassie, but with a twist! While the fictional collie dog has been played by nine dog actors at one time or another over the franchise’s 50-year history, there are 24 whales playing the role of Shamu worldwide at this very moment.
There are seven in San Diego, eight in Orlando, five in San Antonio, and four at Loro Parque on Tenerife in the Canary Islands (a Spanish archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa). If you ask me, that’s a lot of whales. They should form a union or something.
2. You can bring your own baby…and not much else
No sooner were we through the gate than my sister-in-law discovered her husband hadn’t packed any diapers. They had a quick clenched-teeth discussion that frankly made me a little nostalgic for my own diaper bag days, before happily learning that SeaWorld sells diapers (and also pacifiers and bottles) at the stroller and wheelchair rental center. Crisis averted.
Some restaurants in the park also have signs prominently inviting slacker parents to “Ask Your Server for Baby Food!” in case you couldn’t be bothered to bring that either.
According to a chipper park employee at the Shark Encounter exhibit (a conveyor belt through a plexiglass tube through a shark tank), you are statistically more likely to be fatally crushed by a falling vending machine than killed by a shark. Here are a few other things that kill more people than sharks every year: deer, coconuts, toasters, and chairs. Consider yourself warned.
One more fun shark fact: according to George Burgess, Director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the the University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History, “Most of us have probably swum within 15 feet of a shark and didn’t know it.”
I don’t know about you, but I am already planning my next vacation. To a dude ranch.
4. Beer is on the menu at SeaWorld
We were a little surprised to see people quaffing Budweisers in the park, until we remembered that SeaWorld is owned by Anheuser-Busch! (They also own Sesame Place, a theme park for kids aged 2-7, which seems sort of sinister. Then again, I guess somebody has to own it.)
There’s other beer-related fun too. At Clydesdale Hamlet, visitors can get up close and personal with the world-famous 2,000-lb Budweiser Clydesdale horses (though not too close, apparently they bite). I took a pass on this nutty and incongruous exhibit in favor of encounters with actual marine mammals. This is SeaWorld, after all.
Like most theme parks, SeaWorld frowns on outside food. If you spend 9 1/2 hours in the park (like we did), you’ll be spending a lot of money on meals. There is some good news though. All food purchased at SeaWorld comes with a seagull warranty—it’s in the fine print on the back of the park map:
“Seagulls in the park can be aggressive. Please do not feed seagulls or leave small children alone with food. SeaWorld replaces purchased food stolen or damaged by seagulls.”