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Many of us are itching to get back to theme parks. With California still not releasing guidelines, many Theme Parks in the area have taken to partial reopenings. Enter SeaWorld Zoo Days. SeaWorld has opened its marine exhibits, some dining locations, and more under the current guidelines. But is SeaWorld Zoo Days a good deal for the cost? Are they taking precautions to keep their guests safe? We are taking a look at all of this and more as we break down SeaWorld Zoo Days 2020.
Information on SeaWorld San Diego Zoo Days
If you are wondering what is SeaWorld Zoo Days, where to buy tickets, what is included and how it works, then you have come to the right place. We will break that all down, before we get into my take aways from the event.
SeaWorld Zoo Days takes place on the weekends only at this time.
What is included with SeaWorld San Diego Zoo Days
SeaWorld Zoo Days includes access to the marine exhibits (when we went it was just outdoors, but starting Labor Day Weekend, indoor exhibits will be included), shows, and two meals of dining… OR MORE.
We enjoyed the marine shows and touch pools during our stay. For me, this is what we usually do at SeaWorld when we go, so the rides being closed were not a big down side to us.
During our visit the indoor exhibits were closed, but starting Labor Day weekend, they will also be open. I think this adds a little to the value of the ticket.
The shows were also open, but space is limited as they practice social distancing (see more on that later), so be sure to get to each show at least 15-20 minutes early, or purchase reserved viewing. I have mixed feelings on our decision to purchase reserved viewing which I will touch on in the cost and if it was worth it section.
Dining Included with SeaWorld Zoo Days
Each ticket for SeaWorld Zoo days includes a punch card for 6 food items. Depending on how you utilize this, this more than pays for the ticket itself.
Between the 6 of us, we had so much food that we bought bags to bring home the extra food in. Not even kidding.
You can use the punch cards for entrees, desserts, drinks (1 alcoholic per punch or 2 non-alcoholic per punch), and even snacks.
The key here is to know the best way to maximize these punches. For instance, kids meals were only one punch, and included both the entree and side. Sodas were two for one punch, same with bottled waters.
One punch gets you your choice of:
- Side (grapes, salad)
- Kid’s Meal (entree and side included)
- One Alcoholic Drink
- Two non-alcoholic drinks
Because we had 3 kids, and they were able to get their entire meal for 1 punch, and they could share sodas, we ended up only using 5 punches for lunch for all 6 of us. At dinner, we had 26 punches left.
Yes, we got all the things, and took them back to our hotel with us.
Most of the food was delicious (the grapes were a bit tart), and we really enjoyed the chocolate cake for dessert the next few days.
How Much Are Tickets To SeaWorld Zoo Days?
Tickets to SeaWorld Zoo Days are pretty close, if not equal to the same price as regular tickets. Honesty moment… I don’t follow the cost of SeaWorld tickets very closely as we only visit every couple of years. A quick search does look like normal tickets run closer to $90, so these are a little cheaper than that.
While you can purchase the tickets directly from SeaWorld, I suggest booking them through my ticket partner Get Away Today. They look like they are the same price, but I found that SeaWorld added on handling fees and taxes that Get Away Today does not.
The current price for SeaWorld Zoo Day tickets through my ticket partner are $74.99/adult and $64.99/child (as of Sept 2, 2020)
After you purchase your ticket through my ticket partner, you will need to make reservations through Sea World (more on that below), and when you do so you can also add on extra items.
Here are some extras you may choose to add-on to your day that will cost you extra
Pre-Paid Parking – $25+ – This will need to be paid whether you pay it at the park, or before hand. It was much easier to pay before hand, and just have them scan the bar code at the park. We paid for “closer parking” and are glad we did. This was our first theme park without a stroller for my twins, and they were whining by the end of the day, so we were grateful that we were parked so close.
Reserved Viewing – $9.99/person – This will give you reserved viewing for all shows that you choose to attend. I have mixed feelings on this. Because of the limited seating, and shorter hours, it was nice to have our seats reserved for us. However, I felt that it was a waste as SeaWorld ambassadors were not checking to see if people who sat in the reserved area actually had reserved viewing. This means there is a good chance that many people got these seats without paying. I hope this was just an opening weekend oversite.
Dolphin Encounter $20/per person??? – This is a paid experience that gets you some time with the dolphins to play and have fun. This used to be free… but as we know, everything that can be charged for, eventually will be…. oh but that is not the point of this post. I was confused on the cost of this experience because the SeaWorld website has it worded strangely (see below) but I believe the cost is $20/person. This is totally worth it if you are wanting that extra interaction but these book up quickly. They were sold out just moments after they opened for our day.
Here is the confusing wording from the SeaWorld San Diego site:
Reservation confirmation is only valid for one guest on the date of your reservation. You may add up to 5 additional guests at the check in.
Is SeaWorld Zoo Days worth the cost?
So the big question for many people is – is it worth the cost?
If you are a foodie and would mostly do the shows if you were at SeaWorld – DEFINITELY!
If you are someone that is not interested in the shows, and not really going to use the food, then probably not.
My family rarely does many rides when we are at SeaWorld, so it wasn’t a big deal to us that those were closed. The splash parks, etc were also closed, but again, we don’t do those much.
For me, it was worth the cost. (And yes, I paid for this visit out of my own pocket. I did not receive free tickets.)
But of course… this isn’t just about if it is worth the money. Given the current health crisis, is it safe to visit SeaWorld?
SeaWorld Zoo Days Safety Protocols
This is where people will have to make a big decision. Before we get into this, I promote responsible travel during this time, but I know that looks different for everyone. I am here to give information, and this is not medical advice.
I felt like SeaWorld did a lot of things right, but I did also feel like there was some room for improved protocols. I stopped someone that looked like they were “higher up” at SeaWorld with my feedback, and they also responded to my instagram post addressing these issues, so I hope we will see some improvements where needed.
SeaWorld Zoo Days requires reservations to attend. When you purchase your tickets through my ticket partner, Get Away Today, they will email you the link to make these reservations. Much like how we know Disneyland Reservations will not be automatic (when they reopen) just because you have tickets, the same is true with SeaWorld.
Reservations were easy to make. The kicker here is that there was some confusion about where to go when you arrived. You will head straight to the turnstiles with your e-tickets. Do not stand in the guest services line. If there is any confusion, ask a SeaWorld Ambassador (their “cast members”) where you need to go.
Temperature checks were super easy. You simply walk through this long “warehouse” removing hats, before entering. At the end, they have a thermometer that takes the temperatures of all those walking through and displays it on a monitor for an Ambassador to view. You don’t have to stop unless your temperature is high and they need to do additional screening.
I tried to get pictures or video of this, but it went super quick.
I really liked that they had this warehouse you walked through as it helps get rid of the argument that the sun and heat increased your temperature.
From the moment you booked your SeaWorld Zoo Days tickets, the mask requirement was clearly stated. There were signs throughout reminding you of this as well. They almost always had a sign in English followed by one in Spanish.
There were reminders playing through out the park, and you were reminded at shows that masks were required. SeaWorld staff, trainers, and even the doll at the Sea Lion pre-show, wore masks.
Ambassadors also let people know that should their mask break, etc they had some available to guests for free, all you had to do was ask.
That said… mask compliance was not optimal. After watching how strict Walt Disney World has been with mask compliance, proper mask usage, and even the type of masks people could wear, it was a bit jolting to see about 50% of the guests at SeaWorld Zoo Days not properly wearing masks.
Gaiters were allowed, many guests were wearing masks with their noses showing, and several were wearing them as chin straps. People were often walking around with masks down, carrying food, even if not eating. Only once did I hear an Ambassador correct a guest, and that was as the guest approached them to ask a question.
Masks for kids was enforced even less, which made my kids upset that here I was, making them even keep masks on for pictures (except when seated, dining), while other kids ran around the entire park, some much older looking than even my oldest, without masks on.
Social Distancing Through Out The Park
Social Distancing Protocols are in place through out the park. Some are far more enforced than others. I think the best way to do this is by breaking it up by where/when the social distancing was.
Social Distancing at SeaWorld Touch Pools
This was the worst one, let me start with that. So don’t discredit all of their protocols from this single section.
I think people, especially kids, were just excited and forgot that we are supposed to be keeping our space.
There are stickers on the ground to remind of social distancing as seen above. But in reality, what I saw at most touch pools was this…
Kids crowding our space, we had gone to the far side on purpose. Kids would literally climb over my kids to try and touch the rays. Parents would say nothing. The few places where it looks like there are space, there were fake boulders making it so it was not an accessible area.
I mentioned to an employee that looked higher up, plus on instagram, that this could be solved simply by putting some plexiglass barriers around the touch pools every so often. A reminder that we are supposed to stay in our area.
Along with the plexiglass, for both this and the mask issue, I feel there just needs to be more Ambassadors out with the specific job of enforcing both social distancing and mask compliance.
At the end of the day, the crowds had slowed, and the touch pools were much less crowded. So if you do go, maybe save the touch pools for later on.
Social Distancing while dining and shopping
Social Distancing while shopping and dining were well managed. While shopping, guests mostly had to take responsibility for keeping distance, but did a good job I felt.
Both check outs/lines for dining and shopping were clearly marked, and Ambassadors did a great job of telling people to spread out if they were not social distancing on their own.
Dining seating had many tables marked as “do not sit here” to help encourage social distancing. The only problem we had with this is our family barely fit at one table at a few of the locations. We ended up putting our 26 food items (remember those) at a different table that was marked not to sit there, so we could all fit.
Social Distancing at Marine Shows
The distancing at shows was probably the best done.
Every other row was marked as closed, and if someone sat there, Ambassadors would ask them to move.
At first I thought it was silly they didn’t chain these rows off as well, but realized this might have been a compliance issue in case of an emergency.
In addition to having every other row blocked off, they had 3 foot markers on each bench, making it easy to estimate your six feet of difference between each group.
Of course, it was up to guests to comply with social distancing here. Earlier in the day, we found guests did a pretty good job of complying, keeping there distance, etc.
However, when we attended the last dolphin show of the day, we noticed a lot of people came on at the end and squeezed in where they shouldn’t be, just to get a center seat, even though there was plenty of openings on the sides.
Exiting the shows was well done, but timely. They had Ambassadors with flags who took people out row by row starting on the sides, then moving to the middle. Guests were mostly compliant, though I did see a few try to sneak out before their row was called.
Sanitization, Cleaning and Hand Washing
When we visited SeaWorld, we sanitized and washed our hands A TON! There were already hand washing stations near all the touch pools before the current health concerns, but now there were also several hand sanitizing stations.
Hand sanitizor was at the exit/entrance for the shows, dining locations, and throughout the entire park.
Inside of the bathrooms, signs reminded you of proper handwashing procedures.
Ambassadors were sure to wipe down touch points at shops (like pin pads, etc) in between guests.
The one place I would have liked improvement was at the tables when dining. At lunch (around noon) we had someone stationed who immediately wiped our table as soon as we left.
By dinner, it seemed this was no longer happening. Many tables were dirty, and since there were few tables to begin with, this was frustrating. They definitely need to add more staff to clean tables during dinner hours.
A few other things to note about SeaWorld Zoo days
There are a few other things we noticed during our visit, that guests attending SeaWorld Zoo Days will want to be aware of.
SeaWorld’s App… or lack of one
We noticed there were zero paper maps available, which is sad for my kids who happen to love maps. But our kids understood. What was frustrating, however, is the lack of a working, functional app.
In order to access menus, shows, or the map, you could scan a QR code which takes you to SeaWorld’s website. This was a pain for map usage as it only showed a picture of the map.
I have been spoiled by the Disneyland App and its many hidden functions. Now I feel that all theme parks need to have similar apps for optimal guest experience, especially if you are not offering paper maps.
Be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before the park opens. This is when parking opens. We spent a good 25 minutes in line just to get through to parking.
This was the most frustrating one to me.
They only had one or two of their snack stations open. It was infuriating to see people walking around with Churros, Dip n Dots, etc and yet, every one of those stands we passed was closed. It wasn’t until around dinner time we found the one that was open.
Secondly, it is not explained well that your punches could be used for said snacks.
Between these two snack issues, I ended up spending $36 on ice cream bars for my family. And I did my research before visiting. So just be aware of those two things.
Would I Go Again?
I don’t think I would visit a second time simply because we did all the things we wanted to. But if I were to go back in time, knowing the issues, cost, and food options… I would still go one time. I felt it was a great value since we utilized all of the food punches and visited all of the shows.
I would avoid touch pools early in the day, and be prepared to remind people to stay away from you if needed.
In all, it felt good to get back to a somewhat normal activity. I felt safe and comfortable for the most part, and the crowd levels were great.
Will you be visiting SeaWorld Zoo Days? If you go, let me know if you see the same issues or if SeaWorld has addressed them.