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How to Fit SeaWorld into a Single Day

BY: Editors | Jun 17, 2016

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Since nobody likes waiting, we’ve compiled this strategy guide for hitting all the things to do at SeaWorld and getting the most out of a one-day visit to the San Diego, Orlando, or San Antonio park:

Before You Go

  • Download SeaWorld’s Discovery Guide app: This all-in-one app is an essential guide to the park that lets you schedule shows in advance, monitor wait times for rides and shows, and browse an interactive park map. It also highlights the best routes to attractions using GPS navigation. In short, this app will be your best friend.
  • Buy the Quick Queue Unlimited pass: This pass grants front-of-the-line access to the rides with the longest lines. The time it saves you is more than worth the price.
  • Reserve your seats in advance: Depending on which park you're going to, you can pair the Quick Queue Unlimited pass with either SeaWorld Signature Show Seating or a Reserved Seating wristband. Both options put you in the best seats at SeaWorld's most popular shows. Show times vary depending on the day you visit, but try to reserve a couple shows between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. (more on this later).

When You Arrive

  • Be in line by 10 a.m.: That’s right when the gates open. If you can’t make it that early, it’s best to wait until around noon, when most of the crowd has already gotten in.
  • Use the Discovery Guide’s car finder feature: this handy feature remembers where you parked, so you won’t be stuck trying to find your car amid the thousand chariots driven by giant seahorses at the end of the day.
  • Make a beeline for the rides: Most visitors to SeaWorld tend to congregate at the front of the park as they figure out what to do. That works out great for you. You’ll already have rushed to the most popular roller coaster and boarded just as the line begins to form behind you. Pair this with the front-of-the-line access of the Quick Queue Unlimited pass and you can knock out the most popular coasters in quick succession.

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Throughout The Day

  • Reserve your midday for shows: Remember how we suggested booking shows between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.? That’s the busiest time at all three parks. Since SeaWorld Signature Show Seating grants you reserved seating, this is the best time to catch shows, which range from cirque-style phantasmagorias like Blue Horizons and Azul to the hilarious Sea Lions LIVE. You’ll likely get a prime spot with no wait.
  • Be flexible: The Discovery Guide app gives you a real-time look at wait times for the biggest rides, so improvise based on wait time and your proximity to the ride. Lines have a natural ebb and flow, just like the tides or an octopus’s drum solo, but the roller coaster lines tend to be shortest in the morning and evening.
  • Make time for “once in a lifetime”: SeaWorld’s Dolphin Interaction Program is definitely a splurge, but it’s an experience your family won’t ever forget. For about an hour, trainers lead you into the water to pet, feed, and play with dolphins, as well as how to communicate with them using hand signals. And that’s just one option of many—each park offers its own unique interactions with its animals. Book in advance.

When You’re Hungry

  • Avoid peak lunch time: Most people stop for food between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eat a big breakfast and wait until after 1 p.m.—or skip breakfast and grab lunch early.
  • Order in advance: The Discovery Guide app can assist you with express dining. Order from The Harbor Market in San Antonio and Seaport Restaurant in Orlando. You’ll be able to select a time for pickup straight from your phone.
  • Know when to splurge: At San Diego and Orlando, dinner is the best time to really treat yourself (in San Antonio, it’s lunch). Either way, Dine with Shamu places you at a poolside table for an up-close view of the orcas interacting with trainers. With entrees ranging from sustainable shrimp coconut curry to chicken fingers for the kids, tables fill up fast, so making a reservation is recommended.

Endgame

  • Squeeze in one last roller coaster: If there’s something you missed during the day—or something you just want to ride again—now is the time. Lines will be shorter just after dinner.
  • Try to time a ride at sunset: The roller coasters provide amazing views of the late-night fireworks shows in the summer.
  • Get to your car before everyone else: Towards closing time, make your way towards the entrance. Once the last firework has worked its fire, call up your car’s saved location in the Discovery Guide app and make a fast exit. After all, you’ve been avoiding lines all day. Why stop now?