Sea World SA - How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Kids

Friday, May 23, 2014 10:12 PM

Warning: Extreme use of parentheses ahead.

Schools out (for us, yes it's way early) and not for San Antonio Independent School District. What better way to celebrate than a trip to San Antonio for some kid based relaxing...oh yeah, and that Iron Rattler thing. After a couple of screw ups with travel, we finally settled on the week before Memorial Day Wed-Sat (with the drive back up on Saturday afternoon). I wanted to take the kids to Sea World because,...it's Sea World, but both Sea World and Six Flags were only open on Friday and Saturday and we have passes to Six Flags and Sea World is pretty pricey for a family of 4. So we originally planned to do Six Flags on Friday (which would be nice because it was a school day) and just take a leisurely drive home on Saturday.

Now, on Thursday afternoon after a trip to the zoo (which was great) we were hanging out with some friends in the evening and they mentioned cheap tickets to Sea World were available through Groupon...plus there's a magic promo code you could enter to get an additional 15% off. So I told my wife, "If we want to go to Sea World, it's a possibility. We could do Six Flags on Sat." by which I meant "I don't want to have to fight Saturday of a Holiday Weekend Lines to ride Iron Rattler" but she took to mean "Yes. Please buy us some tickets to Sea World."

So we had some crazy hair brained plan for Friday in which I would leave Sea World half way through the day, zip over to SFFT, bang out a couple laps on IR and return before anyone missed me.

So we pulled up to Sea World just as the national anthem was playing and headed to Shamu Express (which I actually needed the credit on). My older son, Caleb (4), is totally into kiddie coasters and he loved it. It's quite a bit more aggressive than Canyon Blaster at SFoT which I think made him like it more. We hit a few other kids rides and the Sesame Street show.

We caught the Sea Lion Show (and the accompanying sea lion tanks featuring a 10 month old sea lion), then the Shamu show (which was mobbed...we had to split up to find seats). I thought both shows were very good, though I always find the schmaltz on the Shamu show a little over the top (not to say it doesn't move me, it's just...let me just watch aquatic mammals flip around and stuff without being reminded that we're all one big family).

Took the long way around the park walking under Great White and the younger son, Micah (2), conked out in the stroller. We stopped for lunch (we abused an all you can eat kids bracelet and fed a family of 4 with it...thus starting my son on a long life of crime) and then played on the playground for a bit. By this time Micah was up so he got to eat also. This was about when I had planned to ditch for SFFT, but I was having so much fun and didn't want to dump on my wife, that I decided to stay and just enjoy the day instead of being so worried about getting lots of laps on Iron Rattler. We'll see what happens tomorrow when we go to Six Flags, though.

So instead, I nabbed my 1 adult coaster ride of the day on Steel Eel which still holds up. I don't know what Morgan did differently on this ride, but it is great. The first few hills have serious air and the MCBR is so high up that the last section is really cruising.

We went over the dolphin cove (near the former site of the hospitality house. I would pour out some beer in its memory, but there isn't any free beer anymore) which was awesome. The trainers were having the dolphins swim right up to the edge of the pool and you could almost reach out and touch them. (To actually reach out and touch them was $15. I'm not kidding). Very cool. Caleb did not want to leave, even after the dolphin had swum by 4 or 5 times. We went into the Shark Reef which was also impressive.

After stopping for dinner (yep, still on one bracelet...sorry Sea World) we grabbed a quick lap on Shamu Express and watched the Azul show (a combination of dolphins, beluga whales, divers, acrobats, and synchronized swimmers). It was also incredibly impressive. I had a pit in my stomach for some of the dives that were happening and I found myself cheering along with my kids whenever the dolphins would come out and jump.

At this point it was nearing park closing and we had done just about everything we wanted to do. We pulled up to the bathroom to make sure everybody was ready for the drive home and while mom was going I pulled out the map. Caleb asked me what I was doing and I said, "I just want to make sure we did everything." He said, "But I didn't do that many rides." I replied, "You did all the rides you could...except Journey to Atlantis (this is the 100' Mack splashdown ride, not the hybrid flume/coaster)." He said, "I want to ride that." (Keep in mind that the mini-mine train at SFoT is the biggest coaster he's ridden to this point.

"Umm....okay son. Are you sure? If you're scared at any point, we don't have to ride it."
"Why wouldn't I want to ride it?"

Alright then. Off we go. Mom took Micah to ride the carousel (and apparently run through some fountains) and we went to Journey to Atlantis. There was barely any line and every 5 seconds I turned to Caleb and asked, "Are you sure you want to ride this?" He always replied that he did.

So we got into the second row of a boat, strapped in and off we went. He was not phased at all by the height but as soon as we started rolling backwards through the dip, he latched onto the lapbar with one hand and me with the other. "This is not fun." was his resigned assessment.

As we rotated forwards, I reassured him that I was there and nothing would happen and once we got off he wouldn't have to ride it again. I gave him the play by play of what would happen as we started creeping towards the edge of the big drop. He tightened his grip on my hand and down we went. A big drop and a decent splash later and he immediately exclaimed, "That was awesome!" So proud of my boy. We'll make an enthusiast out of him yet. As we entered the station, he was laughing about how he didn't get wet because he was sitting behind a big man and I got soaked because I was sitting behind a little girl. We got out and I asked him if he wanted to do it again. "No" was his simple reply. But he wanted to watch a couple boats come down and each time when they hit the splash he would re-narrate his own ride, "That's the scary part. Then you go down the big drop and you hit the splash and then you go 'This is actually fun!'"

So that was it. I put him on my shoulders and we went off to meet mom and found the car.

Our day was fantastic. One of the best days I've had at a park in a long time and probably the best I've had with all 4 members of my family together. The shows were great, the rides were great (with a good selection for all ages), the park was clean and well decorated, the animal attractions were great, the staff was great. Oh and the price was right. I really couldn't have asked for more. Could I have created such wonderful memories at a different park or under different circumstances? Perhaps. But Sea World just made it that much easier. I'll be trying to bang out some laps on Iron Rattler tomorrow morning, but even though it was the main reason for me to take this trip to San Antonio, I can already call the trip a success.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Friday, May 23, 2014 10:22 PM
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Saturday, May 24, 2014 12:32 AM

You may not want to hear this now, but they have been running an online special where Texas residents can get a free season pass for children 5 and under. Couple that with the fact that teachers get free season passes and my family of 3 can go for my price of admission.

We've been twice in the last year and we have had a great time. The park is really nice, clean, and there's plenty of room for our 3 year old to be a 3 year old. The shear size of the park can wear you out, but if it's not insanely busy (which is how we found it on our visit 3 weeks ago), that can make the park seem very uncrowded.

I recommend a visit to enjoy Aquatica. It's still a little on the small side, but it's a very nice water park.

Nice trip report.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014 1:24 AM

When I visited San Antonio's Sea World on Halloween weekend of 2010 (With a little help from a Free Airline Ticket I snagged returning home from New England) I took the liberty of purchasing a two-year Platinum Pass because it was just as good at the Florida Park as it was at the Texas Park, but $160.00 Cheaper!. I visited the Texas Park again in July of 2011 thanks to another free airline ticket. (I just LOVE it when the flight gets overbooked, time to git em while the gittin's good)! <LOL>

Needless to say I worked the Florida Parks over pretty good for the 2010-2012 seasons.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014 7:24 AM

What a terrific trip report!!!

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Saturday, May 24, 2014 7:38 AM

bigboy said:

You may not want to hear this now, but they have been running an online special where Texas residents can get a free season pass for children 5 and under. Couple that with the fact that teachers get free season passes and my family of 3 can go for my price of admission.

Interesting. I didn't see either of these on the webpage. How do they work?

Edit: After a little more reasearch, I don't actually qualify for the teacher pass since I'm not certified. I teach in a private school.

Edit 2: We also didn't have the required passport of birth certificate with us for Caleb so we wouldn't have been able to do the TX resident discount.

Thanks for the tips, though. We'll be sure to look into discounts more thoroughly next time. Is there a giant list of all Sea World discounts somewhere? Or even better, all teacher discounts?

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Saturday, May 24, 2014 7:52 AM
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Saturday, May 24, 2014 10:54 AM

Very nice trip report!

Glad that our future enthusiasts are training hard.

On two separate trips my son rode El Toro with me in the back seats. He said he loved it, but that he would never do it again. And he hasn't. Kids these days...

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Saturday, May 24, 2014 11:54 AM

What a terrific SeaWorld trip report! I don't have any children of my own, but still managed to get a bit of "the feels" reading about your son's first grown up thrill ride. Riding that splashdown is a pretty impressive feat for a 4 year old, so he should be proud to recount the tale of his Journey to Atlantis.

I think Azul is easily the most entertaining and exciting show within the SeaWorld parks. It blends the dolphins, birds, whales and divers together seamlessly and at an exciting pace. I can't figure out why they don't replace the awkward Blue Horizon shows at the other parks with this instead.

Only one ride on Steel Eel? It would have been tough to drag me away! Thanks for sharing and thanks for standing by SeaWorld. :)

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Saturday, May 24, 2014 3:43 PM

Richie Reflux said:

On two separate trips my son rode El Toro with me in the back seats. He said he loved it, but that he would never do it again. And he hasn't. Kids these days...

Was it after the first trip that he said that.? So he fibbed? ;)

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Saturday, May 24, 2014 4:04 PM

Thanks for the great trip report. Having children changed my outlook on life. It completely changed the way I approach amusement parks.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014 7:40 PM

Mike Gallagher - - - > My mistake. I should have edited more. (I always need to do that.)

On El Toro it was one in the back and done.

We also went on Apollo's Chariott several years later and he didn't like that one at all.

Last year (end of summer) he went on Twister at Knoebels. That's it...he is no longer interested in any more roller coasters.

(Sigh...) It breaks daddy's heart.

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Monday, May 26, 2014 6:42 PM

The free 3-5 season pass offer came to me via email, presumably because I purchased a pass last year. You had to register online between March and the end of May and pick up the pass by the end of June. My wife gets an email about the teacher pass every year. It's been hit or miss on the documentation. Last year, they didn't ask for it. This year, they did.

Groupon is offering some kind of deal on a 1 day ticket right now. I think it was around $35, about $10 off of a Texas resident ticket for a weekend or $5 off a weekday.

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Monday, May 26, 2014 8:48 PM

Wait. Texas resident discount? How am I so clueless?

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Monday, May 26, 2014 9:37 PM

I thought maybe that's online only, but looking at their website now, the same deals show up for tourists and Texas residents.

Glad you had a good time on your trip, since I'm doing my best to give you all kinds of buyer's remorse. :)

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014 10:42 PM

Great deal, Andy...spending time with your kids is always a good choice!

Steel Eel is the reason that PRev is even remotely believable as a Morgan ride...the back-seat landings are so crunchy you don't even need a chiropractor (reminiscent of the now-missing *bounce* on Legend's return run).

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