Created in 1964 by four UCLA students, SeaWorld San Diego was the first of three SeaWorld parks (the others are in San Antonio and Orlando) and has grown into San Diego's most popular tourist attraction. The park's star, the black and white orca "killer whale" called Shamu, began splashing screeching onlookers in San Diego in 1965 and quickly became SeaWorld’s main highlight. The whale shows (San Diego has seven orcas that take turns in Shamu Stadium) have continued ever since, halting only after serious accidents, including the February 2010 death of a whale trainer at SeaWorld Orlando. Three days later, Shamu was leaping and splashing once again, proving the show (a huge moneymaker) must go on. Families flock to SeaWorld as one of the best things to do in San Diego with kids. Once is enough for this spectacle, however, and we prefer watching playful emperors and gentoos at the Penguin Encounter, graceful lionfish in the Aquarium de la Mer, and blacktip sharks swimming overhead in see-through tubes at the Shark Encounter. SeaWorld's thrill rides are mildly amusing; the best of the lot is the landmark Skytower's 100-mile aerial views past the city to snow-capped mountains. Parents get a break as kids pose with Elmo and Big Bird at the Sesame Street Bay of Play and tentatively touch starfish and sea urchins in the interactive California Tide Pool. Given the steep admission fee (about $60 for adults), it's worth staying late to watch special night shows and fireworks from May to September.
Attractions & Landmarks, Animal Life, Sports and the Outdoors
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