May 2013: Nothing tops Sea World’s daily schedule of events when planning your day. Pick up a copy at the gate. The five minutes it takes to study the schedule and compare it to the map can save a lot of backtracking during your hike around the lake. While no one can accurately create a personal schedule of events first thing, it’s good to know you’re “close to the sea lion stadium,” when a little voice in your head says: “Doesn’t their first show of the day start in 10 minutes?”
• Read Sea World overview.
• Arrive early/stay late. Sea World has no ride reservation system like Disney’s Fast Pass or Universal’s Express Pass. Enjoy rides with long lines early in the day or close to park closing.
• Get wet early. Even with thicker crowds, visitors tend to ride Journey to Atlantis at the hottest point of the day or just before going home.
• Use the show schedule to anticipate the end of shows. One example: Thousands of guests see the Shamu show (One Ocean), and they pour into the kid’s section, Happy Harbor, or onto Wild Artic when it ends. Try to avoid that onslaught.
• Rides with long lines. Manta, Journey to Atlantis, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, Kraken, and Wild Arctic. (Note: As a new and top-notch ride, expect extra-long lines for Antarctica during busy seasons.)
• Rides/attractions with medium lines. Note: Some of these shows might not have long lines but garner a “medium line” rating if you want a decent seat: Pets Ahoy, Blue Horizons, Dolphin Cove, Clyde and Seymour Take Pirate Island, Shark Encounter, A’lure – The Call of the Ocean, and One Ocean.
• Rides/attractions with short lines. Turtle Point, Stingray Lagoon, Jewel of the Sea Aquarium, Penguin Encounter, Pacific Point Preserve, Sky Tower, and Clydesdale Hamlet.
• Parents: Use Shamu’s Happy Harbor to rest. If your kids are old enough, find a comfy spot and let them run. All Sea World’s elementary-age rides are in one spot. (Shamu Express, Jazzy Jellies, Swishy Fishies, Sea Carousel, Flying Fiddler, and Ocean Commotion).
• Eat at off-times. Many Sea World restaurants have long lines
• Use the bridges. Even with the best planning, you’ll probably have to cross the entire park to see a show you missed the first time around. Bridges cross the lake and can cut out at least a few steps.
• Respect “splash zones.” Some shows, notably Shamu’s One Ocean, warn guests that they’ll get wet. Believe them. And it’s cold saltwater that doesn’t evaporate comfortably.