Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Texas Bucket List: SeaWorld San Antonio

My Texas Bucket List began taking shape shortly after we arrived in College Station. At first the list consisted of only a few touristy day trips and experiences (think Six Flags, SeaWorld, etc.) I'd thought of or heard about prior to our move. But as we made new friends, especially new friends who grew up in Texas, we learned from them about the lesser-known - at least to Midwesterners - but not-to-miss sights and sounds of the Lone Star State.

Each time I cross something off my Texas Bucket List I document it here, both because Chasing Roots serves as my Texas journal and because looking back on these posts and "watching" our love affair, if you will, with our now-home state unfold is a beautiful thing. 

You can see my full - but ever-growing - Texas Bucket List here. Feel free to let me know what I'm missing!

When we learned that Will's soccer club would play a series of friendly matches against a soccer club in San Antonio the first Saturday in June, we decided to make a full weekend out of the trip, leaving a day early and spending Friday at SeaWorld San Antonio. Tom and I visited SeaWorld San Diego close to 20 years ago, but Will and Hallie had never been to any of the SeaWorld parks. We did our best to explain the SeaWorld experience to them ahead of time, but upon arriving we realized we hadn't done a very good job; apparently our memories aren't what they used to be and/or the San Diego park is structured differently than the San Antonio park.
With our friends Jon and Bri at SeaWorld San Diego circa ~ 2001.
Tom and I had no recollection of roller coasters at Sea World, but roller coasters there were, so we took advantage. Will and I rode the Steel Eel, which features a 15-story vertical drop and multiple weightlessness-producing camelbacks. I usually like roller coasters, but this one scared me more so than any I can remember (I said multiple prayers during the deliberately slow initial climb and the first two terrifying descents) and I had absolutely no desire to ride it a second time. While Tom and Will rode the Great White, Hallie played in the Sesame Street Bay of Play (geared toward children younger than her, but she enjoyed the obstacle courses), and then all four of us rode the Wave Breaker and Rio Loco, which resulted in a drenching not unlike jumping in a swimming pool. Since the temperature outside had reached 100 degrees, none of us complained.

In their habitats we observed alligators, sharks, stingrays, penguins, seals, sea lions, and dolphins, and we attended three different shows. Sea Lion High highlighted sea lions, an otter, and their trainers in a scripted skit about two sea lions attempting to earn their high school diplomas; Tom and I enjoyed the show, but kids truly loved the performance. Killer Whales Up Close showcased Sea World's five orcas in an interactive presentation that focused as much on education as entertainment. We sat in the splash zone, which lived up to its title - we left this show once again as wet as if we'd just taken a shower. And Ocean Discovery revealed the beauty and talents of beluga whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins.

I appreciated, as did the kids, how the shows never flaunted the animals and instead focused on education. Yes, the animals performed impressively, but their "tricks" were movements - styles of swimming, jumping, communicating - they would naturally perform in the wild. I truly enjoyed the seeing the animals in action, LOVED watching the kids take it all in), and appreciated the caring and respectful relationships the trainers so clearly have with "their" animals.
Sea lions
Sea Lion High 
Sea Lion High
Killer Whales Up Close
Killer Whales Up Close
Ocean Discovery 
Ocean Discovery
Ocean Discovery
We skipped Aquatica, both because we didn't want to try to fit two parks into one day and because we figured we should spend our summer water park day at the hottest, coolest time in Texas instead of at SeaWorld's water park.

Because our visit fell just prior to peak season, we missed the now ongoing Electric Ocean event. This nighttime experience includes a nightly "fireworks display and party zones with electronic dance music that will create an electrifying dance club atmosphere". Now that I read the description of Electric Ocean again, I don't feel too broken up about missing this summer celebration...I don't enjoy electronic dance music party zones as much as I used to. 😉

Overall, we loved Sea World. At times throughout the day I wished for cooler weather, but the extreme temperatures and scorching sun made the show splash zones and the water ride that much more fun. I also wished San Antonio had a dolphin and sting ray "petting zoo", like San Diego does/did. Everything else, however, lived up to my expectations: the rides (though a surprise), animals, and shows were a hit with all of us. I doubt SeaWorld will become an annual excursion for us, but I would love to take the kids - to San Antonio, or perhaps San Diego or Orlando - again in a few years.

* I used my Baggallini backpack at SeaWorld. It received TWO dousings with water and somehow kept my wallet, my phone, and all of Will's meds completely dry. Just something to consider if you're planning a trip somewhere wet and wild!

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