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La Jolla Mom

10 Best SeaWorld San Diego Rides That You Can’t Miss

Plan your day around these roller coasters and toddler favorites

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SeaWorld San Diego is more than marine life and shows. The theme park’s fantastic lineup of thrill rides and fun attractions draw visitors to our city from all over the world.

Older kids and adults love the roller coasters (the best in town) and water rides. You’ll also find SeaWorld San Diego rides for the youngest members of your group at Sesame Street Bay of Play.

Like most theme parks, SeaWorld does have safety and height restrictions on some of its rides; these are listed below to help you plan and make the most of your trip.

Tip: Skip Lines with Quick Queue

Quick Queue is SeaWorld San Diego’s premium solution to ride wait times — invest in this pass for the day and you’ll enter a shorter, designated line for select park attractions. You may also receive priority seating for some shows at Orca Encounter, Dolphin Amphitheater, and Sea Lion & Otter Amphitheater.

Prices vary and can be as low as 14.99 per person per day, depending on the time of year you are visiting. You should decide if you need Quick Queue in advance, as only a certain number of passes are sold each day. 

If you are traveling at a busy time of year, want to see and do as much as possible or just hate waiting in line, I highly suggest upgrading your ticket to include the Quick Queue option to save time. You’ll pay a little more, but wait a lot less. I also have written extensively about how to buy SeaWorld San Diego discount tickets.

Shortcut to the Most Popular Ticket

7 Days for the Price of 1

Go straight to the gate!

Top 10 SeaWorld San Diego Rides

From the fastest, tallest ride in San Diego to the sweet and gentle kid-style fun of Elmo’s Flying Fish, here’s what to look for when you visit this dynamic and ever-changing park. 

Journey to Atlantis

Height requirement: 42 inches or taller and guests between 42–48 inches tall must be accompanied by a supervising companion age 14 or older
Ride type: Roller coaster with some splashes
Quick Queue: Yes

A boat splashes as hit hurls down the track on Journey to Atlantis, one of the most popular SeaWorld San Diego rides.
Photo credit:  Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego

One of the park’s most popular rides, this expedition to the fabled city of Atlantis has something for everyone and is a don’t miss attraction. You get a little of everything on this ride – a boat ride, splash down flume style landings and a rollercoaster, along with lots of ups and downs and things to see.

Note this ride is closed for annual maintenance during the month of January 2020.

Electric Eel

Height requirement: 54 inches or taller
Ride type: Roller coaster
Quick Queue: Yes

View of the Electric Eel roller coaster track at dusk.
Photo courtesy of SeaWorld San Diego

Want to ride the tallest, fastest and most thrilling coaster in not only SeaWorld, but the San Diego area? You won’t want to miss the amazingly swift Electric Eel.

Climb to 150-foot heights, then plummet down on the fastest plunge in the park. You’ll twist turn and run through barrel rolls at the speed of light — or electricity. Once is not enough, so you’ll repeat these daring twists and turns again, backward.

Expect to be amazed by an unusual and breathtaking slow-motion twist and to have multiple launch points as you enjoy this thrilling ride. Electric Eel mimics the dynamic movements and speed of the animal it is named for and has one of the strictest height restrictions in the park — measure even bigger kids to be sure they match the 54″ height requirement, one of the tallest in the entire industry.

If you’re looking for the best SeaWorld San Diego roller coaster, Electric Eel is sure to please.

Tidal Twister

Height requirement: 48 inches or taller
Ride type: Dueling roller roaster
Quick Queue: Yes

The two Tidal Twister roller coasters cross on separate tracks at SeaWorld San Diego.
Photo credit:  Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego

If you haven’t visited Sea World San Diego in the past year, you’ll love seeing this new addition to the park’s lineup of thrill rides. Tidal Twister is a dual coaster, with two trains that “duel” along the same looping track — they cross in the center, with a thrilling roll right a the point of intersection.

Added in 2019, this dual coaster has rapidly become a highlight of the park and offers plenty of high-speed thrills and turns. While both tracks are the same, they start in different places and cross in the middle. Most riders want to try both, so allow extra time if this is the case for your party.

Manta

Height requirement: 48″ or taller
Ride type: Roller coaster (with views of animals)
Quick Queue: Yes

View of the Manta ride entrance as riders in the roller coaster speed by on the track.

SeaWorld San Diego excels at integrating multimedia and animal experiences into rides, and Manta is an amazing example. You’ll start with a tour through a ray-filled aquarium and see the ride in action as it soars past several times.

Manta’s loading area is one of the best in the parks, both for things to occupy your time and for their sheer efficiency. Three vehicles load at a time and there are no “bad” seats, so this ride queue moves very fast for a roller coaster — a nice perk if you are trying to see and do as much as possible in the park. 

Once aboard, you’ll start with a tunnel packed with digital images, and feel like you are immersed in the world of the manta ray. Things pick up quickly, with a fast launch of up to 43 miles per hour and a thrilling drop of 54 feet.

This high-speed coaster is one of the park’s older rides, but don’t let its age fool you. Manta SeaWorld San Diego is one of the most visually interesting rides in the park and still packs a lot of thrills and surprises. 

Bayside Skyride

Height requirement: 56″ or taller to ride alone or all ages when accompanied by a supervising companion age 14 or older
Ride type: A mild, gently swinging gondola
Quick Queue: No

Note: Starting in 2020, Bayside Skyride for an additional fee of $6 per person ages 3 and older.

Climb aboard these gently swaying gondolas at the right time of day and you’ll get an amazing view of the sunset, Mission Bay, and the park itself. Bayside Skyride is not a thrill ride, but a chance to relax and reset, and a great way to get a peek at the crowds, too.

Plan your next stop as you soar over the park and give yourself a quick break from the crowds aboard this soaring attraction. Note that Bayside Skyride does not have a height restriction unless kids wish to ride alone — you must be 56″ to ride independently. 

Elmo’s Flying Fish

Height requirement: 48 inches or taller to ride alone or all ages when accompanied by a supervising companion age 14 or older (though infants held by hand are not permitted)
Ride type: Family
Quick Queue: No

Not all park favorites are thrill rides and Elmo’s Flying Fish, located in Sesame Street Bay of Play, is a must for young kids. This gentle but fun ride is themed around the favorite Sesame Street character and similar in nature to the Dumbo ride at Disneyland.

Board an Elmo and enjoy a gentle journey around and around as you soar through the air. This was my daughter’s favorite SeaWorld San Diego ride when she was a toddler.

Riptide Rescue

Height requirement: 45 inches or taller though guests between 45–50 inches tall must be accompanied by a supervising companion age 14 or older
Ride type: Spinning ride
Quick Queue: No

Based on the popular octopus style carnival ride, this spinner offers a surprisingly robust experience — vehicles spin independently and follow and elevated path, leading to a fun, whippy ride.

We love this ride as an introduction to thrill rides for first-time visitors and kids who might be wary of bigger coasters. It is thrilling enough to please all riders, but not as intimidating to new riders. A child who does well on Riptide Rescue is ready to try bigger things, like Manta or Journey to Atlantis.

If Riptide Rescue is too much, then one of the park’s more thrilling rides will likely be overwhelming as well. 

Shipwreck Rapids

Height requirement: 42 inches though guests between 42–48 inches tall must be accompanied by a supervising companion age 14 or older
Ride type: Water thrill ride (you will get wet)
Quick Queue: Yes

A group in a Shipwreck Rapids raft at SeaWorld San Diego.
Photo credit:  Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego

Beat the heat, and prepare to get splashed (or soaked) when you climb aboard this thrilling rapid ride. Shipwreck Rapids is a fun excursion, with waterfalls, features and plenty of dips and spins.

Note you will get wet; on a typical ride, one side of the boat is usually soaked, while other riders are merely splashed, but no one gets out dry. 

Perfect for the hottest part of the day or for riders who love a little water with their thrills, this is an ideal ride for the entire family, as even large groups can share a raft together.

This ride boards at a relatively rapid pace, so you can enjoy it most times of the day. Since you will get wet or soaked, take the rest of your day into consideration before you plan to ride — you can also pack a disposable poncho to protect yourself from most of the water as you ride. 

Skytower

Height requirement: Guest under 48″ must be accompanied by a supervising companion age 14 or older.
Ride type: Easy and good for all ages
Quick Queue: No

Skytower is not a thrill ride (though if you do not like heights, you won’t enjoy this tall tower), but a chance to get a bird’s eye view of the park and get away from the noise and crowds.

Enjoy soaring to the tallest point in the park — the views are amazing — and expect a reasonably paced trip to the base. It’s perfect for families and those who want to go on rides, but are not quite ready for something too thrilling. 

Emperor (coming soon)

Ride type: Roller coaster

We can’t wait to see this new fast-paced, diving coaster attraction. Based on the delightfully fun movements of the emperor penguin this ride is getting a lot of industry buzz and preliminary peeks have been amazing.

If you’re traveling in spring 2020 or beyond, look for soft openings and the eventual launch of this ride. It is sure to be a hot pick for visitors and will be Quick Queue equipped. 

Plan Ahead to Experience the Fun

Learning more about SeaWorld San Diego’s most popular rides and attractions will help you better plan your day. You can identify those you simply have to do, note a few that would be nice to ride if there is time, and even cross a few off your list.

You’ll make better use of your time in the park when you:

  • study the park map and develop a plan.
  • purchase your tickets in advance.
  • download the SeaWorld app which provides real-time ride wait times.
  • upgrade to Quick Queue if you’re going to ride the roller coasters.

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