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

Older kids and adults love the roller coasters (the best in town) and water rides. There are also plenty of SeaWorld San Diego rides for the youngest members of your group at the park’s Rescue Jr. area. This section of the park was formerly called the 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.

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Tip: Skip Lines with Quick Queue

Quick Queue is SeaWorld San Diego’s premium solution to ride wait time. Invest in this pass for the day, and you’ll enter a shorter, designated line for select park attractions. There are multiple Quick Queue options. Some are only for rides, while others include reserved seating at the park’s various shows at Orca Encounter, Dolphin Amphitheater, and Sea Lion & Otter Amphitheater.

Prices vary and can be as low as $19.99 per person per day, depending on the time of year you visit. SeaWorld has changed the Quick Queue rules a few times as new rides have been added, so it’s always best to check their website for details on their current offers close to your visit.

The Quick Queue Junior option starts at only $4.99 and covers most of the little ones’ rides. You should decide in advance if you need Quick Queue, though, as only a certain number of passes are sold daily. 

If you are traveling at a busy time of year and 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.

Top 12 SeaWorld San Diego Rides

From the fastest, tallest ride in San Diego to ones where you’ll have tons of fun just getting soaking wet, here’s what to look for when you visit this dynamic and ever-changing park. 

The SeaWorld app tells you what wait times are even if you’re not in the park.

1. 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.

2. 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, most thrilling, and fastest roller coaster in not only SeaWorld but the whole 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. Beware, speeds get up to 60 miles per hour.

Expect to be amazed by an unusual and breathtaking slow-motion twist and 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 n the entire industry.

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

3. Emporer

Height requirement: 52″ or taller
Ride type: Roller coaster – a.k.a. ‘dive coaster’
Quick Queue: Yes

Love the loop? Then the Emporer ‘dive coaster’ is for you. This addition to SeaWorld’s already impressive roller coaster stable debuted in March 2022, and it’s now a firm favorite with the brave.

Stacked in three rows of six formations, the ride begins with a pretty relaxing climb to the equivalent of 14 floors high, but after momentarily stopping facedown for extra effect, you’ll plunge down the vertical drop.

You’ll head straight into the Immelmann Loop before careening on through the ride, during which you’ll twist, turn, spin, and roll, oftentimes while upside down.

The ride is so popular that SeaWorld even created a beer in its honor! The Emperor Hazy IPA was co-created with local craft brewery Mike Hess Brewing, and a portion of all sale proceeds are donated to Penguins International. The beer is only available at SeaWorld San Diego, but you probably want to enjoy it after the ride.

4. 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 the Manta roller coaster is an amazing example. You’ll start with a tour through a bat-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. 

5. artic rescue

Height requirement: 48″
Ride type: Roller coaster
Quick Queue: Yes, but it only includes One Single-Use Express Entry

Billed as The Fastest and Longest Straddle Coaster on the West Coast, this exhilarating ride opened in June 2023 and was inspired by the SeaWorld Rescue Team.

You’ll hop aboard a snowmobile and hurtle through the Arctic (with San Diego views, of course) for some scream-out-loud fun. There are three thrilling launches during the ride, and you’ll reach speeds of 40 miles per hour, so hang on tight. The ride includes 2800 ft of track, so you know it will be worth the wait in line!

6. 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 relatively rapidly, so you can enjoy it most times of the day. Since you will get wet or soaked, consider the rest of your day before you plan to ride — you can also pack a disposable poncho to protect yourself from most of the water as you ride. 

7. Bayside Skyride

Height requirement: 56″ or taller to ride alone. If under 56″ you will need to be accompanied by a supervising companion age 14 or older
Ride type: A mild, gently swinging gondola
Quick Queue: No

Now we’ve got the high-velocity roller coasters out of the way, how about something more gentle so you can actually enjoy the scenery! Bayside Skyride provides just that. Climb aboard the 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. 

There is now an additional fee of $6 per person ages 3 and older to ride the Bayside Skyride. It’s free for pass holders, though.

8. Skytower

Height requirement: Guests 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 escape 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. 

There’s a $6 entrance fee for guests ages 3 and older, but pass members ride for free as many times as they want!

9. Tentacle Twirl

Height requirement: 48″ to ride alone. Guests between 40” and 48” must be accompanied by a supervising companion 14 years of age or older and ride in the double swing.
Ride type: Swings
Quick Queue Junior: Yes

Kids spin around on the Tentacle Twirl ride.
Photo credit SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Head over to the Ocean Explorer section, where there are four elementary-school-age-appropriate rides, one of which is the jellyfish-themed Tentacle Twirl. Hop into your swing and be prepared to spin around in a circle while your feet dangle below. SeaWorld San Diego rides in this park section also include Sea Dragon Drop, Octarock, and Aqua Scout.

10. aqua scout

Height requirement: 36″ or taller
Ride type: Family
Quick Queue Junior: Yes

This will have the kids in giggles as they board one of six mini-submarines that spin, bump, and bounce around in a circle. While those at least 36″ can go on alone, kids smaller than that can go accompanied by a supervising companion, aged 14 years plus.

11. octarock

Height requirement: 31″ and less than 6’1″
Ride type: Family
Quick Queue Junior: Yes

Families ride on the Octarock in Rescue Jr. area at SeaWorld San Diego.
Photo credit SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Another family favorite, this will have you swinging back and forth as the ride slowly gets higher. A thrilling one for the little ones, who can kick their legs out as they soar and fall as they swing.

Children must be 31″ or taller to go on the ride, and those between 31” and 36” must be accompanied by a supervising companion. Guests over 6’1” are not allowed to ride the Octarock – there’s a first!

12. sea dragon drop

Height requirement: 42″
Ride type: Family
Quick Queue Junior: Yes

For a quick thrill to prepare your little ones for the SkyTower one day, hop aboard the Sea Dragon Drop, a kid-sized shot-n-drop tower. Guests must be at least 42 inches or taller or accompanied by someone 14 years plus. Small children must show they can walk unassisted.

A Round-Up of the New Rescue Jr. Section

The Rescue Jr. section of SeaWorld San Diego replaced the Sesame Street Bay of Play in May 2023. Focused on teaching children about marine animal rescue and conservation, the area features a large interactive play space and three cleverly designed water-inspired rides: Tidepool Twist teaches children about marine animals living in tidepools as they whizz around in what look like giant jellyfish. The Rescue Rafter ride will have you gently swaying and spinning in a rescue boat like the ones used by SeaWorld Rescue. And finally, kids can hop aboard the Rescue Rider and soar around the air on jet skis.

A uniquely educational part of the Rescue Jr. area is where children meet and interact with Animal Conservation Ambassadors while learning about rescued animals and how they’re cared for at SeaWorld. Kids will love this one, especially as they’ll get hands-on experience with many of the animals, including primates and reptiles. The Rescue Bay Splash Zone and soft play area called the Rescue Training Zone round out the fun at Rescue Jnr.

A Few Other Must-See Areas

At the entrance to SeaWorld San Diego, all ages tend to stop at the Explorer’s Reef interactive touch pools filled with reef sharks for a quick animal encounter before enjoying the day.

Sea Lion & Otter Spotlight is a fun show where you’ll learn all about the lives of sea lions and Asian small-clawed otters. Expert conservationists make it an entertaining show by interacting with the animals while also educating guests on how they can help protect them. Dolphin Adventures is another hugely popular show where you can watch Bottlenose Dolphins get seriously airborne. Be aware that some seats can get splashed.

You must see the killer whales in the Orca Underwater Viewing exhibit. Speaking of whales, my favorites are the beluga whales which you can see in the Wild Arctic section.

Plan Ahead to Experience the Fun

Learning more about the best SeaWorld San Diego rides and attractions will help you better plan your day. You can identify those you have to do, note a few that would be nice to ride if there is time, and even cross a few off your list. Truthfully, the park isn’t so big that you can’t ride your favorites more than once or hit all of these SeaWorld San Diego rides in one day.

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

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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