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SeaWorld San Diego 50th Anniversary and New Explorer’s Reef

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The first SeaWorld opened in San Diego on March 21, 1964. To commemorate SeaWorld San Diego‘s 50th anniversary, the park just opened the Explorer’s Reef to the public. Along with this new interactive animal exhibit, SeaWorld will celebrate for 18 months with a sea of surprises.

The Explorer's Reef touch pools are located on over three acres at SeaWorld San Diego

The Explorer’s Reef touch pools are located on over three acres at SeaWorld San Diego

A New Entry

While SeaWorld San Antonio is introducing a new ski show and SeaWorld Orlando is debuting Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation to kick off the 50th anniversary, the original SeaWorld is marking the occasion with a complete transformation of the park’s entry. The star here is Explorer’s Reef; multiple touch pools filled with a variety of sea creatures to pet. 

At the newly located Guest Services, you can purchase admission tickets and sign up for special tours, animal interactions and dining experiences (like Dining with Shamu!). Start your visit out with Starbucks coffee, a whale-shaped chocolate cookie or other treat from the nearby coffee stand. The vast Seaport Marketplace tempts souvenir seekers with t-shirts, toys and other tchotckes. 

Get your hands wet and pet sea creatures in the Explorer's Reef touch pools

My kids petting sea creatures in the Explorer’s Reef touch pools

Explorer’s Reef

Get up close with the ocean animals that live in Explorer’s Reef. Cleaner Fish, which nibble plant and animal matter from solid surfaces like rocks in the wild, will swim between your fingers. Stroke the hard shell of a Horseshoe Crab, a strange creature with 10 eyes that is actually more closely related to a scorpion than a crab.

The horseshoe crab is more closely related to the scorpion than its namesake crab

The horseshoe crab is more closely related to the scorpion than its namesake crab

You can even have a shark encounter by touching the Brown-banded  Bamboo Sharks and White-spotted Bamboo Sharks, small innocuous sharks that “walk” along the bottom the ocean’s floor with their pectoral fins. Small rays swim through a pool here too, where children and adults alike can get a chance to feel their slimey, soft skin. 

Under the sea at Explorer's Reef

Under the sea at Explorer’s Reef

Inspired by waves crashing over a coral reef, the details here are stunning with faux coral sculptures holding up a shade-providing canopy of make-believe water. Ocean sounds and whimsical music plays in the background as your family explores the pools. Live brightly colored flowers interspersed with succulents in beds of seashells add to the exhibit’s appeal.

Petting a brown-banded bamboo shark at Explorer's Reef

Having a shark encounter with a brown-banded bamboo shark at Explorer’s Reef

SeaWorld San Diego’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

An 18-month Sea of Surprises launches at SeaWorld San Diego on March 21, 2014. Visitors can expect more surprise encounters with animal ambassadors like a slow-moving sloth, tuxedoed penguins, or flaming pink flamingos. Near Cirque Stadium, you can view a series of giant sea life sculptures made from the recycled garbage (mostly plastics) that often pollutes our oceans’ waters. These unique sculptures are meant to showcase SeaWorld’s commitment to the environment and passion for protecting the ocean. Also, spontaneous entertainment like “Bubble Blowout,” with a vehicle that creates bubbles of all sizes, and live performances with sea-inspired costumes and props will pop up throughout the park, like “Splash Dance” and the “Sea Street Band.”

In 2013 SeaWorld rescued and rehabilitaed 411 sea lions, many of which were stranded juveniles

In 2013 SeaWorld rescued and rehabilitated 411 sea lions, many of which were stranded juveniles

SeaWorld’s Commitment to Ocean Conservation

Since its opening, SeaWorld San Diego has rescued more than 6,500 animals and has treated as many as 475 marine mammals in one year. Of these animals, seals and sea lions form the largest share. Birds, such as pelicans, also are frequently rescued.

More to Explore

There’s much more to explore at SeaWorld San Diego! Check out these 10 Tips for SeaWorld San Diego for my take on the shows, rides and animal exhibits at this popular theme park.

What’s your favorite thing about SeaWorld? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: I was invited to preview SeaWorld’s Explorer’s Reef along with other journalists. All opinions are mine, as always.

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Seems interesting place to visit. I’m not a big SeaWorld fan myself but petting fishes and other sea animals is pretty cool. 🙂

  2. Love SeaWorld- this is super cool, my little girlies would love it!

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