SeaWorld reopening Saturday — but no coaster rides

SeaWorld holiday show with sea lions Clyde and Seamore.
When SeaWorld was last open under COVID-19 rules for zoos and aquariums, it continued to offer its animal shows like this one featuring sea lions Clyde and Seamore but with socially distanced seating in its theaters.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Also reopening this week following the lifting of the state’s stay-at-home order are the USS Midway and the Maritime Museum, which will be limited to outdoor-only visitation


Closed for the last two months, SeaWorld San Diego will return this Saturday to a modified reopening that will permit the viewing of animal shows but will keep its amusement park-style rides on lockdown in keeping with the state’s COVID-19 reopening guidelines.

Although the park had been previously open under similar conditions for several months during the latter part of 2020, it was shut down again in early December following a regional stay-at-home order imposed on Southern California. That order was lifted a week ago.

The latest reopening will be limited to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only, although the park will also be open on Monday, Feb. 15 for the Presidents’ Day holiday. SeaWorld advises the public to frequently check its website for changes in the schedule, including the possibility of additional days when it may be open.

To comply with limited capacity restrictions, visitors to the park will have to go online and make advance reservations for specific dates. While major attractions like coasters and other rides remain closed, the public can wander the park and visit various outdoor animal exhibits featuring dolphins, sea lions, bamboo sharks and flamingos, among others. Also open are the animal presentations, including Orca Encounter and Dolphin Days where seating in the outdoor theaters will be strictly limited.

The park also is introducing a brand new animal presentation it’s calling Rescue Trails! The attraction, showcasing the park’s decades-long work in animal rescues, will be held in the Nautilus Amphitheatre.

“We are thrilled to once again reopen as a zoo to provide our guests with amazing, memorable — and safe — outdoor experiences this year,” said Marilyn Hannes, president of SeaWorld San Diego. “We will continue to implement a reservation system so that our guests can freely enjoy our incredible outdoor animal exhibits and presentations, including a new presentation that we are so excited for — Rescue Tails!”

SeaWorld’s pass members will continue to receive free admission to the park. Single-day tickets start at $63.99, and dine and drink packages, priced at $79.99, include a choice of six food items and/or alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages for adults.

Also reopening this week are the USS Midway Museum, which had its first day on Monday, and the Maritime Museum of San Diego, which is scheduled to open back up on Feb. 13. The Midway is requiring online reservations for specific dates and time slots.

The Maritime Museum’s indoor operation remains closed, but it is offering an outdoor experience that includes a walking tour of the upper decks of the historic fleet, including the Star of India, and a complimentary boat ride, which is normally an additional charge when guests purchase general admission to the museum. Three 45-minute narrated bay tours are offered daily on Saturday and Sunday. The museum reopening will be limited initially to weekends only and tickets can be purchased on site.

While SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park are now able to be partially open, the future for a general reopening of California theme parks remains cloudy. Under the state’s current tiered system, large parks cannot reopen until coronavirus transmission in their home counties drops sharply enough to allow them to move into what is known as Tier 4 — the least restrictive level of the state’s reopening guidance.

Once a park reaches Tier 4, park capacities would be limited to just 25 percent, and an advance reservation system would have to be in place to screen park guests in advance. San Diego County is currently in the purple tier, the most restrictive.

The California Attractions and Parks Association continues to lobby Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office in hopes of accelerating the reopening of amusement parks.

“The amusement park industry has shown worldwide that parks can reopen and operate safely,” the association said in a statement Monday. “Tens of thousands of park employees, adjacent businesses, and local governments face devastating consequences as a result of ongoing closure in California. Individual parks constantly adjust safe reopening plans based on current science, and CAPA continues to urge Governor Newsom to update the Blueprint for a Safer Economy so parks can reopen in the Orange/Moderate Tier 3.”