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Robert Niles

Vote of the week: Aquatica opens in San Diego, so let's talk water parks

Published: May 30, 2013 at 7:40 PM

SeaWorld San Diego will open its Aquatica water park Saturday (June 1), following its acquisition and multi-million-dollar rebuild of the former Soak City water park in Chula Vista. San Diego is the third of the three SeaWorld parks to get an Aquatica water park, following San Antonio last year and the original in Orlando in 2008. Unlike the other two, San Diego's Aquatica will be located miles from its sister SeaWorld park -- the weather's much more hospitable to a water park in warmer, inland Chula Vista than at the sometimes-chilly and overcast Mission Bay, where SeaWorld San Diego is located.

Here's the line-up of attractions at Aquatica San Diego:


  • Whanau Way: A 60-foot water slide complex featuring six slides, four enclosed and two open air.
  • HooRoo Run: Two enclosed and two open-air slides down this 80-foot ride.
  • Woohoo Falls: Three water slides, including one in the dark.
  • Kiwi Curl: Three 60-foot water slides, with an option of sliding in the dark.
  • Walhalla Wave: This 78-foot ride is designed for families to enjoy together (height requirement is 42”) in a gigantic tube.
  • Tassie's Twister: Drop down a 75-foot water slide in a multi-person raft through thousands of gallons of swirling water before dropping into a six-story funnel.

Aquatica San Diego
Photo courtesy SeaWorld

Other attractions:

  • Big Surf Shores: A 500,000-gallon wave pools in Southern California, with period swells of up to five feet and a 43,000-square-foot white sandy beach.
  • Loggerhead Lane: Guests can swim or float along in an inner tube down a winding 1,250-foot long lazy river, with more than a dozen Caribbean flamingos on display.
  • Walkabout Waters: This four-story "sprayground" with slides, hoses, jets, and geysers. Every five minutes, a 500-gallon bucket unloads water on everyone below.
  • Kata’s Kookaburra Cove: A children's play area.
  • Slippity Dippity: Kid-sized slides in another family play area, designed for families with toddlers.

A single-day Aquatica ticket is $38 ($30 for kids) online at the Aquatica website. A two-day combo ticket for SeaWorld San Diego and Aquatica is $96 for adults and $88 for children 3-9, also on the website.

How popular will this new park be? The Orlando Aquatica is the nation's third most-popular water park (behind the two Walt Disney World water parks), according to the TEA/AECOM Global Attractions Attendance Report. But with 1.5 million visitors a year, Aquatica lags its sister park, SeaWorld Orlando, which drew 5.2 million visitors in 2011 (the latest year for which data is available.)

Even the most popular water park in the world, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, at just more than 2 million visitors a year, wouldn't crack the Top 20 for attendance among North American theme parks. But parks can build a world-class waterslide attraction for an order of magnitude less money than a world-class roller coaster would cost. So while water parks attract fewer visitors than traditional theme parks, their lower costs can make them highly profitable.

So the San Diego Aquatica doesn't need to draw SeaWorld San Diego's 4.3 million visitors a year to be a financial success for SeaWorld. But will it be a hit with visitors?

We typically don't cover water parks here on Theme Park Insider (see those attendance numbers above for the reason). But many theme parks offer water parks as part of their entertainment experience. Sometimes, they're included in the cost of a theme park ticket, such as at the popular Holiday World and Splashin' Safari in Indiana. More often, the water park requires an extra admission, though discounted theme park/water park combo tickets are readily available, as with SeaWorld and Aquatica. And, of course, many top water parks aren't affiliated with any theme park, such as the Schlitterbahn water parks in Texas.

What's your take on water parks? Do you usually make a water park part of a theme park visit? Do you visit water parks on their own? Or do you skip water parks in favor of other vacation and entertainment alternatives? That's our vote of the week.

Let's talk water parks, in the comments. And, as always, thank you for reading and being a part of Theme Park Insider!

Replies (13)

M. Ryan Traylor

Published: May 30, 2013 at 7:52 PM

Will this water park have water?
Aaron McMahon

Published: May 30, 2013 at 10:11 PM

I'm a sucker for a water parks. I always end up at the wave pool or lazy river at King's Dominion and Hershey Park instead of riding the one-of-a-kind coasters at the parks.

I do love really well-themed water parks like Orlando's Aquatica, HP's Boardwalk and Typhoon Lagoon.

Mark Kausch

Published: May 30, 2013 at 11:27 PM

I used to go to waterparks. But they don't mix very well with oxygen tanks.

'Course, I guess I might float.

Published: May 30, 2013 at 11:52 PM

Stupid question, im sort of a pointless number nerd, so i keep wundering when the newest TEA report for last year will get out. Should be sometime arround now yes?

Published: May 31, 2013 at 7:28 AM

LOVE WATER PARKS... In fact, I love them so much that I wish someone would start their own water park nerd website... we have enough websites for theme parks and amusement parks, so lets add some love for water out there. I love the Orlando water parks (my favorite hands down is Typhoon Lagoon), I love Wisconsin Dells (only 2.5 hour drive from my house :)), and I really do love the innovation that Schlitterbahn water parks have within their locations. It's simple, in the summer time I'm a water park junky (It's a shame that this season is so short), and in the fall, winter, and spring time, I'm a theme park junky.
Jackie Stupack

Published: May 31, 2013 at 8:44 AM

From the pictures and description of the park, it doesn't seem that much different from the former Knott's Soak City. With SeaWorld not bringing much new to the table, I think most attendees will still be mostly local residents. Of course as a local I will still need to check it out.
Robert Niles

Published: May 31, 2013 at 8:49 AM

To the anonymous poster, you're not alone! I was all over the TEA website last night, looking for updated numbers. I'm on their mailing list, but have heard nothing yet about this year's attendance report. But you're right, it is time. The last one was released in May 2012, I believe.
Rob Pastor

Published: May 31, 2013 at 9:18 AM

Robert: One of the other sites mentioned that the report was coming out June 4th. Hope they're right. It's always interesting.
Gabriel Schroll

Published: May 31, 2013 at 2:22 PM

I love the view in the picture of San Diego's Aquatica. The mountains in the background make it look so beautiful. In Orlando, all you see is sprawl and traffic. Not that San Deigo doesn't have that too, but mountains and palm trees in the same photo make for an awesome sight.

Published: May 31, 2013 at 6:29 PM

With 4 kids, water parks are usually more of a hassle than an enjoyment (as compared to going to a normal theme park where usually there are a handful of rides that will get you wet). First of all, it's at least DOUBLE the preparation to get everyone ready to go, and to have extra clothes and extra towels... and then you have to lug all that with you. Second, it's usually me, dad, who gets to lug those heavy awkward inflatable floats up 4 flights of stairs on many of the water rides. Third, I would love to relax on the lazy river or beside the wave pool, but kids get bored pretty quickly and it's usually off to something else within just a couple of hours. At a normal theme park, everyone is usually continually walking from one ride to the next... only really sitting/resting when eating or watching a show. So, more often than not, if we do a water park... its because its PART of a theme park we already have seasonally access to... like Kings Dominion or Six Flags America. While Busch Gardens Williamsburg is one of my favorite theme parks on the east coast, we hardly ever go to Water Country U.S.A.
Mike Gallagher

Published: June 1, 2013 at 2:41 AM

I'll sometimes do waterparks, but being as out of shape as I am, they take a lot out of me, what with all the climbing, hilly terrain, and stairs to the tops of attractions. If I go to a waterpark, I'm spending most of my time in the lazy river and/or wave pool. I do plan to hit Great Adventure's Hurricane Harbor for the first time ever this year, since it's included on my pass. I also like Dorney's Wild Water Kingdom.

And the blonde in the accompanying photo is rather cute.

ThemePark Dan

Published: June 1, 2013 at 8:45 PM

I love Water Parks, my favorite being Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. I went to the Aquatica opening today and the re-Theme brought fresh life to the park but some of the rides could be better. (Tassie's Twister & Walhalla Wave are the best)

Some of the other rides are slow and it was a bit of a train wreck seeing the life guards try and load people onto slides. (It was painfully slow with horrible procedures in place.

Example, for Kiwi Curl; they had a chain link that they had to unhook to let new riders into the loading area. Each slide was setup so that two people could be in loading and then go one at a time. The life guard would only call 3 people in at a time (instead of 6, which is what the ride supported) wait until they all were in position and then dismiss them all at once. The ride was built for more capacity and it even has a Red/Green Light system to queue tubers when to go. (But they weren't using it)

Here are some photos showing off the beautiful refurbishment.
Click Here

Here are videos of the slides as well.
Click Here

Mark Kausch

Published: June 4, 2013 at 6:11 AM

@ThemeparkDan - Thanks for the pix of Aquatica's Opening Day. It seemed to be a little chilly there, which is surprising; I remember it being a 90+ degree weekend and Aquatica is a mile or three inland. I couldn't get the videos to work, but I guess I can work on that later.

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