SeaWorld celebrates its 50th anniversary by opening Explorer's Reef

March 21, 2014, 3:45 PM · SeaWorld celebrated its 50th anniversary today with celebrations at all three SeaWorld parks: Orlando, San Antonio, and - where it all began - San Diego.

SeaWorld 50th celebration

To commemorate the original SeaWorld's 50th birthday, the San Diego park today also unveiled its new entrance: a dramatic wave sculpture that sets the stage for a new interactive experience called Explorer's Reef.

New SeaWorld San Diego entry

Let's hear SeaWorld Parks Creative Director Brian Morrow explain the new entrance:

Once you "dive" under the wave and enter the park, you will find yourself surrounded by coral reef decor, with four touchpools inviting you to come get your hands wet and get close to some animals.

At the touch pools

Including sharks,

Touching a shark

And cleaner fish.

Kids getting their hands wet

There's abundant detail in the new area,

Explorer's Reef detail

and animal ambassadors get right into the action.

Animal ambassador

Take a moment to notice some of the education detail, too, such as this exhibit of shark eggs.

Shark egg exhibit

That's a little shark growing in there!

Shark embryo

Before the grand opening, SeaWorld celebrated its birthday with a ceremony that included some special guests,


As well as remarks from CEO Jim Atchison.

CEO Jim Atchison

Echoing previous remarks by SeaWorld's animal ambassador, Julie Scardina, Atchison lauded SeaWorld for rescuing more than 23,000 sick or wounded animals and returning them to the wild over the company's 50 years. Atchison also said that SeaWorld is needed to inspire visitors to work to protect the world's environment in an era of climate change and threatened habitats.

"We do the one thing animals cannot do, and that is to speak for them and tell their stories," Atchison said. "Our team members are the true animal advocates."

Replies (7)

March 21, 2014 at 5:24 PM · Personally, I'd rather spend the day at a big aquarium like the one they have in Atlanta, Georgia. That place is amazing.

I don't like the animal shows at Sea World, to be honest. They just don't interest my family. However, Sea World would be interesting to me if they had a giant tank like they do in Georgia with whale sharks and other large fish. That is just breahtaking. Look up videos on YouTube of the Georgia Aquarium. There is nothing like this at Sea World.

To me, this is the kind of thing they should focus on in the future. Move away from the animal shows and instead invest in jaw-dropping displays. Build the world's largest tank. Build one so big they could even keep a great white shark in it. Do something like that and I'd be interested in Sea World again.

March 21, 2014 at 6:10 PM · This is awesome! The new entrance looks both impressive and immersive. I can't wait to visit it one day.

The Georgia Aquarium is amazing, but it is waaay too crowded most of the time. The Georgia Aquarium actually seems to be shifting toward Seaworld's usage of shows. The G.A. has a large dolphin show and a 3d show. The aquarium is also subdivided into "lands." Despite this, Seaworld's use of better shows, well themed areas, and rides makes me enjoy visits to seaworld much more than visits to the G.A.

March 21, 2014 at 8:14 PM · Cleaner fish? This is a way to remove dead skin. This is a common skin therapy in Asia for feet.
March 22, 2014 at 4:05 AM · The new entrance looks absolutely stunning, and the interactive pools appear to be both whimsical and immersive-- great job SeaWorld! I can't wait to visit this park again.
March 22, 2014 at 9:13 AM · I was there's so beautiful! I'm so proud and happy that SeaWorld has reached this amazing milestone. Congratulations, SeaWorld, and keep standing up for the truth!
March 22, 2014 at 2:05 PM · Sea World does actually have standard aquarium-style displays. They have the Shark Encounter, which is just like most aquarium shark tanks, and many other tank-focused exhibits. If I recall correctly, Sea World San Diego actually has an entire building that is equivalent to a minor city's aquarium with numerous exhibits from varying ecosystems (they even have nautaloids and squid). Sea World Orlando is a little more show focused, but there are still a number of aquarium-style exhibits, you just need to look for them. The new-ish Turtle Trek exhibit has a very large tank display, and there are really nice tanks inside the Journey to Atlantis gift shop as well as the Manta queue. You could easily spend just as much time exploring the aquarium-style exhibits at a Sea World park as you would at even the biggest aquariums without ever stepping on a ride or watching a show. Considering how much big city aquariums are charging for admission these days ($35 for a single adult in Baltimore, which can be fully explored in about 4 hours), Sea World is pretty comparable in cost and just as good in my opinion.
March 22, 2014 at 8:27 PM · Beautiful photos and a great article! I was lucky enough to attend day one of SeaWorld Orlando's 50th Celebration. They have introduced new interactive experiences, shows and pathway performances, even more up-close animal encounters throughout the park and the SeaWorld "Surprise Squad" treating guests with prizes every day. Prizes may include gifts, exclusive access to rides, behind-the-scenes experiences, Shamu-themed merchandise, reserved show seating and more. I have posted a couple of photos from the big day under the SeaWorld Orlando category.

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