SeaWorld San Diego Cleared to Reopen as a Zoo

August 19, 2020, 10:54 PM · Officials have cleared SeaWorld San Diego to reopen, under California guidance that allows zoos to operate in the state.

The San Diego Zoo recently reopened, and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in the Bay Area has been welcoming guests for its Marine World Experience. (Those links go to tickets and packages from our travel partner, by the way.) Now, SeaWorld San Diego is set to take advantage of the same opportunity by reopening its outdoor exhibits.

Theme parks still do not have approval to operate in the state of California, nor do indoor attractions and theaters. So no rides or indoor exhibits will be open when SeaWorld welcomes back guests. Although San Diego County officials have cleared the park to return, we're still awaiting details from SeaWorld and will update this post as soon as we get them. That should include word about operating hours, potential outdoor shows, and prices.

As we posted on Twitter last night, some full-time SeaWorld employees have been getting recall-to-work notices this week, though only for part-time hours according to the ambassadors we've heard from.

Theme parks throughout the state have had to get creative to retain any type of market share while the pandemic keeps their main operations closed. In addition to the animal exhibits at Discovery Kingdom and soon SeaWorld, Knott's Berry Farm has turned to weekend food festivals, under authorization for outdoor dining within the state. That same clearance could allow SeaWorld to operate some version of its Seven Seas food festival along with the animal exhibits, should it choose to do so.

Stay tuned for more details.

Replies (5)

August 20, 2020 at 1:27 AM

Am a bit surprised they didn't find this loophole earlier. A shame as remember how a bit over a month ago, looked like places ready to reopen in California than a new spike all over hurt that. Would be nice although obviously can see much of the park still closed.

August 20, 2020 at 2:57 AM

I'm glad that SeaWorld is able to reopen as it should bring in some much needed revenue, but I still don't understand the logic behind keeping theme parks closed if zoos, outdoor dining, and open-air shopping centers are allowed to open. I can see keeping indoor shows and attractions closed, but there's no way you're going to be more at risk on a roller coaster with masks and social distancing than you will be just wandering around the park. Hopefully Newsom's revised guidelines that are supposed to be released next week will give a better idea of when these things can resume, because SeaWorld is going to have a tough time competing with the San Diego Zoo on that front.

August 20, 2020 at 6:29 AM

As a big fan of the SWE parks, and a platinum pass holder, I am happy to hear they get some type of opportunity to operate.

I gotta say though, even if I was local to So Cal, I don’t see much to put myself at risk for in this case. The current Orca show is lackluster, they no longer have “Pets Rule!”, and the Clyde & Seamore show is certainly no headliner. So I guess the Dolphin Show is the draw. Add in the factor that in SD unfortunately all of their outdoor amphitheater’s are unshaded, so they can get very uncomfortable quickly.

Take Shark Encounter out of the equation too, as it’s mostly indoors.

Maybe they’ll get some locals going through “withdrawal” to visit, but I know quite a few locals, and they all pretty much stay clear of the tourist spots (maybe visiting once every few years).

Hopefully they get clearance for some rides soon. That Electric Ocean Show they do on the Bay Amphitheater during Summer Nights would actually be a draw, but no way are they going to incur the costs associated with running that show during these times.

Good luck SeaWorld, I sincerely hope you figure out something that works...

August 20, 2020 at 10:35 AM

Honestly, I don't think SeaWorld has to compete with the zoo, as others have said, there would be no competition there, especially with the indoor areas not being able to be open (although that could change as early as next week with Newsom's new guidelines and hopefully it does, because we can't handle another heat wave without indoor areas open).

While I know a lot of locals avoid the tourist spots, a lot of us do go and enjoy them. Honestly, we have passes to SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, Disneyland and Knott's. These are the places we tend to go on the weekend, although the Knott's pass was new for us this year and we were planning on letting the Disneyland one expire since they have eliminated so much of their entertainment and Knott's picked it up. Of course now the Disneyland pass will be extended several months, but will expire eventually. We tend to go more for the entertainment and atmosphere than the rides, although will do some of the rides as well.

As for shows, SeaWorld will likely come up with something unique for a while that can run through the end of the year, but like Chopper31, I don't see them doing Electric Ocean simply due to the cost of the performers, which is the main cost of the show, the rest is actually a very minor cost.

But as for Outdoor areas, they can have most animal exhibits and all regular shows, they can also do a special show at the Mission Bay Theater and another one at the Nautilus Amphitheater. Hopefully this will actually bring the focus back to these amazing animals and less on the roller coasters that don't make any sense for SeaWorld.

August 20, 2020 at 1:28 PM

The only differences I Can see between a zoo and a theme part is you can walk around a zoo’s at your own pace and keep your distance easily, but in a theme park you’re more likely to be in a queue... is it enough to justify treating it different? Can’t say.

That said, I’m more sympathetic to the plight of animal based attractions. The cost to run a zoo, I imagine, doesnt vary too much whether the gate is open. The Gorilla still needs feeding, and the penguins still need care...

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