After two days on the road and a day recuperating from a quick-acting virus, it was time for our epic California road trip to really get underway. We had two stops planned in San Diego: Sea World and the San Diego Zoo. There are lots of other venues in and around town, including Lego Land and the San Diego Wild Animal Park, but I wanted to give Jakob and Damien the times of their lives, and Arwen loves animals. It seemed like those two venues would give us the best bang for the buck for all concerned.

 

So we loaded up the RV and set off for Sea World. If you’re the kind of person who watches documentaries like Blackfin and hate all corporate attempts to educate and make a profit, then probably just skip to tomorrow’s episode. I’m not going to go into it any more than that. For us, we were looking forward to a day where we saw lots of sea animals, learned about them, rode fun rides, and had a great time, and Sea World provides that in spades.

Note to all nomads: in today’s heavily analyzed marketing campaign environment, the entire month of December is themed as “Christmas/Winter Holidays” everywhere. And that’s not just up to December 25th. Nope, the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s gets the Christmas treatment. That’s why the first thing we saw when we got there was…

No rest for Santa until Baby New Year gets here!
No rest for Santa until Baby New Year gets here!

This was a big, big day for Stephen and his buddies: FREEDOM DAY. With cell phones in hand, and a promise to return to us at designated times (or when their phones inevitably ran low on power), the boys were set free to enjoy Sea World any way they wanted to. They could ride the Mantis roller coaster, or go into the famed shark tunnel, anything they wanted.

"Fish are friends, not food... but people? People are good eatin'!"
“Fish are friends, not food… but people? People are good eatin’!”

They were so excited. Arwen was too: this meant she could set the agenda with Dad, instead of having to follow the big boys around.

We headed for the kids’ rides.

And set the agenda, she did.
And set the agenda, she did.

Now, never let it be said that Sea World is just rides and dolphins and orca shows. The company goes out of its way to try and spread education about the sea and its creatures, conservation, and good stewardship of the earth’s resources. Even little rides like the spinning jelly fish cups had lessons for kids to absorb while they were in line. I found this endearing and well-considered. Cynics will look at things like that and say “Bah! My children could have gotten all this in an evening of Nat Geo TV.”

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For the intellectually curious, the sea star on the far left is the purple one.

I got all the validation I needed in one smile.

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Fun at 15 MPH, and in a tight, Elmo-resembling circle.

After some rides, we gathered Kai up for the dolphin show. Note to nomadic parents: NONE of the theme parks are stroller friendly. You’re going to be forced to leave your stroller at the entrance to every ride/show, and thus any family-friendliness you were hoping to get is utterly shattered if any member of your party is under the age of three or so.

Kai was happy to get out of the stroller anyway, and spend some time with Daddy.

Uh, Dad. This seat says "Splash Zone."
Kai: Uh, Dad. This seat says “Splash Zone.”  Dad: “I know, son. That’s why you’re in front of me.”

The show was (why did this still surprise me?) Christmas in the Islands-themed. The trainers had abandoned their Orca-rapebait sexy outfits for Hawaiian Mako-rapebait sexy outfits, which was okay by me and (apparently) by the dolphins too, and a host played Holiday/Island-themed songs. Then the dolphins came and made a real splash with their show.

No orca will find us sexy now. Those guys in the stands though...
No orca will find us sexy now. Those guys in the stands though…

We met up with the boys for dinner, and discovered they hadn’t actually ridden a single ride. They hadn’t been to any of the shows. They had wandered around and balked at the lines, and so had opted to just… do… nothing.

I tried to get them to join us at the penguin exhibit: there’s a cool motion-simulation ride that makes you feel like you’re on a jet-powered helicopter racing to the arctic to see the penguins. The boys somehow missed that, and ended up missing us too. While Arwen and I were in line they went into the exhibit, saw the penguins, didn’t see us, and wandered back to meet mom, who had taken Kai back to the RV.

So the day ended in a wash. Most of us had a great time doing things. The boys had a great time eating churros and… just, not much else. I wish they had gotten more accomplished, but the experience you have is based on the expectations you take with you. I expected more and was a little disappointed. They had no idea what to expect, and had fun — but left realizing they could have done more.

It was ok, I thought. They still saw a lot of things they’d never seen before, and tomorrow we’d see the zoo, and things would continue to be epic. We drove to a place on Mission Bay that had a roller coaster and boardwalk-style carnival area and found a fantastic Mexican hole-in-the-wall for a taste of authentic Southern California.

 


 

This post is sleeping-Kai approved!

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