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Visiting Sea World in San Diego with a child on the Autism Spectrum

For two days over the spring break of 2005 I took my two autistic kids to Sea World. The first day happened to be my oldest son’s tenth birthday, which is a key age to note when paying entrance fees for Sea World San Diego. Children are defined as ages 3-9 and seniors are specified as age 50 and over. Children under the age of three are free. At first I wanted to purchase the 2-day adventure pass the day we arrived at the Holiday Inn Mission Bay. I thought this would avoid my son turning ten and get him in at the children’s price. However I found out through a disability group that the entrance fee is discounted for those with a disability. This was confirmed when I placed a telephone call to Sea World San Diego.

For weeks the commercial aired here in Los Angeles promoting the fun card for Sea World San Diego. The fun card means you pay one price for admission with unlimited visits the rest of the year (2005). I was not really interested in this specific rate/plan but my kids loved viewing the commercial. The promotion was constant in the days leading up to Spring Break and has since tapered off.

The first issue upon arrival is parking, with the current rate of $8.00 per vehicle. There is a section for handicapped parking, which we used the second day since I brought the disabled placard with us. The first day we arrived before opening time since we had reservations for the Breakfast with Shamu. We were able to park at the first row and be first in line at the Guest Relations Booth. This is the line you would go to get discount tickets where you can pay with credit or debit cards.

When we first arrived at the window I was asked the ages of my children and responded 8 and 9. The price for entrance for my kids was the price for one regular children’s entrance, which resulted in a 50% savings on the $40.95 fee. I did not have to show proof that my children have autism, but they were both wearing their autism shirts.

During the phone call I made a week earlier I had inquired about bringing a container of soymilk for my son and was told it would be no problem. They do not allow picnic lunches, thermoses, glass bottles, plastic straws, pets or alcoholic beverages. At the gate to enter there is a stamp you will get when you leave if you are coming back later that day. You will show your parking ticket for re-entry as well.

The minute you get through the gates there are several employees there with cameras trying to take a photo to sell you. My kids were not really interested so we did not stop to inquire the cost. We headed over to the left side for the Shamu Adventure. Before you get there is the dining area entitled, Shamu: Close Up. I had printed out the etickets for admittance and my name was checked off. We waited about two minutes for our table to be available. We were given a great spot with the second table out from the water area so we were not in harms way of getting soaked. The set up enabled my kids to wander around and see Shamu and other Orcas.

The breakfast is a buffet with reservations and payment handled online at www.SeaWorld.com or the Reservation Center near the entrance on the right side the same day. It is recommended to arrive fifteen minutes earlier than your scheduled time for seating preferences. The dining area is smoke-free. The trainers are available for questions and the only ones allowed to touch or feed the whales. A gratuity is not included, photos are allowed with cameras and videocameras. This is a great prelude to the day’s exhibits, starting off in such a relaxed atmosphere for one hour observing the whales plus you get to enter Sea World San Diego earlier.

Strollers, wheelchairs and two-way radios are available for rent near the entrance and they have lockers in the area. The shows all run about twenty minutes in stadium type seating. You can buy the ponchos for five dollars at many of the concession stands. Shamu Adventure took place three times a day while we were there, 11:30 am, 2:30 pm and 5:00 pm. The first day we did this at 11:30 with the second day having a 2:00 reservation for lunch for the 2:30 showing. There are rows in each stadium assigned for the disabled. They were at the top of the first section of rows, and way past the first 16 that get wet during shows.

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The Dolphin Discovery ran five shows – 11 am, 12:30, 1:30, 3:15 and 5:30 pm. We watched this show the first day there. Each show has a volunteer child and parent. We did notice that it was always a father and child, maybe because you will get wet and a male is easier to surprise in this fashion. This is the time for you to put on sunblock as we saw many burnt shoulders while sitting in our seats. They close the shows up before it starts, but do tend to let stragglers in. You do see all the strollers outside the shows since they are not allowed in.

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Synchronicity - Dolphins
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We spent two days at Sea World San Diego. Feeding Dolphins.

Originally published on Epinions

The Ebay Store where I purchased three autism shirts.

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