After months of being closed due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions, SeaWorld San Diego will partially reopen Friday, slowly and with lots of changes.
Visitors to the San Diego theme park can expect COVID-era health protocols like temperature screenings, social distancing markers reminding people to stay 6 feet apart, and the mandatory use of face masks. There are also hand sanitizer stations all over the park, and SeaWorld said increased cleaning will be done throughout the day.
Capacity will also be limited to accommodate proper social distancing between guests.
Due to the state's reopening guidelines announced on Aug. 28, SeaWorld also reopened the Penguins Encounter, Shark Encounter, and Turtle Reef.
Another change: a new outdoor experience for guests that features animal exhibits and food tastings.
At the new “Zoo Days: Bayside BBQ & Brews,” ticketholders can enjoy marine life animal presentations, outdoor animal exhibits, and an opportunity to taste chef-created barbecue carefully paired with wine and craft beer. The menu includes shrimp tacos, Impossible Burgers, German bratwurst, and more.
The new outdoor experience kicks off Friday and will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, through Sept. 27. It'll be open on Labor Day, too.
SeaWorld has set up a special area where visitors can enjoy their food and drinks, with a view of the bay, while also keeping a safe social distance from others.
The rides and indoor attractions at SeaWorld San Diego remain closed, for now. Visitors are still able to stroll through 40 acres of the park, though, and see outdoor animal exhibits like the dolphins, orcas, penguins, otters, flamingos, and more. Because SeaWorld’s “Dolphin, Sea Lion and Orca Encounter” is outside, educational presentations on the animals will be held with physically distant seating.
Visitors will still be allowed to touch the sharks, cleaner fish, and horseshoe crabs at Explorer's Reef near the entrance.
"The pools were already set up for interactions, so the water is super clean," said Brian Chouinard, supervisor of fish for SeaWorld San Diego. "It's filtered a lot, really for the animals -- to help maintain the healthy animals -- and then just as a side effect, it also makes it healthy for people to interact with it."
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SeaWorld, like many other attractions, temporarily shut down in mid-March out of an abundance of caution due to the pandemic.
Tickets for the outdoor experience cost $74.99 for adults and $64.99 for children ages 3 to 9. Pass members and Fun Card holders can purchase tickets at reduced prices; adult entry will cost $30 and children’s entry will be $20.
Reservations are limited and required, even for Fun Card holders and Pass Members. Tickets can be purchased online beginning at 9 a.m. Monday, here.