When I arrived, I noticed a very long line for the one and only open ticket booth. As usual, I was there well before opening. Just to the right are ticket vending machines that are very sophisticated. You can purchase whatever type of ticket you need, even an annual pass or the use of an AAA discount.

Automated ticket kiosk.

I had three objectives for this visit. First, I just wanted to relax and enjoy the experience. I had all day, the crowds were light, and everything for the most part was open - Except the sky tower. What is up with the tall rides in the parks being closed on this visit? I ran into the same thing at LEGOLAND.

Second, I am always looking for new material for this column. Thank you for visiting.

My third objective may seem a bit eccentric but it reflects the twisted kind of thinking that runs through my brain. As long time readers have seen,

For many, SeaWorld is Shamu. The killer whale is the heart and soul of the park. Shamu is so important to the image of SeaWorld they have a customized VW Bug and dressed it as the whale out front.

The current Shamu Show, One Ocean

Blue Horizons arena.

Another show that hammers home the conservation theme is Blue Horizons. The show brings together dolphins, birds, pilot whales, acrobats, and more dancing trainers. There must have been a memo to the production team to check out as many Cirque du Soleil shows as they could.

The interaction between the trainers and the dolphins was priceless. I realize this is a show and they were going to do this twice that day, but there was a sense of joy in the play between the trainer and dolphin that was truly captivating. And then came the bungee jumpers. And the divers. And the trained flock of birds.

Pets Rule

In both the dolphin and Shamu shows, the ability and marvel of the animals is melted down. Not so with This was one of the big surprises of the day. It is a delightful and entertaining show with all sorts of animals including more than 50 trained cats, dozens of dogs, a couple of Kangaroos, pigs, and whatever else, this show is non-stop. There was a bit of play between trainers and animals but most of the time it was a slapstick paced blur of animal stunts, most of which are kind of corny but in a good way. For example, a bunch of white cats jump into a barrel of ink and a bunch of black cats jump out. A large dog goes into a dryer and comes out an identical small dog. Imagine what happens to the long hair cat that jumps into the hair remover. Yes. That is what happens.

The other shows? I did not see the Sesame Street presents Lights, Camera, Imagination!,Sea Lions LIVE show. That was because I had to take multiple rides on the Bayside SkyRide.

They have a sky bucket ride!!!

The Bayside SkyRide is a sky bucket ride just like the long lost SkywaySkyRide follows along one of the waterways in Mission Bay and a pleasant walk.

Journey to Atlantis

To stay competitive, SeaWorld is beginning to add big thrill rides, The focus is on the rides and not so much the animal encounter experience. The big one right now is Journey to Atlantis, a hybrid that combines elements of a roller coaster with a boat ride. Two large towers, one equipped with a huge flume drop, dominate the vista. You would think that the drop would be the dramatic climax but you would be wrong. This is the first element that you experience once you are strapped into the little boat. Once you make the big hairpin turn you are whisked up into an elevator and lifted to the top of the second tower. Although the use of a lift is a fun element it would have been more effective if the forward view was screened and you were not seeing the inside of the building. From this point, it is a fun, swooping rollercoaster that uses a water break (naturally) to slow you down. The exit checks the box for the animal encounter with a huge tank filled with manta rays.

Manta coaster artwork

I am looking forward to the opening of the Manta roller coaster in late May. This coaster is going to be a huge hit and I sense will begin to change the overall character of the park.

Manta Construction

Wild Arctic

Wild Arctic is an attraction that uses thrill ride technology as a tool to set up a grouping of animal exhibits. We are about to go on a nature expedition in a specially equipped helicopter (a simulator vehicle). Our destination is an archeological dig where two sailing ships are being dug out of the ice.

Polar Bear enclosure: Wild Arctic

Beluga Whale enclosure: Wild Arctic

If you miss the older version of Star Tours then you owe it to yourself to ride this thing. Of course, something goes horribly wrong and we barely escape death. The real treasure lies beyond the exit doors of the simulator. You enter the set of the research base and walk among the hulls of the ships. We get to see all of the animals featured in the simulator ride. The habitats were beautifully designed with multiple viewing spots so that everybody can get a good view and both underwater and above the water observation areas. Each of the habitats furthered the storyline. I say well done.

This was just one example of way the newer habitats have been designed. The designers took care to provide different spaces so that guests that who want to rush through can do so without getting frustrated while those who want to linger can do so. There are lots of smaller exhibits Turtle Reef and the Penguin Encounter are popular spots. The Shark Encounter features a walk-through tank with sharks passing all around you.

If you need to get wet, Shipwreck Rapids is not a groundbreaking raft ride but it will get you wet, and you will have some laughs. The park also sports a number of dressed up traditional amusement park rides for the real little ones in the Sesame Street Bay of Play.

Want to get closer to the animals? That is very easy to do. Each of the exhibits has feeding programs and there are upcharge activities like having breakfast, lunch or a late afternoon snack with Shamu. You can even get in the water with a Dolphin or Beluga Whale.

All in all, I found the park clean and friendly with lots to see and do. Since I want to ride the new coaster I took advantage of their buy a day get the rest of the year free program.

I have to come back. They have a sky bucket ride. Plus, the SeaWorld Skytower was unfortunately closed. I found it strange that both of the tower rides at LEGOLAND and SeaWorld were closed on my trip. Have you been to Sea World? What was your experience?

If you enjoyed today's article, then you will LOVE the new book written By Sam Gennawey, Walt and the Promise of Progress City.

<iframe src="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=0000 00&lc1=0000FF&t=micechat-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=0 615540244" style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>

Follow Samland on Facebook and Twitter.