SeaWorld San Diego is wrapped up in holiday cheer this season during their annual Christmas Celebration. SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration takes place from November 23rd to January 5th 2020. There are holiday-themed shows, splashy decor and special treats offered for the season.
SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration
All of SeaWorld San Diego is a winter wonderland with underwater flair for the holiday season. Holiday shows and most activities are included in the regular park admission. In addition, the usual touch pools, rides and aquariums remain open. Some are given a seasonal “overlay” with a Christmas theme.
There are several new events happening for 2020. Keep reading for tips on how to explore SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration in a day.
SeaWorld San Diego Tickets
Shows are held all around the park throughout the day. Some of the show times overlap so you’ll need to have a plan on what you’re watching. Check the entertainment guide online to see times. On busier days, weekends and holidays, consider purchasing the Quick Queue. These Quick Queue passes will allow a shorter wait times for some rides (purchase via the SeaWorld app or at guest services). Reserved seating for shows and reservations for Santa meetings are also available for purchase.
I highly recommend purchasing tickets through my trusted travel partner Get Away Today. Some San Diego area hotels offer free nights as an incentive! Guests who book through Get Away Today will often receive additional perks like free parking or complimentary meals. Use code REWRITTEN when purchasing though the Get Away Today link to save an extra $10 off a SoCal vacation package 2+ days.
Sesame Street Christmas Village
*NEW FOR 2020* This area itself isn’t new but it is boasting a different name and a few fun updates. Previously called Santa’s Christmas Village, it now has whimsical Sesame Street features. Sesame Street Christmas Village is a perfect first stop as it’s nearby the front entrance of the park. Several chalets have holiday-themed treats for sale including cinnamon rolls and doughnut holes.
Mrs. Claus conducts a story time near the Christmas tree. Sesame Street characters are also there for photos and greetings (we saw Zoey, Elmo and Ernie).
Santa’s chalet is located here as well. The interior is cozy and beautifully decorated for the season. There are photographers inside to take the perfect Christmas card photo with opportunity to purchase outside.
Feel free to roam the area, have a snack, and meet with the elves. In addition, there are plenty of shopping areas with seasonal gifts located all over the park, including a special shop in Sesame Street Christmas Village. The Sesame Street Christmas items are so cute!
Eating at SeaWorld
Looking for an extra special treat? Consider kickstarting your day at Dine with Orcas and Santa. We participated in the Dine with Orcas buffet lunch several years ago. It was a wonderful meal, combined with an educational show. You’ll need to book these meals in advance, by purchasing on the website. As we discovered last spring during SeaWorld’s Seven Seas Food Festival, the food at SeaWorld is top rated. During their Sea World San Diego Christmas Celebration, seasonal dining kiosks are set up around the park offering food like hot apple cider and holiday mac n’ cheese.
If you plan on being in the park all day, consider purchasing the All-Day Dining Deal. For one price, you can choose one entree, side or dessert and a drink, at select restaurants every hour. We did this on our visit and found it really did save us money versus purchasing meals one at a time.
Tips for Seasonal Shows & Attractions
Our visit to the SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration was on a weekday early in the holiday season. Weekends, holiday weeks and the days leading up to the holidays will be very busy. Expect shows to reach capacity. Dolphin Island Christmas show and Clyde & Seamore’s Christmas Special will be packed to capacity and employees will turn guests away. Avoid choosing a seat in the “Splash Zone” when the weather is less than warm…you will get wet!
Consider purchasing Reserved Seating, available through the SeaWorld app or at guest services. Otherwise plan on arriving 30 minutes early at each show to find a seat.
Winter Wonderland on Ice
*NEW FOR 2019* This nighttime spectacular takes place in the Nautilus Amphitheater (where the “Pets Rule” show was formerly held). Winter Wonderland on Ice combines ice skating with music and artistry in a family friendly outdoor show. Held after dark, it can be very chilly. Be sure to dress appropriately for the winter weather! This show is a definite highlight of the SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration. There is a line-up outside the doors to enter, which opens 30 minutes before showtime. The Winter Wonderland on Ice show is only held Tuesday through Sunday (dark on Mondays).
The area near the Penguin Encounter attraction has been made over for SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration into Rudolph’s Christmastown! Plenty of cute photo ops and a meet n’ greet with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer himself.
The Misfit Brass plays popular Christmas songs and host a tree lighting ceremony each night. In addition, there are unique treats and “reindeer” games (for added cost). Shop the Holly Jolly Marketplace for Rudolph merchandise.
It Does Sometimes Rain in Southern California
SeaWorld San Diego is alongside Mission Bay and the winter months can be very chilly, especially when there are cold winds off the water. Check the weather conditions and bring a warm jacket and winter hat. Note that SeaWorld San Diego does close the park in case of inclement weather. Best to check the website before your visit if there is rain in the forecast. And if your plans include riding Journey to Atlantis or sitting in the “Splash Zone” of any of the shows, you’ll want to pack a rain parka!
Ways to Enjoy the Holiday Night at SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration
During the day, you can’t miss the ocean-inspired decorations and hear the seasonal music. There’s a wonderful Christmas spirit with lights and decorations all throughout the park. After dark, SeaWorld San Diego lights up the night with several attractions.
- SeaWorld’s Tree of Lights is Southern California’s largest Christmas tree at 320-feet tall, where strings of lights drape the iconic Skytower. It’s a Christmas tradition since 1969. Take note that the Skytower ride is not available when it’s decorated for the holidays.
- Arrive in Rudolph’s Christmastown just before 5 pm. There’s a whimsical stage show with live music, singing and dancing. Then Rudolph illuminates the 40-foot tree (with the power of his red nose!)
- From December 26th-29th, arrive at the Orca Encounter 20 minutes prior to the show for a lively musical sing-a-long.
- Take a walk through the awesome Tunnel of Lights, new for 2020. More than 5000 animated lights “dance” to the music as guests walk through.
Rent a locker to put jackets in during the day. Many attractions during SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration don’t start until night fall. Plan to stay until closing to experience all the things.
*NEW FOR 2019* acrobats from San Diego Circus Center and NexGen of Cirque Du Soleil perform scenes from the Nutcracker. This story of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Soldiers and the Nutcracker puts a new twist on the classic ballet with inspiring acrobatic acts. The show is held in the Mission Bay Theater, performed Wednesday through Monday (dark on Tuesdays). Consider purchasing reserved seating for both Cirque Christmas and Winter Wonderland on Ice to ensure the best seats in the house!
For additional things to do in Southern California during the Christmas season
- Christmas at Disneyland is merry and bright! Read the guide with your must-do holiday checklist.
- Celebrate all things Christmas in San Diego with these ideas on free things to do with kids during the season.
- Build a great holiday with these tips for doing LEGOLAND during Christmas time!
This post originally published November 2015 and has been updated.