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SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration (2023 Guide)

SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration (2023 Guide)


SeaWorld San Diego is wrapped up in holiday cheer this season during their annual Christmas Celebration. SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration takes place each day during the holidays. There are winter-themed shows, splashy decor and special treats offered for the season!

SeaWorld San Diego Christmas decorations

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This post originally published November 2015 and has been updated and republished with a new date.

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 2023. Keep reading for tips on how to explore SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration in a day!

SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration Ocean tree

Details About SeaWorld San Diego Christmas

What is the SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration?

Visitors to SeaWorld can enjoy seasonal shows, holiday activities, festive music and live entertainment. This is in addition to the usual SeaWorld offerings, including fun rides that are appropriate for a variety of ages.

The holiday event takes place at the SeaWorld theme park during the Christmas season. General admission park tickets for the day will allow guests to access SeaWorld San Diego holiday activities.

When does SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration Happen?

SeaWorld dates for the Christmas Celebration run from November 17th, 2023 – January 7th, 2024. SeaWorld’s Christmas event is held every day during this time period.

The theme park is open at either 9:00 am or 10:00 am. Closure times vary through out the season, from 6:00 pm, 8:00 pm, and 10:00 pm (check the SeaWorld app calendar for your date).

Can We Still Experience Everything at SeaWorld San Diego?

SeaWorld is one of the top things to do outside in San Diego! During the Christmas Celebration, SeaWorld rides are in full operation. All animal encounters, aquariums and shows are also available.

Which Ages Is This Event For?

The immersive family fun during the SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration is age-appropriate for anyone.

SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration
Christmas tree inside Sesame Street Christmas Village

SeaWorld San Diego Tickets

Do you need reservations for SeaWorld?

Reservations are not required for SeaWorld San Diego. A SeaWorld ticket purchased online is good for any day of the year. Simply print at home and present the ticket at the turnstile for entry.

There are options for single day tickets, multi-day tickets, theme park bundles, and dining plan discounts for the best value.

Southern California Discount Travel

My travel partners at Get Away Today offer both discounted theme park tickets and SoCal-area hotels to fit any budget! Many hotels include exclusive discounts like free parking, complimentary breakfast or even free nights, just for booking through Get Away Today.

When you’re ready to book your Southern California vacation, my friends at Get Away Today are ready to help! Call 1-855-GET-AWAY to book your trip.

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What Happens During the Holidays at SeaWorld?

Christmas time at SeaWorld San Diego offers special seasonal live shows, foods and other ways to embrace the holiday spirit throughout the park. This is in addition to all the usual rides and ocean activities that happen in the Southern California theme park.

This article will help you to maximize a day at SeaWorld, with tips on how to experience all that the holiday celebrations offer. This is what you can expect to find for the holidays this year –

Live Entertainment

  • O.P. Otter’s Holiday Sing-A-Long – Mission Bay Theater
  • A Stocking Full of Soul – Mission Bay Theater
  • A Joyous Celebration Theater Show – Nautilus Amphitheater
  • Mrs. Claus’s Christmas Cavalcade
  • The Holly Pops and Holiday Hipsters caroling groups
  • Donner and Blitzen’s LaZer LAZER with a ‘Z’ Light Show
  • SeaWorld Christmas Brass Band
  • SkyTower Tree of Lights Holiday Lights & Magic Show
  • A Christmas Wish Fireworks Show

Character Greetings

  • Santa Claus and live reindeer viewing – Santa’s Village
  • Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer – Rudolph’s Christmastown

Seasonal Activities

  • Reindeer Round-Up Scavenger Hunt
  • Snowfall throughout the Park
  • Coca-Cola Market
  • Coca-Cola Lane

Creating a SeaWorld Holiday Itinerary

Shows and holiday activities are held all around the park throughout the day. This will allow visitors time to experience some of the seasonal events as well as the general theme park attractions.

  • Arrive at park opening to maximize a full 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.
  • The crowds for SeaWorld will get heavier the closer the dates are to Christmas. If kids are on winter break, the theme park is sure to be busy!
  • On busier days, weekends and holidays, consider purchasing some of the upgrades. 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 VIP reservations for Santa meetings are also available for purchase.

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.

SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration Sesame Street Village entrance
Treat chalet in SeaWorld San Diego Sesame Street Christmas Village

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).

Holiday Nutcrackers on display

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.

SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration Santa's Chalet

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!

Penguin dressed like Santa at SeaWorld San Diego

Christmas Dining at SeaWorld San Diego

Looking for an extra special treat?

Dine With Orcas…and Santa!

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.

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.

Consider purchasing a Festive Food & Seasonal Sips sampling lanyard. They can be bought in two versions – 10 tastings or 5 tastings. These lanyards allow you to try any combination of food, drink or dessert samples, including alcoholic beverages for guests aged 21+.

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!

SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration

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).

SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration Winter Wonderland on Ice

Rudolph’s Christmastown

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.

SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

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.

SeaWorld San Diego Rudolph's Christmastown

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!

SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration Mrs. Claus and Elf

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 San Diego Christmas Celebration Nativity

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.

On select nights (including New Years Eve), look to the skies for a fireworks spectacular!

Dress Appropriate for the Weather

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. 

Cirque Christmas

*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

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