The good and the bad of two of San Diego’s most popular family attractions.
By Judi Curry
For the first time in many years, I had the opportunity to baby-sit two of my grandchildren. Actually, these were two of my four great-grandchildren, and, after swimming all day the first day they stayed with me, I realized we would have to do something else or all of us would go nuts in the remaining five days. Thanks to a great friend, I was given complimentary passes for three to Sea World and, in spite of my broken shoulder, decided to drive the short distance instead of taking a bus or taxi. The tickets also included the $15 parking fee.
We parked near the entrance – or what I thought was the entrance – only to find that there was a lot of construction going on and the entrance had been moved about an eighth of a mile from where we parked. (If you have ever had a broken shoulder you know that each step jiggles the two broken bones, and you keep feeling your shoulder to see if the bones are sticking out yet.)
The letter I received told me to pick up my passes at the “Will Call” but….there was no “will call.” I asked the guide where we should go to pick them up and he looked at the huge line where “ordinary” people were picking up their tickets and said “at the end of this line.” I must have looked like I was in pain; a sling on my left arm; a brace on my right arm for my carpal tunnel, and dragging two kids – 6 and 10 – and he took pity on me. He said, “stand right there and I’ll ‘sneak’ you into a fast moving line.” Which he did. Bless him!
We were given our tickets at a regular window. The complimentary passes saved us quite a bit of money. Lily, age 6, would have cost $71 to enter, and Kailey and I were $79 each. We then stood in line at the entrance while a security guard prodded my fanny pack with a long stick. I presume he was looking for food or water, but even though I may have a big fanny, my pack was too small to harbor any contraband! We were given approval to enter the park.
Almost twenty steps inside the park, we were greeted by an onslaught of photographers asking if it was ok to take our picture. Why not, I figured. I won’t buy it anyway. (HA!) Two were taken and we were told where to look for them when we left the park. We grabbed a map from the stand – admonishing us to only “take one per family” and Kailey, my 10 year old great-granddaughter became our navigator. (She had been to Sea World once before, when she was 6, and she knew just what she wanted to visit.) And, of course, she wanted to go to the Eastern-most part of the park to see the Wild Arctic.
So we trekked across the hot asphalt, smelling the popcorn, the BBQ, and the Smokehouse as we traveled along the path. I am not sure that the girls really enjoyed the exhibit; but they did get a close-up view of the polar bears; the beluga whale, etc. But, checking the timer, we only had a few minutes to go to the next exhibit – the Dolphin Show. We made it in plenty of time, only to discover that the show began at 12:15 and the Whale Show began at 1:00. The next showing of the whales was at 5:00 so we decided to see that show first and then go to the Dolphin show later because it played twice before the 5:00 show. And…we were very disappointed in the whale show. Maybe it was because the trainers do not get in the water anymore; maybe it was because the whales main thrust was to splash the first few rows of visitors; or maybe it was because we have seen it so many times – on television and in person – that it just was not exciting anymore. And…it only lasted 25 minutes! The Dolphin show was not until 2:15, so what to do next?
Kailey wanted to ride the Manta coaster. It was pretty scary as riders above our heads were yelling and screaming as they flew over us. Lily also wanted to ride it but I was sure she would change her mind as we neared the entrance. We stood in line for 35 minutes. I offered all sorts of bribery to both girls to change their minds. (Guess who wouldn’t have ridden it for a million dollars!) But they stood firm. Lily just reached the height restriction – damn – and soon they were in the harness and ready to go. I was told to go and meet them at the exit, and no sooner had I arrived, ONE MINUTE LATER, they were off the ride and there to greet me. I asked “what happened” – thinking that Lily got cold feet and they both got off, but not the case at all. The ride was OVER! One frigging minute for standing in line for 35? They both loved it, but neither asked to go again!
They were now thirsty, and they wanted me to buy them a drink with “Shamu” as the lid. Are you kidding me? $17.95! Each! I “splurged” and bought them medium size cokes that cost $4 each. As I looked around me and saw people drinking out of those glasses I mentally calculated how much they must be making on those glasses. Outrageous!
It was time to go to the Dolphin show and I am so glad that we did not miss it. It was, by far, the best of the shows we saw, and far superior to the Shamu show. Besides the dolphins, the dancers and aerobatic gyrations were beautiful to watch. The beautiful live parrots and other birds and pilot whales that were part of the show were extraordinary. The girls were entranced and never fidgeted as they did in the other shows.
Interestingly enough, after the show they wanted to go home and swim. It was a very warm day; they had had enough and I was more than willing to oblige them. But of course as we began our walk back to the exit, we passed the place where our pictures were on display, and in spite of saying – to myself – I would not purchase them, I did purchase one at the cost of $17! After all, it is now a memory with a record. The walk back to our car seemed not to take any time at all and we talked about how interesting the day had been. (And mentally I thanked John and Mike for the tickets. The cost would have been very close to $300!)
THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
Last week I saw a coupon for the Children’s Museum advertised on-line. It seemed like a pretty good deal – admission for 2 for $10.00. I accidentally bought two of them but it worked out fine because it also allowed my daughter and myself entry into the museum.
It was the first time I had been to the new museum. It is over on Island Street, one block south of Market. Parking was difficult – $10 to park in the structure; but I did find a place on the street.
We were greeted by the ticket seller with smiles and every question we asked was answered. Not to my satisfaction, but answered. There are no printed “maps” of the three floor structure and although it is an “interactive” museum, my 10 year old granddaughter was bored. There were cubby holes to crawl into and listen to earphones; there was a “car” that could be painted with the most awful color paint I have ever seen; there was clay that could be sculpted; pieces of wooden slats and blocks to make structures. One of the workshops offered was a “magnetic mash up” where pieces of chalk were pummeled to make a fine dust; magnet droppings were added, and using a rolling ball, glue and the dust, designs were made. The suggested age was 4 and up.
As a former principal I had trouble with the entire set-up. The person leading the workshop spoke for 16 minutes before the kids were allowed to start the work. The vocabulary used was way over the heads of these children. It made me reiterate to my daughter that if I ever had to be put in a funny farm NEVER let them put me in an arts and crafts room like this one. If these 4 year olds – and up – were confused, I know that I would never have been able to create anything – and neither did most of these children.
We wandered around the 3 floors of the museum – the girls enjoyed the “rock climbing” wall, but it was not very challenging to either of them. The most fun Lily, the 6 year old had, was in creating a “man” made out of trash. Environmental issues is the theme of the museum, and she had fun with her creation. My other granddaughter became bored soon and never finished what she started.
We were told that in September these exhibits will close down while an entire new design is built. My first reaction was to say “good” because what I saw would not encourage me to return with my other grandchildren. Neither of those attending with me would go back; when I asked them what the best part of the day was my oldest granddaughter said “buying the potato chips for the ride home.”
I think the idea of a Children’s Museum is an excellent one; I just don’t think that this exhibit was truly geared to young children. Vocabulary, written words, hands-on activities need to be better thought out. These are young children; they have a short attention span; little, if any learning took place, although the gentleman doing the trash workshop was personable and answered all questions, but still over the head of the audience.
To say that I was disappointed is mild. I thought the museum would be a happy experience for the girls but it wasn’t. It was only a “blah” time. I hope that the new exhibits are a better match for youngsters.
Your article is right on, Gramma Judi! I’m a gramma of 6 (all ages 9-23) and since all live in San Diego, I’ve been “on the circuit” for about 18 yrs. I’ve finally decided the best value is to be found in the relatively free experiences such as hikes (Torrey Pines State Park, Torrey Pines Glider area, Penasquitos Reserve, Dixon Lake, Poway Lake, Old Town State Park, and Swami’s in Encinitas. These can usually be done in the morning followed by lunch out or a picnic. I also like the year round passes at the San Diego zoo and Wild Annimal Park (or whatever they’re calling it now!)! :) I used to get year passes to Legoland and Seaworld somewhere in those 13 yrs., but they’re become financially off limits for many families. I much preferred the old Children’s Museum downtown. It had the feeling of unused, unplanned space that one could find real treasure in. The new one is more like a “Disney experience”.
Thanks, Gramma. This was the first time I was responsible for taking the kids someplace. Usually I just tagged along with my children. I was sure disappointed in the museum, but have taken all of your suggestions down for the next time.
And as far as Seaworld – that’s my last time there.
Welton Jones says
Sea World? Jail for fish.