Ranked: The Attractions of SeaWorld San Diego

Welcome back to another “Ranked” article here on Laughing Place. This time we’re heading to the original SeaWorld in San Diego, California. Opening in 1964, the park has gone through numerous changes over the years. Following backlash from the Blackfish documentary, the park has wisely turned its focus away from animal shows and towards themed and thrill attractions. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the attraction roster be drastically increased into what we have today.

UPDATED 3/1/22: I had the chance to ride SeaWorld San Diego’s newest roller coaster, Emperor, and I have placed it into my ranking. I also was able to ride Riptide Rescue for the first time, so that has also been added. Read on to see where they both fit into the line-up.

I won’t be including any of the “kiddie attractions” from the Sesame Street Bay of Play or Ocean Explorer areas in this list. So with that, let’s countdown the Top 8 10 attractions at SeaWorld San Diego!

10. Tidal Twister

This truly is a weird “roller coaster.” The best benefit to Tidal Twister is that it takes up an extremely small amount of space, perfect for a landlocked park like SeaWorld San Diego. It’s a ride that takes a long time to get going, and then doesn’t really do much beyond that. Since the ride opened in 2019, it’s seemed to be closed more often than it’s been open, having not operated since before the pandemic. The attraction’s manufacturer, Skyline Attractions, has said on Twitter that they are working with the park to get Tidal Twister up and running soon, so we’ll see what happens there.

9. Tentacle Twirl

The largest attraction in the relatively new Ocean Explorer area, Tentacle Twirl is your typical wave swinger attraction, just like Silly Symphony Swings at Disney California Adventure. The ride features a fun color scheme and design that gives me strong Jumpin’ Jellyfish vibes. Otherwise though, there’s not much to say about this run-of-the-mill ride.

8. Riptide Rescue

Riptide Rescue could almost be considered a grown-up Tentacle Twirl. The attraction has a similar circular motion as the aforementioned wave swinger, but throws in an extra spinning element. I was quite surprised by how fun this little, unassuming ride actually was. It’s nowhere near as dizzying as it may look, and the ride actually provides a couple decent pops of airtime. The location for Riptide Rescue can’t be beat, being placed right next to the water’s edge, providing some breathtaking views from the attraction and its queue.

7. SkyTower

The Skytower provides a six minute slowly rotating view of the beautiful San Diego scenery, including Mission Bay which the park is located next to. This is another attraction that has yet to reopen post-pandemic, but as it is the icon of the park, I can’t see them getting rid of this. Hopefully we’ll see the Skytower open again soon!

6. Shipwreck Rapids

One of SeaWorld’s earliest attempts at a well themed attraction is the park’s rapids ride, Shipwreck Rapids. Intertwined perfectly with the adjacent Shipwreck Reef Cafe, this beautifully themed rapids ride takes you through shipwrecks, caves and alongside some animal exhibits. My only complaint is a big one, that prevents me from riding it mostly every time is just how wet you get. There’s one waterfall that absolutely drenches you, no matter where you sit. If you’re visiting on a warm San Diego summer day, then be sure to check Shipwreck Rapids out.

5. Bayside Skyride

The Bayside Skyride offers one of the best views in any theme park anywhere, traveling over the water of Mission Bay and back. It truly feels like you’ve left SeaWorld and are just peacefully traveling into San Diego itself. The ride actually used to serve more of a transportation purpose, dropping guests off at the old Atlantis restaurant. Now however, the ride is just a pleasant scenic tour. A true gem at SeaWorld San Diego that I hope sticks around for a long time.

4. Journey to Atlantis

Believe it or not, Journey to Atlantis was SeaWorld San Diego’s first ever roller coaster. Which is more interesting considering it’s only really half a coaster, looked at more as a water ride. Not quite as extravagant as its Orlando counterpart, but far more than its San Antonio brother, Journey to Atlantis is a fun ride that doesn’t get you too wet. There’s a lot of moments you wouldn’t expect either, including a couple of brief coaster sections and an elevator lift.

3. Manta

Although Journey to Atlantis was technically the park’s first coaster, Manta is the park’s first true coaster. At the time Manta was built, there was a strict height limit for coasters in the park, so Manta had to stick incredibly low to the ground. Creatively, that may have worked in the rides favor, as it features two launches to pick up some speed, along with dives into trenches and some fun airtime moments. The theming for this coaster is pretty great too, taking you through an aquarium filled with manta rays in the queue, up to a Polynesian themed station that looks like something out of Volcano Bay. The ride and area surrounding it also feature a fantastic soundtrack created just for Manta that always ends up stuck in my head. I’ll include the Spotify playlist for it below, so it can get stuck in your head too.

2. Emperor

SeaWorld’s newest roller coaster, Emperor, stacks up pretty nicely at the #2 spot. Emperor is, without a doubt, the biggest coaster yet at the park, as part of the park’s transformation into more of a thrill park. This is a 150 ft tall Bolliger & Mabillard dive coaster, similar to SheiKra at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Griffon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, only 50 ft shorter. The ride itself is excellent, first providing an absolutely stunning view of the park and nearby Mission Bay, before dangling you over the edge of that 150 ft tall drop. If you’ve never rode a dive coaster before, this can be a pretty terrifying moment. From there, the coaster continues through some smooth, swooping loops. Nothing too impressive, but definitely fun! The one major disappointment I have with Emperor is the lack of placemaking and landscaping around the attraction. The coaster itself looks great, but there are no trees, nor shade structures in the queue. In fact, even the station only has two very small tarps to provide shade. SeaWorld definitely should do something about this before things get hot for the summer. Aside from that, Emperor is a fantastic addition to the original SeaWorld park!

1. Electric Eel

Now we come to my current favorite attraction at SeaWorld San Diego, Electric Eel. This Premier Rides Sky Rocket II is truly a blast. Pun intended, as this compact shuttle coaster blasts you off with a forwards launch, then a backwards and then a final forwards, each with increased speed to get you up to the top of the structure. Honestly, this ride shouldn’t be as fun as it is, but yet here it is at #1. The hangtime through the barrel roll at the top and the airtime dropping off that element are both absolutely elite. Even with the debut of the potentially more impressive Emperor next door, I still find Electric Eel to be the coaster that is just overall more fun!

I hope you all enjoyed this ranking of the attractions at SeaWorld San Diego. If you want to see some more theme park rankings, feel free to check out my other “Ranked” articles listed below:

Luke Manning
Luke is a fan of all things theme parks and self-proclaimed #1 fan of Joffrey’s Coffee, who lives in Kissimmee, FL