This information last updated 9/9/2001.
|Cirque de la Mer||Clydesdale Hitching||Dolphin Discovery||Fireworks Spectacular*|
|Fools With Tools||Penguin Presentation||Pirates 4D||Sea Lions Tonight#|
|The Shamu Adventure||Shamu's House of Douse*||Wings of the World||World Rhythms on Ice*|
# = Night time show, Summer and holidays
* = Night time show, Summer only
Everyone is going to have their own opinion of the shows. Obviously, the descriptions I give will be full of personal bias. I try to contain that within the Commentary section that follows each description. The shows are listed alphabetically.
The park has several nighttime shows, most of which run only during the Summer season as part of what they call "Rockin' Summer Nights" (Sea Lions Tonight appears on busy days, such as holiday weekends, throughout the year). Summer Nights "makes over" the park in a party-like atmosphere. Expect shows very much unlike those you see during the day! Summer Nights is the sole reason that I have continually renewed my 12 Month pass since 1992.
This show runs only during the Summer season. It is a loose adaptation of Cirque du Soliel, and is played out in the Waterski Stadium. I like the show, especially for what it is, but a couple of my friends didn't. I'll admit that there are some elements that seem like they could have been used much better (such as the water balls). Also, the plot is very, very weak - strange sea creatures come to visit the humans or something like that. It just doesn't play well, and they would have been better off without the goofy costumes and weird explanations.
Special Note: The first time I saw this show, I decided I would video tape it from a higher seat right in front of the sound booth. What a mistake! A lot of action takes place near the ground right at the bottom of the seating area. The design of the stadium makes it impossible to see about 20% of the show from at least 80% of the stadium (especially when people stand with their kids held high to get a better view). Therefore, the viewing stategy for this show is to GET THERE EARLY, at least 1/2 hour before showtime, and wait for the stadium to open. As soon as it does, head for a seat in the lower section closer to the center of the stadium. PLEASE be careful and don't trample or shove anyone. There are plenty of quality seats but you'll want to be there early to get one.
Platinum passholders will be pleased to know that the reserved seats are in a prime viewing area.
More of a demonstration than a show, watch as the Budweiser Clydesdale team is hitched to a replica of a late 1800's beer delivery wagon, which is then driven around sections of the park. The presentation itself isn't that exciting, but the horses are very pretty and you allowed to get close to them for photos and such.
On a recent visit, they had one of the Clydesdales out for guest photo opportunities. They were taking pictures with their cameras because they want you to buy one of their photos, but they were also allowing and assisting with guest using their own cameras, a classy move. The location was next to the Rental center far enough off the main walkway so as not to impede traffic. I don't know whether they will continue this; some of the factors include how much they make from the sale of photos, how the guests react, and most importantly, how the horses handle the extra commotion.
Commentary: Why Clydesdales in a marine park? They're August Busch III's babies.
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The show starts out with lighthouse caretaker "random name" warming up the crowd by singing and playing on the guitar his/her choice of songs, usually 60's and 70's classics. The "caretaker" is used throughout the show to move it along.
This show primarily features Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins doing what pleases the crowds most, swimming really fast and jumping really high. On occasion, you may see a different species such as a common dolphin or pilot whale added to the show.
The show has a 'gotcha' plot twist that suckers most of the audience. This is played out in a variety of ways, so what really seems to 'get' people one show may totally unravel itself in another.
Commentary: I'd rather they retire the Lighthouse Keeper character, as he or she is sometimes distracting, and other times downright annoying.
The Red, Bright and Blue fireworks show is one of the star features of Summer Nights. If you're in the park during the Summer season, see this show! The show uses a variety of specialty shells including some animal shapes. There are about 200 shells in all (it's really hard to count accurately).
The best viewing locations are from Sea Lion stadium, the grassy hill just behind Flamingo Cove (facing Mission Bay), and Shamu stadium. They also project the fireworks onto the Shamu Vision screen, which is pretty awesome. The soundtrack, which is bits and pieces of mostly rock songs thrown together in a hodge podge fashion, is played throughout the park and is piped into the show stadiums. The fireworks are launched from a barge behind the Pirates 4D theatre in case you want to get really close.
This show stars Clyde and Seamore in a "Home Improvement" -style parody. It has a preshow that runs while the audience is entering the stadium, so you may wish to get there early. Also, seating is very limited and it is not unusual to see the stadium entrances closed 10 minutes or more before showtime.
You can read a description of the show on the Spoilers page.
Commentary: The Fools preshow is not very entertaining. As a matter of fact, it is annoying. Cindy S. wants me to let you all know that as I was taking notes, I wrote the word EXTREMELY in 2" high all-caps to denote just how annoying it is. On to the show. I wish I could report differently, but it's just ok. They have made tweaks to the show, primarily removing tricks (these were NOT behaviors) that were not working very well. Unfortunately, the material is quite weak. Amazingly, San Antonio was able to make the show work pretty well. Sigh. Don't be afraid to pass this one by.
Am I bitter about something? I don't think so. I just think the show isn't very good, and is not nearly up to par with any of the other shows they've had. Several of my friends refuse to see the show again after seeing it once.
Like the Clydesdale hitching, more of a demonstration than a show, but this one has more substance. A host is in the public viewing area of the Penguin Habitat, explaining Sea World's penguin research program while another employee inside the habitat feeds the birds and gives them a quick look-over. Guests are encouraged to ask questions. The first presentation is usually within the first half hour of the park's opening. The second is usually in the early afternoon, about 1:30 or so. Plan ahead if this sounds like something you wish to see!
This is an effects-enhanced 3D movie. The basic plot is that a pirate captain (Leslie Nielsen) has returned to a deserted (or so he thinks) island to recover the treasure he left there some years prior. "Interesting" things happen as he and his crew work their way across the island. For a fuller description of the movie, have a look at the Spoilers page.
The viewing strategy for this show is to find out when the next one starts and get in line about twenty minutes prior. They let the next show's worth of guests queue up as soon as the previous show has loaded, but unless you're in the mood to stand around in the sun for almost an hour (there's minimal seating available in the waiting area and no shade), you're better off going to one of the nearby exhibits to kill some time. Also, be prepared for a long wait overall; the shows are spaced 45 minutes to an hour apart.
A couple of warnings: Put your valuable electronic equipment away or it may get hurt (they don't stress this enough when you enter the theatre). Also, if you or your children are frightened of bees, spiders, or skeletons, you may wish to wait this one out.
Commentary: I really have a hard time with rating this show. It's cute in its own weird way, but I'm thinking it's really not a good fit for a theme park (though it came out of a theme park in England). It has a lot of slapstick and some bawdy toilet humor. I'd expect it to be rated PG for violence, toilet humor, and scary scenes were it in a theatre.
My overall grade for this attraction is B-. It has some good 3D effects, though it uses many of the same tired types of gags as the others in its genre. The enhancements (the 4D part) work pretty well and are not particularly overdone. It's not on my list of must-sees, but neither is it something to avoid. I think it has poor repeat value.
"Is it over, or what?" - Anonymous park guest
This show parodies the other shows in the park, as well as popular culture. It used to be a laugh riot, but in the last two years it has lost its edge. The plot of this show is that you are watching previews of the upcoming Fall season shows on Cable Channel 99 (which is an offshoot of the Fools With Tools premise), with the animals playing out the lead roles. See if you can follow this: A sea lion playing the part of Dolly the Dolphin who is playing the part of Lassie. It's supposed to be a parody of a parody. It's confusing to most.
Tips: Be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to show time, both to get a good seat and to watch the pre-show.
See the show that begins 1/2 hour before the fireworks (if there is one). Sea Lion Stadium is one of the primo fireworks viewing areas, especially the upper rows of the stadium.
Commentary: The show changes slightly every year, and is much weaker now than in years past. I think it might help if they mentioned they were going to be making fun of other shows and attractions, because a lot of people just weren't getting the point of the show. The ending really needs some work, as evidenced by the quote at the top of this description. This used to be a really awesome show. Now, it's just ok.
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"You've got whale!" - Jeff Moxley
Jack Hanna (on tape) is the narrator of this show, which features killer whales. The premise of the Shamu show is to educate the public about their habitat and lifestyle. Video is used extensively throughout, with the whales (actually, they are dolphins, but thatís another topic) performing behaviors similar to those shown on-screen. Plus, they jump and splash a lot, which is what people really want to see.
The Shamu show is the most popular in the park. Because of this, Sea World usually opens the stadium 45 minutes prior to show time (unlike the other shows' 30 minutes). Shamu stadium has about 5,500 seats. They fill up quickly and it is not unusual to find the stadium near capacity 20 minutes prior to show time. Keep this in mind; if you want one of the coveted lower center section seats, you should be waiting at the gates about an hour prior to show time.
The disabled seating areas are just above the Soak Zone, though there's no guarantee of staying dry if the big whales (Corky and Ulisses) are out. There are a fair number of viewing positions here. Use the elevator located in the northern Skywalk if you don't want to make the climb up a somewhat steep ramp.
I think I managed to steer clear of this show all season last year. Synopsis: Whales. Jumping. Dance music. Party-like atmosphere. There's not much to it in the way of storyline or structure. It's all about watching the whales and trainers play and having a good time.
Commentary: The show is pretty weak, even for a "Let's watch the whales jump" affair, with an even weaker ending. The overuse of strobes and poor use of other lighting make this a hard show to watch, and even harder to videotape. It has thankfully gotten a little better this year, after last year's fiasco.
I know I seem to be overly critical of this show, but others hold the same opinion. As a matter of fact, a couple park employees gave it a much more scathing review. Until 1997, the nighttime Shamu show, formerly known as Shamu's Night Magic, was very fun. They changed it almost entirely every year, which made it a must see every time I went during the Summer. I was disappointed in 1998's show, and even more so when they carbon-copied it for 1999. They've made it somewhat less hip-hop and therefore more crowd friendly this year. It's now a maybe-see, but if you can, opt for the second show which will be less crowded.
Some people, mainly bird lovers, find these shows very interesting. Others are bored to tears. While I won't rate this as a must-see, it really is worth the experience. Among all the animal shows, this one is by far the most unpredictable. Although they have managed to train the birds to react to stimuli (food), they quite frequently flub their cues, with sometimes humorous, other times tragic, results. The birds are completely free-flight, which makes it even harder to control them.
A variety of domestic and foreign species of birds are used in the show. Some of the birds are released from the big white blimp-shaped balloon that you see bobbing overhead throughout the day.
The Bird Show arena is turned into an ice skating and gymnastics extravaganza. Various performers, often including former Olympians, strut their stuff on the ice and on the mats. The entire show is set to a 'world music' soundtrack.
There is a warm-up act consisting of some Stomp wanna-bes. Fortunately, they have cut their stage time in half and have added a caballero twirling bolos. This person also appears throughout the show. Flaming bolos are an awesome sight.Tip: This show, as wonderful as it is, is frequently overlooked due to the scheduling of Sea Lions Tonight and House of Douse. Hardly enough time exists to see one of those shows, then run over to the arena before it fills up. Also, depending on the day and how carefully you planned, you may end up having to choose between this show and one of the others. When making your plans, figure that each show runs about 25 minutes, and it will take a minimum of ten minutes to get to the Bird Show arena from the other locations. The stadium is tiny, and the best seats are gone within 5 minutes after the stadium opens.
Commentary: This year's show seems to be a lot stronger overall than in years past, and I highly recommend it. The lighting definitely needs work; don't expect to get good video footage. My experience using both film and digital cameras without flash was poor. The skating is pretty good, but the rink is too small for the skaters to build up enough speed to do anything really impressive.
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