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SeaWorld San Antonio's Christmas Celebration
Written by Keri Stooksbury   
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My family just returned from an amazing, festive two days at SeaWorld San Antonio's Christmas Celebration. They're making spirits brighter than ever this holiday season, through January 2nd, with the largest lighting display in the state of Texas - over eight million sparkling lights! If you've ever thought your kids were too young to enjoy or remember a theme park, my experiences with two 3 year olds and a 5 year old have shown there is so much magic and sparkle revealed with younger kids.
 
I was ealtxcited to finally use our Preschool Fun Cards, which offer free annual season tickets to kids 5 and under. Sesame Street Bay of Play is the perfect area of the park to start your day and features five toddler-sized rides, a play structure (with very well separated areas for tots and bigger kids) as well as a splash pad. Abby Cadabbys Rocking Wave was our family's favorite - a spin on the usual "pirate ship" type ride that spins and sways in all directions. It was fast and thrilling, but tame enough for our kids. My kids also loved the zippy Shamu Express Kids Roller Coaster. I would recommend passing Big Birds Spinning Reef - this mini ferris wheel had so many double safety checks and riders getting on and off that just riding with a small line took nearly 45 min. In that time we saw Abby Cadabby's Rocking Wave run over 5x with no line! There is a stage area featuring musical performances (and snow!) with Sesame Street characters followed by a meet-and-greet. These particular shows are standing-room only and are in an outdoor area that gets a lot of walk-through traffic. We couldn't quite get into standing up for this show but the characters are available at various listed times if you'd like to meet and take photos with them. Nearby was a well-shaded playground that made for a welcome line-free play break.
 
altSeaWorld San Antonio also has a variety of sit-down shows that your family is sure to enjoy. During the Christmas Celebration, every single show is holiday-themed and features holiday decorations and songs. Shamu Christmas: Miracles featured live musical performers but did little in the way to educate about the killer whales. By comparison, A Beluga Christmas was led by a trainer and featured a lot of information about the beluga whales and dolphins featured in the show. Two shows were super kid-friendly - Clyde & Seamore's Countdown To Christmas, a slapstick show about getting ready for Santa in order to help an Elf retire, and Pets Ahoy, featuring the comical talents of locally rescued dogs, cats, birds and even a pig! These shows were a welcome break from the sun and walking around and none lasted more than 30 minutes.
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My husband and I used the shows as times to break off and try out the thrilling adult roller coasters on our own. Each are entirely unique from each other, offering different high thrills. The Steel Eel features a vertical drop of 15 stories followed by a series of camelbacks that provide periods of weightlessness. The Great White offers 360-degree flips and shoots along at nearly 50 mph on a floorless run of breathtaking loops, corkscrews and thrilling curves. Wave Breaker is new for 2017 and has you straddling a jet-ski style car, racing out over the lake and launching 60 feet into the air through banks and turns. The coasters were amazing and the best part? SHORT LINES! Opening weekend was a perfect time to race through lines!
 
The park was only open 1-9pm daily during our trip so we really needed two days to experience the rides and see all of the shows and animal exhibits. On our second day we immediately checked out the dolphins at Discovery Point and the huge shark and fish aquariums at Explorer's Reef, both of which are immediately to the left of the main entrance. We also were able to see the penguin habitat and Animal Conservation Center (mainly reptiles) which are close to the thrill coasters and Pacific Point Preserve, home to many sea lions!
 
altLet's talk FESTIVE. In 2016, SeaWorld San Antonio more than quadrupling their number of holiday lights from 1 million to 5 million. In 2017, the park added another 3 million lights, bringing the total up to 8 million. All lights are LED-based and use up to 90% less energy than traditional holiday lights - some are even powered through solar energy! At night the park is truly magical - the large oak trees and landscaping are showered in multi-colored lights, similar to Zoo Lights at Houston Zoo. SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration also features a variety of holiday-themed activities, shows and a selection of favorite holiday foods. You can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus as well as Rudolph and his friends Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and Bumble during photo and dining opportunities. My family was a guest at Dinner with Rudolph and Friends and my older son's reaction says it all - "They have everything I love and I loved it so much I had seconds!" The tented hall was decorated with blue lights and snowflakes and the Christmas buffet was full of family favorites (my kids loved the hot cocoa!). Rudolph and Clarice are brought by your table and Yukon Cornelius and Bumble are at a set area that you are brought to. Most tables cleared out within an hour. At theme parks like Walt Disney World you gain a huge time savings by paying for the character meals to skip the character lines in the park. When we visited SeaWorld San Antonio the crowds seemed rather light so the lines for character meet and greets looked fairly speedy. If you're looking for a relaxed meal and more personal interactions with the characters, Dinner with Rudolph and Friends is a win. A similar dinner with Santa and Mrs. Claus is also offered. For a detailed list of holiday activities, click here.

SeaWorld will have a variety of discounts available through its Blue Friday promotion. Enjoy discounts of up to 50% off on animal interaction programs and tours, 40% off on camp programs and 30% off on themed dines and SeaWorld online store merchandise. Offers will be available at SeaWorldSanAntonio.com beginning November 23 (Thanksgiving Day).
 
Check out a few of my family's SeaWorld San Antonio adventures on our Instagram!
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