Last week my family and I took the week off to have a nice break from the heat. We headed down to San Diego, California! It was perfect and exactly what we needed! We spent a day at SeaWorld San Diego and today I'm sharing my experience with finding gluten free and food allergen friendly options there.
Where We Stayed...
The food options and ammenities in the hotel included:
- Morning breakfast buffet: Every morning started with a free breakfast buffet with omelets, pancakes, french toast, yogurt, fruit, sausage, bacon and hashbrowns available. It got a little difficult for me for the week as the only things I could have were the omelet, bacon, sausage and hashbrowns. So I did make a trip to the store to get some gluten free cereal and a gluten free oatmeal cup to change thing up a little.
- Evening reception: Every evening the hotel offered a free evening reception with snacks and drinks. Because of COVID precautions, the snacks were handed to us in individual portion plastic containers. One night was chips and salsa with veggies and dip, the next night was Chex Mix (which I couldn't have). It was hit and miss if I could have the snacks or not.
- In room ammenities: Our room had a fridge, microwave and a Keurig coffee maker which made it easy to keep meals or snacks available.
Getting Ready for SeaWorld
Because I grew up in Orange County California, San Diego was often a day trip or a fun weekend getaway. I loved going to SeaWorld as a kid. To get ready for this trip, I glanced at the dining options before we left and was excited to see that there were options available to make eating easy for me.
But then we got there.
And I found eating was going to be a HUGE struggle for me.
SeaWorld Meal Plan Bundles
Looking at SeaWorld's meal plans available, there are several different rotating types of meal plans available. The two we found and utilized were:
The Dine n' Drink Bundle offers the ability to add on six food or drink items of your choice. Food, drinks, beer, wine and cocktails are included in this bundle. You are given a lanyard and punch card, or you can use a scan code on your computer that you use each place you go to. There aren't as many restrictions on what restaurants or places you can utilize the dine n' drink bundle at and it's perfect if you eat and drink light.
The other dining pass available was the all day dining deal. When you check into the park you are given a wristband you scan throughout the day. You can eat at participating locations within the park every hour and enjoy an entree, dessert and non alcoholic beverage. The places available to eat at were more limited.
Are Dining Deals Worth it?
With a teenage boy and a picky eater, yes! My teenager ate. And ate. And ate. And we didn't have to stress about the money once. We also have a picky eater. She grazed, and grazed and grazed all day and we didn't have to worry about making her eat every meal so we got every dollar out of the prices we paid. What we didn't like? We struggled with the availability. Some restaurants had limited times open. Some of the restaurants weren't even open but we didn't find out until we were inside the park!
The Fine Print on the All Day Dining Deal
Gluten Free and Food Allergen Friendly Options at SeaWorld San Diego
Here is what we found for SeaWorld San Diego:
Our Experience with the Dining Deal at SeaWorld...
I would rate the dining deal option a C-.
- Lines: Long. We waited at least 30 minutes at one place and the other two restaurants we waited close to an hour at each.
- Availability: Poor. When we went, Explorer's Cafe was closed. We didn't find out until we were in the park! Big Bird's Bistro had very limited hours. They didn't allow us to use the all day dining wristbands at Coral Market or the Pretzel Shop. We were told by workers they were only good at the restaurants. For the dine and drink add on, the choices were a little more and I opted to split my meals with the kids all day dining wristbands and we used my dine and drink pass for snacks for them. (You'll see why below!)
- Food Choices: Great if you don't have food allergies! The kids and my husband said the food was really good!
Gluten Free and Food Allergen Friendly Options
Looking ahead at the menu, I was excited to see that there would be fish tacos I could have at Explorer's Cafe for dinner. And I could enjoy some barbeque chicken at Calypso Bay Smokehouse for lunch. My options became very slim once I got into the park. Explorer's Cafe was closed, but we didn't know until we got inside the park!
That took me down to Calypso Bay Smokehouse--an hour plus wait for lunch! And when I asked for a small accomodation on one of my items (serving me a salad sans croutons), the young worker seemed very confused on if she could make a salad without croutons to accomodate me. A couple of workers had a hard time answering what ingredients were in their food at the Smokehouse. I just got really frustrated trying to eat. The line was over an hour long wait again at the Smokehouse for dinner and the kids were hungry so they decided to try Shipwreck Cafe instead of wait in line again. The line there was only forty five minutes. They ate at Mama Stella's twice for snacks (I didn't find anything I could eat there except grapes) and they wanted to have something different for dinner.
The only thing available that I could eat at Shipwreck Cafe with some accomodations were french fries and grapes. The combination seemed a little lethal to my stomach so I skipped dinner. Big Bird's Bistro was closed early and didn't have much I could eat anyway other than maybe the pineapple soft serve if it was dairy free. Going hungry was something I decided was better than being sick the next day.
- Call ahead and see what restaurants and menu item availability there will be BEFORE you go. We found not all restaurants served exactly what was on their menu and calling ahead may have saved us from being surprised with restaurant closures once we got into the park.
- Bring snacks!
- I would opt out of the all day dining deal and opt in for the dine and drink plan if you have food allergies.
Have a Great Trip! ---Traci
PS: I get that my opinion on this was my own and may not express the opinion someone else experiences. If you had a good or bad experience, please share so we can all enjoy a great trip! I also wasn't paid to go to SeaWorld. In fact we found out the DAY AFTER we went to SeaWorld that they were offering a veterans deal where we could've had 4 free tickets. That deal was only offered to active military offers when we booked even though we called beforehand and even asked at the gates if veterans were eligible as the wording used in their advertisements and on id.me were vague. we were told no by employees. If they had said, "no but TOMORROW the deal goes live for veterans..." I feel like there was a lot of vague wording in some of their advertisements and 'surprises' once you got into the park. We would still go again for sure, but we learned a lot this trip.