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SeaWorld vs San Diego Zoo | Which is Better?

SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo are some of the most popular attractions in San Diego, but contrary to popular belief, they also happen to be completely different parks. 

So what does each park offer?


In this page, we'll explain how these parks are different and what each park offers including animal exhibits, rides, shows, & pricing.

Table of Contents

General Overview & Differences

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is primarily a zoo, where visitors from all over the world travel to see wildlife that they typically can only see on tv.

san diego zoo entrance

The range of animals is impressive, as one moment you can find yourself touring the safari and seeing lions, while the next you're walking through the park and can hear the apes (loudly) communicating.

This park is heavily focused on visitors walking and sightseeing. Although it is a zoo, it also features tours, several shows, and rides that visitors can enjoy.

SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld is an animal theme park that also features wildlife that visitors from all over the world flock to see.

seaworld san diego orca encounter

Although the San Diego Zoo primarily focuses on land animals, SeaWorld focuses on marine animals, notoriously including killer whales, dolphins, sea lions, and seals.

This park is heavily focused on actionable entertainment including over a dozen adrenaline pumping rides, several shows and even an aquarium.

Animal Exhibits

San Diego Zoo Exhibits

Features over a dozen animal exhibits including the Polar Bear Plunge and the Gorilla Tropics.

polar bear plunge

SeaWorld San Diego Exhibits

Features 6 animal exhibits including the Killer Whales and the Wild Arctic where visitors will be able to see Beluga Whales and Walruses. 

seaworld beluga whales


The San Diego Zoo Features Less Than a Dozen Rides

The San Diego Zoo contrary to popular belief does feature rides including the Skyfari Aerial Tram, a Guided Bus Tour, and even a classic miniature train that has been around since 1948.

miniature train san diego zoo

SeaWorld San Diego has Over a Dozen Rides.

SeaWorld has a variety of options including extremely thrilling rides such as the Electric Eel and Manta. But they also have calmer experiences for families and kids such as Ocean Explorer & Sesame Street's Bay of Play.


San Diego Zoo Shows

The Zoo Showcases multiple shows famously including the Cheetah and Dog Show. Visitors will be able to see a Cheetah roaming around, but the catch is that the cheetah's best friend is a dog!

cheetah and dog

The pair actually grew up together and are inseparable, but the coolest feature is the calming effect it has on the cheetah. 

In fact, 30 years ago the San Diego Zoo began experimenting the effects that dogs had on other animals, once zoologists began to notice the calming effects dogs had on cheetahs.

cheetah and dog

Humans aren't the only ones that love dogs. 

SeaWorld San Diego Shows

SeaWorld has five shows including the Orca Encounter, Dolphin Days, Sea Lions live, Sea Rescue, and Cirque Electrique.

seaworld killer whale

Orca Encounter is easily the most famous show they offer as guests will be able to see how giant, powerful, smart and athletic a killer whale really is.

It's a completely different experience seeing this animal effortlessly jump several feet out of the water and create giant splashes.

Main Difference in Shows


The Zoo will focus primarily on land animals, whereas SeaWorld will focus mainly on Marine mammals.


The zoo does have a stadium used for a show, but primarily shows are in a more casual setting, where visitors can stop by and walk around rather than needing to reserve a seat.

san diego zoo walking

SeaWorld on the other hand has stadiums for all of their shows and guests will want to pay attention to show times as these shows fill up quickly.

seaworld san diego stadium

Park Size

San Diego Zoo

100 acres.


172 acres.



San Diego Zoo offers free parking.

SeaWorld San Diego parking can range from $20-$30 depending on which type of parking that you choose.


The San Diego Zoo is normally the cheaper option out of the two. However when you purchase with us, the prices will always be cheaper than the gate on both parks.

Save $20 per ticket on SeaWorld San Diego when you purchase with us.

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