Southern Californians seeking seasonal fun often look to the area’s theme parks. This year is no different and many amusement parks are taking on the challenge of providing safe family activities. Despite the cancellation of Disneyland’s Oogie Boogie Bash, other parks are stepping up their Halloween offerings, with important safety changes to reflect the current climate. As a result, SeaWorld San Diego (currently operating as a zoo with no rides), offers their annual SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular 2020 with a few noticeable adjustments.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular in San Diego 2020

I attended opening day of the Spooktacular event with my two kids, aged 4 and 8, to show you SeaWorld’s newest offering. Let’s take a look at what’s included with a regular park ticket (and what activities require additional cost), event changes from previous years, and whether the Dine + Drink add-on is worth the extra cost.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
All guests ages 2+ are instructed to wear a facial covering.

What is the SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular?

SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular is included with your regular park admission, with available add-on activities at an additional cost. The theme park is only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at this time and requires a reservation to ensure limited park capacity. 

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Humorous and silly Halloween decor.

My two youngest children and I attended the event in San Diego, which varies from the central Florida version. Some of the activities are similar (including Sesame Street themed cookie decorating). However, some activities like the Halloween maze in the Orlando park doesn’t happen in the California theme park. Also noticeably different is the lack of rides. Certain rides are open in the Orlando theme park. However, all rides are closed at San Diego’s SeaWorld (though some of the indoor walk-through exhibits and aquariums are open). Read more about the SeaWorld Orlando Halloween Spooktacular here.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Orca Encounter viewing area is open to see the killer whales.

SeaWorld Spooktacular Atmosphere

There’s really absolutely nothing scary at the Spooktacular event. SeaWorld’s Halloween theme park event is family-friendly, with a very light fall theme. There are a variety of seasonal scenes tucked into the landscaping, including silly ocean-inspired pumpkins, sparkling fish and large inflatables.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
The sparkling fish decor at the dolphin theater makes for a fun photo spot. 

Oversized pieces of candy are held by whimsical octopus tentacles. Kids can follow this colorful “candy trail” towards the “Candy Garden” area.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
My kids enjoyed spotting these candy trail signs tucked into the landscaping.
, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
More octopus tentacles to follow on the “candy trail”.
  • Obscure Halloween music plays over the speakers throughout the entire park.
  • All animal presentations, which include Dolphin Days, Orca Encounter and Sea Lions Live, are kept to their usual theming. 
  • There is a colorful Dia de los Muertos section near the bat ray touch pools that features traditional ofrenda displays.
, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Dia de los Muertos ofrenda near the bat ray touch pools.

Spooktacular Safety Measures

With trick or treating canceled in many Southern California communities, families are seeking Halloween fun that maintains proper safety measures. How did SeaWorld San Diego do on that note?

With SeaWorld operating as a zoo, they’ve been able to reopen by following certain protocols. All guests are temperature screened before entering the park. Signage is posted throughout the park to remind guests about maintaining social distancing, facial coverings and staying within health and safety guidelines.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Lots of reminders to wear facial coverings (though I witness plenty not following the guidelines).

Cleaning has been heightened at the 40-acre theme park. During my visit, I noticed employees deep cleaning dining tables and wiping queue railings. There are hand sanitation stations scattered all over the park.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Saw these hand sanitizer jugs everywhere we went in the park!

All children 2+ are required to wear facial masks. Facial coverings must be worn at all times, unless sitting down to dine or when in a relaxation area. Unfortunately, as the day went on, I saw fewer guests fully following this guideline.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
One of the Relaxation Zones where guests can remove their face masks.
, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Another Relaxation Zone (this one has the added benefit of the bayside breeze)

While it was very easy to maintain the social distancing factor when walking through the parks, many guests were removing masks or tucking them under their chin. I didn’t see any employees asking guests to put masks back on. But on that note, there just weren’t a lot of employees present either.

Social Distancing in the Park

The wide-open pathways at SeaWorld San Diego make it easy for families to maintain distance. However, it’s a little more challenging in a few of the congested areas, including the touch pools. While there are markers on the ground to remind guests of 6′ distance, many guests simply don’t pay attention.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Guests often forgot to maintain social distance at touch pools.

There aren’t any dividers to keep parties separated at the touch pools. I can’t just blame the kids either, as often there were adult guests rubbing elbows with my children as they reached to touch the bat rays!

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Crowds gathered around touch pools.

SeaWorld did a great job with keeping distance between guests during the animal presentations. Show stadiums are clearly marked, instructing guests where to sit with their own group and which areas to avoid. Naturally, the limited capacity for shows means that guests should arrive early to grab the best seat.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Social distancing in effect at the Dolphin Days show. The theater felt well-distanced and spacious. 
, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Guests must wear facial coverings at all times during animal shows.

Costume Dress Up for Kids

Children up to age 12 are encouraged to dress up in costumes when attending SeaWorld’s Spooktacular. It’s an enjoyable way to get into the seasonal spirit, but not necessary. In fact, the weather should determine your outfit for the day, as it can get extremely hot in October. My kids wore Halloween costumes for part of the day, then changed into second outfits that I brought with us. There is a specific costume dress code and costumes are subject to approval in the park. I’d recommend reading the SeaWorld website for more details.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
My kids wore their Halloween costumes until the heat got the best of them and they changed.

New for 2020 – Kid’s Costume Contest – no additional cost, located at the Fall Festival Stage near Nautilus Amphitheater. Judges will choose favorite costumes in the categories of creativity, spookiness, silliness and cuteness! Winning costumes receive SeaWorld Bucks, redeemable for food or merchandise purchases in the park. Interested guests should sign up outside of Nautilus Amphitheater 45 minutes before contest start time. Space is limited and based on a first-come-first-served basis. Facial coverings must be worn with costumes.

Halloween Spooktacular Candy Collection 

The trick or treat portion of SeaWorld Spooktacular for 2020 is very different from years past. For instance, this year only children are able to participate in candy collection. Also, trick or treating was included in the ticket price during previous years. This year, each participant must purchase a special SeaWorld treat collection bag. Guests may not bring their own bags, due to health and cleanliness standards. At $2.49 it’s a reasonable price and it still allows kids to collect treats. A portion of the sale on the bags also goes towards the SeaWorld conservation fund.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Guests must purchase SeaWorld treat bags to participate in candy collection.

On the day of my visit, there was only a single candy drop location. However since that first weekend, SeaWorld Spooktacular has since added several more candy collection locations around the park. All collection areas will operate with the same “socially distanced” candy drop booths that deposit treats through a no-contact funnel system.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Catching treats via a contact-free candy chute.

Each child has a turn, holding up their treat bag to the plastic chute. Inside the booth, an employee uses a scoop to pour treats into the chute. Kids catch the treats in their bag on the opposite side. Candy collection was a highlight for my kids during this event.

Other SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular Activities

Outside of the Spooktacular Candy Trail, what other Halloween activities are available for kids? Some activities are included while others incur an additional fee. I’ll outline each next:

Pumpkin Hunt – For an extra cost of $12, purchase a map at the SeaWorld Shop near the front of the park. Follow the key on the map to find each of the animal-themed pumpkins around the park.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
The Pumpkin Hunt is a worthwhile add-on for families.

Hint for the scavenger hunt – You’re looking for real, hand-painted, pumpkins that are hidden in landscaping or creatively hung in the area. Some of them are tricky to spot! When you’ve covered the park, return back to the shop to exchange the map for a prize. (Spoiler: We received two surprise collector’s pins in blind bags, one flamingo and one dolphin).

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Our prizes for participation in the Pumpkin Hunt.

Monster Mash DJ Dance Party – included in the admission price, located in the SeaWorld Village Square at the front of the park. The DJ is spinning upbeat dance mixes, encouraging guests to dance along on the lawn. There’s a beer cart here as well, though seating is limited.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Live DJ dance party – join along or sit on the grass.

Cookie Decorating with Elmo & Cookie Monster – an additional cost of $25 per guest, advance purchase required. Located in the open-air patio next to Explorer’s Cafe. This 30-minute activity includes a cookie decorating kit with milk or a bottle of water, a character photo, and a reusable bag. Single party tables offer plenty of spacing and a socially distanced character greeting.

Sesame Street Halloween Dance Party – included in the admission price, with two locations (one near the Wild Arctic exit, the second in Garden Plaza, near Explorer’s Reef Cafe). Ideal for toddlers and preschoolers, popular Sesame Street characters dance atop stationary parade floats. Employees engage families to dance and join the fun.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Families danced and waved to Sesame Street characters during the dance party.

During our visit, The Count and Telly Monster were present and posing for photos while guests stood in front of the floats.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Telly Monster poses for pictures from atop a stationary parade float during the Sesame Street dance party.

There is no specific schedule for this activity, but the characters are present in both areas on a rotating basis, between noon and 7 p.m.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
When your kids are stubborn and don’t want to take pictures, you do it yourself!

Día de Los Muertos Baile Folklórico Dancers – included entertainment, happening several times daily on the weekends, in the Nautilus Amphitheater. Dressed in traditional Mexican costume and colorful face makeup, the Día de Los Muertos Baile Folklórico Dancers pay homage through expressive dance to loved ones who have passed.

What Else is Open at SeaWorld San Diego?

With rides non-operational, it’s important to know what to expect of SeaWorld San Diego “Zoo Days”. If you’re a longtime visitor of SeaWorld, you’ll remember the days before rides. For families that are used to visits at SeaWorld that include playing in Sesame Street Bay of Play or riding the thrilling Manta, it may be disconcerting not to have the rides available.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Be prepared for these closed attraction signs all over the park.

However, there’s still plenty to do in this park, even without these attractions. Going into the day with a plan is helpful. Don’t forget to prep the kids and let them know what to expect in order to minimize disappointment. No printed park maps or guides are available in the park, so be sure to check the showtimes on the website before your visit or scan the QR on the signs posted at the entrance gates.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Guests can scan QR for a park map.

SeaWorld Shows – These live shows and animal presentations happen throughout the day. Sea Lions Live, Dolphin Days and Orca Encounter are shown several times daily.

Animal Encounters – Both indoor and outdoor areas are open for guests. Most indoor aquariums are open as well (with the exception of Ocean Explorer and Aquarium de la Mer, which remain closed).

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Indoor aquariums like Turtle Reef are open.

These are the open animal encounter locations: Otter Outlook, Orca Encounter viewing area, Shark Encounter Wild Arctic, Sea Turtles at Turtle Reef, Sea Lion Point, Penguin Encounter, Dolphin Point, and Flamingos.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Classic SeaWorld animal exhibits are still open!

Indoor locations are limited in capacity, which may result in long lines outside. 

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Long outdoor queues in the sun to maintain capacity for indoor aquariums.

Touch Pools – Explorer’s Reef with cleaner fish and bamboo sharks. Bat Ray Shallows, where fish can be purchased for feeding. There are permanent handwashing stations in both areas.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Lots of reminders for proper hand washing in bathrooms and cleaning stations.

Dine + Drink 

Similarly to Knott’s Taste of Fall-O-Ween, SeaWorld’s Spooktacular relies heavily on the food festival aspect. And to their advantage, past events like the Seven Seas Food Festival are foodie delights. For those guests already holding SeaWorld park tickets, or for annual pass holders, there’s an option to add on the Spooktacular Dine + Drink. The cost of the add-on is $39.99 for adults and $24.99 for children.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Menu of seasonal items served at one of the locations during Halloween Spooktacular.

Each of these options allows a specified number of food or drink options. Adults may choose any combination of up to 6 items, including alcoholic beverages. Children can choose up to 4 food items from the kid’s menu or non-alcoholic beverages.

Unfortunately, there have been some adjustments that lessened the food and beverage experience for me. Most of the food now comes pre-boxed for sanitary reasons, but it also takes away the freshness factor. In fact, several boxed items pulled from under the heat lamps, that were supposed to be hot, were barely room temperature when we sat down to eat.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Prepacked food was very different from previous SeaWorld food events.

Also noted in the fine print is that restaurants may close up to an hour early before park closing. However, Explorer’s Cafe was closed over two hours before the official closing time. 

The one dish I did eat (I declined to eat the tepid meal), was the Stone IPA BBQ Chicken Pizza. It was a tasty option and a decent size.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Pre-packaged food can be hit or miss.

I probably should have asked to speak with a manager about the food temperature but didn’t want to keep the kids waiting. 

The Dine + Drink add-on is definitely going to be the best value for those indulging in alcohol or choosing the larger sized entrees (approximately $6.67 per item cost breakdown). Kid’s menu choices are less varied, relying on the child-friendly classics of Mac & Cheese, Chicken Tenders & Fries or Fish & Chips (approximately $6.25 cost per item).

BBQ & Craft Brew Menu

There are 4 restaurants open as well as several carts offering food and drinks during the event. Each one of these full-sized items equals one credit on the Dine + Drink option. It’s a shame my husband wasn’t able to attend with us, as our family’s local craft-brew aficionado he would have appreciated the 50+ beer offerings! Fall specific selections are highlighted below in bold.

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular
Frozen Pina Coladas and other alcoholic drinks are the best value for the Dine + Drink.
  • Maple-Glazed Salmon – Toasted Pumpkin Seeds & Maple Glaze with Seasonal Vegetables
  • Grilled BBQ Cheeseburger – Stone IPA BBQ Sauce, American Cheddar, Pickled Aioli
  • BBQ Brisket Slider – Stone IPA BBQ Sauce, Pickled Aioli
  • BBQ Chicken Quesadilla – Sour Cream, Roasted Butternut Squash and Corn Pico, Crushed Avocado
  • Beer Battered Fish & Chips – Tangy Tartar Sauce, Lemon
  • Stone IPA BBQ Chicken Pizza – Mozzarella, Red Onion, Cilantro
  • Quartered Chicken – Cranberry White Wine Glaze
  • St. Louis BBQ Ribs – Slowly Smoked Pork Ribs, Stone IPA BBQ Sauce
  • Fried Green Tomato Slider (Vegetarian) – Pretzel Bun with Onion Ring, Pickled Aioli, Arugula
  • Seasonal Pretzel
  • Stone IPA Chicken Wings – Apricot and Chipotle Glaze
  • Smoked Sausage – Ballast Point Caramelized Onion, Dijon Mustard on a Pretzel Roll
  • Seafood Tacos – Pico de Gallo, Salsa, Cotija Cheese
  • Fried Brussel Sprouts with sriracha agave glaze and bacon bits
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake

*Each restaurant will also feature a Chef’s Fall Season Special 

Tickets for SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular

Entry tickets for SeaWorld are not sold at the gates. Each guest aged 3+ must purchase their ticket online ahead of time. Capacity in the park is limited, which means that each guest must also make a separate reservation for entry. Having a ticket in hand doesn’t guarantee entry and the extra step to make a reservation for your required date is necessary.

Save On Future Theme Park Travel

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Let’s Hear From You

Disclosure: Please note that while I received media tickets from SeaWorld, I assure you that the thoughts above are my honest feelings about the event.  

What are your thoughts, folks? Looking for a fun outdoor activity to celebrate the Halloween season with the kids? Would a ride-less SeaWorld still tempt you? How are you planning to celebrate the holiday this year? I’d love to hear from you below. 

, Trick Or Treat – SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular

ADMIN NOTE: This is Julie’s first article for Please help give her a warm welcome. Articles like this take a very long time to produce – theme park visit, photos, writing, and then sharing with all of you is a huge commitment. We sincerely appreciate Julie’s effort and hope you do as well! Welcome aboard Julie!

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Julie is a San Diego native and lifelong SoCal theme park visitor. She covers family travel as well as healthy living and positive parenting tips at Mom Rewritten. Julie is also co-founder of the popular Facebook group "Disneyland with Kids", helping families plan their magical vacations. You can find more from Julie on her blog: Mom Rewritten