When you have friends who've come all the way from the Midwest to visit you in Downey, what's another 2-hour drive to go see the wonderful animals at SeaWorld in San Diego? Especially when the Shamu show is ending after this year?
After the death of a trainer in 2010 and a lot of protests by animal rights activists, "SeaWorld has ended its killer whale breeding program, making the orcas in our care the last generation. Our whales are still here, and they will still be here for many years to come, living and thriving under the best veterinary care. While the animals are with us, we will be changing their habitats and their performances. The all-new orca experiences will soon take place in more natural looking habitats, and with a focus on the whales’ natural behaviors." (SeaWorldCares)
Even now, the Shamu show we saw was a lot different than the one I remember from 10 years ago. The whales still jump and spin and spray people with water (and seem to enjoy every minute of it), but there's no in-the-water interaction any more. Still, the orcas are beautiful creatures, and a joy to watch.
And then there are the sea lions, who pose and bark for fish. Since the last time I was there, SeaWorld has installed special portals through which you can slide the fish directly into the sea lion's mouth. This is fun for everyone except the snowy egrets, because they used to be able to snatch thrown fish right out of the air before the sea lion could get it.
And there are also the polar bears! They seem as cute and cuddly as panda bears (or as lazy as sloths on this day), but it's all a facade—polar bears are among the most dangerous animals on earth.
All in all, very worth the 2-hour drive!