SAN ANTONIO — My family tries to visit SeaWorld or Busch Gardens every year through the Waves of Honor promotion that’s offered to active duty military personnel and their families. Since dolphins are my all-time favorite animal, we usually end up at SeaWorld.

Our college-aged son will soon be heading back to the University of Alabama for his senior year, so we decided to head down to San Antonio, for a day of fun, before he heads back to Bama.

We haven’t been to SeaWorld — San Antonio since 2010, so we were surprised that so much changed in nine years. Gone are the days of buying trays of fish and having the opportunity to feed the dolphins yourself. SeaWorld ended public feeding in 2015 and my heart was broken.

After determining which shows we wanted to see, our kids went off to ride the roller coasters, while my husband and I visited all the viewing areas for the animals. We all met up for the shows and rode a few rides together.

It was a nice overcast day, until around noon and then the blazing heat were miserable. Luckily, the shows we chose to watch were during midday and they keep the stadiums shaded, so that definitely provided relief from the heat. SeaWorld also has several large misting fans located throughout the park, which I thought was a fantastic addition that I didn’t remember being there the last time we came.

We were looking forward to water rides, but there was only one on the SeaWorld side of the park. Aquatica is located on the left side of the park, but has a separate entry. Looking back, if I had known that information, we would have gone to Aquatica to beat the heat, or would have saved the free passes for the fall, when the weather is cooler.

I found the live shows very educational. One Ocean kicked off its orca show by sharing a touching video about how the trainers became inspired to help save sea life. The humongous creatures splashed water on those sitting within about 10 rows up from the pool and then they brought out a baby whale, which was huge itself. The cute little whale was learning how to do all the jumps and poses like the two larger whales.

The next show featured Pacific white-sided dolphins and beluga whales. I was completely mesmerized as the dolphins jumped out of the water like acrobats and fluttered along the surface like dancers. No matter how many times I see dolphins, I’m completely amazed by their beauty and talent.

The third show we watched was Clyde and Seamore’s Sea Lion High, featuring the always adorable sea lion duo. The premise of this show was that Clyde and Seamore are in high school and need to pass a couple more classes to graduate. The show was cute and offered plenty of opportunities to get wet if you sat in the right areas. Before the show, there was a comedian who kept the crowd entertained while they waited.

For little ones, the Sesame Street Bay of Play was a large play area and also offered live Sesame Street shows and some splash pads to help cool off your toddlers. Visitors also have the opportunity to meet their favorite Sesame Street characters.

Overall, we had a good time, but were exhausted by the end of the day. I would recommend wearing comfortable walking shoes, bringing some sandals or flip flops to put on for the water rides or shows, a waterproof case for your phone, plenty of sunblock for your family and a hydration pack. We purchased the SeaWorld refillable cup, but they wouldn’t refill it with water, so we had to drink soda all day.

The Waves of Honor promotion provides the service member and up to three dependents complimentary one-day admission, per year. You must register for the passes at

Park hours vary depending on the day and time of year. For current park hours, visit