We recently took William to SeaWorld in San Diego. First of all, the park is offering free admission to military members through the end of 2006, and that's an excellent deal, given that each adult ticket normally costs $55. Secondly, I have this weird affinity for sharks, and I'll take advantage any excuse to go see sharks--and there are sharks, lots of 'em, at SeaWorld.
And believe it or not, I think William had a good time at SeaWorld. We didn't try to do too much with him. David carried him into the shark exhibit, and he looked around and smiled at everyone, then watched the sharks swimming around. And we took him to see a dolphin show, and he seemed reasonably interested in that, too. I mean, as interested as a five-month-old can be, anyway. He didn't have a single meltdown, either, so I took that as a good sign.
It was a whole new experience for David and me, too. The last time that either of us went to a theme park was when we went to Disneyland on the day after Thanksgiving in 2002. Our past experiences with theme parks usually involved two things: eating and riding the best rides. Well, once you have a baby, all that changes. The most important things become the location of the restrooms and choosing activities that are suitable for the baby.
Suddenly, you're having to figure out how to navigate your way to this exhibit or that with a loaded-down stroller--oh, and you have to swerve constantly to avoid all the other people driving their loaded-down strollers, too. Then you have to decide whether you care enough about a certain exhibit to take the baby out of his stroller or not and carry him in your arms. Which, by the way, is a big decision when your baby weighs 18 pounds, like William does now. And did theme parks always have designated Stroller Parking areas by all the exhibits and shows, or am I just now noticing because I have a stroller now? It looked like a stroller convention outside the dolphin show that we attended. We waited for most people to leave the bleachers before we left so that we wouldn't have to wait in line to get to our stroller--sort of like waiting for most of the other cars to leave after a ball game ends so that you don't have to just sit in your car in the parking lot. It was nice to have a specific place to leave the stroller, but oh, wouldn't it have been nice to have more places where we could have actually brought the stroller in?
But I think my generation is lucky when it comes to taking our children to theme parks. They may be more expensive now, but most places seem to also be more family-friendly now than I recall them being when I was growing up. In my not-so-humble opinion, the best thing about SeaWorld (other than the sharks, of course) is the existence of nursing rooms. Seriously, that is genius. Scores of mothers everywhere must be grateful for that. I know I am. The nursing rooms were usually located adjacent to the restrooms, and they had glider rockers, nursing stools, and changing facilities, all in a nice little room with a door that closed. I didn't have to drape myself in a blanket while sitting on a bench somewhere and hope that William, in his zeal to eateateat, wouldn't kick the blanket off and expose me. Plus, it was a nice quiet space to feed him where he wouldn't get distracted by all the noise. And I didn't have to fight any crowds to get to a changing table, either. If tickets weren't $55 a pop, I'd say they'd won a loyal customer in me by having such nice facilities.
So, overall, we had a nice time. We only stayed about four hours, which was just about perfect. The other nice thing about getting in for free was that I didn't feel compelled to stay the whole day and "get my money's worth." The whole trip, except for the parking and lunch, was lagniappe. We saw what we wanted to see, and then we hit the road.