Flamingos at SeaWorld San Diego
Flamingos at SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego attracts more than 160 million visitors annually to their 190-acre marine park in Mission Bay. Known for animal shows, interactive attractions, aquariums, rides and educational programs, SeaWorld also has a 40-foot Christmas tree illuminated during the holidays. The annual SeaWorld Christmas Celebration runs through Jan. 1 with more than one million Christmas lights throughout the park, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer appearances, photos with Santa, special Christmas shows, Christmas carols, and decor throughout the park.

SeaWorld San Diego Skyride
SeaWorld San Diego Skyride

Some of the popular animal shows include killer whales (think Shamu), dolphins, sea lions and cirque de la mer. The SeaWorld team has a rescue and rehabilitation program for animals before returning them back to their natural habitat in the ocean. For those who like rides, SeaWorld has a Skyride and Skytower to give you scenic views above the bay, as well as a roller coaster, water coaster, turtle reef and water rapids, among others. A one-day pass to the park costs around $90 (plus $17 for parking) so it’s best to plan for a full day of activities, or purchase an annual membership if you’re a frequent visitor.

Tidal restaurant
Tidal restaurant

Down the street at Paradise Point Resort & SpaTidal restaurant overlooks the bay serving fresh seafood and other seasonal items. Chef DJ Tangalin just took the reigns in the kitchen at Tidal to shake up the menu with new, creative dishes. Some of the standout new dishes include a foie gras torchon “pop tart” with fig-star anise jam; prime beef tartar with hand-cut steak, caper salsa verde, double yolk aioli and toast; a local fish “Kilawin” with cherry tomatoes, red onion and Calamansi lemonade; roasted baby beets with purple kale, pear mostarda, whipped goat cheese and pistachio; Spanish octopus with pork belly, pepperoni jam, garlic confit and pickled red onion aioli; French onion “Bulalo” soup with bone marrow, shaved truffle, bok choy and Parmesan; and maple leaf duck breast with stewed Napa cabbage, apricot, roasted yams and date jus.

Foie gras "pop tart," French onion soup, Spanish octopus with pork belly, Fish
Foie gras “pop tart,” French onion “Bulalo” soup, Spanish octopus with pork belly, fish “Kilawin”

But my favorite new menu item is the “shell & cheek” – diver scallops, pork cheeks, curry brown butter, spiced apples and aerated turnip. I love the pairing of surf and turf, and the flavors worked really nicely with the foam and brown butter. The presentation of each dish is so beautiful and thoughtfully prepared by Chef Tangalin that you almost don’t want to eat it (almost), and his Filipino roots have made a welcomed appearance on the menu at Tidal. A four-course chef’s tasting menu is available for $70/person, and the menu changes daily.

Shell & Cheek
Shell & Cheek dish with scallops and pork cheeks

Save room for a craft cocktail or beer, discounted daily during happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Sit outside on the deck to watch the sunset around a fire pit and enjoy the island views. There’s a reason the resort is called Paradise Point, after all.

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