Orlando’s top rated water parks are known around the nation and much of the world. On hot summer days, many visitors like to cool off at a water park. Many families make a day of it, easy since all water parks offer snacks, drinks and lunch items.
Don’t choose a water park just because it’s close to you. Orlando’s five water parks are very different and if you’re a water park fan, try more than one. Arrive in early morning as more people show up as the day grows warmer.
Typhoon Lagoon, a mythical island, showes the after-effects of a tropical cyclone. It is the home to one of the world’s largest surfable wave pools containing almost 3 million gallons of water. Most people are content to bob in the waves. The park’s focal point is Mount Mayday, an active volcano that erupts every half-hour. Most fast slide rides depart from its peak; some rides reaching up to 30 mph. Ketchakiddee Creek for kids age 2 to 5 features scaled-down versions of some water activities that bigger kids do. Lunch is available with beer and specialty drinks.
Popular Typhoon Lagoon attracts more than two million visitors a year. Most media sources rank it as one of the most popular water park in the U.S. and one of the top 3 in the world. Expect crowds.
Disney’s Blizzard Beach is themed as a snow ski resort that failed due to Orlando’s warm climate (what a shock). Somehow, the snow never completely melts and the bizarre concept actually provides a strangely scenic backdrop. Snow-capped Mt. Gushmore is both the park’s focal point and the launching point for most fast rides.
The signature thrill ride is the 120-foot high Summit Plummet, one of the world’s fastest free-fall water slides that send riders down a 350-foot slide at speeds up to a gut-wrenching 55 mph. A wooden-bench chair lift with sun umbrellas and snow skis on the underside takes riders from the beach to the summit of Mt. Gushmore. Tike’s Peak is the popular kid’s shallow wading pool with a snow-castle fountain, pop-up water jets and kid-sized slides.
Blizzard Beach is ranked number two in the U.S. and third in the world for attendance.
Aquatica is a 59-acre play area themed to resemble the southern Pacific. Part of the SeaWorld Orlando Resort, Aquatica’s signature ride is the Dolphin Plunge, a water slide ride down an enclosed tubes that passes through a pool with a pod of Commerson’s dolphin. Another popular ride is HooRoo Run that catapults rafters straight down a 250-foot long water ride with three separate drops. Experience weightlessness each time the raft shoots into the air to land on the next straight away before repeating twice more.
Aquatica boasts a huge 80,000-square-foot white-sand beach with rental deck chairs, umbrellas and cabanas, plus two wave pools, special play areas and rides suitable for younger ages. Aquatica is the nation’s third most popular water park.
Universal’s Volcano Bay, Orlando’s newest water park, includes 18 different attractions themed around the 200-foot high Fire and Water Volcano named Krakatau. Featuring streams and waterfalls during the day and glowing lava effects at night, Krakatau rides include the 4-person Aqua Coaster which explores the inside of the volcano. Its Ko’okiri Body Plunge features a 125-foot drop.
There’s no waiting in lines here thanks to the TapuTapu bracelet that allows visitors to make ride time reservations. There are plenty of opportunities to relax in cabanas that also feature concierge service and a special menu.
The 30-acre Volcano Bay is Universal’s third theme park, with its own full-day Universal Express Passes. (In comparison, Islands of Adventure spans 101 acres.) The water park is located near Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Discovery Cove, owned by SeaWorld Orlando, is not the typical action water park. Discovery Cove is a full-day all-inclusive experience including free parking, breakfast and lunch, drinks, use of lockers, wetsuit and mask, towels and more. With this type of personal attention, it was never designed to hold big crowds. Instead of relying on mechanized thrill rides, Discovery Cove emphasizes viewing and interacting with animals.
At the Freshwater Oasis wading adventure, visitors come face-to-face with otters and marmosets, one of the world’s smallest monkeys. At the Grand Reef, snorkelers swim with tropical fish and rays and alongside sharks (safely on the other side of a glass barrier).
Discovery Cove’s signature experience is the dolphin swim (which costs extra). The half-hour interactive ends with an exhilarating dolphin dorsal tow. Discovery Cove limits attendance to about 1,300 guests daily. Advance reservations are necessary during the peak seasons. The park water is kept warm year-round.