Waterparks were almost a bigger draw than the theme parks for our family. The kids really just wanted to swim while on holiday and Walt Disney World's two waterparks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, are the perfect mix of a day at the pool with a theme-park atmosphere.
We visited each waterpark one time, starting with Typhoon Lagoon.
We arrived at park opening and it was jammed. Very quickly, we realized that we were going to have to contend with long waits and large crowds. It was Florida in July, so not a surprise.
As with any Disney park, storytelling is key and Typhoon Lagoon is themed around the idea that a typhoon hit central Florida, leaving behind ocean themed items, like boats and fishing gear. A giant shrimping boat named Miss Tilly sits high above the park, serving as the park's iconic feature. It's perched on a geyser called Mount Mayday, which erupts twice an hour.
I snapped a few pictures of the park on our way to the locker rental, where the camera stayed safe all day. I recommend bringing a waterproof camera and taking advantage of the Disney Photo Pass employees.
We purchased mickey themed water socks to protect our feet and picked out giant beach towels for souvenirs. My towel was Finding Nemo themed, with the Seagulls repeating "Mine" all over it. It's great.
First stop was Gang Plank Falls, a four-person family-style raft ride. This is my favorite type of waterpark ride, primarily because it isn't too thrilling. I had an accident at Raging Waters on the speed slides when I was in elementary school and I remain very nervous of waterslides, especially the really intense ones. The family raft slides are exactly my level of waterpark thrill.
Next was Crusher n' Gusher, a 1-2 person raft ride that has water-jet propulsion. I was nervous about this one, but tried to put on a brave face for the kids. Felix backed out. I was more than happy to hang with him in the adjacent pool, while Dan and Zoe rode it. We swam and congratulated ourselves on the wise choice of skipping the slide. Zoe and Dan loved it.
At this point, after waiting in two queues, about an hour into park opening, Typhoon Lagoon was jammed. We went in the Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool to cool off. This is a "surf", not a "wave" pool, because the waves get up to six feet high and they teach surfing lessons in the morning. Hang on to small kids, as this is an above average intense wave pool. I've been knocked over by the waves.
Last stop was the Lazy River. I'm a huge fan of lazy rivers. Give me an inner-tube, warm weather, and I can happily float all day long. Unfortunately. the Lazy River was really crowded and most of the inner-tubes were gone.
The crowds defeated us. We ended up leaving mid-day and heading back to our hotel for lunch and more pool time. Having visited Typhoon Lagoon on previous vacations, I highly recommend checking out the Shark Reef, where you can snorkel above a tropical reef. The park also has many slides of varying thrill levels, that we didn't ride and a great area for small kids. You can easily spend an entire day here.
Towards the end of the trip, we went to Blizzard Beach. Our strategy with Blizzard Beach was completely different, rather than visiting at park opening, we arrived mid-afternoon and stayed until closing. The park was significantly less crowded than Typhoon Lagoon. I wanted to explore Disney Springs ( formerly Downtown Disney) which had undergone a major transformation since my previous visit in 2009, so I dropped Dan and the kids off at Blizzard Beach and went shopping.
I was shocked to find Disney Springs to be nearly unrecognizable. So many of the shops and restaurants were brand new. I explored and had a relaxing meal at a Mexican restaurant called Frontera Cocina. I was working as a travel agent at the time and a client's travel emergency cut my afternoon short. I spent over an hour frantically making phone calls, while sitting on a bench in Disney Springs. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite the afternoon that I had envisioned and I didn't have a chance to really enjoy Disney Springs. It's a must-do for our next WDW vacation.
Since I had an annual pass, I was able to enter Blizzard Beach without buying a ticket and I took a few pictures while waiting for Dan and the kids. Blizzard Beach asks the question: What if a freak blizzard hit central Florida? A waterpark is created from the melted snow of this imaginary blizzard and the winter ski-chalet theme is carried throughout the park. A ski lift takes guests to the highest slides at the top of Mount Gushmore.
I'm not sure what slides Dan, Zoe, and Felix went on, but they overwhelmingly preferred Blizzard Beach to Typhoon Lagoon. I'm sure if we had more days left, we would have visited Blizzard Beach again.
Here are some pictures that I took as Blizzard Beach was closing. Check out the theming.
There is a lot to see at Walt Disney World, but if your touring plans and budget allow, I highly recommend the water parks.