You’ve certainly heard the song…even though it’s doubtful if it really applies to you: “Summertime.” Heard most often from a version by legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald.
“Summertime, and the livin' is easy Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high”
Oops, maybe you’re not a fishermen.
And so what if those fish really do jump?
And that high cotton reference does not mean much to our high-tech lives, does it? But think about summer. It’s time…
…For the most anticipated time of the year.
And for many of us, it’s a time for a different kind of theme park.
Water-related. As all visitors to Central Florida know…or quickly and sometimes painfully find out…it’s hot in the summer.
So let’s take a look at what’s new (or should we say hot?) as summer heat encourages us to the water.
There’s lots of news at swim-oriented theme parks. But other choices of what to do might also tempt you to put your toes in the water.
Orlando’s pioneer water park was Wet 'n Wild on International Drive.
Many people also argued it was the best.
At least, during its time.
It opened in ancient times: 1977.
To give you an idea of time passing quickly: Disney Orlando ticket buyers that year only had been visiting the park for the past seven years when Wet ‘n Wild became the first area water park….
If you can imagine that…
Wet ‘n Wild no more
So for its last year, the park is offering a Florida resident deal.
Buy a ticket for $39.99 before May 31 and you can come back as many times as you like through the end of the year.
But not after that.
No more park after this year.
In the future, Universal will open a new water park called “Volcano Bay” near the Wet site. If we’re lucky, that should be open in time for next summer.
But since Orlando’s first, other area water parks have come in waves.
Disney’s own Blizzard Beach in late May through almost the end of August announced it will have its throwing “Frozen Games.”
The Olympics-inspired activities let you choose either Team Kristoff or Team Olaf to play watery games. These include the “Ice Pail Relays or “Snowball Toss” (snowball themed water balloons).
There’s no extra cost in addition to admission.
Water parks also offer fast passes
Aquatica, SeaWorld's water park, is offering its version of a Fast Pass now for six of its thrill rides.
These are only on select weekends in May and early June. The quick queue is an extra $20 or $25 depending on the day on top of normal park admission.
They let you skip to the front of the line on “Whanau Way, Omaka Rocka, Taumata Racer, Walhalla Wave,” and other rides.
Some other parks have little news this summer.
Which is understandable.
How many new water slide variations can you devise?
But here’s a look at why you may choose one park or the other.
---SeaWorld Orlando’s Aquatica offers it all: thrill rides, animal encounters, etc.
One of the best slides anywhere is “Breakaway Falls, “while adults who also want action can dig “Roa’s Rapids.”
Kids can splash around safely and securely in “Walkabout Waters.”
---Disney’s Blizzard Beach at Lake Buena Vista might make you think you’re in a ski resort. Huh?
Summer ski lifts and toboggans
The waterslides look like mountain toboggan runs. The “ski lift” takes you to the top of Mount Gushmore.
But there’s a lot of thrilling rides here and a huge wave pool. So it’s geared for the whole family.
---Water slides are the stars at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon.
It’s one of the world’s largest surfing lagoons. And it has the biggest waves.
You can snorkel among fish and coral and plant life.
And there are also enough waterslides to keep all swimmers wet and content.
---You’re not likely to get any discount tickets (unlike Universal Studios discount tickets or LEGOLAND tickets or others) at Discovery Bay. But this is the best place to swim with bottlenose dolphins.
PS: If you want education about them, you will get that as well.
The park is particularly cozy, you might say, since it limits swimmers to 1000 people a day.
Also limiting is the price, several hundred dollars…depending on tickets.
But what you are paying for is the only water park to also have large aviary beaches, as well as a lazy river through waterfalls and lagoons.
You get breakfast and lunch (drinks as well), parking, towels and snorkeling and other equipment and 30 minutes of instruction.
Tickets also give you free access to SeaWorld Orlando or Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Aquatica Water Park for two weeks after your visit. Upgrades are also possible.
The expense may shock some but packages that offer you a chance to be a “trainer for a day” go for upwards of $400 a day.
---If you’re with children, don’t forget LEGOLAND Water Park in nearby Winter Harden. The DUPLO Splash safari is for kids under five years of age. And there are various rides for kids to build boats. Out of LEGOS, of course.
Watery issues outside Orlando
If you’re looking to get away from Orlando, to say Palm Beach County, you might want to take in “Rapids Water Park.”
That park about a four-hour drive from Orlando is South Florida’s only large-scale water park (poor area residents and tourists: only one choice).
The park maintains a daily opening schedule every day this summer.
It’s newest and biggest attraction: “Brain Drain.”
It’s two single-rider slides have what they are calling “Bombs Away.” Since the slides drop riders through bomb-bay style doors (kind of like those old World War II movies where B-52s drop bombs on Japan through double doors, bomb-bay style).
Riders start at a height of 72 feet in the air. They travel through enclosed tubes at respectable speeds (up to 35 mph).
There are twists and turns.
The best part
But here’s the best part (or most thrilling):
Each slide offers a different experience. One tube called “Baby Blue” and “Burnt Orange” takes riders for a 395-foot-long drop.
Not enough for you?
Two other tubes (we’ll skip the names because what does that matter, anyway?) go on for eternity…or really for 420 feet. The park has 40 slide and ride options.
In nearby Daytona Beach (about 50 minutes via I-4), there’s a formerly somewhat run-down water park that is being revitalized.
Daytona Lagoon is right next door to Daytona Beach's Ocean Center.
That park opened in 1998,
The park is completing a $2 million renovation to its water park features, which also include go-karts and other entertainment such as miniature golf, a rock wall and an arcade.
New water slides. A new one where the floor drops out under riders.
There are several local hotels who have joined the tidal wave of water parks.
We confess that it would be impossible to test them all.
But we do have some positive (and negative) reports on them.
Hotels have their own water parks
One that has stood out in popularity is CoCo Key Hotel and Water Resort.
With its 391 rooms, the hotel on International Drive has a canopy covered outdoor water park. Water slides and swimming pools.
Its emphasis is on families but it has draws couples.
The hotel on International Drive bills itself luxurious but it is not known primarily for that, though if not four stars, it at least would rank three stars.
It does have a convenient location to area attractions, both water related and others (there’s a shuttle to Walt Disney World Resort, for example). But the Water Resort is even more convenient. Built within the hotel itself.
Unlike some hotels, no extra fees are needed for parking and Wi-Fi.
A $24 resort fee per day includes water activities. Day passes are available for non-hotel guests.
There are activities and rides geared for all ages. The names of rides give you an idea of what to expect.
There’s “Cyclone Slide,” “Over the Falls” and “Surfer Splash,” among others.
There’s alcoholic bars for adults. And plenty of soft and other drinks for kids.
An attraction of the park is its food prices. They start at just $4, but more typically are $10 and above.
PS: Unlike some theme parks, you can’t bring in your food and beverages.
Warning: the park does sell out, particularly on very hot days.
Hot days can mean sellouts
Another popular park in Kissimmee is Flamingo Waterpark Resort. Also family-friendly.
Three water slides. Six kiddie play zones. Two pools.
An onside snack bar and grill.
The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is among the area’s most luxurious hotels (some of the highest rates as well). But it has compensations for water lovers.
It underwent a $54 million renovation.
For adults, that included a lakefront pool bar that they will love. It overlooks a huge 800,000 gallon lagoon pool.
But that’s not all.
There are four huge, 60-inch-screen TVs, shaded seating with misting fans, more than a dozen bar seats, and more.
For kids, the resort added water slides and specific areas for children such as a splash zone.
Some Disney hotels also offer waterparks.
Disney’s Beach Club Villas, for example, has a waterpark area with a super-fast slide and a pool that is a virtual waterpark.
$400 a night rooms
The only disadvantage: the cost is upwards of $400 a night.
Cheaper alternatives are to do what many residents do:
Go to the springs.
Florida has more than 700 springs.
Temperatures are cool here: always 70 degrees F.
Almost all are north of Interstate 4 because they bubble up through the Florida Aquifer, an underground limestone formation.