After Walt Disney World opened here in the 1970s, the Orlando area became known for its theme parks. But today, it is perhaps becoming better known for watery attractions? So just what does that mean for park-goers?
First, a wave of water parks is sweeping into the area to give a lot more choices. Consider:
---Universal Studios has announced plans for a water plark (We will just it call Universal Studios Waterpark for now) with a volcano feature, a wave pool and “lazy river,” among other features. It is expected to be open late next year.
---Orlando’s newest water park at seven years old is Aquatica, famous for its “Dolphin Plunge” that takes swimmers through their habitat. Aquatica's water is heated to the perfect year round temperature.
---Walt Disney World already has two successful water parks: Blizzard Beach, perhaps best known for the world’s tallest speed slide, and Typhoon Lagoon, which stars the Crush ‘n’ Gusher, a state-of-the-art water coaster. Did you know Disney built the world's first water park? The now defunct River Country holds many memories for us old timers.
---The most hands-on water experience here is SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove. The park restricts attendance to 1,300 guests a day for an intimate snorkel-style swim with tropical fish and rays, and others. There’s also a 30-minute Dolphin Interaction, a chance to swim with real fish (dolphins).
---All this comes after Wet ‘n’ Wild, which includes pools, water slides, water cannons, “soakers,” and even a four-lane water drag race. The park has been very successful since its opening in 1977.
Orlando’s four existing water parks are already in the world’s top ten attractions, according to Themed Entertainment Association. From the standpoint of the parks themselves, the goal is to have more visitors who will stay longer and spend more money. But what does it mean for visitors?
---Two quick tricks for visitors to water parks: arrive early and late. Early before opening times gives you a chance to get a locker and your own uncrowded spot. Late in the last hour or two before closing means all those sun-burned northerners are lined up to leave. Rides also have shorter lines.
---One thing everyone needs to know about water parks is that business often does not slow down for winter weather. Some parks take a hiatus during some winter months, but it’s often business as usual except when there’s a few days of really uncharacteristically cold weather. The upside for visitors is that nearby hotel rates are sometimes reduced.
---Bad news about more parks: higher prices. But it is not often realized that price hikes are not necessarily for the park owners to make more money. An equally compelling reason is often to deter the crowds that sometimes prompt closing.
---Thrill rides are no longer confined to general amusement parks. Water attractions are increasingly common in offering wet roller coasters.
---Increasingly, there’s more interaction for park-goers with marine specimens. Typhoon Lagoon, to use one example, already lets swimmers snorkel with sharks and stingrays at “Shark Reef.”
---The emergence of thrilling slides continues. Wet ‘n’ Wild already has 15 of them. “Lazy Rivers” are fine but expect more active and hands-on rides such as water slides.
---As newcomers arrive, existing parks will be less crowded with the intensified competition. Users will find fewer lines.
So there probably won’t be a time soon when the area is known more for water than general theme parks. But outdoor water parks are clearly emerging as popular favorites. And Orlando is on a path, or call it a wave, to becoming an area that used to be known just for its theme parks. ###