Disney water parks are almost as large and elaborate as the major theme parks. You must be prepared for a lot of walking, exercise, sun, and jostling crowds. If your group really loves the water, schedule your visit early in your vacation. If you go at the beginning of your stay, you’ll have more flexibility if you want to return.
To have a great day and beat the crowds, consider:
1. GETTING INFORMATION Call 407-wdw-magic (939-6244) or check disneyworld.com the night before to verify when the park opens.
2. TO PICNIC OR NOT TO PICNIC Decide whether you want to carry a picnic lunch. Guests are permitted to take lunches and beverage coolers into the parks. However, alcoholic beverages and glass containers of any kind are forbidden at Disney water parks.
3. GETTING STARTED If you’re going to Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon, get up early, have breakfast, and arrive at the park 40 minutes before opening. If you have a car, drive instead of taking a Disney bus.
4. FOLLOW A GOOD TOURING PLAN To help you avoid crowds and bottlenecks at Disney water parks, be ready with a touring plan. If you’re attending on a day of moderate-to-heavy attendance (see the Crowd Calendar at our website, TouringPlans.com), our plans help you avoid standing in lines.
5. ATTIRE Wear your bathing suit under shorts and a T-shirt so you don’t need to use lockers or dressing rooms. Regarding women’s bathing suits, be advised that it’s extremely common for women of all ages to part company with the top of their two-piece suit on the slides. Both the paths and beach sand get incredibly hot during the summer. Some form of foot protection is a must. Your socks will do in a pinch, but sandals that strap to your feet are best. Shops in the parks sell sandals, Reef Runners, and other protective footwear that can be worn in and out of the water.
6. WHAT TO BRING You’ll need a towel, sunscreen, and money. Because wallets and purses get in the way, lock them in your car’s trunk, or leave them at your hotel. Carry your Disney resort ID (if you have one) and enough money for the day in a plastic bag or Tupperware container, or use your MagicBand to pay for stuff. Though nowhere is completely safe, we felt very comfortable hiding our plastic money bags in our cooler. Nobody disturbed our stuff, and our cash was much easier to reach than if we’d stashed it in a locker across the park. If you’re carrying a large amount or you worry about money anyway, rent the locker.
7. WHAT NOT TO BRING TO DISNEY WATER PARKS Personal swim gear (fins, masks, rafts, and the like) isn’t allowed. Everything you need is provided or available to rent. If you forget your towel, you can rent one (cheap!). If you forget your swimsuit or lotion, they’re for sale. Personal flotation devices (life jackets) are available at no cost.
8. ADMISSION Buy your admission in advance or about 45 minutes before official opening. If you’re staying at a Disney property, you may be entitled to a discount; bring your MagicBand or hotel or campground ID. Guests staying five or more days should consider the Park Hopper Plus add-on, which provides admission to either Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon.
9. LOCKERS Each Disney water park features keyless lockers. Locker rental fees are $10 per day for a small one and $15 per day for a large one. Small lockers are roomy enough for one person or a couple, but a family will generally need a large locker. Though you can access your locker freely all day, not all lockers are conveniently located.
We recommend skipping the locker. Carry a MagicBand or only as much cash as you’ll need for the day in a watertight container that you can stash in your cooler. Ditto for personal items, including watches and eyeglasses.
10. TUBES Tubes for bobbing on the waves, floating in the creeks, and riding the tube slides are available for free.
11. GETTING SETTLED Establish your base for the day. There are many beautiful sunning and lounging spots scattered throughout both Disney water parks. Arrive early, and you can almost have your pick. The breeze is best along the beaches of the surf pools at Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. At Typhoon Lagoon, if there are children younger than age 6 in your party, choose an area to the left of Mount Mayday (ship on top) near the children’s swimming area.
Also available are flat lounges (nonadjustable) and chairs (better for reading), shelters for guests who prefer shade, picnic tables, and a few hammocks. If you have money to burn, a handful of private, covered seating areas are available at both Disney water parks for up to six guests at $345 (including tax) per day. That includes your own lounge chairs, tables, towels, private lockers, a refillable drink mug, and an attendant who’ll be at your beck and call. These seating areas are available by reservation at 407-wdw-play (939-7529).
The best spectator sport at Typhoon Lagoon is the bodysurfing in the Surf Pool. It’s second only to being out there yourself. With this in mind, position yourself to have an unobstructed view of the waves.
12. A WORD ABOUT THE SLIDES Waterslides come in many shapes and sizes. Some are steep and vertical, and some are long and undulating. Some resemble corkscrews, while others imitate the pool-and-drop nature of whitewater streams. Depending on the slide, swimmers ride mats, inner tubes, or rafts. With body slides, swimmers slosh to the bottom on the seat of their pants.
Modern traffic engineering bows to old-fashioned queuing. At the waterslides, it’s just one person and one raft (or tube) at a time, and the swimmer on deck can’t go until the person preceding him or her is safely out of the way. Thus, the slides’ hourly capacity is limited compared with the continuously loading rides in the major theme parks. Because a certain interval between swimmers is required for safety, the only way to increase capacity is to increase the number of rides.
Though Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are huge parks with many slides, they’re overwhelmed almost daily by armies of guests. If your main reason for going to Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach is the slides and you hate long lines, be among the first guests to enter the park. Go directly to the slides, and ride as many times as you can before the park fills with people.
For maximum speed on a body slide, cross your legs at the ankles, and cross your arms over your chest. When you take off, arch your back so almost all of your weight is on your shoulder blades and heels (the less contact with the surface, the less resistance). Steer by shifting most of your upper-body weight onto one shoulder blade. For top speed on turns, weight the shoulder blade on the outside of each curve. If you want to go slowly, distribute your weight equally, as if you were lying on your back in bed. For curving slides, maximize speed by hitting the entrance to each curve high and exiting the curve low.
Some slides and rapids have a minimum height requirement. Riders for Humunga Kowabunga at Typhoon Lagoon and for Slush Gusher and Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach, for example, must be 4 feet tall. Pregnant women and persons with back problems or other health difficulties shouldn’t ride.
13. LAZY RIVERS Each water park offers mellow lazy rivers. A great idea: The floating streams are long, tranquil inner-tube rides that give you the illusion that you’re doing something while you’re being sedentary.
Disney’s lazy rivers flow ever so slowly around the entire park, through caves, beneath waterfalls, past gardens, and under bridges. They offer a relaxing alternative to touring a park on foot.
Lazy rivers can be reached from several put-in and takeout points. There are never lines; just wade into the creek and plop into one of the inner tubes floating by. Ride the current all the way around, or get out at any exit. It takes 30–35 minutes to float the full circuit.
14. LUNCH If you didn’t bring a picnic, you can buy food. Quality is comparable to fast food; prices (as you might expect) are a bit high.
15. BAD WEATHER Thunderstorms are common in Florida. On summer afternoons, storms can occur daily. Water parks close during a storm. Most storms, however, are short-lived, allowing the water park to resume normal operations. If a storm is severe and prolonged, it can cause a great deal of inconvenience. In addition to the park’s closing, guests compete aggressively for shelter, and Disney resort guests may have to joust for seats on a bus back to the hotel.
You should monitor the local weather forecast the day before you go, checking again in the morning before leaving for the water park. Scattered thundershowers are to be expected, but moving storm fronts are to be avoided.
16. ENDURANCE The water parks are large and require almost as much walking as one of the theme parks. Add to this wave surfing, swimming, and all the climbing required to reach the slides, and you’ll be worn out by day’s end. Unless you spend your hours like a lizard on a rock, don’t expect to return to the hotel with much energy. Consider something low-key for the evening. You’ll probably want to hit the hay early.
17. LOST CHILDREN AND LOST ADULTS It’s easier to lose a child or become separated from your party at one of the water parks than it is at a major theme park. Upon arrival, pick a very specific place to meet should you get separated. If you split up on purpose, set times for checking in. Lost-children stations at the water parks are so out of the way that neither you nor your lost child will find them without help from a Disney cast member. Explain to your children how to recognize cast members (by their distinctive name tags) and how to ask for help if they need it.