National Water Park Day is July 28th!
The dog days of summer- the days during the season when temperatures are devastatingly and overwhelmingly hot- are never to be underestimated. Aside from drowning myself in vats of freezing cold, hand-squeezed lemonade and strong iced coffee to stave off heatstroke, restricting all activities to air- conditioned buildings is the only way to beat the heat. Though I, unfortunately am not one of the lucky few who happen to be in the vicinity of a Disney water park. If you’re visiting Walt Disney World Resort on National Water Park Day (Juy 28th) – or any day over the next month or so- chances of you having a picture-perfect BLAZING HOT day to take to the slides are on your side…but which park should you choose? And what is there to do at each? We’ll cover all that, plus take a look back at some of the most mystifying Disney history to come out of Walt Disney World Resort. Let’s dive right in!
The 120 ft. tall Summit Plummet will catch your eye before you even make the turn into the parking lot, and its’ one of the many reasons to visit this water park celebrating all things summer! Although the parks’ famous winter-inspired design put it on the map, you won’t need your snowboard at this ski resort! At its core, Blizzard Beach is an honest and frill-less Disney water park, so why should you choose it over Typhoon Lagoon?
- Summit Plummet – Standing at a whoppingly intimidating 120 ft., Summit Plummet is one of the world’s largest free-fall water slides, and when you crest the top of that drop and feel gravity take over, you’ll realize why you just waited so long for your chance to take the drop! My favorite part of the slide is that it’s modeled after an Olympic ski jump- and If you look closely, a burst of water spews from the lip of the jump as each rider takes his/her plummet!
- Snow Stormers – It’s no secret that I’m a fully grown adult child, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise: I love to race. Challenge me to a 10k road race, or challenge me to Mario Kart and your only concern should not be if I will agree to play, but how you plan to beat me…because I play to win! The Snow Stormers are my favorite slide at Blizzard Beach because all that rests between you and beating your opponent down the head-first slides is a thin rubber mat…may the best racer win!
- Mini Donuts – The best payoff of spending a day in the water isn’t the tan, it’s the intense and insatiable hunger that comes from exerting all of that energy! Well, the HUNGER isn’t the best part…but satisfying it sure is fun! Especially when you’re at a water park that serves snacks as delicious as the famed mini donuts from Blizzard Beach! You can order them by the half dozen, but if you go that route you’ll be kicking yourself for not ordering the dozen- how else can you possibly taste all the different dipping sauces? The raspberry is my favorite, but the dark chocolate is a very close second!
The icon of Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon has a story behind it, and like all great Disney attractions, the story makes it all the more fun and interesting. The Miss Tilly is the shipwrecked boat that sits at the parks’ tallest point, and after the typhoon that permanently perched the seafarer atop a giant rock formation blew past, nothing but fun slides and a giant wave pool were left in its wake. So, is Typhoon Lagoon the Disney water park for you?
Crush N’ Gusher – All of the slides at Typhoon Lagoon begin at the base of the Miss Tilly wreck, and my favorite of them all is the slide equipped with as much ‘up’ action as it is ‘down’! The Crush N’ Gusher marks the first time a water coaster was built at a Disney water park, and in my opinion, remains the most fun and fast-paced water ride at the park! Just when your raft picks up speed, a lilting construction design will take you up a motorized pulley system, just to send you right back down, making for a long, adrenaline-spiked ride!
- Chair Lift – I could visit Blizzard Beach and not set a toe in the water if it meant I could ride the chair lift all day! The old fashioned chairs adorably make a loop above the water park, and while you ride, you can watch guests hilariously plummet into the water from a rope swing, and root for the daredevils who try to make their way across a pool filled with ‘icebergs’!
- Wave Pool – Typhoon Lagoon has some pretty major bragging rights. Did you know that the massive wave pool is the largest in North America? The thing looks huge when you’re standing at its zero-entry shore, but if you want a real taste of its size, take a look at the park map- the wave pool covers most of the park!
- Surf Lessons – Before the park opens to guests each morning, private surf lessons can be booked (by reservation) with a trained instructor, and you can learn to surf in a controlled, safe environment with all the real waves of the ocean, without the unpredictability.
- Happy Landings – Like I said, food plays a large role in my every day decision-making, and since there are so many incredible food options to explore, I don’t have to change that philosophy when I visit Walt Disney World. No visit to Typhoon Lagoon is complete- or dare I say worth it- without a Sand Pail from Happy Landings. This massive, must-share ice cream gargantuan is served in a legitimate sand pail and considering that two types of soft serve ice cream get covered in caramel, hot fudge, Oreos, sprinkles, waffle cone bits, whipped cream, and a cherry, it’s no wonder they give you a shovel to eat it with!
If you don’t want to get wet on National Water Park day but still want in on the Disney water parks fun, take a boat from Wilderness Lodge out to the Campsites at Fort Wilderness for a close-up look River Country; the spooky, derelict water park that permanently closed its gates in 2001. If you take the ride, ask your captain to explain a bit about River Country, its operation history, and why it closed and I’m sure he/she will be more than happy to tell you all they know! Rumor has it that the park was closed because guest demand was low, although many speculators like to believe that because the water was taken from the nearby Bay Lake and not properly chlorinated, the park was more of a risk than it ever would be a reward for the company, so Disney decided in 2005 to announce its permanent closure.
If you visit The Campsites at Fort Wilderness, you should take a short walk from the boat landing to the queue area for Mickey’s Backyard BBQ. Visit before dinnertime and you can walk into the queue and peek through the walls for an eerie, super cool view of the abandoned water park! River Country remains one of the only behind-the-scenes experiences that is both free of charge and extraordinarily interesting…but maybe not for long. This past spring, Walt Disney World filed for building permits that encompass the land on and around where River Country sits. We don’t know what the permits would see built, but one thing is for sure: River Country likely won’t be around for much longer, so make sure to get your visit in before it’s officially gone for good! Have you ever seen the abandoned River Country or, better yet, did you visit when it was still in operation? If you have to choose between the two current water parks, which would be your pick?
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Special thanks to Maria Salerno for writing this article: Hiya pal! I am a NYC-based writer thrilled to be a part of your Disney vacation planning! I’m a WDW Annual Passholder, so you can find me in the parks regularly throughout the year. In addition to being a Disney Parks loving girl, I’m also a Disney toy and merchandise collector, a runDisney enthusiast, and Disney music and movie aficionado. You can follow me on Instagram: NYCtoAP and find me on YouTube: NYCtoAP. Thanks for reading, hope to see ya real soon!