Walt Disney World in Orlando features not only four theme parks but several additional attractions including two water parks, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and Disney's Blizzard Beach. We asked our Parenting Panel: Do you make time and plan budget to visit the water parks on your Walt Disney World vacations? Why or why not?
Chris, also known as GusMan, is always planning his next family trip to the Walt Disney World Resort and loves to help others plan their trips, as well sharing his experiences. Chris writes:
Usually when you think of Disney, you don't normally think about going to a water park as you have four other major parks to attack during your trip. After all, it is hard enough trying to plan for touring the major parks without adding in the water parks, as well. When would you even have the time to do such a thing? Aren't they just big pools with some slides, after all? Ah, the misconceptions of those who have never had the experiences of the Disney water parks.
I have to admit, I shared many of those same sentiments at one time. This was especially the case when we stayed at resorts that have some of the coolest pools right on site. We were only a few steps away from water paradise. But during our first summer trip, with a Water Parks and More option included on our ticket, I turned into one of the biggest believers in how great the water parks could be during the hottest months of the year.
If you have never been to Central Florida in the middle of summer, or if you are used to visiting during the other three seasons, then the heat and humidity might be quite a shocker. If you are not prepared for it, it can almost literally take your breath away. Where the Magic Kingdom might be a favorite park, it is still filled with tarmac, not a whole lot of shade, and those factors causes the energy to be zapped from a person's body. At the same time, with the pools at the resort hotel becoming more crowded due to the weather and the desire to still get some thrills that can't be had with the hotel pool slide, a water park is a great consideration.
Like many features of a major park, there is something for everyone. Small kids have their own area, families have their options, and there are even some thrill ride attractions to boot. Between the attractions and theming, you really can have a great time and build some great memories playing in the water. But, most of all, it is a place to cool off in a themed atmosphere that still includes many of the Disney touches that you come to know and love.
Generally speaking, our family considers the water parks only if we are there in the middle of summer and if we have the Water Park Fun and More option or we have a Premium Annual Pass, which gives us the same sort of access to Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. This is because I think there is some real value in those extra-cost add-ons to the ticket if you plan on using them properly, compared to buying water park tickets on a daily basis. Go to a water park twice and you pretty much have the Water Park Fun and More option more than covered from a cost perspective. The key thing here, though, is that this is something that you must budget for and then expect to spend enough time there to get a good value for your dollar. That also means that you will spend time away from the major parks, as well, which might not be a bad thing either if you want a “non-park day” option.
Here are some thoughts when considering a water park:
- What time of year are you going? For us, we prefer the summer months only as we tend to make our trips longer and it is nice to have a change of pace.
- Do we plan on getting an Annual Pass or a regular ticket with the Water Park Fun and More option? Because the costs are not trivial, think about this from a longer-term perspective. For us, we tend to get an Annual Pass every other year and get at least two trips out of them, so that plays a big role.
- How long are we going to stay? For us, having a break from the major parks after about three or four days makes things go by a lot smoother. It gives a nice change of scenery.
- Do you have small children or children that do not tolerate the sun very well? You have to consider how much your children like a pool-like environment. Small children will obviously need constant supervision and interaction but may also get bored faster as well. You will have to know your kids and how they will act in such a situation.
- Will the pool at the resort be more than enough? Staying at a Deluxe resort with a super pool may be enough water-based entertainment for your family. A water park may then be somewhat redundant. On the flip side, staying at a value resort may prompt you to consider the water park option to expand your park options.
- Will you be able to be flexible enough with your plans to accommodate a water park? You may never know how the weather pans out, even in the summer. The water parks will shut down during severe weather, which may be somewhat disrupting to trip plans.
Overall, our family really does enjoy the water parks. We do not make use of them every year, but every few years, we tend to plan a visit. Keeping in mind that the water parks are very weather dependent, you somewhat take your chances during cooler or stormy seasons. However, if you plan it our properly, you may find yourself considering them more often, especially if you hear positive feedback from the rest of the family.
Parenting in the Parks columnist Adrienne Krock’s three boys are now 13, 11, and 8. They’ve been visiting the Disneyland Resort since they were each just weeks old and Annual Passholders since their 3rd birthdays. Adrienne writes:
Before we ever had children, Doc and I looked at everything to do in Orlando and figured we would need several weeks just to see it all. I wanted to see everything, even water parks and golf courses! Fast forward to having three boys, planning our first trip to the Walt Disney World Resort, and suddenly the extras just seemed like a waste of precious time and vacation resources.
I know other people love the water parks. Admittedly, my children saw videos of the water slides on the promotional DVD for Walt Disney World. They knew which parks hosted which slides. They quickly figured out which park they might prefer if they could visit a water park. Yes, they even talked about the water parks.
We scheduled a long vacation for our first visit to Walt Disney World—much longer than average even. We booked a long stay because we wanted to spend as much time as we could in the parks themselves. With so much to see and do, we wanted to see it all, but with enough time that we did not feel overwhelmed with the rush. Out of an 11-night stay, we only had eight-day park-hoppers, yet had so much to do in those days, that we never even missed the water parks. On one day, we visited Kennedy Space Center. The other day, I washed laundry. We stayed at Disney's All-Star Music Resort, which has two themed pools and a children’s pool. The Disney on-site resort hotels all offer pools and many even offer their own water slides. My boys could swim without any additional cost while I ran loads of laundry. Later in the day, we wandered around Downtown Disney and explored the shops there. With plenty of restaurants at Downtown Disney and at the resort hotels throughout Walt Disney World, we had more than enough choices from which to select.
At the time of our trip to Walt Disney World, my sons were 5, 8, and 11-years old. Besides having plenty to do on our non-park day, I appreciated having a “down” day for the boys to relax a bit. We already planned our trip to take our time through the parks but we also valued the day off without having to stand in lines or negotiate where to go and what to see.
I know my sons probably would have enjoyed the water parks had we fit them into our schedule. But our trip was wonderful without the water parks, and we have no regrets that we skipped them during our visit.
Mary Kraemer is an avid Disney fan and travel consultant with CruisingCo/MouseEarVacations who loves to travel with her husband and children to Disney destinations as often as possible! Mary writes
Newsflash! The Walt Disney World Resort is not all just about theme parks. If you haven’t visited Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach, you are missing out on some amazing good fun.
Our family loves the absolutely splashtacular Disney water parks. When we visit Walt Disney World during a warm week, we make sure that water park time is on our schedule, just as our visits to the different theme parks because Disney’s water parks are really terrific. But we can’t seem to agree on which water park is better, so we just have to go back and enjoy them over again.
I personally love the theme of Blizzard Beach, with the idea of a ski resort in Florida (I used to live in Colorado, so it’s irony I can love). But the fun of a "ski jump" slide, the racing slides, and the utterly charming Tikes Peak kiddie area are excellent and creative water fun.
Some of my kids love Typhoon Lagoon for the enormous wave pool (did you know you can get surfing lessons here?), and the Crush ‘n’ Gusher water coasters are much like the Aquaduck on the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream cruise ships….but oh, so much more!
We like to arrive at the water parks early before the crowds arrive so we can get a good spot. You could spend an entire day playing in the water park, especially if you rent a cabana, where you’re really set with a great separate place to call your own. But it’s a nice balance to spend a half day at a water park, go back to your hotel for some downtime, and then enjoy an evening at one of the four theme parks. (Or you could also enjoy one of our other non-theme park must-do activities: mini-golf at Winter Summerland or Fantasia Gardens.)
When you buy Magic Your Way base tickets for Walt Disney World you can choose to add the Water Park Fun and More option, just as you can add the Park Hopper option. The nice thing about the Water Parks Fun and More option is that it is one add-on cost, no matter how many days of park admission you’ve purchased, and you get a fun option (either water park admission or DisneyQuest) for each day of park admission. So, for example, if you have five-day park tickets, that’s five admissions for the water parks or DisneyQuest! If you know you’ll be spending an entire day at the water parks, adjust your park days accordingly!
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(Send an email to Adrienne Krock)
Adrienne gathered experience taking children to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job: being mom to her three boys. Adrienne, Matthew, Spencer, and Colin visit Disneyland frequently, usually with Dad, Kevin.