Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park: A Photo Tourby Donald and Bonnie Fink, contributing writer
Disney's Blizzard Beach opened on April 1, 1995. At the time it was the third water park at Walt Disney World behind River Country and Typhoon Lagoon. Since then, River Country—Walt Disney World's first water park—has closed.
Blizzard Beach is open year-round but is usually closed briefly for a short time during the winter for maintenance. It also closes periodically during inclement weather. The water is kept to around 80 °F (27 °C), except for the melting snow in the ice cave in Cross Country Creek.
The story behind Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park says that a freak winter snowstorm in central Florida inspired the building of a ski resort. As you might imagine, the resort was in immediate trouble because the snow didn't last long, being Florida and all.
When the park owners were just about to close down for good, they heard a yell from atop a mountain (now called Mount Gushmore), and looked up to see a blue alligator, wearing a red scarf and gold colored innertube. He was careening down the mountain at top speed and landed in a pool of melted snow with a thunderous splash.
The gator's name was Ice Gator and he immediately became the mascot as the owners realized the resort's potential as a water park instead of a ski resort. Much of the infrastructure from the ski resort can still be spotted in the park today.
Let's take a look around this water park and see what's here:
Shooting videos for a water park is fun. You basically grab your GoPro and head out, finding as much water as you can. We spent two days shooting this video because, well, it was a water park and it's summer in Florida. Take a look. Video and stills by Don and Bonnie Fink.
Tike's Peak and Ski Patrol Training Camp
Ski Patrol Training Camp is another child friendly area, but perhaps it's more for the slightly older kids. With the water slides and the ice flow obstacle course, it has more challenges that older pre-teens might like. There are also shaded lounge chairs in the area. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Around the Pool
Many resorts and pools at Disney have cabanas for rent. Here, they're called Polar Patios. Guests can reserve a Polar Patio for a group activity, or just a home base for the day. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Polar Patios can be rented for a full day or just a half day if you prefer. They come with an attendant, a personal locker, all-day drink mugs, towels, and an ice cooler stocked with water. If you want a reserved space but you have a smaller party, you can reserve a Lodge Picnic Umbrella. These spaces come with two recliner chairs, a small table, towels, and an umbrella. They're designed for use by four guests or less.
Lounge chairs, sandy beach, waves, and float tubes. It's all here at the Melt-Away Bay pool. It's interesting how the sound of the waves creates a believable atmosphere that you're really at the beach. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
The main pool at Blizzard Beach isn't usually as crowded as it seems here in this image. There seemed to be a large contingency of high school aged young ladies here on the day we shot this image. They chose this moment to cool off. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Our understanding is that, of the two water parks on Disney property, Blizzard Beach is the more crowded because of the higher, more exciting slides. In 2016, however, it was ranked as the third most visited water park in the world with slightly over 2 million visitors. The number two park that year was Typhoon Lagoon.
At the main pool at Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park, the feeling is that you're really at the beach. Many of the lounge chairs are arranged in the sand and the entrance to the pool slopes away just like a beach would. Close your eyes and listen to the waves and it's hard not to believe you're there. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
There are several areas around the park where you can find lounge chairs. Many, like this one, are further away from the pool and have shade and a bit of solitude, or at least some quiet. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Rides ‘n' Slides
Cross Country Creek is a lazy river that moves around the entire park. There are several entry points along the way where you can snag a tube and start your relaxing trip. If you want to get off before making a full lap, simply pick another entrance/exit point. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
We noticed a variety of different tubes for floating in Cross Country Creek. There were standard sized blue tubes as you can see here, as well as some double tubes, smaller white tubes, and even a tube that looks like a chair. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Food and Shopping
Lottawatta Lodge is a re-purposed ski lodge near the main entrance to the park. It's one of the main spots where you get your quick service meals. They offer burgers, flatbreads, rice bowls, and kids' meals plus vegetarian and vegan options. There's also a beverage refill station and seating. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
If you're looking for a meal, Lottawatta Lodge has a roasted chicken rice bowl, White Cap flatbread, chef salad, Blizzard Burger, chicken strips, and a tuna sandwich. They also have vegetarian options and a kids menu. They have assorted desserts including milkshakes Photo by Bonnie Fink..
Other food choices are at places with interesting names like the Cooling Hut, Frostbite Freddy's Arctic Expedition, Avalunch, I.C. Expeditions, and the Warming Hut. Adult beverages can be purchased at the Polar Pub. They're all on the map of the park along with descriptions of what's offered at each one.
There are still those of us who appreciate a cup of coffee, even at a water park. Joffrey's has a hut at Blizzard Beach just for us. You can buy donuts individually, by the half-dozen, or a full dozen if you have a big group. We counted two Joffrey's locations in this park. One has regular donuts while this one has mini donuts. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
You can find several different hot dog toppings at Avalunch plus an Italian sandwich or a chef's salad. A kids' menu has a turkey sandwich or macaroni and cheese. There's a mug refill station around the side of the building. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
If you're in the mood for ice cream, I. C. Expeditions is the place. The Sand Pail sundae has chocolate and vanilla soft serve, waffle pieces, sprinkles, cookie pieces, hot fudge, caramel sauce, whipped cream, and a cherry. If that's more than you want, they also have smaller sundaes, floats, and waffle cones. If you can't decide, there's always the old standby, the Mickey ear ice cream bar, which is arguably the finest ice cream bar ever made. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
If you purchase a Rapid Fill Mug you can refill it all day at the water park. It should be mentioned that if you have a mug from your hotel and wish to use it here, you must purchase a separate chip to use it at this water park. The regular mugs used in the hotels and the four Disney parks don't work here. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
There's plenty of sand at Blizzard Beach so it makes sense that you could find all the tools you might need for digging, sifting, or building your best ever sandcastle here too. You can find this at the Beach Haus, located near the entrance. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
The main place for merchandise at Blizzard Beach is called the Beach Haus. You can find everything you need for a day at the water, including swim wear, light summer attire, and even a sand pail. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
The summer months in Florida are brutally hot, especially when you're outside all day trying to cram as much fun as you can into a very expensive and often stressful vacation. The swimming pools at the resort hotels are beautifully themed and offer a relaxing reprise, but the two water parks are over-the-top in terms of their immersive experience.
At Blizzard Beach, the snow, ski, and blizzard experience is unique and fun, while offering a chance to take a break from the busy parks. You can unwind with a float in Melt-Away Bay and Cross Country Creek, or wind it up as you scream your way down the slopes of Mount Gushmore. The choice is yours.