Observations of a Disney Water Park Rookie


In the many times I’ve visited Walt Disney World, I had never once been to a water park – until my most recent trips. Although a few half-day visits hardly make me an expert, I thought I’d share some of my first impressions of the Disney water park experience, and perhaps offer some useful tidbits to Disney travelers new, like myself, to Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

 Observations of a Disney Water Park Rookie
Photo WDWNews.com, adapted by Wandering Educators

1.    Arrive early.

This holds true for all the parks, of course, but there are no fastpasses at the water parks to mitigate lines later in the day. They’re not so big that it’s impossible to do it all, provided you arrive early enough to beat the lines. I found it much nicer to do the water slides first thing in the morning, before lines began to form, and spend the hot afternoon relaxing in the lazy river or wave pool. Additionally, arriving early – fifteen to thirty minutes before opening, ideally – affords you first pick of the beach chairs. 

 Observations of a Disney Water Park Rookie

2. Scope it out.

As with all Disney parks, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Pick up a map or look the park up online to get an idea of the water attractions you absolutely want to get done - what Disney would call “must-dos.” Also be sure to have a sense of the scope and layout of the park. Navigating the water parks with a group can be a little stressful since you may not want to carry your cell phone; getting an idea of the layout beforehand can make things a bit easier. But don’t worry – there are plenty of maps posted around the park in case you do lose your way. 

3. Have an exit strategy.

Electrical storms can come quickly in Florida. This is especially true in summer, the prime water park season. My traveling group and I were fortunately fairly close to the exit when the thunderclouds rolled in on our first trip to Typhoon Lagoon, but even so, we were forced to make a mad dash barefoot through the parking lot in pouring rain. Granted, we were in our bathing suits, but the approaching thunder and lightning were a bit off-putting, not to mention the fact that our low supply of (now-damp) towels did little to protect the car we drove off in. Also note that the parking lots, though smaller than that of the main parks, are not clearly marked, making it difficult to find your car. Try to identify some sort of landmark nearby. And no matter the season, remember to keep an eye on the sky.

4. Prepare the towels.

The towels provided at the park cost $2 each to rent. Now, this is not an exorbitant amount of money, but water-park goers wishing to save a few dollars (especially in a big group) or hoping to avoid the towel rental lines would be well advised to bring their own. Not to mention a towel from home would likely be larger than the ones provided. It’s also helpful to bring a towel each to leave on each person’s car seat before entering the park. This guarantees one dry, sand–free towel each to protect the car upholstery. 

5. Check your clothing.

I didn’t realize until my arrival that there are certain restrictions on what clothing is allowed to be worn on slides. I had a small buckle on each of my bathing suit straps which gave me a scare, but, as the attendant informed me, this mostly applies to large buttons or people attempting to wear clothing other than a traditional bathing suit that could catch on a ride. 

6. Lockers.

The waterparks offer locker rentals for $10 or $15 per day, depending on the size you select. I would recommend placing any electronic or valuable item in the lockers upon entrance or simply leaving them behind. The last thing you want to be doing while trying to relax in one of the lazy rivers is worrying whether your belongings are safe. And a break from electronics, while perhaps frightening, can be freeing. All we left at our chairs were bottles of water, sunscreen, and books – valuable items certainly, but not exactly targets for theft. 

7. “Strong Swimmers.”

Now, safety is essential, so I don’t want to downplay the danger of water, especially for young children. But know that Disney has taken every precaution to ensure the safety of its guests and protect the company from any lawsuits. Because of this, some of the warnings are a bit unnecessary. A friend of mine was afraid to go on any of the slides because the posted signs state that only strong swimmers should participate. In fact, the first one we attempted landed us in about three inches of water. If you’re an adult with the ability to stand in water and perform a decent doggy paddle in an emergency, you should be fine on all of the slides. If you’re not confident in your swimming abilities or have a small child to look after, I would check the depth of the pool at the end of each ride before entering and make sure young children have floatation devices to be safe. With that said, I would most definitely watch out for the Surf Pool at Typhoon lagoon and Melt-Away Bay at Blizzard Beach. Set up like a beach, these pools generate artificial waves and can get very deep. The Surf Pool is especially dangerous, since it generates not so much waves as walls of water. The pull of the waves is powerful, and I – a 16 (at the time) year old and fairly strong swimmer – got wiped out while standing about knee deep and rolled into a group of strangers. I would highly recommend that only strong swimmers or children with floaties and a parent venture farther than they can stand, and be watchful even then.

8. Food.

The multiple “dining” locations in the water parks offer a surprising variety of meals, likely a recent change in step with the improving quality of all Disney counter service offerings. The traditional fried favorites are available, along with a number of interesting choices, like Shrimp Wrecked Salad with Pecans and Berries and Chicken Gyro. Even so, the food is, of course, overpriced. If you choose to save a bit of money by packing lunch – which you are allowed to do, provided you have no glass bottles or alcohol – you won’t be missing out on any fine dining experience. 

9. Sunscreen.

What is there to say? Bring some! It’s easy to forget the more painful effects of the Florida sunshine when you’re floating around in the cool water, but just because you’re comfortable does not necessarily mean you’re not getting burned. Sunscreen is sold in both parks in case you forget to pack some. I would recommend applying sunscreen at the hotel or on the way over to allow time for the sunscreen to sink in and avoid wasting those precious first moments in the park. And don’t forget to re-apply! I would also advise protecting yourself further from the sun by bringing waterproof shoes of some sort to protect your feet against the sun-heated ground and remembering to stay hydrated. 

10. Whether to go.

Of course, the essential question for many guests considering a water park trip is whether to even enter the water parks in the first place. A single day water park ticket costs $60 per person ages 10 and older. Ultimately, I’d say it depends on the kind of vacation you’re looking for. If you’re staying five days or less, I’d argue there’s more than enough to do in Disney World without the water parks and you may in fact miss out on some of the traditional Disney activities, unless your family has an abiding love for water attractions. If you’re enjoying an extended trip or visit the World frequently and are looking for something new to do, I’d take another look. The water parks are also great for those seeking a more laid back vacation, a float-in-the-water-then-recline-on-the-beach kind of vacation. The water parks, with fewer attractions and plenty of space to lay back in the shade and relax, are certainly more conducive to that atmosphere than, say, Magic Kingdom. 

 Observations of a Disney Water Park Rookie
As summer heats up in Central Florida, water parks of Walt Disney World Resort offer guests the chance to relax and refresh. Whether it’s Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon or Disney’s Blizzard Beach, the cooling, splashy fun is nonstop. Guests can beat the heat in myriad ways, whether inner-tubing down a lazy waterway or blasting down a speed slide. Walt Disney World Resort is in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Photo WDWNews.com

Kathryn Blanco, a life-long Disney fanatic, is the Disney Editor for Wandering Educators. She loves Disney, and her website, DisneyAtHome.com, is a way to share how to bring your Disney experiences home with you.


All photos courtesy and copyright Kathryn Blanco, except where noted