With the scorching heat wave sweeping across the United States — and knowing the climate is only getting warmer — water parks are becoming increasingly enticing ways to beat the heat. Sliding down a tube of water in the sunshine with your friends and family is an objectively enjoyable experience — be honest, there’s a little kid in all of us. Sure, there are some parks where overcrowding and questionable sanitation make them feel like a hellish, children-ruled apocalypse, but there are others that have mastered the art of the water park. This much is clear: Florida does not mess around when it comes to aquatic recreation. Water parks have become a staple for any fun-seeking family, and if you’re headed to the Sunshine State, visiting one is an absolute must. Here’s our list of the best water parks in the state.
Disney’s Blizzard Beach is a uniquely-themed park that has all the selling points of a magical Disney experience. Once upon a time (the story goes), there was a massive ski resort that has now melted into a watery wonderland. Water slides look like slushed ice winding down a mountain toboggan run, the Ski Jump launches guests into a pool, while the Ski Lift brings them to the top of a mountain. Find Goofy wandering about in his classic outfit, enjoy the Incredibles-themed family-friendly activities, and float about in the one-acre wave pool. Summit Plummet is one of the world’s tallest slides and nudges you off a 12-story drop. Also, in an industry not exactly known for exquisite cuisines, Blizzard Beach has a surprising number of restaurants serving a wide array of options for food and drinks.
Adventure Island in Tampa is a 30-acre, well-balanced facility that offers something for the whole family. If you’re seeking thrills, they have slides for you. If you’re not, there’s plenty for you as well. The Colossal Curl is a new ride designed for up to four people, giving riders a feeling of weightlessness as it winds around 622 feet of dizzying turns. Elsewhere, the Vanish Point encloses riders dramatically in a glass tube and releases the floor beneath their feet, shooting them down a 70-foot drop. If you still have energy left after a long day of water rides, hop on the park’s lazy river or check out Spike Zone, the site’s large beach volleyball complex.
Weeki Wachee Springs
In a unique take on the water park experience, Weeki Wachee is a spring-fed facility that promises crystal-clear water at 72 degrees. Without that off-putting chlorine smell, it offers more of a natural day out. The lazy river and the play area for kids feel like the true outdoors, where visitors can lounge in a natural spring. Weeki Wachee’s biggest claim to fame is the daily mermaid show. That’s right folks — included in your admission ticket is the chance to be mesmerized by a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience. Have you ever seen a mermaid dabble in aquatic and aerial acrobatics? Have you ever even seen a real mermaid? Skeptics prepare to be amazed.
Disney’s other great water attraction in Florida is the Typhoon Lagoon, a jungle-themed park offering Caribbean and pirate vibes for guests all year-round. The park boasts the usual attractions like water slides, lazy rivers, and play areas for little ones, but the main draw is the wave pool. People from all around the country flock to Typhoon Lagoon to try their hand at surfing the 6-foot human-made wave. There’s also Shark Reef, a 362,000-gallon reef environment where guests can snorkel among coral and tropical fish normally found in the Caribbean.
Legoland Water Park
Adjacent to the primary Legoland park in Winter Haven, the add-on water park appeals to those traveling with young ones under the age of 12. The rides are a bit more mild, and the experience is generally more calm. The Joker Soaker is a family-favorite — an interactive play area with three levels of slides, climbing areas, water sprouts and a wading pool. There’s also Wave Racers, a kind of aquatic version of bumper cars where kids steer clear of water cannons.
USA Today recently rated Aquatica in Orlando the #1 water park in the nation. The park is affiliated with SeaWorld next door, so it tends to pull a big crowd and the rides here aim to go above and beyond traditional waterpark expectations. The lazy river is more interactive with rapids and geysers, the Dolphin Plunge sends guests through a transparent submerged tube surrounded by dolphins swimming alongside, and the wave pools are massive, chaotic, and feel incredibly authentic. Dive in!