National Water Park Day: Destinations designed for your sunny summer slipping & sliding

Have you visited every water park on this list?

Swimmers view thousands of exotic fish in a 10,000 gallon tank as they float down the Loggerhead Lane river in Sea World's Aquatica water theme park in Orlando, Fla., Friday, May 16, 2008. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (John Raoux, Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – July 28 is National Water Park Day, a time to contemplate one of humanity’s most over-engineered seasonal solutions to the summer heat.

Distinct memories stand out. Those messed up ice cream pops with grape gumball eyes that look nothing like whatever cartoon is sponsoring them, the jolt of stepping off a burning hot sidewalk into shallow water, the unmistakable coconut smell from thousands of freshly-opened bottles of sunscreen.

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I’m sentimental about some of these gems and there is definitely some penny pinching to be done on National Water Park Day, especially if you’re a Florida resident.

So read on for some ideas of parks to visit this summer, and don’t fall asleep in the sun.


CLOSE TO HOME

Krakatau Aqua Coaster (Universal Orlando)

Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay

I love this place. This, to me, is the futuristic pinnacle of what a water park experience should be and I’m very happy it’s right down the road.

If you don’t know someone who can get you in on a comp pass, Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay is expensive, yes. It can get crowded, indeed. It can get hot, but that’s the sun’s fault. Just look at the place.

It has a magnet-powered water roller coaster, they give you arm bands that let you wait in line for popular rides while having a drink at a bar, you can pay for said drink with said band, the lockers have never failed me, the theming is pleasant and I’ve never been there a day when there isn’t a space available to just slow down, whether it’s in a rented cabana or sprawled on a collection of beach chairs.

Without singing too many praises, Volcano Bay has my recommendation, but I’ve got more below.

Learn more by clicking here.

Disney's Typhoon Lagoon (McReynolds)

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon

I’m mentioning Typhoon Lagoon instead of Blizzard Beach because it’s the only one of the two Disney options currently open, but let’s discuss it briefly.

When we talk about theming, it’s what Disney does best, hands-down. I know I just basically gave Volcano Bay the make-believe water park Murrow Award up there, but this one gets a Pulitzer—it and Blizzard Beach.

It boasts North America’s largest wave pool, multiple raft rides for groups of any size, water playgrounds, even as much as surfing programs and off-site golf course access if you buy the right ticket packages.

What’s really impressive to me, though, is you can get one-day tickets for less than $80. It’s an aging park as well, having opened in 1989, but it’s the real deal.

Learn more by clicking here.

Aquatica Dolphin Plunge (SeaWorld)

Aquatica Orlando

This is supposed to be a hidden gem, and tickets are on sale for up to 50% off until Sunday.

It calls itself America’s No. 1 water park based on recent votes, awards and such. Annual passes come with free parking, tickets for guests and even discounts on in-park purchases. Quite nice.

It’s got its slides and cabanas, multiple wave pools, drop towers, splash pools, even a lazy river that passes under an aquarium. It’s certainly a triple-A option by the looks of it. I haven’t visited personally, but I’ll probably hop on that sale.

Learn more by clicking here.

Freshwater Oasis Experience at Discovery Cove (Discovery Cove)

Discovery Cove

Discovery Cove is probably the most expensive option on this list, but it’s also one of the few that I was able to find a deal for, so bear with me.

I’ve heard this park is supposed to be not amazing, not spectacular, not incredible, but all of the above. It bills itself as a day resort where you get to spend hours interacting with exotic wildlife such as dolphins, rays, otters, tropical fish and birds.

Possibly the most important and unique aspect to me, though, is how the videos I’ve seen of people going to Discovery Cove on any given day show very, very few other guests to share the park with. So, if you’re willing to spend some extra coin to have a water park to yourself, here’s how to get in for a bit less.

Until Aug. 7, Florida residents can take advantage of a 40% discount on 2022 reservations. I’m told by the park’s public relations department that it’s an especially steep discount, more than double of what Discovery Cove normally slashes for Florida residents.

Learn more by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Orlando Watersports Complex

Orlando Watersports Complex

If you’re like me, you’ve passed by this place many times but have never, ever been. Might be time to change that.

Given its amenities, being a boat and cable park for the most part, I would imagine there are other people who practically live here, like a surfer at a good beach.

Seriously, don’t let that file photo fool you, you can do some really neat sporty stuff here. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to wakeboard, for example, you can do that here without necessarily being dragged behind your relative’s boat through a lake. If you like that, though, OWC does offer a boat lake.

For others, what is pictured is the facility’s aqua park, a place to prove what you were saying the other night about the contestants on “Wipeout” not trying hard enough.

Learn more by clicking here.

Nona Adventure Park from the air, courtesy of Nona Adventure Park on Facebook. (Nona Adventure Park)

Nona Adventure Park

What we’ve got here is a self-branded water-based family entertainment center out in Lake Nona. Amenities include an aqua park, cable park, places to climb, swing, race and relax. Something for everyone, you could say.

General Manager Jeff Trudeau sent me an email explaining how specials are being run on all activities, with something new every weekday:

  • Monday - 50% off all-day cable pass
  • Tuesday - College Day, $20 for two hours with beginner gear
  • Wednesday - 50% off all cable tickets and equipment
  • Thursday - Ladies Day, $19 for two hours with beginner gear
  • Friday - First Time Friday, 50% off all cable tickets and equipment on your first visit

Additionally, the place does live music on Friday nights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., with happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

Learn more by clicking here.

Legoland Water Park Image (cropped) (LEGO)

LEGOLAND Florida Resort

Here’s a good kid-friendly option for you readers with youngsters to entertain surely.

Nothing too crazy or over-the-top here. It’d probably be as easy to try every slide, pool, river and LEGO-related activity at the resort’s water park as it is to hit every attraction at the theme park in a day’s time. LEGO encourages a multi-day experience, but it’s possible to run out of things to do here quicker. That’s a good thing for your wallet, unless your kids find the gift shops, of course.

I’m not spiteful as some other Floridians are about how LEGOLAND Florida replaced Cypress Gardens. In my opinion, LEGOLAND Florida Resort has a lot of appeal, specifically for how small it is. Everything — including access to the Peppa Pig theme park — is included on any ticket you get, you can save a bit if you get your tickets in advance, and come on, who doesn’t like LEGO? You? Liar.

Learn more by clicking here.


WORTH THE DRIVE

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park (Andrew Brusso 2017)

Buccaneer Bay

If you know your Hernando County neighbors well, you’ll remember how much worry there was at the potential dismantling of Buccaneer Bay as the state drew closer and closer to turning Weekie Wachee into a state park. Not to worry though, it’s still there.

Fair warning, this place is modest. You get water, two water slides (technically three), some sand and that’s it. I visited many times when I was younger because I’m descended from hunters who used to live in Yankeetown, I even saw it as a milestone in my youth when I noticed I had finally grown taller than the comically huge Elmer Fudd shotguns of theirs we still hold onto, but I’m getting off track.

Get yourself an inner tube, a Coors and a freshly cremated Bubba Burger. Life is a bit slower out in Central West Florida, and it ain’t no problem at all.

Learn more by clicking here.

Rapids Racer at Adventure Island (Busch Gardens Tampa Bay)

Adventure Island

I’ve heard this place is great. What we have here is another one of Busch’s hats thrown into the big-budget theme-park-accompanying water park ring. Slides, pools and rivers, cabanas for rent, dining, designated smoking areas to keep the rest of the air clean and all-day lockers for everyone—the whole shebang. This one even comes with another deal to boot.

Busch Gardens Public Relations tells me Adventure Island’s limited time Summer Sale offer has been extended to July 31, what they explicitly said was “just in time for National Water Park Day.” Guests can save up to 50% on one-day tickets, two-day tickets and Fun Cards, the latter being a pass that’s good through Dec. 31, 2022.

This is the same sale going on at Aquatica, by the way. Same parent company.

Learn more by clicking here.

Courtesy of Love My Dog Resort & Waterpark on Facebook. (Love My Dog Resort & Waterpark)

Love My Dog Resort & Water Park

Yes, this is what it looks like. Did you know Florida has water parks just for dogs? You do now.

There are two of these locations to choose from out on the Gulf Coast—one in North Pinellas and another in downtown St. Petersburg.

In addition to the canine-exclusive water park amenities, the resorts offers everything from grooming to daycare and even full-on boarding. Theoretically, you would be able to just drop your dog off and go to any of these other human water parks on your own, but I’d personally want to be there to see those big smiles, wouldn’t you?

Learn more by clicking here.


HONORABLE MENTIONS

Wet n’ Wild Orlando

Be still, my heart.

Having been a child at the time, going here for birthday parties and even field trips, I loved this water park. Open from March 1977 to the very last day of 2016, 39 years and change, I was far from the only person who had a good time here.

Those memories I mentioned at the beginning of this article? Most are from this place, but I digress. Hope isn’t lost for those of you willing to travel a bit.

Three Wet n’ Wild-branded locations are still in operation: Wet n’ Wild Emerald Pointe up in Greensboro bills itself as The Carolinas’ favorite waterpark, Wet n’ Wild Cancun in Mexico has a slightly more serious pitch as the city’s only water park and Wet ‘n Wild São Paulo treats our Brazilian friends down south to what surely must still be a great time. Que bacana!

A map of River Country (left) with a photograph taken of "Kiddie Cove" as it appeared in 2016 (right). (Disney, Dreams Unlimited Travel)

Disney’s River Country

There’s a lot I could say about River Country, but I’m not going to get carried away again.

This one predates Wet n’ Wild Orlando by almost nine months, having opened in June 1976 with the unique theme of a good ol’ fashioned swimming hole. The park used water from Bay Lake itself for a lagoon; although the water was reportedly filtered and not allowed via pressure to mix with the lake water outright, you may still hear stories of infections impacting the occasional park visitor.

It was closed permanently in November 2001, serving from then until 2019 when demolition began as a destination for wildlife to settle back in, as well as for thrill seekers to test themselves against Walt Disney World’s security, as some have tried with nearby Discovery Island.


Take a moment and vote for your favorite Central Florida water park from these locations:


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About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.