This week on WDW ESCAPE, take a journey of the imagination with us, as we IMAGINE Blizzard Beach
IMAGINE- Blizzard Beach
Over the years my family and I have got to know Walt Disney World pretty well. Can’t-miss rides, beloved characters, special dinners and amazing shows, just like you, we have our favorites mapped out for each day.
We know what lines to avoid, which must be endured and where to go if we’re feeling snacky. Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom are like old friends, and while we were certainly not tired of any of them, it was a thrill to discover a brand-new Disney Park.
Or at least brand-new to us. Where did we go? Disneyland? California Adventure? Perhaps an epic, life-changing journey to Tokyo Disney or Disneyland Paris? A globe-hopping Duck Tales -esque adventure where every episode ends in a different International Disney Park? That sounds pretty good.
Nope, nope, nope and nope. Not yet, anyway. The newest Disney Park for us was none other than the wet and wild wonder of the word: Blizzard Beach.
And here the Florida locals burst into hysterical laughter. Visiting Walt Disney World is a vastly different experience for those of us who fly from all over the world, or cram ourselves into cars for that old-school family vacation experience, emerging from our little tin boxes cramped, tired of every song on the radio, and with a plan to stuff as much theme park magic as humanly possible into the next however-many-days.
For the vacation crowd, fitting in some water park fun can be a surprisingly difficult chess match, and for years the water parks didn’t make the cut for us.
The locals, however, knew better. They knew that the water parks don’t get the respect they deserve, not even appearing on an official list of Disney Theme Parks. Like saying that Anna and Elsa aren’t Disney Princesses because they are actually queens.
Technically correct, and I don’t want to hear it. The locals knew that there are hours and hours of wet and wild fun to be had at the water parks, if we could only tear ourselves away from the familiar to try something delightfully different. The more local residents we met on our adventures, the more certain we became that we were missing something good.
One advantage of homeschooling is that you can take your vacations in whatever low-occupancy time of year you choose, which means we have often been to Walt Disney World when the only people in the resort pools were other Canadians– and Minnesotans, who are practically honorary Canadians, in that they also talk funny, love hockey and think that swimming in Florida in January and February is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, just like us.
So, when the kids were big enough and we shelled out for the “plus” on our Park Hopper tickets, one thing that we were not worried about was overcrowding. There would not be a lot of standing in line on this day, my friends.
And we were even spared the tough decision of which water park to explore first, as Typhoon Lagoon was closed for a seasonal refurbishment, which meant it was Blizzard Beach or bust.
The park is themed with an elaborate fiction about a ski resort built after a freak Florida blizzard, and while it is not the most plausible story I’ve ever heard, they take it seriously enough that my children weren’t entirely sure whether they should believe it or not, which is probably a side -effect of all that wishing on a star they had been doing.
Give them a week at Disney and they’ll believe anything!
The kids are both good swimmers, and had experience with other, lesser water slides that I shall not name here, so this was one of those delightfully worry-free days for their poor old fusspot of a Disney Dad. Or so I thought.
I am secretly afraid of heights, and I manage to hide it pretty well. But I almost balked at the sight of the ski lift. We’re going up the hill in that? Really? There isn’t any other way? Just in the nick of time, I checked myself. Putting a chair lift at a water park is possibly the most brilliant idea ever.
We would probably want to use it multiple times today to replace walking uphill with more time sliding down waterslides. Besides, we could see several very small children riding it without fuss, not to mention my own, who didn’t seem nervous at all, partly because I didn’t either. Time to Dad Up.
Given that I clearly survived not only to ride the chair lift again and again, not to mention record this podcast, you know there is nothing to fear from the ski lift at Blizzard Beach, which is just a wonderful idea.
Up, up to the top of Mount Gushmore and its many, many ways to come down in a hurry. Once at the top, we found ourselves in the heart of Green Slope territory, including the park’s premiere attraction, the Summit Plummet.
120 feet of pure, intense hydration, the Summit Plummet is one of the tallest and fastest free-fall water slides on the planet, and if you want to know what it is really like… you’ll have to talk to somebody who actually had the nerve to ride it, because my family did not; my daughter and I out of a keen sense of self-preservation, and my son because he was concerned about losing his bathing suit.
I should add that, to the best of my knowledge no one has either expired from terror or been pantsed riding the Summit Plummet, but we were taking no chances.
Besides, we were in love with Teamboat Springs, and rode it again and again. Teamboat Springs is a family white-water raft ride, good and long, with just the right number of thrills and splashes for my crowd. Trip after trip, we laughed our way down he long, winding route and back up to the top again.
Before long we turned to the Purple Slope, with rides designed for racing, and here the inter-sibling trash talk began in earnest.
From the tube slides of the Downhill Double Dipper to the sled-style mat races of Snow Stormers and Toboggan Racers, the purple slope adds the magic of sibling rivalry to your water park experience, and the results were an afternoon of delight.
It took us a while to make our way over to the Red Slope, but once we did, we were hooked by the thrills of Runoff Rapids, a tube slide adventure with a duration that is definitely worth waiting for, and this one too drew a lot of repeat business from my gang.
You may not get in as many steps when you visit a Disney Water Park, but it’s like going to a land of stair-masters, or possibly spending an entire park day on Swiss Family Treehouse. We felt those stairs the next day. Worth it.
At long last the stairs won the battle and we were ready to explore ground level, including the battering and buffeting of Melt-Away Bay, a magnificent wave pool of genuinely epic proportions; before giving in to the relaxing charms of Cross-Country Creek, perhaps the most absurdly long lazy river I have ever experienced, and one which I wish I was floating in right now.
Of course, there were more attractions than I can possibly list, suited to all ages, shapes and sizes. And that’s what makes a day at Blizzard Beach so much fun. Whatever your thrill-o-meter is set to, there is an experience that is just right for you.
And another one to try that will move the needle of what you dare do, just a little. What I remember most about our day at Blizzard Beach is how much of the visit was spent laughing together. Laughing at thrills, splashes and sibling misfortunes, it never seemed to stop.
It took a while to put the Disney Water Parks on our radar, but it only took one visit to put Blizzard Beach on our must-do list for good.