North America Theme Parks / Zoos International
Universal Studios Islands of Adventure (Orlando)
I recently returned from 2 magical weeks in Orlando, Florida. During our stay we visited many theme parks, including Universal Studios Islands Of Adventure. There are 2 Universal Studios parks in Orlando - the original Universal Studios (which first opened in 1990) and the newer Universal Studios Islands Of Adventure (which ... first opened in 1999). This review will focus on the newest Universal Studios park.
We caught a taxi from our hotel and back again. There is a taxi rank right outside the parks and we didn't have to wait for a taxi. Car parking is also available for $15.00 per vehicle, per day. Universal Studios is nearby all the other main theme parks in Orlando and is only roughly a 20 minute drive from Walt Disney World. When you arrive you have to pass through Universal Citywalk which is full of bars, clubs, shops, restaurants and general entertainment (mini golf, cinema etc). We didn't stop at Universal Citywalk (only for photos) but it did seem quite lively in the evening. You don't need a ticket to enter Universal Citywalk. This is where you decide what park to choose - right for Universal Studios and left for Universal Studios Islands Of Adventure.
We bought our tickets at the gate, you can also buy them online. One day park tickets cost $88.00 for adults (these can be used in either Universal Parks but not both) and children cost $82.00. One day park tickets to BOTH parks cost $123.00 ($117.00 for children), although you will certainly need more than one day to cover both parks. We wanted to visit both Universal Parks, so we purchased the most sensible and cost effective tickets - 2 day park-to-park. These tickets cost a whopping $139.99 for adults ($129.99 for children) and allow you in to both parks, for 2 separate days. Tickets are very expensive but if you want to visit both Universal parks I would definitely advise paying an extra $16.99 for a 2 day park-to-park ticket. Park hours vary between 8am - 10pm. Park hours during our visit were 9pm - 8pm and we spent the whole day there.
As the name suggests Universal Studios Islands Of Adventure is owned and run by the American movie production company Universal. Universal are behind some of the best and highest grossing films ever made. Every ride/show/attraction in the original Universal Studios park is based on Universal movies, however Islands Of Adventure have branched out and included characters licensed from rival studios. This is great because there are no other theme parks in the world that include the likes of Harry Potter, Marvel and Dr Seuss!
We had children in our group ranging from 4-8 years. The 4 year old got on most rides but children any younger many struggle to meet some height requirements. Before our holiday I was advised to skip Islands Of Adventure because there were apparently too many adult rides and not enough for children. I'm glad I didn't take that advice because this was one of our favourite parks in Orlando! Be sure to bring an autograph book because there are lots of characters to meet. We visited on a weekday and although the park was quite busy, we didn't have to queue very much for rides which was excellent and allowed us to cover most of the park. Avoid weekends and American holidays if possible! Islands Of Adventure is situated around a big lake. This is a good set up as it means you can make your way around the park easily and wont miss anything. We made our way around the park clockwise. There are a number of shops at the entrance/exit, we didn't end up visiting these shops but I did notice an all year round Christmas shop!
We started off at Marvel Super Hero Island. The biggest rollercoaster in the park can be found here - it's green, HUGE and super fast... not surprisingly, it's called The Incredible Hulk! This was probably my most favourite roller coaster in Orlando. We queued for a front seat which took about half hour longer than the regular queue, but it was well worth it. It takes off at high speed, has loads of loops and reaches speeds of 65 mph! Another favourite in Marvel Super Hero Island was 'The Amazing Adventures Of Spiderman'. You wear 3D glasses and sit in carts (which hold about 8 people). It's an attraction which is like a 3D simulator but is also a ride which actually moves, spins and drops. I still can't get my head around it, it's very clever! You take a turbulent trip around the streets of New York as you encounter all of the Spiderman villains, as well as Spiderman himself! This is a great ride for kids and adults. 'Doctor Doom's Fearfall' (Fantastic Four themed) is a thrill ride which takes you high up and drops you back down at high speed. Unfortunately I didn't get to do this ride but I'm told it was very good! A tamer ride in Marvel Super Hero Island is 'Storm Force Accelatron' which is like a spinning teacup ride. It's not the most exciting ride but it's a good little family ride and had a very short queue. Marvel Super Hero Island is visually spectacular and is sure to please comic book geeks young and old! There were plenty of places to eat and shop here, although we didn't do either of those. One thing that we all really enjoyed was meeting some Marvel Heroes! During our visit we met Wolverine, Storm, Rouge and Captain America. You can also meet Spiderman, Dr Doom and Cyclops (I'm sure there are plenty of others that we didn't see), plus there is a daily Marvel Super Hero parade which we didn't find out about until we got home!
The next part we visited was Toon Lagoon. This 'island' is themed on classic cartoons. This is a fun area for children (although our kids didn't know most of the characters!) and enjoyable for adults (I love Popeye!). It's home to 2 wet rides and there is also a little Popeye-themed wet play area - if you don't want to get wet, skip Toon Lagoon! 'Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges' is a river rapids ride where you sit in round rafts that hold about 10 people. My advice for this ride is to wear as little clothes as possible as you WILL get absolutely SOAKED! It lasted a lot longer than I expected and we got a lot wetter than I expected, especially as people watching the ride can shoot water guns at you and detonate water cannons! It was great fun and something I definitely recommend doing. There are dryers at the exit, although the Florida sun should dry you off in no time. We were going to ride 'Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls' afterwards, which is a log flume ride. It looked excellent and almost looked as if it turned in to a rollercoaster at the bottom of the drop. However some of our group didn't want to get wet again so we decided to skip this one. There are lots of nice shops in Toon Lagoon, I particularly liked the Betty Boop shop. There are 3 different counter service restaurants here too. We met Popeye and Olive Oyl in Toon Lagoon and all agreed that the theme was really fun.
Me and my daughter love the movie Jurassic Park so we were rather excited to visit the next part of the park. You enter under a big Jurassic Park archway (much like the one from the movie) and one of the first sights you see is one of the cars from Jurassic Park and a huge T-Rex emerging from the bushes! It's set out like the real Jurassic Park - lots of lush vegetation, wooden buildings, little exhibits scattered about and even a dinosaur or two! The main ride here is 'Jurassic Park River Adventure' and despite being a popular ride, we queued for about 5 minutes! You sit in boats (in rows of about 4) and take a leisurely cruise along a river where you encounter a number of friendly animatronic dinosaurs. I thought the dinosaurs looked pretty convincing. Some of them were standing in the river, some of them were in the bushes and some of them gave you a fright as they sprung up from the water! Everything begins to go wrong as your boat accidental takes a wrong turn and in to the path of some rather scary dinosaurs. Lots of the dinosaurs pop out when you're not expecting them and some of them even spit 'acid' at you! We came face to face with a MASSIVE T-Rex, just when we thought we were about to be eaten, we plunged down a huge slide and in to a big splash. It's great fun. I thought the kids might be a bit scared but they loved it. We got a little bit wet but not uncomfortably wet. There was a fun looking ride called 'Pteranodon Flyers' which were small seats suspended from a cable high up in the air. I was a bit worried about the kids riding on this one (they were single seats) so sadly we decided to skip it. There are 4 different places to eat in Jurassic Park, we decided to eat at a counter service restaurant called The Burger Digs. Two vegetarian burgers (which were very nice) with chips and drinks cost around $20.00. You could create your own burger by putting all the salad and sauce in yourself, which I really liked, plus their were a pair of big dinosaur skeletons in the middle of the restaurant which was pretty cool! Below the restaurant is the 'Jurassic Park Discovery Center' similar to the discovery center in the movie. There's life-size dinosaur models, interactive games and you can even watch a dinosaur egg hatch! There's a few other things to see in Jurassic Park including 'Camp Jurassic' (a kids play area) and 'Triceratops Discovery Trail' (a walkthrough attraction which features a full-size interactive replica of a Triceratops). Everybody was really keen on getting to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter so we missed those two attractions, I wasn't too bothered about the play area but would have liked to have seen the Triceratops. There were plenty of places to pick up Jurassic Park merchandise too.
The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter is a spectacular sight! Hogwarts has been recreated and looks just like it does in the movies. You can go inside Hogwarts where there is a ride called 'Harry Potter And The Forbidden Journey', this is the most popular Harry Potter ride and is an absolute must do. We queued for about half an hour but the queue had plenty to see (like most queue lines in Universal). There is a room where you board the ride, you can do child swaps here which was really handy for us as our younger two didn't reach the height restriction. This was another ride that blew my mind and was a mixture of real sets, animatronics and projection screens. You sit in 'enchanted benches' of 4 and are held in by over shoulder restraints. The ride includes all of the main Harry Potter characters and your enchanted bench takes plenty of twists and turns (almost upside down at points!). Next to Hogwarts is a small rollercoaster called 'Flight Of The Hippogriff' which had no queue at all and wasn't the most exciting rollercoaster, but the kids enjoyed it and thought it was fast. Hogsmeade Village is really impressive too. It's covered in snow and looks so authentic, the window displays are brilliant too. My most vivid memory is watching a screaming Mandrake (plant) moving about in one of the shop windows (I actually heard it before I saw it!). There's are 2 joint rollercoasters called 'Dragon Challenge', they were formally called 'Duelling Dragons' and the idea was that the rollercoasters raced against each other, at the same time. However due to a couple of incidents they don't run the two rollercoasters at the same time any more. You can choose either fire (red coaster) or ice (blue coaster). We chose ice and thankfully there wasn't much of a queue. It was a thrilling rollercoaster and one which we all enjoyed, although I still preferred 'The Incredible Hulk'. There are loads of great shops which sell every bit of Harry Potter merchandise that you could think of. There's even a wand shop! There are a lot of good places to eat too, they include unusual food and drink from the Harry Potter stories. We didn't eat here but I slightly regret not getting myself a Butterbeer! I'm not a Harry Potter geek (although I have seen about 4 or 5 of the movies with my daughter and have enjoyed them all) and absolutely loved this area of the park, so I imagine this would be an absolute wonderland to diehard Harry Potter fans!
The next area of the park is called The Lost Continent. It is themed to ancient myths and legends. None of us were too interested in this part of the park (and we were running low on time) so we really didn't spend much time in this area. I noticed there were plenty of places to eat and there were also a couple of shows. One thing which we all enjoyed was an interactive fountain called 'The Mystic Fountain'. At first glance it just looked like a normal fountain but then it started talking to us! Needless to say the kids ended up getting completely soaked.
The last 'island' is Suess Landing. This is a lovely themed area of the park which is cute, unusual and whimsical! It's perfect for children and fans of Dr Seuss. There are no big thrill rides here, but instead a number of fun and tame rides. Our favourite was 'The Cat In The Hat' which is a dark ride set inside a big stripy hat. You sit in carts of about 6 and ride through the story of The Cat In The Hat, where you get to see all your favourite Cat In The Hat characters. It was longer than I expected, fun and spinney! There's a Dr Seuss themed carousel called 'Caro-Suess-el' which is nice for little ones. There's also another spinning ride called 'One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish' where you ride in fishes and can make them go up and down (similar to the Dumbo and Aladdin ride at Disney's Magic Kingdom). There's also fishes around the edges which squirt water at you, so my daughter had lots of fun lining me up with the fish and watching me get soaked! The kids really enjoyed 'If I Ran A Zoo'. They kept calling it a maze but it was more of a play area which was full of tunnels, slides and even had a water play area (all Suess themed). This kept them entertained for about half an hour whilst we had a rest and positioned ourselves at the entrance and exit to avoid any escapes! There's a slow moving tram ride called 'The High In The Sky Suess Trolley Train Ride' which gives you a good view of Seuss Landing from above. It's not the most exciting ride but like most things in Suess Landing, there's just something about it that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside! There are places to eat (although we didn't) and some amazing Dr Seuss shops to visit (which we did!). I saw a LOT of kids (and adults!) wearing 'Thing 1' and 'Thing 2' t-shirts!
We had sore feet, very little money left in our bank accounts and many of us were still soaked. But to say we had a good time would be an understatement, we had the BEST time. I would say this was one of my favourite parks in Orlando. There are so many things at Islands Of Adventures that can't be found elsewhere and all of the different 'islands' were so varied. It has themes and rides that appeal to everybody. Everything was done really well and clearly no expense was spared! I had previously heard that this park was horrendously crowded and we would spend hours queueing, but we must have timed it well because the longest we queued for a ride for was about 35 minutes. If you're visiting Orlando, I definitely recommend giving Universal Studios Islands Of Adventure a visit!
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Epcot (Florida, USA)
I have recently returned from 2 magical weeks at Walt Disney World in Florida. Walt Disney World is situated in Orlando and includes 4 theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot), 2 water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach) and a number of different resorts. We stayed in one of the Disney ... resorts and visited all of the Disney theme parks and water parks. We visited Epcot on day 7 of our holiday. Epcot was the second Disney park to be built at Walt Disney World and first opened in 1982.
Our park tickets were included in our package, so we didn't have to worry about entry costs to any of the parks. We could come and go as we pleased. However park prices are generally very expensive at Disney. A one day adult pass (10+ years) at Epcot costs $89.00 and a one day child pass (3-9 years) costs $83.00. These prices are quite high but I still think it's definitely a park worth doing. Parking is available for $14.00 per day.
The park opening times vary throughout the year. During our visit the opening hours were 9am - 9pm. If you are staying in the Walt Disney World resort, then you are entitled to 'Extra Magic Hours'. Extra Magic Hours allow you in to all the Disney parks either an hour before the parks open to the public or a couple of hours after the parks close to the public. Extra Magic Hours are definitely worth taking advantage of. We used a lot of our Extra Magic Hours to get on rides that usually have huge queues. Another perk definitely worth taking advantage of is Fastpass. Fastpass is a free service that is available to everybody visiting the Disney parks. The majority of the most popular rides and attractions allow you to use Fastpass. They have Fastpass ticket machines outside - just pop your park ticket inside and you'll get your ticket back, along with a Fastpass ticket which gives you a time to come back later on in the day and jump straight to the front of the queue. We used Fastpass on most of the big rides which normally have 1+ hour long queues! I recommend using Extra Magic Hours or Fastpass for Sourin' and Test Track at Epcot (Fastpass is also available on Living With The Land, Mission: Space and Maelstrom).
Each Disney park has an iconic structure - Magic Kingdom has Cinderella's Castle, Animal Kingdom has the Tree Of Life etc. Epcot is home to a giant silver ball called Spaceship Earth. Epcot is split in to two halves - 'Future World' and 'World Showcase'. Future World is quite varied and focuses on things such as imagination, space, technological advancements and much more! World Showcase is set around a big lake and is home to 11 different countries (Canada, France, Germany, China, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Japan, Norway, UK and US).
When we visited the International Flower & Garden Festival was on. This runs from March to May (I think it's on every year but I'm not too sure) and I would definitely recommend visiting when the Flower & Garden Festival is on. They had hundreds of beautiful topiary sculptures of different Disney characters scattered throughout the park. They looked absolutely stunning and included Snow White & The Seven Dwarves, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Toy Story characters (Buzz, Woody, Lotso), Bambi characters, Lady and The Tramp, Tinkerbell fairies, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Tik Tok Crocoidle, Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc, Lightning McQueen and Mater from Cars, Belle and The Beast, Lion King characters. I could go on! It was very impressive.
Our day at Epcot began in Future World with a ride called 'The Seas With Nemo & Friends'. It was a slow moving ride in which we sat inside clam shells. It's a lovely ride for children and fans of Finding Nemo. There is a part where you pass by a real-life giant fish tank and the actual Nemo characters can be seen 'swimming' around inside the tank! There is also a nearby attraction called 'Turtle Talk With Crush' which is a 15 minute long interactive show with Crush (the sea turtle from Finding Nemo). It uses advanced real-time technology which allows people to talk to Crush, ask him questions and hold conversations with him. Each show is completely different and is so much fun - it's a must do in my opinion. Outside both of the Nemo attractions is an area with shark facts scattered around, as well as statues of all of the sharks from Finding Nemo. You can even have your photo taken inside Bruce the sharks mouth! There is also a Finding Nemo gift shop for all your fishy needs.
Next we used Fastpasses to ride Sourin'. Sourin' is unlike anything I've ever experienced before and is a ride that I highly recommend. You sit in rows and when the ride begins, the seats lift up and you are suspended in front of a giant screen. It's similar to a simulator ride and makes you feel as though you are flying on a hang-glider. Scenes change throughout the ride and include the Golden Gate Bridge, river rapids, snowy mountains, the ocean and even Disneyland! Wind blows through your hair and you get different smells at different points of the ride - I absolutely loved the smell of pine trees when flying over a forest and the smell of oranges when flying through a field of oranges! I thought this was quite a thrilling ride and actually rather beautiful in places too. Other attractions around this area include Living With The Land (a boat voyage) and The Circle Of Life (a short film featuring Lion King characters), which we didn't get round to doing. There are a couple of nearby restaurants too.
There is small section of the park called 'Imagination'. This is home to 'Journey Into Imagination With Figment' and 'Captain EO'. Journey Into Imagination With Figment is a slow moving ride, set inside a big pyramid shaped building. You sit in carts and take a tour through sensory labs (which include sound, sight and smell) with a funny little dragon called Figment. This ride is all about imagination and is really fun for little ones. Us adults enjoyed it more than we expected too! There's a part near the end (which I don't want to spoil for anyone) which I thought was very clever. As you exit the ride there is an interactive area called ImageWorks. Here children are encouraged to use their own imaginations and can take part in various activities, including making their own music by jumping on squares on the ground. I had a hard time trying to remove my daughter from this area! Captain EO is a 3D show featuring Michael Jackson. It originally opened at Walt Disney World in 1986 and closed in 1994. The attraction was replaced by Honey I Shrunk The Audience for a number of years, until Captain EO reopened in 2010. It tells the story of Captain EO (Jackson) and his space crew who are captured by the rather evil 'Supreme Leader'. It's full of singing, dancing and seat shaking! I remember this attraction from when I was a child which made me really enjoy it. However for those who have no memory of it, it may seem a little too retro and dated (the pre-show is quite long too).
One of my most favourite rides in Epcot is Test Track. This was another ride that we Fastpassed. I thought the build-up to the ride was a little bit drawn out, but my daughter seemed to enjoy it. You are required to use a computer to design your own car before you board the ride. You can give the car different features and save it on to your park card. When you board the ride, you then swipe your card and your car is put in to action. Your statistics (how well your car done) are given to you at the end of the ride. You are strapped in to race cars (of up to 6 people) and test out your car against different elements. Suddenly you then find yourself zooming off outside and doing a lap around the test track, reaching speeds of up to 65mph! It's very fast and really thrilling, particularly on the turns. We all really enjoyed this ride. At the exit is a Chevrolet showroom with a bunch of cool cars for the men and some car themed activities for the kids! Nearby Test Track is a little Cars themed playground. This is a good place for young children to play whilst adults/older children ride Test Track (although I suspect most children would prefer to be riding Test Track!). My little one enjoyed playing on the playground for a little while whilst I rested my poor feet!
There is a ride inside Spaceship Earth (the big silver ball). It takes you through our past, up to our present and shows you how life and technology has changed and evolved through the years. I didn't really like it - it felt a little long, boring and dated. My daughter didn't seem too keen either (although she was ecstatic to be inside 'the big ball'). There was a brilliant part at the end of the ride which we all enjoyed very much though. I don't want to give away the surprise but it's interactive and you are the star! Other attractions in Future World that we didn't get round to doing include Ellen's Energy Adventure and Mission: Space (in which you feel as though you're blasting off in to space. Really wish we had done this one but my daughter was a little too small unfortunately).
Characters can be found throughout Epcot, so don't forget to bring your autograph book! My daughter managed to meet Alice (in Wonderland), Mulan, Donald Duck and Silvermist just whilst wandering the park. There is also a 'Character Spot' where you can meet a number of different characters in one place, although the queues seemed quite long during our visit.
We began our trip through World Showcase at Canada and ended at Mexico. I really enjoyed this area of the park. It doesn't rely on rides or attractions, it focuses on atmosphere. There are a few slow moving rides and 360-degree films in some of the countries, although we decided not to do any of them. We were quite happy to just walk around and see the sights. Most of the countries are easy to identify, although you can also pick up a park map to avoid any embarrassment! Each country serves traditional cuisine. We ate in Mexico and the US (I couldn't help it!). Each country also sells their own traditional merchandise. I particularly liked the merchandise in China which included lucky cats, fans and Bonsai trees. This area of the park is likely to appeal to adults more than children. My daughter seemed to enjoy herself but got quite tired with all of the walking and seemed to enjoy Future World more. I remember visiting Epcot as a teenager and not really appreciating it as much as I did as an adult (I must also point out that Epcot has improved a lot since then).
Overall we had a great day out at Epcot. It's a very varied park, with lots to see and do. I'd say it's one of the better parks for adults and older people (although there is a lot of walking involved). However it's also very enjoyable for children and I'd say that children 5-10 would probably most enjoy Epcot. Some teenagers may find it a little boring (due to the educational aspects and such) and may want to seek bigger thrills in the other Disney parks. I remember Epcot not having very many exciting attractions and I still don't think it's the most thrilling Disney park, however I think newer attractions such as Test Track and Sourin' (and the Nemo attractions) are now appealing to wider audiences. I'm excited to see what future plans Epcot has up its sleeve! On the flip side there are also a few attractions which aren't so impressive and could do with a bit of updating. There were so many different dining options, we were spoilt for choice. There were also plenty of places to do a spot of shopping. Although we visited on a weekend, the queues weren't bad at all (although we did Fastpass the 2 most popular rides) and we managed to walk straight on to many of the rides. I would highly recommend a trip to Epcot, Orlando.
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Disney's Blizzard Beach
I have just returned from 2 magical weeks at Walt Disney World in Florida. Walt Disney World is situated in Orlando and includes 4 theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot), 2 water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach) and a number of different resorts. We stayed in one of the Disney ... resorts and visited all of the Disney theme parks and water parks. We visited Typhoon Lagoon first and Blizzard Beach second. I absolutely loved Typhoon Lagoon (and also wrote a separate review of it) so Blizzard Beach had a lot to live up to. We reached Blizzard Beach by bus. If you are staying at a Disney resort, you are able to catch free buses to all of the Disney parks.
Our park tickets were included in our package, so we didn't have to worry about entry costs to any of the parks. We could come and go as we pleased. However park prices are generally very expensive at Disney. A one day adult pass at Blizzard Beach costs $52.00 and a one day child pass costs $44.00, on the gate. These prices are quite high (especially for a water park) but I still think it's worth doing (although if you want to choose between the two water parks, I'd probably choose Typhoon Lagoon). You can park at Blizzard Beach at no extra cost.
The park opening times are usually 9am - 5pm or 10am - 6pm. Orlando has all year round warm weather, so any time of year would be a good time to visit. We visited in April and it was very hot. The water is heated so is suitable for everyone. It is best to get to Blizzard Beach as soon as it opens to secure yourself a seat/lounger. Seats and loungers are free to use and there are lots of them, however Blizzard Beach gets absolutely packed (from early and throughout the day) and finding somewhere to sit down is extremely hard. You should find somewhere that provides some shade (keep in mind that the sun will move!), like under a tree or next to a rock. Don't forget to put on your waterproof sun cream too, I got very burnt! Unfortunately there are usually wait times for most of the slides, which can be a bit of a downer. Unlike the Disney theme parks, Blizzard Beach doesn't have a Fastpass system which means you cannot skip any of the queues. My advice would be to do the most popular attractions first. The most popular attractions are Slush Gusher, Summit Plummet, Chairlift and Downhill Double Dipper. You can leave your possessions on your loungers whilst your explore the park but if you have valuables it would probably be a good idea to rent out a locker. Lockers cost $13.00 - $15.00 to rent for the day and require an additional $5.00 deposit. You can bring your own towels or rent them for $2.00 each. The park also has plenty of toilets, showers and changing areas.
The theming of Blizzard Beach is very good. It has a more 'fun' theme than Typhoon Lagoon, so may appeal slightly more to children. It's set up to look like a ski resort/winter wonderland and everything is covered in 'snow'! The park plays a bizarre mix of music throughout the park, ranging from summer classics to Christmas songs! The story of Blizzard Beach (according to the park map) is:
'What do you do when a freak snowstorm hits Florida? Build a ski resort, of course! But as our lift went up, so did the temperature, leaving some of the world's fastest, longest, slushing, gushing, downhill thrills and fun for the entire family'.
The park is quite large and you may find yourself getting lost a few times, although there are sighposts and maps scattered throughout (you should also pick up a park map at the entrance).
As you walk in to the park you will find children's flotation vests. These vests are absolutely free to use and come in different sizes. These were a god send to me as my daughter cannot yet swim and she hates wearing her arm bands. It fitted well and she felt confident in the water whilst wearing it. If you want to take advantage of the free flotation vests you need to get to the park early. The vests went very quickly during our visit. I never thought that the Disney water parks would have characters to meet, but they do. During our visit, we saw Goofy near the entrance (I'm sure there were others throughout the day). The queue to meet him was very small too, so make sure you bring along your autograph books!
You can find a number of stalls and kiosks (food and general gifts) at the front of the park, around the entrance. There is also a fast food restaurant, a large shop (which sells anything you could possibly want) and even a 'Polar Pub' inside the park! The restaurant and kiosks accept the Disney Dining Plan (a dining plan which you purchase prior to your trip). We didn't eat at the park.
The main pool is called Melt Away Bay, which is a wave pool. You can use rubber dingys in the pool. You need to wait around for a spare dingy to become available, it didn't take us very long to acquire a couple. The waves aren't constant and run every 20 minutes or so. The waves are pretty easy going but fun. Cross Country Creek is a lazy river that runs around the entire outside of the park. There are a number of entry points to enter and exit the attraction. You can ride a rubber dingy, which you need to wait for until one becomes available (we didn't have to wait for long). Cross Country Creek is suitable for everybody and I found laying back and soaking up the Florida sun very relaxing indeed!
There is a great little childrens area called Tike's Peak which is suitable for children under 48". Children over 48" should probably avoid this area as they wont be allowed to use the main slides. Tike's Peak has a little pool, an area where water spirts out, lots of tiny slides for toddlers, a 4 person slide (the only slide that adults can ride with their children), a rubber dingy slide and larger slide. My daughter absolutely loved this area as she loves going swimming but isn't very confident in the water. She could ride all of the slides and I felt I had very little to worry about. There is a separate area for older children called Ski Patrol Training Camp. This area has a number of larger (but not too scary) slides, as well as a pool with floating icebergs and a net over the top for children to maneuver their way across. There is also an excellent looking zip line. I didn't spent much time here as it was too young for me and too old for my daughter.
Teamboat Springs is a good slide for families and groups, as you sit in giant dingys of up to 6. It's not the most exciting slide in the world (seemingly more exciting for little ones) but it's good fun, especially as it's an experience shared with others. Another slide which you can ride with others (2 at a time) is Runoff Rapids, but we didn't get round to doing this one. Toboggan Racers is a 8 lane slide, with dips all the way down. The slide is higher than you realise when you get up there! You are required to lay on a mat (on your stomach, head first) and race down the slide alongside everybody else. It's good fun and you go very fast, although I felt it was over very quickly. The slide next to it is called Snow Stormers. You ride the same mat (on your stomach, head first) but this time you ride individually. There are 3 different slides to choose from and they twist and turn until you reach the pool at the bottom. I admit, it was a lot faster and vigorous than I expected!
The biggest slide in the park is called Summit Plummet which is a 120 foot vertical free fall slide. It's absolutely huge. You go down the slide and in to a cave, although the slide is disguised as a ski slope and it looks as though the rider will fly off the end of the ski slope! Unfortunately I didn't get round to doing this slide, although I would have really liked to. The second biggest slide is Slush Gusher which is long and bumpy (not vertical). This is a really thrilling slide. It's really fast and I even came off the slide on one of the bumps! I wouldn't recommend wearing a bikini for this one and I would recommend wearing goggles if you don't like getting water in your face!
There's a lot of walking to be done and stairs to climb if you want to reach the big slides. However the easiest and most fun way is by Chairlift. The Chairlift offers one-way transport to the top of Mount Gushmore (where Summit Plummet, Slush Gusher and Teamboat Springs can be found) and looks like the kind you would take to the top of a mountain whilst skiing. There was a constant queue for the Chairlift during our visit but the queue seemed to go down fast, and it's definitely still worth doing.
Just outside of Blizzard Beach is a mini golf course called Disney's Winter Summerland. It's themed to show where Santa goes on holiday! We had a look around (it's quite lovely) but didn't play any golf. There is a charge for this but you don't need a park ticket as it's situated outside of the park.
Overall we had a great day out at Blizzard Beach. The theme was brilliant, the slides were excellent and both the kids and adults loved it. I would definitely visit again and would highly recommend it to others. However I must admit that I did prefer Typhoon Lagoon slightly more. The slides at Blizzard Beach are more exciting but I preferred Typhoon Lagoon's tropical theme, plus Typhoon Lagoon has a superior wave pool in comparison to Blizzard Beach (you can also swim with sharks at Typhoon Lagoon).
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North America Theme Park / Zoo International
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