Orlando’s Water Park Wars-A Sign of Disney Park Attendance?

Orlando’s Water Park Wars-A Sign of Disney Park Attendance?

My friend Brian went to Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon only to find it was closed for capacity during Easter weekend. What happened? By sharing a chronology of nine different water park experiences here in Orlando, we’ll offer you context on what is occurring in the very competitive water park arena here in Central Florida. We’ll also examine certain red flags that are on the horizon not just for water parks but for attendance in general here in Orlando and elsewhere. Is Typhoon Lagoon closed for capacity because so many people are attending? Or is there another story underneath all of this. This is a story I love because frankly, I was a part of the history made in all of this. Join us as we explore the Great Orlando Water Park Race.

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The following is an outline and photos that support this podcast:

History of Central Florida Water Parks

Disney’s River Country

This is the first of Disney’s water parks opening in June of 1976 during the Bicentennial. It closed for the last time in November of 2001, but Disney did not confirm that permanent closure until 2005.

Revisiting River Country - D23
Photo by Disney

Wet ‘n’ Wild

Founded by Sea World creator George Millay, this park defined the business of fiberglass waterslides and wave pools that the water park business is known for. It opened in March of 1977 and closed on the last day of 2016. The property was bought by Universal where they built Universal’s Endless Summer Resort.

Wet 'n Wild Orlando - Things To Do Beast
Image by Wet ‘n’ Wild

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon

Considered the grand daddy of all water parks, this opened on June 1st of 1989 just a month after the opening of Disney-MGM Studios & Pleasure Island. It was the first to offer an actual surfing style wave, and in addition to its many slides, uniquely defined itself with its Shark’s Reef snorkel swim. That closed in 2016 with a new family raft slide, Miss Adventure Falls, opening that same year.

Photo by J. Jeff Kober

Water Mania

Water Mania opened around the same time as Typhoon Lagoon in 1989 and limped along until it expanded the front of its park near U.S. 192. It stayed open until 2005.

Aerial view overlooking the Water Mania theme park in Kissimmee.
Photo by Water Mania.

Disney’s Blizzard Beach

This uniquely designed water park opened its doors in 1995. It has held attendance records for several decades with Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. It also offers a unique miniature golf course adjacent to the park.

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Sea World Discovery Cove

A high end offering allowing guests to enjoy a resort-like experience among animals and marine life, this experience which opened in July of 2000 is part of the Sea World trio of parks.

The Ultimate Summer Bucket List | Discovery Cove Orlando
Image by Sea World Parks.

Sea World Aquatica

Part of the Sea World operation, it opened in July of 2005. It has some 17 offerings.

Aquatica - The SeaWorld Water Park
Image by Aquatica.

Universal’s Volcano Bay

Opened in May of 2017, this first water park of Universal’s creation holds some 17 attractions.

How to Spend One Day at Universal's Volcano Bay
Photo by Universal Parks Florida

Margaritaville’s Island H20

With 14 attractions, Island H20 sits off of West 192. It is part of a larger complex built on the former Splendid China property and opened in January of 2017.

Theme Parks & Attractions Near Our Orlando Resort
Photo by Island H20


Below is TEA/AECOM attendance for both parks prior to the pandemic:

Here is attendance for these four parks since the pandemic:

Are Water Parks Signs of the Times?

Here are some indicators to consider as one looks at Water parks and how they are faring:

  • Disney Used to capacity close its parks all the time, especially during Spring Break and Easter.
  • Easter season was one of the highest peak times of the year.
  • Only one Disney park is opening right now during the warmer months of the year.
  • Disney Cruise Line is going strong right now, with more ships than ever.
  • Costs Associated with travel–Especially for youth groups have soared.
  • Recent special have been listed for the next number of months to come.
  • Rates are not yet listed for Summer 2024, holding out for more to book Summer 2023.
  • Purchase of Annual Passes at Disney are beginning again soon.

Ready to Visit the Disney Parks?

Hopefully this podcast has made you realize you need help and support in planning your next trip to Disney. David and Leah with Out the Door Travel know Disney in ways few do and they can make your next trip on land or sea an exciting one–or at least less stressful! Be sure to contact them as you explore your next vacation, whether it is a Disney theme park vacation, a cruise, or an Adventure by Disney. There is no charge to utilize their services, but it will save you enormous time getting all the details right, and with their insight you can be assured you’re going to experience the best trip possible. Contact them today!

David and Leah Zanolla
(309) 863-5469
Facebook: facebook.com/OTDwithDavid
Instagram: @otdwithdavid

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J. Jeff Kober

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