By ATD’s Florida experts Simon & Susan Veness
While Disney and Co are usually the main reason that most people head to the Theme Park Capital of the World, one smaller park has been here longer than most of them, and is even more fun in 2014 thanks to their latest addition.
Wet ‘n Wild, in the heart of the tourist district of International Drive, opened in 1977, when practically the only other attraction nearby was SeaWorld (which had made its debut in 1973) and Disney’s sole park was the Magic Kingdom.
In fact, Wet ‘n Wild can lay claim to the title of the world’s first full water park. Developer George Millay had been instrumental in getting SeaWorld off the ground a few years earlier and had decided the one thing Orlando visitors needed was a way to cool down as well as have fun.
Taking some ideas from a splash play area in Canada and a wave pool in Alabama, Millay came up with an ambitious plan for a fully-fledged water theme park and attracted the necessary investors to get the construction crews moving.
Even though it rained for their opening day on March 3, 1977, and the park made a loss in its first year, Wet ‘n Wild was soon firmly established as another original Orlando attraction – and the world’s most-visited water-park, even when Disney started building its own.
Now, 37 years later and currently owned by Universal Orlando, Wet ‘n Wild continues to be an iconic part of I-Drive and an ambitious, go-ahead park in its own right.
Recent additions have included the hilarious family ride Disco H2O, in 2005; another whirling multi-person raft ride in 2008 in the shape of Brain Wash; and, in 2012, one of their biggest expansions to date, the extensive children’s play area of Blastaway Beach.
Now, this summer, the park has another attraction to offer, and it is more guaranteed high-energy fun for children and their parents.
Because high-energy is what Wet ‘n Wild is all about. Despite all the clever theming of Disney’s two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, and the innovative nature of SeaWorld’s Aquatica park, I-Drive’s original water-park still boasts more out-and-out rides and slides than any of the others.
And, while there is genuinely something for everyone at Wet ‘n Wild, they do specialise in the more dynamic, adrenaline-tinged tubes and flumes that go down great with teens and young adults.
And the all-new Aqua Drag Racer is absolutely ideal for that level of appeal – and fun!
Starting from a 65ft tower, the Racer consists of four lanes of intertwined, face-first, downhill-racing speed appeal, with the chance for families to race each other or other park visitors.
The track runs for 350ft and riders are equipped with a toboggan-style mat for the full racing effect. Each of the four downhill tubes twists and turns unexpectedly and ends with a chequered-flag-type finish in a final watery splashdown.
And, while it may be slightly daunting to throw yourself head first down one of those long, enclosed tubes, it is a true thrill ride from start to finish.
Wet ‘n Wild general manager Michael Black explained: “It really is a multi-passenger ride. You have single riders going down four individual lanes, but it’s very competitive. You’ll have families racing against one another and friends racing each other, too. We dispatch them all at the same time, and whoever gets to the bottom first can claim to be the winner.
“You're going up and down and then you have this pretty intense drop at the end. It’s short and it’s intense, but it is a LOT of fun. It combines friendly competition along with the excitement of sharing the rush with family and friends.”
It is short at little more than 10 seconds from green light to splashdown, but it is fast and pretty intense, as the sudden shifts and drops of the tube really provide a touch of the unexpected, as well as the exhilaration of the rush to be first across the finish line.
The park removed the old family raft ride of the Bubba Tub to put in the Racer, which opened on June 23 (at the same time as Universal were completing their grand media preview of the new Diagon Alley area at Universal Studios!).
Black says the idea for the new ride came from the annual International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions expo in Orlando itself a few years ago, and he then saw a working model of it at another park. He just wanted to super-size it.
He added: “We decided, let’s do one bigger and faster. And this is the end product, the tallest mat-racer slide in Florida. We have more rides and more multi-person thrill rides than any other water park in Central Florida and this new attraction offers yet another way for you and your family to share the rush together.”
Riders must be at least 42 inches tall (106cms) to ride, but otherwise it is open to everyone brave enough to give it a try!
Of course, if Aqua Drag Racer sounds just a bit TOO thrilling for you, there are another 13 rides, slides and attractions to try, plus the waves of the large Surf Lagoon, the gentle flow of the Lazy River and the junior-sized fun of Blastaway Beach.
Wet ‘n Wild also boasts seven places to grab a meal or a snack and a big Beach Shop for anything you might have forgotten, from suncream to sunglasses, swimwear, disposable cameras and hats.
It costs just $13 to park and a special length of-stay ticket with Attraction Tickets Direct is just £30 for adults, with children 3-9 £27 each (valid for unlimited access for 14 full days). However, the park is included with Universal’s 3-Park Bonus ticket (£130 for adults, £120 3-9s) and the great-value Orlando FlexTicket, as well as ATD’s special Orlando Freedom Ticket Plus.
Attraction Tickets Direct is currently running a special offer; book your Orlando 2014 attraction tickets now and get the length-of-stay tickets for Wet ‘n Wild FREE (while stocks last). Don't run the risk of missing out on this amazing offer - get to booking your tickets now. Read more on the Wet 'n Wild special offer here!