Wet ‘n Wild has been around since March 1977 but, at the end of 2016 it will bring down the curtain on 39 years of absolutely fabulous watery family fun as owners Universal Orlando prepare to open the all-new Volcano Bay water park in early 2017.
But, with still a full year (and a bit) in which to enjoy the grand-daddy of them all, we thought it would be a good idea to take a walk round and highlight what it is that still makes Wet ‘n Wild a great day out.
The highly colourful park breaks down into three main areas – the kiddie section, the family rides and then the high-energy rides. There is definitely something for everyone but our three boys – in their teens – all rated this the most enjoyable (and exciting) of the water parks for their age group.
The area exclusively for children under 48 inches (122cm) is called Blastaway Beach and was new as recently as June 2012, when it added a whole new dimension to the attractions here.
It covers a full acre of the park and consists of a series of small-scale slides, fountains, buckets and pop-jets, all overseen by a 60ft-high sand-castle structure that creates the backdrop for the ‘Beach’ theme.
There are 500 chairs for the grown-ups to take a break after chasing the kids around the 15 water slides, pools on two different levels (maximum 18 inches deep), 160 soakers, four water cannons and a giant bucket that upends periodically to drench all those below.
It is a hugely imaginative water playground and provides a safe and secure environment for young’uns to be as daring as they like, and all with a lively Florida beach theme.
Children must be accompanied by an adult here, though.
The centre-piece for all the family to get together here is the huge Surf Lagoon, a 17,000sq ft wave pool that generates waves up to 4ft high and gives everyone the chance to splash to their heart’s content, whether it is in the middle of the action, or out on the edge where the water is more suited to little ones.
The area is surrounded by sun-loungers, tables and chairs, as well as a couple of food and drink kiosks, hence it is a great place to base yourself for the day.
Nearby, the Lazy River is another opportunity for the whole family to enjoy this slow-paced circuit in the comfort of flotation tubes that encourage a wonderfully relaxed and easy-going vibe in the Florida sun. Children under 48ins tall are required to wear a flotation vest here.
Other family-friendly areas include the Lakeside Terrace, which is a great place to sit and enjoy an ice-cream or drink, the Beach Club, with its sandy beach, and the Beach Shop, for gifts, souvenirs and any items that you may need for the day and forgot to bring!
There are, of course, lockers, changing rooms, towel rentals and plenty of places to get something to eat and drink, and you can also bring your own bottled water (but no glass containers) if you prefer.
The Big Rides
OK, so this is what you’re REALLY here for, and Wet ‘n Wild still delivers some of the best watery fun in Florida with no fewer than 11 out-and-out thrill rides and flumes, from the intense to the hilarious. There are height restrictions, though, varying from 3ft (91.5cms) to 4ft, depending on the ride.
For more gentle-paced excitement, start with The Surge, a 600ft flume journey for up to four at a time along a series of banked turns, and then try The Flyer, a four-person, in-line toboggan-style slide that also dips and curves along a winding flume that sits alongside two other rides, The Blast and Mach 5.
These latter two are both flume rides of a different kind, one using two-person tubes that can go surprisingly quickly and the other on a toboggan-style mat for single riders, going head first down another series of three twisting, turning flumes that all end up in the same splash pool at the bottom.
For arguably the most entertaining – and downright comical – ride in the park, Disco H2O is a real classic, a four-person innertube ride down a wide, sloshing flume that is full of disco touches, from the music at the start and at strategic points en route to the ‘mirror ball’ that lights up the swirling bowl finale before the big splash-down.
Similarly, Brain Wash is another multi-person innertube ride that features a 53ft vertical drop into a huge, domed funnel that throws riders from side to side in comical fashion. Make sure you don’t have lunch before this one!
If you’re feeling competitive, the Aqua Drag Racer is the one for you, with its four-lane toboggan-race style, using head-first mats down almost 400ft of wickedly twisting track. It opened only last year and is one of the most popular rides in the park, hence you might want to do this quite early on.
For those seeking the more adrenalin-inducing attractions, there are still another four wonderful opportunities to get wet in hair-raising fashion.
The Black Hole: The Next Generation is a fab dark-ride flume for one or two at a time through a long pair of sharply-curved, side-by-side tubes that evoke the feeling of flashing through the ‘universe’ with some neat lighting effects. This was enhanced in 2012 to add the ‘space’ feel to the flume, making it a bit like a watery version of Disney’s Space Mountain, if you like.
Taking away any kind of tube or mat, The Storm is simply a long swoosh down this ‘body coaster’ that starts with a straight tube and then drops riders into a swirling bowl for several brain-scrambling revolutions before finishing with a final splash.
Finally, the park’s two out-and-out daredevil challenges are Der Stuka and The Bomb Bay. The former is a straightforward high-speed body slide that drops almost 60ft in the time it takes to scream “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!” The latter is more fiendish in that it loads you in a bomb-shaped capsule over the top of an equally high body slide, with the floor of the capsule then dropping away so you can free-fall on to the top of the slide itself. Fun? You bet. Scary? Even more so!
And that is Wet ‘n Wild in all its wonderful detail and riotous fun. It’s been doing it for 38 years already and the only question is, if you haven’t been already – what’s kept you!
Do you have questions on this story or anything to do with Orlando or Florida? Be sure to join Susan and Simon on the fabulous ATD discussion forum here.