Blizzard Beach Beats Florida Heat

by Ken DiPietro

Feature Article

This article appeared in the July 10, 2001, Issue #94 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

A few years ago, when Deb Wills first asked me to write the Blizzard Beach FAQ for Deb's Unoffical Walt Disney World Information Guide (WDWIG), I wasn't sure how it would go. I had been a long-time fan of Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and I wasn't sure how this new water park would hold up in comparison. On our next trip to Walt Disney World, we changed our plans to set aside one day to spend at the newly opened Blizzard Beach instead of Typhoon Lagoon. Did we have fun? YES! Did we enjoy it? YES! We ended up spending two full days at Blizzard Beach that trip!

I find I now like Blizzard Beach better than Typhoon Lagoon, and I'm apparently not alone in my opinion. In fact, The Travel Channel/Discovery Channel named Disney's Blizzard Beach the #3 water park in the United States for 2001. With 21 slides, a wave pool, a separate area for pre-teens and a separate area for the little tikes, Blizzard Beach has a much broader appeal than Typhoon Lagoon. I think the thrill rides are better, and the wave pool isn't as intimidating -- while Typhoon Lagoon's wave pool is fun, I worry about the big waves with little kids. The areas for the toddlers and younger pre-teen kids are much better than at Typhoon Lagoon.

On the downside, Blizzard Beach is typically a lot hotter due to the fact that it is all 'open' and right off the road, whereas TL has a more tropical setting with lots of trees and shade. The largest shaded area at Blizzard Beach, near Melt-Away Bay, has lounge chairs throughout. There are also some shaded picnic areas, as well as umbrella-covered tables at the food locations.

The 66-acre Blizzard Beach, which opened in 1995, is the newest and largest water park at Walt Disney World Resort. Like other resorts and Disney attractions, Blizzard Beach has an imaginary history, or "back story". According to this back story, a freak snowstorm hit Florida and, in an effort to capitalize on the unique phenomena, the state's first ski resort was built. Unfortunately for the ski business, Florida is Florida, and when the sun came out everything began to melt. It appeared all hope was lost until the now famous park mascot 'Ice Gator' was spotted slipping and sliding down a slushy mountain. The idea for Blizzard Beach was born.

From grandparents to the littlest child, everyone can splash their way to fun at Blizzard Beach. Even my mother, who's in her 70s, loves Blizzard Beach, as she bounces along in the bobbing waves in Melt-Away Bay. Not only can the entire family spend a fun-filled day among the leaky snow-making machines, geysers, and waterfalls, but it's a great place for teens to explore on their own as well. (Note: Children 10 and under must be accompanied by an adult.) There are plenty of slides, flumes and tube runs to experience together or on your own. And, with the water heated to 80 degrees, we have enjoyed many a December day at Blizzard Beach.

When not on their own rides my parents also love to spend time with the grandkids at Ski Patrol Training Camp, watching the older pre-teen kids on the bungee cord slides, rope swings, and floating icebergs, or at Tikes Peak watching the little ones play with the geysers, water sprays, and riding their very own water slides. Tikes Peak is designed for children 4' tall and under, mainly toddlers and preschoolers. Families also might enjoy riding Teamboat Springs, the world's longest family white water raft slide. Others will love the six-passenger raft plunge down the 1,400-foot flume.

Wanna race instead? How about riding the Toboggan Racer -- a head-first, eight-lane racecourse that dips and propels you down the mountainside as you ride on a mat. Or, the Downhill Double Dipper, where two identical tracks take riders through a water curtain and tunnel before they emerge through another water curtain, are flumed down a hill, and wind up in a pool at the bottom.

Still looking for more water fun? How about taking a one- or two-person raft down Runoff Rapids -- three high-speed, twisting, turning flumes. The center slide is enclosed and you must ride this one solo. It is by far the best of the three, but beware! One time I rode it and somehow was turned around in the current just as I entered the tube -- I had to ride facing backwards! There are also the Snow Stormers, a trio of mat slide flumes that race down the mountain on a switchback course through ski-type slalom gates.

For even more extreme thrills, Blizzard Beach offers two major slides. Mt. Gushmore at Summit Plummet, is a 60-mph, 120-foot-high 'ski jump' tower. This is the world's tallest and fastest free-fall water slide, twice the size of Typhoon Lagoon's Humunga Kowabunga. Slush Gusher, is a 90-foot high double-humped slide. My 15-year-old nephew couldn't get enough of either of these slides. He spent most of the day going up the chair lift to the top of Mt. Gushmore and riding down these two slides. Ladies, be forewarned: It is not uncommon to hear complaints about losing bathing suit tops on these two rides!

While most of the slides and rides will capture the attention of the thrill-seekers in your group, my now-5-year-old son has always loved Blizzard Beach. He loves playing in Melt-Away Bay and going around Cross Country Creek. At 10 months he loved the geysers and spray fountains at Tikes Peak. At about 1-1/2 to 2 he loved the little slides without the tubes in Tikes Peak. From 2 on he loved (and still loves) the slides in Tikes Peak. He also loves going on Run-off Rapids on the two-person rafts with me. Since he turned 4, he has ridden Teamboat Springs, but it still is a little too extreme for him. He is looking forward to going back and spending time in Ski Patrol Training Camp.

Each attraction has its own guidelines, and they are monitored closely by lifeguards. Guests are asked to follow their instructions at all times. Most attractions require that riders be in good health and of certain height. There is a nurse at the first aid station in the event needs it. My wife once slipped and scraped her leg pretty badly on the 'sandy' texture at the top of one of the slides in Tikes Peak. The nurse was very helpful with bandaging her up and sending home supplies for changing the bandage for the next couple of days.

What else is there at Blizzard Beach? If you're hungry, you can get hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, snacks, and pizza, as well as grilled cheese sandwiches made on soft pretzels, chicken quesadillas, deli sandwiches, pastas, and turkey legs. Or bring your own cooler into Blizzard Beach and have a picnic. No alcohol or glass containers may be carried into the water park, but you can purchase alcoholic beverages at Blizzard Beach. Though very rarely used, volleyball courts are available at the water park and the entire family can have a 'ball' having a little competition on the courts. There's also beautiful scenery, places to relax, shops, hair wrapping, temporary tattoos, and more!

If you are looking for less "hectic" areas, chairs are available throughout most of the front section of the park from Down-Hill Double Dipper around through Ski Patrol Training Camp and Tikes Peak. And if you tire of the water fun, there's the similar snowy themed miniature golf course called WinterSummerland adjacent to the water park. There are two courses here for the whole family to enjoy. For more information visit: http://allears.net/btp/golf2.htm

The main complaints I've heard about Blizzard Beach usually are about the transportation to and from Disney resorts. It is mediocre at best. From most resorts, the Animal Kingdom buses stop at Blizzard Beach during normal operating hours, but if you have a car available you may be better off doing as we do -- we drive.

One of my favorite quotes about Blizzard Beach came from a Cast Member who works at the Magic Kingdom. She's from New England and told me that whenever she gets homesick for the snowy winders back home she just hops in her car and heads over to Blizzard Beach. "I know that it sounds silly," she said, "but it's like being back home. Just driving past the water park sends chills up my spine, not matter what the outside temperature is!"

So, next time you're headed to a Disney water park, give Blizzard Beach a try! Just remember I warned you -- when you are floating on a raft, so relaxed that you think that you might doze off, keep an eye out for 'Ice Gator' on the overpasses, where he quite frequently is dumping water on the heads of unsuspecting tube riders!

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A few tips for those going to Blizzard Beach:

*Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen!

*If you plan on spending all day at the park, go early since lines can be long to just purchase tickets. If you are going to spend 1/2 a day, go for the second half of the day. Crowds typically thin out during the hottest part of the day, which can reduce long wait times for most attractions by mid-afternoon. I have heard that Blizzard Beach has installed a series of automated ticket machines (ATMs) at the entrance to the park to expedite the ticketing process at the entrance. You can purchase a single-day water park ticket at the ATM machines using a credit or debit card or your on-property resort ID cards.

*Don't get hung up waiting in the long lines for Slush Gusher and Summit Plummet over and over again. Explore the park and enjoy some of the less extreme rides.

* Have shoes or sandals handy -- the pavement gets hot even though water is sprayed on the walks.

* Don't wear clothing with metal studs -- they are not allowed on slides.

* Take a disposable waterproof camera so you don't have to worry about your good camera.

* If the park closes due to inclement weather be sure to get your hand stamped so you can re-enter when the weather clears up. Don't forget to check on the current raincheck policy. If the park has remained closed for over one hour, you may be eligible for a raincheck.

Blizzard Beach is open all year long except (usually) during the month of January, when it is closed for its annual rehab and cleaning. Hours vary depending on the season.

One day ticket prices are $30.74 for adults (age 10 and up); $25.44 for children 3-9 (tax included). You can also purchase a WDW Water Park annual passport for unlimited entrance to all Disney Water Parks: Adults $105.95; children 3-9 $85.33 (tax included).

Depending on the type of admission media you've purchased, you may not need a separate ticket for admission to Blizzard Beach. Disney Resort Unlimited Magic Tickets and Premium Annual Passholders include entrance to the water parks. Regular Park Hopper tickets do NOT include Blizzard Beach admission. If you have a Park Hopper PLUS pass, you can use one of your PLUS choices for Blizzard Beach.

Lockers are available in two sizes at Snowless Joe's Ski Patrol and over near the Down-Hill Double Dipper. Snowless Joe's also rents towels and provides complimentary life jackets (guests must leave a license, resort ID, or credit card number).

There is no fee for parking at Blizzard Beach.

If you'd like to see photos of Blizzard Beach and read Ken's FAQ, visit: http://allears.net/btp/bb.htm


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.