Water park season is in full swing in Florida as the temperatures rise and bathing suits are a weekly wardrobe choice. To sate the needs of the sweltering crowds, water parks in Florida have some new things in store for summer.
First up is Rapids Water Park in Palm Beach County. South Florida' only large-scale water park opened a new thrill slide called Brain Drain on April 30.
The park is now open every day through summer and this new ride features two single-rider slides, which drop riders through bomb-bay doors from 72 feet up into enclosed tubes sending them up to 35 mph through a series of twists and turns.
Each slide offers a different experience, with one called tube called Baby Blue and Burnt Orange taking riders for a 395-foot-long drop and the Boysenberry and Magenta tube going for 420 feet.
The two new slides add to the park's arsenal of 40 slide and ride options including the park's signature Big Thunder tube ride that sends up to four into a giant funnel like skateboarding a half pipe. For more information, go to rapidswaterpark.com.
Up in Orlando, it's the swan song for Wet 'n Wild on International Drive as owner Universal Orlando plans to shutter the park that opened in 1977. So for its last year, the park is offering a Florida resident deal. Buy a ticket for $39.99 before May 31 and you can come back as many times as you like through the end of the year, although its exact closing date has yet to be announced.
The park opened its newest ride, the Aqua Drag Racer, in 2014 and a large-scale children's play area the previous year. Universal will open a new water park called Volcano Bay adjacent to its on-property Cabana Bay Beach Resort in 2017. For more information, go to wetnwildorlando.com.
Also up in theme park land is Disney's Blizzard Beach, which will be throwing "Frozen" Games from May 27-Aug. 21. The Olympics-inspired activities allow visitors to choose either Team Kristoff or Team Olaf and participate in a series of games throughout the day including the Ice Pail Relays, which is actually pails of water, Snowball Toss, which are snowball-themed water balloons, Ski Pole Limbo and Slide Races.
The two team captain characters will be on hand for opening and closing ceremonies on the Observation Deck near the park's signature Summit Plummet, which at 120 feet tall is the tallest water slide in Florida (and currently 6th in the world). There's no extra cost to take part in the "Frozen" Games. For more information, go to disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/blizzard-beach.
Aquatica, SeaWorld's water park, is offering its version of a Fast Pass now for six of its thrill rides on select weekends in May and early June. The quick queue is an extra $20 or $25 depending on the day on top of normal park admission, but lets you skip to the front of the line on Whanau Way, Omaka Rocka, Taumata Racer, Walhalla Wave, HooRoo Run and its newest ride, Ihu's Breakaway Falls, which opened in 2014. For more information go to aquaticabyseaworld.com/en/orlando.
In Daytona Beach, Daytona Lagoon has fixed its malfunctioning water bucket and is making up for it by adding a second one, for twice the slash zone. The park was purchased in 2015 by United Parks and the new management has put in $2 million of polish on the entertainment center that's adjacent to Daytona's Ocean Walk including new paint schemes, new video games in the arcade and new menu items like the peanut butter, bacon and cheeseburger. For information, go to daytonalagoon.com.
Over at Tampa's Adventure Island, the water park adjacent Busch Gardens, there's no new rides this year, but the park opened a large funnel ride called Colossal Curl in 2015, so this is its first full year of action. For more information, go to adventureisland.com/en/tampa
The same goes for the Kowabunga Racer at Big Kahuna's in Destin, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. That park's latest ride didn't debut until mid July. It takes four riders on mats through tubes on a Hawaiian, surf-themed timed race. For more information, go to bigkahunas.com.