It’s almost that time of year again – spring break is just around the corner. I remember living in the cold, white north of the upper-Midwest and eagerly anticipating spring break. It didn’t get warmer in Iowa until at least May, and I even remember it snowing right up until summer a few times!
I know how much visitors to Florida need trips to get out of the cold. I’ve lived in Orlando since 1995 and have learned a few things about where to go in Orlando.
One of mine and my family’s favorite spring break past times is to visit a water park. It feels a lot like summer almost 9 months out of the year here, so residents of Orlando know where to go and what to do when it’s nice outside.
We put together Dadtography’s complete Orlando waterpark rankings in Orlando for 2017. Waterparks, like all theme parks in Orlando, have entrance fees. If you’re looking for something to do for free, be sure to check out our post on the best free splash pads in Orlando. They can be a great, inexpensive alternative to a water park.
Orlando Waterpark Map
#8: Coco Key Water Resort – Orlando
Okay, so just being honest here to start. Not all of the water parks in Orlando are full-blown dedicated water parks. They’re “water resorts” like the Coco Key on i-Drive.
Water resorts are great (no, seriously) for budget-minded families looking to come to Orlando and have a good time on a limited spring break budget. Water resorts combine a water park and a hotel or resort. You stay at the water park, essentially.
International Drive, or i-Drive for short, really saw its heyday in the 1980’s and has since seen a bit of a revitalization in 2016 and 2017 with additions like the Coca Cola Orlando Eye attraction and many new restaurants and shops.
You won’t get the same level of rides and attractions at a water resort, but you will get convenience and a pretty significant cost savings over some of the other water parks in Orlando. The Coco Key will run you around $100 per night, but that includes you water park admission. You can expect to pay almost that much for just admission to some parks, not including your hotel stay.
You can learn about the Coco Key Water Resort by visiting the their website, here.
#7: Holiday Inn Orlando Suites Resort & Waterpark (Formerly Nickelodeon Resort)
The Holiday Inn Orlando Suites is also a full resort with a water park right inside the grounds of the hotel. In fact, the water park is in the center of the Holiday Inn hotel.
It wasn’t long ago that this resort was known as the Nickelodeon Resort. But in early 2016, the hotel was sold and renamed to the Holiday Inn. It also saw some additional investment and a refurbishment with the change in ownership as well, which was a good thing for the hotel overall.
An overnight stay will run you around $130 – $200 per night at the Holiday Inn Orlando Suites Resort, but again, that includes full use of the water park and your hotel costs as well.
The Nickelodeon Resort / Holiday Inn has traditionally been one of our favorite hotel + water park options in Orlando for a lot of reasons. You can read the full Dadtography review of the Holiday Inn (formerly Nickelodeon) Resort here.
#6: Omni Resort at Champion’s Gate
It’s a ways out there, but you shouldn’t rule out the Omni Resort at Champion’s Gate when it comes to hotels with great pools and water features.
The hotel grounds are massive – one of the benefits of being a bit further outside of town. The pools at the Omni and big and offer something for everyone, no matter if you’re looking to relax in a nice deck chair or if you’re looking to be active and have some play time.
The Omni has a small, but fun lazy river at the resort as well. The Omni resort itself is nicer than both the Coco Key and the Holiday Inn as far as the hotel itself is concerned. There aren’t nearly as many slides and features on the water side of things, though. Another downside is you’ll have to drive a fairly significant distance to almost anywhere you want to go (except to golf).
#5: Gaylord Palms Resort & Water Park
Continuing our path to the #1 water park in Orlando, the Gaylord Palms Resort has to be included in this list. The Gaylord Palms is really an impressive and massive resort. It has huge indoor areas that feel like outdoor areas.
Just outside the resort near the conference center is a pretty decent water park. I’d say the Gaylord Hotel is as nice as the Omni, while the water park is as fun as the Holiday Inn Resort’s water park. You get the best of both worlds with the Gaylord Palms. It’s also closer than the Omni as well. The Gaylord Palms is a great option to get a great hotel and a fun water park all in a single, convenient location that won’t break the bank.
A night at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando will run ya between $200 – $300 per night.
#4: Sea World’s Discovery Cove
From hotel + water park budget options to the other end of the spectrum we go. Sea World’s Discovery Cove isn’t a typical “water park”. Meaning, it doesn’t have a lot slides and thrill rides the way some other parks do.
What Discovery Cove is known for is that you can swim with the fishes…er, actually the dolphins. It’ll cost ya, though. Admission to Discovery Cove starts at just over $200, and that doesn’t include your hotel stay. You can view all of the Discovery Cove packages and pricing options here.
#3: Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
And now, on to the “real” water parks in Orlando – or, at least the water parks that are stand-alone parks with a lot of rides and slides.
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon was Orlando’s first major water park competition for now defunct (see below) Wet n’ Wild water park that dominated the 1980’s.
Let’s face it, when Disney does something they are usually the entertainment standard. You never really have a bad experience at a Disney park, and that includes Typhoon Lagoon. It may not be Orlando’s newest water park, but it’s definitely in my top 3 favorites in Orlando.
A regular, one day admission to Typhoon Lagoon will cost ya just over $66 for an adult. That doesn’t include hotel.
#2: Sea World’s Aquatica Water Park
Sea World’s water park, Aquatica, is still technically Orlando’s newest water park. It’s a great park, altho just a bit under-sized in some respects. It has all of the benefits of a new park – everything is still nice and in great shape.
However, the size of the park has proven to be an issue, especially in 2016. Sea World offered buy-one-get-one admissions for Florida residents. In a way, the tactic worked. The park filled up very quickly after the special was run. The down side was that the park was at capacity and had to run visitors away at the gate.
So far in 2017 Sea World hasn’t had the same special, so the park hasn’t been overly busy. If you want a new water park experience, with all the latest rides, slides and attractions then Aquatica is a great option. You definitely should check out the “not-so-lazy river” there. It’s a lazy river with a pretty strong current.
A regular, one day admission to Aquatica will cost ya just over $70 for an adult. That price also doesn’t include hotel.
#1 Best Water Park in Orlando: Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park
Okay so I admit it, I’m an unabashed Disney dad and fan. I have some serious nostalgia at Disney parks and I really just love everything about the Disney experience.
My favorite water park in Orlando, without a doubt, is Disney’s Blizzard Beach. Here’s why I love it the most:
- It’s the right size – not too big, not too small
- It has great slides and rides
- It has an awesome lazy river with a really cool tunnel
- It has the full Disney experience with h20
Unlike Aquatica, I’ve also never had an issue with Blizzard Beach being too busy, either. In fact, we had Aquatica annual passes that we didn’t use because we couldn’t get into the park. We ended up getting Disney Water Park passes instead.
Blizzard Beach is the same price as Typhoon Lagoon, so a regular, one day admission to Blizzard Beach will cost ya just over $66 for an adult. That price also doesn’t include hotel.
Coming Soon: Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay Water Park
It’s still pure speculation at this point, because I haven’t been inside the Volcano Bay water park yet (no one has – it’s not done). But, I’ve seen the designs and I’ve drive past it about a hundred times, give or take.
It looks like it’s really shaping up to be an awesome water park and I can’t wait for it to be completed. Universal is really stepping up its water park game and investing a lot into this park. We’ll be doing a separate review with a ton of photos as soon as we’re able to get in and see what this park is all about.
Closed in December 2016: Wet n’ Wild
It should also be mentioned that the Wet n’ Wild water park closed in December of 2016 and is no longer open. Wet n’ Wild is giving way to construction on the Volcano Bay park at Universal. I’m glad I got a chance to visit this iconic water park before it closed late last year.