The water parks at Walt Disney World are much different than the theme parks. Before booking a Disney vacation involving water parks with young children, think about whether it’s the best decision for your family.

Cost

Just like at the theme parks, kids under the age of three get in free, but you might not want to visit the water parks with a child this young. See below for more information on making this decision. Guests ages 3 and up are looking at about $65 each. This means that a family of three will pay about $260 (plus food, souvenirs, etc.)  to visit either Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon for one day. You can also add the Park Hopper Plut option to your Magic Your Way package, but the costs will be about the same.

Atmosphere

The water park theming is unique and fun!

The water park theming is unique and fun!

Both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon house about a dozen attractions each compared to the over 40 attractions at Magic Kingdom, but generally speaking you will spend much of your day in water and less time waiting in line. Attractions include individual and group slides, wave pools, lazy river, free swim areas, themed play areas, locker and changing facilities, and counter service dining.

There are also several shaded areas in both parks with lounge chairs, and both parks offer deluxe cabana patio areas for rent if you really need to get away.

Families are free to bring sand toys including shovels, sand castle building supplies, and forms. You cannot bring your own tubes, though. Disney offers free life vests in various sizes for guests ranging from less than 30 pounds to 90 pounds, and adult sizes are available upon request. Young children must wear swim diapers and changing must take place in the restroom and not in public lounge areas.

There are always lifeguards on duty at Disney water parks, but this doesn’t replace a keen parental eye. If you are visiting with very young children, especially if they aren’t swimmers, you simply must be willing to watch them at all times. With the water element involved, these parks are not the place to catch up on the latest pop news in People or take an afternoon nap.

Height and Age Requirements

Some areas in both parks have minimum and even maximum height requirements, and some areas indicate that children under 12 years must be accompanied by an adult. Areas that have no height requirement will require more work on the part of the adult even though there are lifeguards on duty.

Height requirements range from 32" for smaller slides to 48" for larger slides.

Height requirements range from 32″ for smaller slides to 48″ for larger slides.

Attractions at both Disney water parks may have height requirements ranging from 32” for the chairlift to 48” for the bigger slides.

Blizzard Beach

Blizzard beach has a special area for children ages 5 to 12 called Ski Patrol Training Camp. This area has moderate level slides, a zip-line over the water, and a faux iceberg crossing.

Tikes Peak, the toddler area at Blizzard Beach, has a height maximum of 48”, which is really only enforced for blatant disregards of height (a 6’ teenager would not be allowed to play in this area) or behavior (children playing aggressively, especially if they are over height, will be asked to leave the area).

Typhoon Lagoon
Typhoon Lagoon has a special area just for children under 5 years.

Typhoon Lagoon has a special area just for children under 5 years.

Typhoon Lagoon has an area especially for toddlers as well called Ketchakiddie with a height maximum of 48”. Guests will find shallow water play areas, small slides, a unique spray fountain, and water canons.

This Versus That

Water Park VS Theme Park

There are three main differences between visiting the Disney theme parks and visiting the water parks. First, older children and even adults may get bored in the kiddie areas while young children may be overwhelmed by the larger areas like the free swim pools. Splitting up the family is always a possibility (mom goes with an older child while dad stays with a younger child or one goes on of their own to explore the big kid areas), but that would mean spending the better part of your day by yourself, which may not sound like a great day to some.

A day at a water park is very different from a day at a theme park.

A day at a water park is very different from a day at a theme park.

Second, all kids but especially young children and those who aren’t strong swimmers will require more supervision from parents at the water parks than at the theme parks. You can’t nod off at the splash pool like you can at Country Bear Jamboree.

Finally, communication at water parks will be more difficult than at theme parks. Since water and cell phones aren’t a great combination, you may find yourselves feeling very distant if you’re separated at any point during the day.

Water Park VS Ocean

At the ocean, families pick a spot on the beach, and that is a common area for the day. Kids can make sandcastles, go into the surf, or grab a snack and still be within eyesight. This is not the case at the water parks where attractions and mountains may separate you from seeing the little ones. There are also more lifeguards on duty at water parks and fewer dangers like sharp shells, currents, and animals.

Water Park VS Hotel Pool

This depends on which hotel you’re staying in. Value resort hotel pools are pretty basic. They’ll keep you cool and make have a water feature like the spraying daisies at Pop Centuries Hippy Dippy Pool, but they won’t have water slides. Most moderate resorts will have a more sophisticated pool area like Coronado Spring’s water slides and hot tub area. Deluxe resorts like the Yacht Club will have very nice water attractions. Stormalong Bay even has the only sand-bottom pool in Disney World and is like a mini-water park on its own.

Compare your hotel's pool with the water park before splurging for the Water Park and More Option.

Compare your hotel’s pool with the water park before splurging for the Water Park and More Option.

Also, consider the travel time between the water parks and the hotel. If Junior needs a nap, it may take you an hour or more to get back to the hotel from a water park, but if you’re at the hotel swimming, a nap is just a short walk away.

What’s more, Florida weather is unpredictable. If a mid-day rain breaks out at the hotel pool, you aren’t far from being warm and dry. It’s a different story at the water parks since everyone else will be trying to leave at the same time.

The Verdict?

How do you make sense of all of this information?

1. Ask yourself: “Is visiting the water parks worth the money, or would my money be better spent toward another theme park day?”

2. Does my family, especially the younger travelers, like the water park atmosphere?

3. Which park should I visit?

There is nothing like Ski Patrol at Typhoon Lagoon or Ketchakiddie at Blizzard Beach. If your kids are between the ages of 5 and 12, Blizzard Beach might be your better option. If you have little ones less than 5 years old, Typhoon Lagoon wins by a hair.

Make sure you have a choice. Disney often closes one of the water parks in the wintertime for maintenance. Check online or with a customer service representative if you plan to visit the water parks in the colder months.

4. Should we splurge on a hotel instead?

Young kids that are too small to go on the larger attractions at the water parks may be content at the hotel pool. If you’ll spend more than one day in the water and you have very young children, consider spending more on the hotel since you can spend a little time each day in the water and experience the slides and other attractions each day rather than a one-time experience.

Ultimately, it is our suggestion that parents should visit the water parks with older children since you will get more bang for your buck.

Do you visit Disney’s Water Parks with young kids?