As mentioned, we had planned on visiting Aquatica on the first full day in Florida, as a nice relaxing day to ease ourselves into it. Due to the weather not being at it’s best, we instead had visited Universal Studios and Islands Of Adventure, ensuring that our first ride of the holiday was one of our favourites – the Hulk.
So now we’re in and settled. We’ve done Florida so many times before (well, three, and one of those was in a hotel) that we know it pretty well, and today we’ve planned a more relaxing day.
I’ll admit that I do go on the Tripadvisor forums sometimes for Florida, and there are people on there who plan out their entire trip to Florida, to the last detail. They plan out when they’ll get to the parks, when and where they’ll eat, even sometimes what order they’ll attempt the rides in. For us, we’ve never attempted anything like that – at least not for Florida. For our road trip in 2011 we had what we were doing on each day planned out, but certainly not where we’ll eat, or an order or anything. And with the short amount of time we were spending in each area, we had to. The theme parks however weren’t planned – we simply knew which day we were doing which theme park.
With Florida however, apart from doing a gig on one day, we had nothing planned. We got our theme park tickets sent to us beforehand, and simply got there and winged it.
So, after having our breakfast (some juice and cereal), we get ready to go to Aquatica. Grab towels, shower stuff and swimming costumes and go to put on some sun tan lotion (which normally has no effect on me as I turn lobster-pink inside half an hour). However, the sun tan lotion has become extremely watery, so we need more! A trip to Walmart on the way is required, so we head north up hwy 27 to it, purchase some, then head back south and onto the I4. About 20 minutes later and we’re at Aquatica.
First though, before we talk about Aquatica I think it’s necessary to discuss another park – Wet ‘n’ Wild. WnW is another water park, up at the top end of the main tourist section of International Drive (near US and IoA), with Aquatica down at the bottom of the tourist bit (near SeaWorld and Discovery Cove – in fact, Aquatica IS SeaWorld’s water park). WnW was created first, by a few decades in fact, and it does have some great stuff. It has the best water slides and a very good layout that’s easy to find your way around.
Aquatica, however, is a nicer and much more relaxing park. WnW is better for hardened water park enthusiasts, but Aquatica is a nicer, more family-friendly place. Now, whenever we want a water park, we tend to just go to Aquatica.
So we head into the park and, I do have to say, it is very nice. Unfortunately we have no photos, as we don’t want to take our camera to water parks – as such, this page will be a bit (well, a lot) sparse picture-wise.
Aquatica, to us, has two main things that we love about it – the funhouse and the crazy river. Okay, these aren’t their proper names, but we’ll go into them now.
The funhouse is a giant construction of slides, stairways, bridges and cargo nets, designed like every kid’s dream. You can climb around it to your heart’s content, and there’s a load of vantage points equipped with water buckets to dump on innocent victims below, or water guns and so on. At the top is a giant water bucket which fills and then empties into the pool under the structure, and we have great fun sitting in the spot where we’ll get hit by it and waiting.
Then there’s Roa’s Rapids, also known to us at least as the crazy river – a lazy river, but faster. No rubber rings are allowed but you can wear a life vest if you want, and at certain points the river diverts in two around a small island, with one path being a fast rapids section and the other half being regular. It is quite fun and we could go round this for hours, doing a few laps. It is very, very difficult to stop and remain in one place for longer than a moment, and there have been times before when we’ve tried to get out only to miss our exit (normally due to other people coming in and out), grabbing on to the side and trying to pull ourselves against the current before letting go and having to go round to the next exit. The entrances and exits are pretty well done as well, as a small lagoon before you enter the river proper. One thing I also must mention is the large amount of greenery and foliage, which helps make the experience better – unlike the crazy river at Water Country USA.
Moving on, Aquatica does have a few water slides, but none of them are anything special. There’s your standard racing slides, a rubber ring slide which does make me occasionally think I’m going to fall off, and a slide with a transparent tube that goes through a dolphin tank – so if you’re lucky you can see the dolphins swimming as you slide down, but it’s far more likely you won’t notice anything at all.
Lunch is handled by a standard theme park place which serves your usual safe fare – burgers, some sandwiches, fries, chocolate cake, some fruit salad etc. Not bad, and we always go to this place in Aquatica as I think the only other place is a buffet, which we’re not keen on.
Also of note is Aquatica’s wave pool, or more rather wave pools. We do quite enjoy wave pools and these ones are alright. With a beach-like theme, there are actually two wave pools next to each other – one more extreme than the other. Neither of which are anything special, but it’s a good way to kill a bit of time.
And basically, that’s Aquatica. In my mind, water slides are not as interesting as rides and I don’t really recall much about the individual slides themselves, just enough about Aquatica to have a general idea about it. Same about Wet ‘n’ Wild, Water Country USA, the water park at Atlantis in Dubai, the one in Bulgaria, the one in Salou – generally, unless an attraction there is anything special I simply come out with an overall impression of the park itself, as opposed to individual rides at a theme park. Water slides seem more disposable to me in the grand scheme of things.
However, whilst I think that Aquatica’s attractions are good (but overall the park is nothing spectacular), the park itself is themed very well with a tropical, sort-of Oceania-like and Australian vibe. A more accomplished amount of theming I have yet to discover, and I even believe the park itself passes Harry Potter Land in terms of actually involving you in the theming without compromising on anything or having any visible joins or anything doesn’t fit the narrative.
In any case, back to the changing rooms and one thing that I do like at Aquatica is that they have individual shower cubicles and places to change in the men’s. Apart from the water park at Atlantis in Dubai, this is the only park I’ve been to that has this – rather than a large open shower room and a bench to change at (though my wife does tell me that, at most of the other water parks we’ve been to, women do have individual cubicles to change and shower in).
Leaving Aquatica, we get back onto International Drive and head to another of our favourite places – Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf!
Now I’m not keen on golf itself. When I used to live with my parents there was a famous golf course near us which hosted the Open every few years. I had a job there of carrying round a scoreboard. It was hot, boring, the pay probably wasn’t bad by the hour, but at least I got to be sarcastic to Tiger Woods’ face (true story). I also found out I found golf boring. I can watch it for a bit on TV, but can’t really follow it.
Adventure Golf, on the other hand, IS my kind of game. I quite enjoy trying to putt the balls between the windmills, down the slopes and over the bridges. I can actually get a few hole-in-ones, though I’m not that good – mostly it’s pure luck if I manage anything half-decent. If they turned this into a big tournament, with cool-looking courses and so on, I’d probably at least try to watch it.
This course in Florida is pretty good. It is, as you probably guessed, all about pirates and has a number of holes, many of which go through caves and have you walking over bridges, up stairs and so on to get to them.
At this point the weather’s starting to look a bit rougher, and it’s mid-afternoon (we never spend a huge amount of time in Aquatica – it just nice to head to mid-to-late morning, until mid-afternoon). So we walk from the Pirates Cove to the Pointe Orlando Mall – a small shopping centre which doesn’t really have much in that we’re interested in. We’re not interested in clothes or shoes or the latest fashions. Give us a book shop or somewhere selling DVDs, CDs and games and we’re happy, and it’s a pain that most American malls don’t tend to have anything in for us. Or indeed UK malls. We used to go to the Florida Mall each time we were in Florida, but for it’s HUGE size (it is pretty darn big) it didn’t have enough in it for us to make it worth our while.
After a quick look around the mall and stopping in Walgreens (which we may have done on the way there), we head back to the car and then… TO FRIENDLY’S!!! Yes, it is that good – to us at least. It is our usual haunt, though sometimes I do wonder if we should try somewhere else. That being said, we do occasionally try somewhere else and it’s nowhere near as good. May as well stick to what you know.
However, on the way back to the car from Pirate’s Cove / Pointe Orlando it does start raining a bit. This turns to A HUGE AMOUNT before we get to Friendly’s – a huge downpour that leads to water cascading over the restaurant’s awnings. Needless to say, we are mightily glad to be inside and, a very nice meal later, we head back off to the villa to prepare for our next day.