Best water parks in Florida
While most water parks follow the same tired tropical theme, Disney’s Blizzard Beach lets guests chill out in a polar-inspired setting. Modeled after a ski resort, the attraction is chock-full of heart-racing attractions, like Summit Plummet, one of the tallest free-fall body slides on earth. Although enormous, the park still gets packed, especially on weekends, and food can get pricey. But between rip-roaring water slides, hair-raising attractions and two designated zones for youngsters (Tikes Peak and Ski Patrol), it’s an unparalleled option for the whole family.
Where: Lake Buena Vista
Another brainchild from the House of Mouse, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon offers a slightly more sophisticated water park experience. Spend some time snorkeling at Shark Reef surrounded by colorful coral and live fish, or go for an adrenaline-pumping swim with real sharks. Then, calm your nerves with a signature cocktail, like the Tropical Storm or Blue Typhoon Colada. The food menu also offers creative takes on dishes, like a plant-based bratwurst sandwich and guacamole flight.
Where: Riviera Beach
Conveniently located right off the I-95, Rapids Water Park is a beloved treasure for South Florida natives and visitors alike. Although a fraction of the size of its counterparts in Orlando, this is a local legend that happens to be celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Of its 42 attractions, the best are the massive wave pool, the heart-racing Brain Drain vertical plunge and dueling speed slides that tower seven stories high. Hot tip: save money by packing lunch and eating at the picnic area just outside the gates before entering.
Serving as the water park extension of SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica is not to be missed. As one of Florida’s most celebrated water parks, the destination offers something for everyone. Visitors can spot dolphins while plummeting through the enclosed racing tubes of Dolphin Plunge; cruise through the high tides and gushing geysers of Roa’s Rapids; or bring the kiddies to the colorful playground of Walkabout Waters. Check out the newest attraction, KareKare Curl, a 50-foot drop complete with a vertical climbing wave wall.
Where: Spring Hill
Buccaneer Bay has been luring nature-loving motorists since 1947. Centered around Weeki Wachee Springs (just 35 miles northwest of Tampa), it’s Florida’s only spring-fed family water park. The real draw is its iconic mermaid show, where Ariel-esque performers enchant visitors with their daily underwater show. Classic rides, tasty snacks and stretches of white sand beach primed for swimming and snorkeling make this a long-standing family favorite.
This heavy-hitter is a relative newcomer that first opened its doors in 2017, but it’s already a smashing success. Located within Universal Orlando Resort, it replaced Universal’s former Wet ‘n Wild water park. Modeled around the fabled Waturi islanders and Krakatau (a 200-foot artificial volcano), the high-tech destination uses TapuTapu wristbands that enable guests to pay for goods and hold their place in line. They also allow visitors to interact with the park by lighting up and setting off gushing springs.
LEGOLAND is the ideal escape for imaginative kids looking for a hands-on aquatic adventure. Sure, it’s teeming with pools, rides and slides, but what sets this water park apart is the opportunity for children to roll up their sleeves and let the creative juices flow. The lauded Build-A-Boat attraction lets little ones build and race their own LEGO watercraft masterpieces in front of crowds of cheering onlookers, while nearby Imagination Station is stockpiled with DUPLO bricks for the youngest rugrats.
The beauty of Adventure Island is that it’s located just across from Busch Gardens Tampa, making it an easy addition to any family-friendly vacation or a bonafide stand-alone star. It provides a day of non-stop fun in the sun with its Runaway Rapids, Calypso Coaster and Endless Surf wave pool. Be sure to get in line for the new Colossal Curl, a weightless aquatic adventure that combines funnel and wave thrills. Plus, its $39 entrance fee is considered a steal.
Discover more of the best things to do in Tampa
Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, Destin is sandwiched between Pensacola and Panama City Beach. While Florida’s panhandle might not be an obvious hot spot for water parks, Big Kahuna’s never let that get in its way. The park’s name is by no means a misnomer: showcasing more than 40 different pools, rides and play areas, the destination is a grand one. Whether you’re flying the Skycoaster or screaming down the five-story-high Jumanji slide in total darkness, Big Kahuna’s will give even the most intrepid adrenaline junkies a rush.
Discover more of the best things to do in Destin
Where: Panama City Beach
Built in 1983, Shipwreck Island Waterpark is a 20-acre park in North Florida known for its lush landscapes and professionally-trained aquatics staff. The well-kept venue has a homegrown feel that you just can’t find in Orlando. Top attractions include the 500,000-gallon Ocean Motion Wave Pool, a 17th century replica ship where guests zipline from the vessel into a vast lagoon and The Zume Flume—the park’s oldest ride with three slides that converge into an enormous splash pool. Parents also love the budget-friendly, tiered admissions pricing (all under $40).
Discover more of the best things to do in Panama City Beach
Where: Jacksonville Beach
Touted as the largest family entertainment center in northeastern Florida, an afternoon spent at Adventure Landing equals hours of good, old-fashioned fun. Rides and attractions range from mild to wild, including all of the usual suspects like wave pools and lazy rivers. Groups with mixed interests will appreciate Adventure Landing’s appeal beyond the aquatic: practice putt-putt skills on the miniature golf course, swing away at the batting cages or win big at the mega arcade.
Discover the best things to do in Jacksonville
The Treasure Coast is a charming stretch along South Florida’s eastern coast popular with the Snowbird community (a group of seniors who flock from “up north” every winter to escape the cold). It’s also home to Sailfish Splash, a hidden gem for water park enthusiasts. It offers a meticulously clean and affordable option to keep the whole family entertained, thanks to attractions like a 1,000-foot lazy river, four-story-tall water slide, 253-foot speed slide, 7,326-square-foot water playground and more.
Where: Cape Coral
As one of the largest water parks in South Florida, Sun Splash sprawls over 14 acres in Cape Coral. Less than three miles from Veterans Parkway, it draws a steady flow of roadtrippers and locals from March through September. The park is perfectly suited for impatient tourists because of its short lines, given its spacious (but not overwhelming) layout. Admission is also one of Florida’s most budget-friendly, with day passes coming in at less than $20 for non-residents.
Explore more of Florida
Don’t believe the Snowbirds! There’s so much more to do in Florida than just going to the beach (although we’re pretty proud of the fact that we can do that all year round).
As most of the state is bordered by either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean, the best beaches in Florida happen to be plentiful and diverse.
Long days in the Florida sun deserve a good meal, and here in the Sunshine State there are plenty of things to do that will work up an appetite, and plenty of tasty restaurants to curb your cravings.
The Sunshine State is packed with hotels that reflect everything it has to offer.