Ski lifts were put up, toboggan runs were laid down and an entire resort area blossomed around the mountain of snow. Yet before the first skier could strap on a pair of boots and stick his poles into the snow, the temperatures returned to their normal Florida levels, and the powdery snow quickly turned into slippery slush. The ski resort operators saw their dream melting down the hillside. Yet that’s not all they saw.
As the slush began cascading down and pools of water began to form, an echoing “yahoo” was heard from the summit of the mountain. Everyone looked up to see a playful alligator careening down the melting hillside. He slid to the base of the mountain and landed in a pool of water with a thunderous splash. They knew at once that they were back in business.
Slalom courses, bobsled and toboggan runs became downhill waterslides. The creek of melted snow that formed at the base of the mountain became a relaxing tube ride. The chairlift carried swimmers instead of skiers. The ski jump became the tallest and fastest water slide in the world. The ski resort became known as Disney’s Blizzard Beach, the most slushy, slippery, exhilarating water park anywhere! (Excerpt from the Disney Parks Website)
I don’t know about you but I think that Disney had a brrrrrilliant idea when they came up with the “theme” for Blizzard Beach. Seriously, how cool is it to say that you’ve been to a ski resort smack dab in the middle of Walt Disney World Resort? Instead of simply giving you facts and talking about the water park, I would like to invite you all to come along with me while I recount the day that my family visited Blizzard Beach for the first time.
Even though we have been to Walt Disney World twenty times, we have found that there are still things that we haven’t experienced and, to keep things fresh and exciting, I try to work in at least one “new to us” thing each trip. On May 30, 2014, my family had the chance to visit Disney’s Blizzard Beach for the first time and, boy, were we ever glad that we did.
We traveled from Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to Blizzard Beach by bus. Often, the buses that go to Blizzard Beach also go to the Animal Kingdom park and make a stop at the water park first. That’s what happened on the day that we visited so our bus ride was fairly quick and we arrived not too long after Blizzard Beach opened it’s gates for the day.
Our first order of business was to rent a locker which was done at Snowless Joe’s which is near the entrance of the water park. Locker rentals at Blizzard Beach are $13 for a small and $15 for a large ($5 of which is refunded to you when you turn in your locker key). Because I am an overpacker and tend to bring more than I really need anywhere that I go, I opted to rent one of the large lockers. Once we found our locker, we stuffed most of our things in and went right into the park to explore.
Just up ahead of us, we could see the ski lift going up the mountain:
Anyone who knows me knows that I am scared of heights, actually, I should rephrase that, I am terrified of heights. Surely, there would be another way for us to get up the mountain besides the chair lifts. There had to be. (there is) Of course, my husband and teenage son had a good time ribbing me and telling me that they would get me on the lifts even if I were kicking and screaming. I may or may not have made a threat to karate chop them with my flip flop if I had the slightly inkling that they were considering following through with the threat.
We walked a little further and found a nice shady circular area with quite a few lounge chairs. It was a semi-secluded spot and we didn’t figure that we’d spend a ton of time lounging around anyway so we left our things and delved deeper into the park.
Once again, we walked underneath the chair lifts:
We came upon a sign that said Teamboat Springs which is the world’s longest family raft ride. We climbed the steps to the rafts but when we got to the top, we saw that you had to have at least four people per raft. Drats! The castmember said not to worry as it happens all the time. She told us to stand to the side and as soon as another small party came along, we could share a raft with them. Sure enough, not a minute or two later, along came a mother and her son who were more than happy to agree to take the raft ride with us. The five of us got into the raft and down we went. I’ve got to be honest with you, the water that early in the morning did not feel like the 80 degrees that Disney said it was. It was cold as it splashed into our raft! The ride may have been cold but it sure was fun!
We bid our riding partners adieu and quickly walked back to the beach towels that we had dropped on the loungers earlier. While walking back, I spotted a park sign and, after drying off, I went back to see how to get to the body slide, Slush Gusher. My son, Hunter, was a little apprehensive and my husband, John, has epilepsy so there is always a little worry about whether or not he should do such times. As is usually the case, I decided to give it a try first and report back whether or not I thought it was safe for John to go down. John said that he’d wait for me on the lounger and Hunter came along to take photographic evidence of my stupidity. I mean, of me going down the slide.
I climbed all the way up the steps because I was not getting on the dangling chairs of death. I guess, in my mind, I felt that it would be better to trip and fall down a mountain of concrete. As I was making the climb up, I was saying to myself “You have got to start working out again.” “You are getting old.” “One more step, just one more step and you’ll be there.” I reached the top and the line was short which was a blessing to me since it meant that I didn’t have to stand around any longer than necessary. “Necessary” meaning “time to chicken out”.
It was my turn and the castmember gave me instructions on how to sit, hold onto the bar, wait for the green light and then zoom down the slide with nothing between me and the concrete besides the water. The green light came on, I gave myself a little umph and down I went! It felt like my whole body lifted into the air before I came to a stop near the end of the slide. It was Fun with a capital F. I gracefully stood up after ever so discreetly pulling out the wedgy and exited the area so that the next person could come down.
I assured Hunter that the slide was something that he would like and I was also sure that John would be able to handle it with no problems. We found John right where we left him….lying back on the lounger “resting his eye”. I let him know that he should go on the slide too and we all trekked up the steps to the top of the mountain. I wanted to go first so that I wouldn’t have to stand at the top for long and let my phobia get out of control.
My second time down the slide was even more fun that the first because I wasn’t nervous about whether or not I’d like it. I had the camera in my hand when I came down so I was able to take pictures of the guys during their slides.
Here comes Hunter!
John came down immediately after and we all declared that we were ready to go again. So, back up we went and back down we went. After the second go-round (third for me), the line had gotten a little longer which was okay since we were ready to venture off to other parts of the park. We had been in the park less than an hour (including time to rent the locker, change and find a lounger) and we had already gone on Teamboat Springs and the Slush Gusher multiple times. Not too shabby considering May 30th was just days after the Memorial Day holiday.
We had another look at the map and saw that the Toboggan Racer was nearby.
On the racers, you lay head first on a foam mat and then ride the course as it dips down the side of Mt. Gushmore. As the name implies, you are racing the other guests to the bottom of the course. At the top of the course, the mats will be to your right:
In this next picture you can see the color coated numbers. The castmembers will direct you to the pink numbers first where you’ll wait for a set of racers to go down and then you’ll move forward to the blue numbers.
When you get to the blue numbers, you will be the next set of guests in line to go down. The castmembers will give you directions on when to step forward into the water and then give you further instructions on how to actually get on your mat. Those instructions include, step forward, get on your hands and knees on the mat, wait for the go-ahead to lie down and then the signal to go. Well, this my friends, is when my story gets comical.
We were all on our hands and knees waiting for the word to lie down on our tummies and for the start signal. When the light came and they told us to “GO”, I just kind of stayed there. What am I saying? Kinda? I was stuck! The drain/screen thing underneath me had a suction on the foam mat and I wasn’t moving. I looked like a fool kicking and twisting around like a bucking bronco and all of the sudden I imagined what I looked like and I burst out laughing at myself. The castmembers were telling me to kick off on the ledge behind me but that didn’t help at all. I turned to one of the guys and said “Can you just push my butt with your foot or something?” and that had them laughing too. I kicked and wiggled and, finally, after almost everybody else was at the bottom of the course, I was on my way down. Despite the fact that I was the clear loser, it was so much fun!
Nearby was the Downhill Double Dipper which is the world’s only side by side tube racing slides. They are identical and are enclosed for part of the run and passengers travel at speeds of up to 25 mph.
John doesn’t like any sort of tube ride and decided to sit this one out and just take pictures at the end of the race course. Hunter and I picked up our tubes and walked up the mountain to the start of the course. We thought that we would be racing one another but somehow Hunter ended up going first and racing someone else. Both Hunter and I thought that the Downhill Double Dipper was awesome and gave it two thumbs up.
We could hear squealing coming from nearby and it sounded like an “I’m having so much fun” squeal so we decided to investigate. Right around the corner was Runoff Rapids. Runoff Rapids is actually three high-speed twisting turning flumes. The center slide is enclosed and you must ride this one solo, but the two outer slides can be ridden on one, two, or three-person rafts. The center enclosed slide is by far the best of the three.
Even though John isn’t a fan of any sort of tube ride, he consented to going on this one with us. On the way up, I was instructing him on how not to fall over when he got to the pool at the end. Sit up straight. Don’t lean to the side. Try to come to a stop before getting out. The pathway up to the top is through what looks like woods and it’s pretty despite the fact that there’s nothing to really look at.
At Disney water parks, they give you instructions on how to sit back in your tube and will help guide you and hold you until it’s your turn to go down. I like this because I am a klutz and need all the help that I can get when it comes to sitting down on a round piece of plastic in swirling water. Hunter was the first to make it down, then I came out and then down came John who promptly plopped sideways out of the tube. Bless his heart! He just can’t help himself.
After our ride on Rapids Runoff, I realized that my Blistex had fallen out of John’s swim trunks pocket so I went in search of more in the stores while the two guys went on the Toboggan Racers over and over again. A new tube of Blistex in my pocket (you have to ask a castmember for it as it’s kept in a separate area accessible only by castmembers), I found the guys at our lounger. John was ready to take advantage of a lounger in the sun and Hunter and I were ready to take a relaxing ride on the lazy river, Cross Country Creek. We relocated our things to an area where there was more sunshine and less shade which was exactly what John was looking for. After getting John settled in, Hunter and I were off to find an entrance to Cross Country Creek.
Even though we were already wet, the water in the creek did feel a little cool at first. Not cold but a little cool. We waited until a couple of empty tubes floated by, grabbed them and our float on the lazy river started. If you want to stay with your party in Cross Country Creek, you better grab hold of the handles on the other tubes or hold hands or grab a foot or something because nine times out of ten, you will get separated. Hunter was behind me in a matter of minutes:
The good thing about a lazy river is you can sit back and be lazy just like they intend for you to do. I enjoyed the sights around me as I drifted along Cross Country Creek:
You’ll also go through a cave with a waterfall at the opening:
I floated right past Manatee Landing:
In the distance, I could see a small building in the middle of the creek but I wasn’t quite sure what it was. I could hear squeals and laughter as people went past it. The lady beside me said “the water must be cold” and that’s when I figured out that the building or something near it was squirting water onto the people floating by.
I heard someone call out “Hey Mom” and it was Hunter who had caught up with me:
Hunter and I were now floating along side by side and as we were talking, we came to the realization that we were hungry. We waited until we reached the exit that we needed to take and we found John right where we left him. Lying on a lounge chair with his hat over his face and from the slight huffing sound that was coming from underneath his hat, he was having himself a little snooze.
John said that he was getting hungry too and, just a little ways behind us was a sign with menus posted on it. We left most of our things on the chair and walked over to the signs to see what we wanted for lunch.
Lottawatta Lounge was right next to us and they served something that each of us would eat so that’s where we went. Our timing was perfect. Just a few people in front of us in line and lots and lots of picnic tables were available just outside of the restaurant. John and I ordered burgers and Hunter ordered a pizza which is his go-to staple when it comes to food.
Our food was considered a counter service meal on the Disney Dining Plan which meant we got an entree, a non-alcoholic drink and a dessert. I don’t remember for sure, but I’m thinking that Hunter got a chocolate chip cookie and the desserts that John and I had were either cheesecakes or key lime cheesecakes. The food wasn’t outstanding but it was above average and certainly not what I would have expected from a water park. At least not the non-Disney water parks that we have visited before.
After lunch, we walked around a little just to see what else there was that we might want to do. I seem to recall that Hunter and I did something else that involved riding in tube and then did the body slide again. In the meantime, John went back to the lounge chair to finish off his nap. It was around 2:00/2:30 when we were just about tuckered out from the water park. We had done everything in the park with the exception of Summit Plummet and the kids’ section. The guys said that they wanted to do the Toboggan Racers again before we left. I agreed to try again and, once again, I got stuck. I just could not get my sled to push off of the drain thing. I just laid there flailing about like a fish out of water. Flip, flop, kick, push, flip, flop, kick, push! Just like before, it wasn’t until almost every single person was at least three fourths of the way down the course before I was able to push off.
John and Hunter were waiting for me at the end and, of course, laughing at me like crazy people. I was determined to try again and make it work. I climbed the steps with a renewed vigor and when we got to the top, I told myself “Don’t put your sled too far forward. Keep it back a little so you have a little extra leg pushing off room. When you get the signal, kick like a mule.”
Sooooo, it’s our turn. I take my sled up there, get it positioned just right, turned to look and make sure that I had plenty of pushing off room and it all looked good. Then, the castmember told me to move forward some. There goes my plan! The light goes off and I’m stuck once again but not for as long as I had been before and I at least beat one little kid who probably just made the height restriction.
I gave up after that and let the guys do the racers five more times before they finally had enough. We stopped by our chair, picked up our things and went to the lockers to get our things. We used the changing rooms that were by the lockers and I put our wet things in the tote bag that I had brought in the park. I had a question that I needed to ask a castmember so I found one in the store where we rented the lockers and asked if it would be possible to leave our bag in the locker, go to our next destination and then re-enter to get our bag. I was told yes which was just what I wanted to hear. We had somewhere else that we were going to visit before hopping on a bus but I won’t reveal that destination just yet. That will be revealed in an article that’s coming up later in the month so keep your eyes on the Magical DIStractions site.
In the meantime, thank you all for reading about my family’s first visit to Blizzard Beach. Just in case you couldn’t tell whether or not we liked the park, let me just say, we loved it so much that we are going back during our May/June, 2015 vacation!