Welcome to those of you joining me from A Glass Slipper Vacation and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 2nd stop on our Magical Blogorail.
In 1955, Hurricane Connie blew into the Florida with devastating force, leveling the tiny tourist town of Placid Palms and ruining the last legacy of bon vivant adventurer Merriweather Pleasure. The storm whipped waves far higher than anyone had seen, washing debris across the landscape and uprooting trees and family businesses alike. But the hurricane wasn’t the end of the destruction. Trouble always seems to come in threes, and an earthquake and volcanic eruption followed on the heels of the storm, ruining any chance that either Placid Palms or Pleasure Island would ever be the same.
But the plucky folk of Placid Palms refused to give up on their dreams or their businesses. In spite of the hurricane’s destruction, they found a silver lining. The old way of wooing tourists may have been destroyed, but they found themselves with a whole new set of offerings. An old tanker blown inland and submerged in their lake provided a way for guests to get a look at a breathtaking array of marine life – some not local – transplanted by the fury of the storm. The volcano’s lava cooled into smooth paths perfect for sliding, and an unfortunate shrimp boat, named “Miss Tilly” after the girlfriend of resident beachcomber Singapore Sal, became a landmark, effectively plugging the top of the volcano where the storm deposited it. Instead of giving up, the residents of the newly-renamed Leaning Palms resort re-opened for business and refused to give in, even in the face of the worst nature could throw at them.
…or at least that’ s the story.
As Disney lovers know, it always starts with a story. In this case, the story emerged from Walt Disney World’s resort’s need for a new water park. River Country, the venerable standby of the resort since 1976, failed to meet new water safety regulations and rather than investing the money for massive renovations, the Disney company, headed by Michael Eisner, decided to build a new water park across from the re-envisioned Disney shopping district. Disney imagineers took on the project, linking the story of Merrriweather Pleasure with that of Placid Palms, and Pleasure Island and Typhoon Lagoon were born.
Typhoon Lagoon, opened in 1989, is one of Walt Disney World’s 2 water parks. And, with more than 2 million guests a year, it is the most visited water park in the world – and for good reason. Its spectacular theming, attention to detail, and range of offerings make it one of the best ways to get wet at Disney World.
Located directly across from Downtown Disney, Typhoon Lagoon offers a chance to escape from the punishing pavement pounding of the Walt Disney World parks and to indulge in a laid-back, wet adventure that is as wild or as whimsical as you choose to make it.
Like any big water park, Typhoon Lagoon offers its share of thrills. The Humunga Kowabunga sends guests down 5 stories in seconds with a potential speed of almost 40 mile an hour. The storm slides drop almost 3 stories, twisting and turning down the slopes of Mount Mayday. The Crush-n-Gusher is a unique water roller coaster that uses powerful spurts of water to push guests up hills and then allow them to slide down again. And, of course, the Typhoon Lagoon surf pool, the massive wave pool at the heart of the park, varies the height of its waves, and at peak “surf,” can toss guests on 6-foot high waves.
But, for me personally, none of those things provide the primary allure of Typhoon Lagoon. For me, the allure is in Mayday and Keelhaul Falls, the two tube slides, and Gangplank Falls – the whitewater raft ride that, for me, is like Kali River Rapids…with bathing suits (thank goodness). Those rides, while offering their fair share of thrills, save the rear end of my bathing suit, and allow me to enjoy the ride.
And, of course, there’s Shark Reef. A kind of miniature Discovery Cove included in the price of admission, Shark Reef allows guests to snorkel through an artificial reef filled with sea life. The area is carefully regulated by cast members, and swimmers can only go one way (although they’re welcome to climb out, run around the edge and go through again). The reef is beautiful, quiet, and it reminds guests that this isn’t just a water park; it’s an experience.
In the end, that’s why Typhoon Lagoon is my favorite place to get wet at Disney. It’s not just a water park or a wet ride; it’s an experience. The park starts with a story, and it’s a story that resonates for me. As a kid growing up in a family that skipped the 60s, 70s, and 80s in favor of 3 decades of the 50s, I grew up with a fairly entrenched vision of Florida, Cuba, and Polynesia that was deeply tied to the Silver Screen. The tropics of my imagination are still an idealized place of adventure and idyllic charm with new wonders lurking around every corner (possibly along with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour). The ramshackle town of Leaning Palms provides all of that charm and adventure and, for a day, makes me an explorer on a hidden island filled with plucky characters and cool refreshment. To me, there is no better place to get wet at Walt Disney World than Typhoon Lagoon, for it embraces all of those idealized images of tropical paradise and mixes them with all the cool, watery fun that turns a brutal Florida day into a refreshing break from pavement and park crowds.
Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Focused on the Magic
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard: