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A thrill seeker’s guide to Disney water rides

When Orlando heats up for summer, many holidaymakers choose to keep cool at the city’s spectacular water parks. Walt Disney World offers a slew of incredible rides, from river rapids to pirate ships and jungle cruises. Disney expert Debra Martin Koma, editor of the AllEars weekly newsletter, reveals the best Disney water rides around.


Spills and Chills for Big Daredevils  

As one of the most popular rides in Magic Kingdom, the sight of Splash Mountain’s soaring summit towering over Frontierland induces a giddy anticipation for thrill seekers anxious to conquer its 53-foot drop. Before the epic plunge, riders in log vessels are merrily swished through the ride’s 950,000 gallons of water, through cavernous corridors where characters Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox (all from the 1946 Disney film Song of the South) keep them distracted from their impending doom. “The ride’s finale is a big showdown scene with lots of colour and music, and then you plunge over the drop,” Koma says. “Over you go five stories and you’re drenched.”

Info: The closer you are to the front of the log the wetter you’ll get. Spectators standing in the viewing area right in front of the ride also receive quite a splash. There is a 40-inch (102 centimetre) or taller height requirement for this ride


More exhilaration awaits inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where Kali River Rapids, a thrilling river raft ride, takes daredevils through a jungle landscape fraught with watery spins and spills. “You’re on a round raft that spins as it goes through the water,” says Koma, who usually wears a poncho on the ride. “It can get a little wild and you will absolutely get wet, in most cases, very wet.” That’s thanks to all the little drops and bumpy rapids riders traverse, all of which cover the raft in a constant barrage of water. And just when everyone thinks it’s over, the ride passes under a bridge where spectators will shoot at the rafts with water guns.

Info: There is a compartment in the middle of the raft where you can put your belongings but those things still usually get wet. There is a 38 inches (97 centimetre) or taller height requirement for this ride.

If you really want to get wet then a day at either Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon is definitely recommended. While both water parks boast a bevy of splish and splash diversions, the pice de résistance for thrill seekers is Crush ‘n’ Gusher, a water coaster found at Typhoon Lagoon. They call it a water coaster because the water forces and propels you through a couple of routes themed around a tropical fruit processing plant,” Komo says. “It’s much more like a ride than a water slide thanks to a series of exhilarating spillways.” The wild raft ride travels down 400-foot-long tube slides where up to three riders tackle the tumultuous terrain filled with sudden dips towards the final climactic plunge.

Hearts are similarly thumping at nearby Humunga Kowabunga, where riders lying flat with arms crossed race down the dark, slippery slope at speeds upwards of 30 miles per hour. “The slide sits at the top of Mount Mayday, where a ship has been marooned,” says Komo, who recommends riders be ready for the looming five-storey drop which hurls happy daredevils down a 214-foot slide at a 60-degree angle. “Be forewarned: you’ll want to get to the park early because this is the most popular attraction at Typhoon Lagoon and lines will be long as the day goes on.”

Info: There is a 48 inches (122 centimetre) height requirement for these rides.

Dips and Drizzles for Little Adventurers

Height restrictions shouldn’t leave your little brood out of all the fun and Disney World Imagineers agree wholeheartedly. That’s why there are scores of water-based rides sprinkled throughout the parks, giving little ones some petite thrills and spills.

Pirates of the Caribbean, located in the Adventureland area of Magic Kingdom, is open to riders of any height but is especially geared towards little swashbucklers eager to catch a glimpse of Captain Jack Sparrow. This swarthy pirate takes centre stage and frequently pops up as the boat floats along. While riders aren’t likely to get very wet, a small drop and a series of cannon ball explosions create some little splashes that are a fun feature on a hot day.

While splashes are minor on the famous Jungle Cruise ride inside Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland, guests young and old adore this quirky boat voyage along several different rivers from around the world. The animals are all animatronics and the jokes told by the boat’s skipper are as corny as they come, but there’s something that makes this classic attraction a longstanding favourite with Disney fans.

Finally, be sure to bring a change of clothes or swimmers if you decide to let your little ones wander through Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station, the new water zone inside Magic Kingdom’s Storybook Circus. With water bubbling up from the ground and unexpectedly shooting from all sides, this Dumbo themed spot will likely leave you drenched”… but that’s the best part.


Written by Kristen Manieri

All imagery © Walt Disney World


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