Blizzard Beach is the younger of Disney's water parks, a 66-acre "ski resort" in the midst of a tropical lagoon centering on the 90-foot -- uh-oh -- Mount Gushmore. There's a legend for this one as well. Apparently a freak snowstorm dumped tons of snow on Walt Disney World, leading to the creation of Florida's first -- and, so far, only -- mountain ski resort (complete with Ice Gator, the park's mascot). Naturally, when temperatures returned to their normal broiling range, the snow bunnies prepared to close up shop, when they realized -- this is Disney, happy endings are a must -- that what remained of their snow resort could be turned into a water park featuring the fastest and tallest waterlogged "ski" runs in the country. The base of Mount Gushmore has a sand beach with several other attractions, including a wave pool and a smaller version of the mount for younger children. The park is located off World Drive, just north of the All-Star Movie, Music, and Sports resorts.
Helpful Hints -- Arrive at or before opening to avoid long lines and to be sure you get in. Both beach towels and lockers can be rented for the day, and you can buy any beachwear you forgot to bring at the Beach Haus. Grab something to eat at Avalunch, the Warming Hut, or Lattawatta Lodge (burgers, hot dogs, nachos, pizza, and sandwiches).
Major Attractions in the Park
Cross Country Creek -- Inner-tubers can float lazily along this park-circling 2,900-foot creek, but beware of the mysterious Polar Caves, where you'll get splashed with melting ice.
Melt-Away Bay -- This 1-acre bobbing wave pool is fed by waterfalls of melting "snow" and features relatively calm waves.
Runoff Rapids -- Another tube job, this one lets you careen down any of three twisting-turning runs, one of which sends you through darkness.
Ski-Patrol Training Camp -- Designed for tweens and teens, it features a rope swing, a T-bar drop over water, slides like the wet and slippery Mogul Mania from the Mount, and a challenging ice-floe walk along slippery floating icebergs.
Slush Gusher -- This superspeed slide travels along a snow-banked gully. Note: It has a 48-inch height minimum.
Snow Stormers -- These three flumes descend from the top of Mount Gushmore and follow a switchback course through ski-type slalom gates.
Summit Plummet -- Read every speed, motion, vertical-dip, wedgie, and hold-onto-your-breast-plate warning in this guide. Then, test your bravado in a bullring, a space shuttle, or dozens of other death-defying hobbies as a warm-up. This puppy starts pretty slowly, with a lift ride to the 120-foot summit. Then . . . well . . . kiss any kids or religious medal you may be carrying. Because, if you board, you will enter the self-proclaimed world's fastest body slide (I believe it!), a test of your courage and swimsuit that virtually goes straight down and has you moving sans vehicle at 60 mph by the catch pool (also known as the stop zone). Even the hardiest rider may find this one hard to handle; a veteran thrill-seeker described the experience as "15 seconds of paralyzing fear." Note: It has a 48-inch height minimum. Also, expectant mothers and people with neck, back, and heart problems shouldn't ride.
Teamboat Springs -- On the World's longest white-water raft ride, your six-passenger raft twists down a 1,200-foot series of rushing waterfalls.
Tike's Peak -- This kid-size version of Mount Gushmore offers short water slides, rideable animals, a snow castle, a squirting ice pond, and a fountain play area for young guests.
Toboggan Racers -- Here's an eight-lane slide that sends you racing headfirst over exhilarating dips into a "snowy slope." (If you've ever been on one of those tall superslides at amusement parks, imagine doing it headfirst, on your belly, on a raft. This baby can pack a lot of zip by the end.)
LOCKERS—An average locker is $13 but you get $5 of that back after you turn your key in. They allow multiple access, are about 2 feet deep, and the opening is about the size of a magazine.
PREPARATION—Thoughtfully, parking is free. There are bulletin boards past the park entrance that tells you what the sunburn risk is and what the wait times are for the slides, as well as what times the parades run at Disney parks that day. If there are any activities (scavenger hunts are common), they’ll be posted here.
FOOD—There are only counter-service choices. Eat promptly at 11am when kitchens open because lines get crazy quickly. Don’t plan on eating dinner here, because the kiosks tend to shut down well before closing.
TIMING—If you’re coming to Florida between November and mid-March, the park may be closed for its annual hose-down. The other Disney water park will remain open. Most water features are heated, but remember that you eventually must get out.
www.disneyworld.com. 407/560-3400. $60 adults, $54 kids 3–9. Hours vary, but 10am–5pm is common in summer.