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How does Aquatica stack up against Central Florida's other waterparks ?

How does Aquatica stack up against Central Florida's other waterparks ?

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You'll have to forgive any typos that you find in this month's OFT column. You see, I've been to Aquatica 2 1/2 times over the past month. And -- to be honest -- my fingers are still kind of pruney.

But after a month of soft openings, SeaWorld Orlando's waterpark has its official grand opening this past Friday. And -- to date -- the only real complaint that I've heard about Aquatica has to do with that park's capacity.

Now I know that this is going to sound kind of strange. Particularly given that Aquatica is a 59-acre waterpark with more than 80,000 square feet of beach. But this waterpark really can't handle more than 7,000 guests at any one time.

Aquatica's entrance sets the tone for the entire park.
Which entertains but doesn't overwhelm.
Photo courtesy of Denise Preskitt of MouseSteps.com

Mind you, that was a deliberate choice on the Busch Entertainment Group's part. They wanted Aquatica to be a much more intimate & luxurious experience for SeaWorld Orlando visitors. Which (they hoped) would help set their waterpark apart from all the others in the Orlando area.

The downside of this is that -- according to what SeaWorld insiders have told me -- Aquatica typically fills to capacity by 11:30 a.m. Which is why -- if you really want to experience Orlando's newest waterpark during your next Central Florida vacation -- you need to be entering Aquatica no later than 11 a.m.

The upside of arriving by 11 is that you'll be just in time for lunch. Which would be an excellent time to sample Aquatica's three restaurants: the Beach Coconut Cookout, Mango Market and the WaterStone Grill. These onsite eateries offer a much wider variety of foods & beverages then you'll typically find at a waterpark.

But that was the Busch Entertainment Group's goal all along. To create a different sort of waterpark. Which explains the bigger chair-to-guest ratio that you'll find at this new SeaWorld Orlando facility. Not to mention those 18 private cabanas that are available for rental inside the park. You can really live the lush life when you spend the day at Aquatica ... If you'd like.

Okay. This isn't to say that SeaWorld Orlando's new waterpark is completely flawless. Take -- for example -- Aquatica's highly touted Dolphin Plunge. Where you're supposed to get this great view of some Commerson's dolphins as you slide through a clear acrylic tube. Well, it took me three separate trips down Dolphin Plunge before I finally learned which angle I needed to keep my head at (More importantly, when to keep my eyes open) before I finally got to see those dolphins.

 You see? There really are some Commerson's dolphins in that pool.
Photo courtesy of Denise Preskitt of MouseSteps.com

But that quibble aside, I have to admit that I've really enjoyed the days that I've spent at Aquatica so far. And after chatting with other friends who work in the hospitality industry down here, I'd have to say that SeaWorld Orlando's latest addition is quickly becoming the preferred waterpark of young professionals in the Orlando area.

"But where does that put Central Florida's other waterparks?," you ask. Well, Wet 'n' Wild ... I'd have to say that that's the waterpark in town that has true teen appeal. This International Drive mainstay -- with its assortment of speed tubes as well as its cable-operated knee-boarding & wake-boarding WakeZone area -- goes over big with the high school crowd.

Whereas Blizzard Beach over at Walt Disney World ... That's the waterpark that (I think, anyway) appeals most to tweens. I don't know if it's BB's silly backstory (i.e. The place is supposed to be Central Florida's first ski resort) or the park's goofy mascot (i.e. Ice Gator) or just the fact that there's a miniature golf course right next door (i.e. Disney's Winter Summerland). But 9 to 14 year-olds just can't seem to get enough of Blizzard Beach.

 Copyright 2005 Disney. All Rights Reserved

As for Typhoon Lagoon ... I think that this WDW favorite (Which celebrates its 20th anniversary next June) is the area's best waterpark for families. With that huge wave pool at the very heart of the park (Which -- FYI -- is still the largest one in the U.S.) as well as its elaborate theming, Typhoon Lagoon is still a great place for you, the wife and kids to go cool off. Particularly since that they've added those Crush 'n' Gusher water coasters to TL's Hideaway Bay section.

But if you're looking for a more intimate & upscale waterpark experience while you're vacationing in Orlando ... I'm thinking that Aquatica is the way you ought to goo ... gop ... go ...

(Sorry about that. Dang pruney fingers.)

Orlando Fun Tickets is located less than 2 miles from the Walt Disney World Resort, 2 lights west of I-4 at 8472 Palm Parkway. Their office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. For further information, please call 866-225-4712 and/or check out the official Orlando Fun Tickets website.

And if you've like to see even more great shots of Aquatica (like the one below), go check out Denise Preskitt's photos of SeaWorld Orlando's new waterpark at MouseSteps.com

 (L to R) Heather, Eric and Aaron doing their "High School Musical" poster impression.
Photo courtesy of Denise Preskitt of MouseSteps.com

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  • I think that Aquatica's pretty good, to be honest. I have been there a couple of times now with my friends and I have enjoyed my time there everytime. Certainly a very enjoyable place to go to.

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