In a perfect world, Hurricane Katrina would have blown through some remote tropical paradise, leaving an aquatic wonderland in its wake. Well, the folks at Disney have created what Mother Nature did not — all in the form of the 56-acre waterpark that is Typhoon Lagoon.
One of two Disney waterparks located in Orlando, Fla., Typhoon Lagoon is built around this “paradise after the storm” concept and lives up to the Disney reputation for excellent story-based theming. Guests are immersed in the story even before they enter the park, with parking-lot signs that retell the “legend” of the storm, according to Park Operations Manager Ron Hood.
Inside, the tale continues. Everyone gets a good look at Miss Tilly, the large shrimping boat marooned precariously on Mount Mayday, a 95-foot-high mountain. Its 50-foot geyser erupts every half an hour and is visible from all points in the park.
Extensive, detailed theming can be found on each of the attractions, from the Storm Slides — a trio of body slides that thrill riders with caves, waterfalls, geysers and a more than three-story drop — to the Mayday Falls raft ride and Castaway Creek lazy river. Hood calls it “total immersion theming.” He notes, “A lot of places say they’re themed and [all they’ve done is] paint the slide green. It’s a big difference here.”
Perhaps the signature attractions is the 400-foot-long, 600-foot-wide, 2.75-million-gallon surf pool with waves up to 6 feet high. Before opening, the park runs a surf school with lessons from professional instructors for everyone from novices to experts.
Another top ride is Crush ‘n’ Gusher, a Master Blaster-style water coaster. Opened in 2005, it’s designed to be a wild trip through a fruit-packing plant abandoned after “the storm.” The average length of each flume is 400 feet.
But one of the most unique rides at Typhoon Lagoon is the Shark Reef. At 100 feet long and 23 feet wide, this interactive experience allows guests to swim with live tropical fish, including sharks and rays. The reef features a sunken tanker that has portholes for nonswimming guests to view the action.
The Typhoon Lagoon story continues through the park amenities. Dining options include the Leaning Palms restaurant, and there’s also Singapore Sal’s souvenir shop, which sells “storm salvage.” A sign at the Leaning Palms states that before “the storm,” it was known as the “Placid Palms.”
So how does Typhoon Lagoon measure up to its nearby sister park, Disney’s Blizzard Beach (the No. 2 Top Waterpark)? Hood says that even though Typhoon Lagoon seems to attract more local guests, the two parks complement each other.
OWNER: Walt Disney World Co.
YEAR OPENED: 1989
SIZE: 62 acres
SIGNATURE ATTRACTIONS: Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool, Shark Reef snorkeling adventure,
and the Crush ‘n’ Gusher water coaster
FUN FACT: The 2.75-million-gallon Surf Pool sends out a mammoth wave of 250,000 gallons every 90 seconds. All the water stays within the system.
NO. OF LIFEGUARDS: 45 lifeguards, plus 23 slide operators, per shift