It’s no secret I consider Florida (and Orlando in particular) one of the best family vacation spots in the U.S., but it’s not just because the Sunshine State is well known for its world-class Orlando theme parks like Disney World and Universal. The greater Orlando area is home to some of the biggest and best outdoor water parks in the country, too. With splash-tastic lazy rivers, giant wave pools, and thrilling water slides, there’s something for pretty much every age group and interest at the best Orlando water parks.
The Best Water Parks in Orlando
The best family vacation ideas almost always come down to choosing age-appropriate activities, and it’s no different when deciding which of the Orlando water parks to visit with your kids. Some Orlando water parks are better suited for young kids while others have the big slides and larger waves that older kids (and parents) crave. To help you make the right choice for your family’s vacation, I’ve sorted the water parks in Orlando based on their fun level and accessibility for each age group.
1. Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park
Best water park in Orlando for adventurous families
Universal Orlando Resort calls Volcano Bay a “water theme park” for the whole family, and with its immersive theming, interactive elements, and thrilling attractions, I completely agree with that label. Plus, even the water park’s most exciting slides (like the Krakatau Aqua Coaster and the Ko’okiri Body Plunge trap-door plunge slide) have a minimum height of just 48 inches, which means that many younger kids may be able to enjoy everything this Orlando water park has to offer.
SPLASH ZONE: 14 Best Indoor Water Park Resorts in the U.S.
There’s plenty here for kids under 48 inches to enjoy, too. Younger kids love the Runamukka Reef and Tot Tiki Reef kids’ areas (both have lots of room for kids to climb, splash, and slide to their heart’s delight) and when parents are ready for a break, you can relax on Waturi Beach while the kids play in the sand or the wave pool.
When you arrive at Universal’s Volcano Bay water park, you get a TapuTapu wrist band to use for the day. The band serves as your virtual line access and payment method, and it also unlocks fun interactive elements throughout this Florida water park. Note that parking is limited and likely you’ll need to take a shuttle if you’re not staying at a Universal hotel within walking distance.
2. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
Best Orlando water park for families who need a break during their Disney vacation
The secret to a happy family vacation is taking some time to rest and recharge, and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park is a great place to do just that while still having plenty of family fun. Kids of any height are welcome on most of the slides at this Orlando water park, including one of its star attractions, Miss Adventure Falls, in which a conveyor belt lifts you to the slide entrance before the slide sends you twisting and turning toward the splash pool below.
BLIZZARD BEACH VS. TYPHOON LAGOON: A Complete Guide to the Disney Water Parks in Orlando
In my experience, if you to this water park arrive early then getting a chair shouldn’t be a problem, but cabanas are available for an extra fee. There’s also a long lazy river that goes around the entire water park, a wave pool, and a large sea-themed kids’ area called Ketchakiddee Creek. And if you want to catch some gnarly waves, you can even schedule a private surf session or surf lessons.
3. Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park
Best for families who love a little friendly competition
Disney has two water parks in Orlando, and while many of the attractions at Disney’s ski resort-themed Blizzard Beach water park are similar to those at Typhoon Lagoon, what really makes Blizzard Beach stand out are the water slides where you can race against the other people in your family. Given the ski theme, you won’t be surprised to learn that chairlifts will bring you to the higher elevation rides, but prepare for stairs at some others.
WATER PERKS: Tips for Visiting Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon
Toboggan Racers, Downhill Double Dipper, Snow Stormers, and Runoff Rapids are all great for a little friendly competition. Kids and tweens can also test their skills on the zip line and obstacle course at the Ski Patrol Training Camp. While the kids compete, parents can kick back in lounge chairs where there’s ample tree cover and shade, particularly welcome in the hotter months.
4. Aquatica Orlando
Best water park in Orlando for sea life lovers
Conveniently located just across the street from SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando shares many of the same aquatic touches as its famous sister park. And with 42 water rides and 84,000 square feet of beach, there really is something for everyone at this water park. The exciting ReefPlunge tube slide takes you through an underwater habitat where you can see black-and-white Commerson’s dolphins swimming all around you. (You can get an even closer look at them from the underwater viewing area.)
HAWAII VACATIONS: The 6 Best Hawaii All-Inclusive Resorts for Families
In addition to its many kid-friendly areas, Aquatica is also unique among the Orlando water parks because it’s a Certified Autism Center with a designated quiet room, a low sensory area, ride accessibility program, and a helpful sensory guide for each attraction that makes it a great candidate for an autism-friendly vacation destination. Helpful park sensory information provides everything you need to know about allergens as well. Staff members also receive specialized training to better serve visitors with special needs.
5. LEGOLAND Florida Water Park
Best Florida water park for families with toddlers or preschoolers
Central Florida’s LEGOLAND is one of my favorite amusement parks for little kids, and LEGOLAND Florida Water Park was also designed with toddlers and preschoolers in mind. There’s a DUPLO Splash Safari area where kids six and under can splash with giant DUPLO creatures, a Joker Soaker play area for bigger kids where they’ll get soaked with a 300-gallon water bucket, and a not-so-wild wave pool that won’t overwhelm little ones.
For a little more thrill, anyone 42-inches or taller can ride together on the (relatively) fast moving Twin Chasers.And because this is a LEGO park, there are also lots of activities for creative builders. On the Build-a-Raft Lazy River, kids can use floating LEGO bricks to design and build their own raft as they float. At the Build-A-Boat station, kids can build and race their own boat.
6. Island H2O Water Park
Best Orlando water park for families with tech-loving teens
Slides and social media collide at Island H2O Water Park! Using the Island H2O Water Park app and the smart band you receive when you arrive at the park, you can view wait times, play interactive games to earn in-park food and drink discounts, capture on-ride videos, and even customize the lights and music on water slides. The attractions even have techy names like Profile Plunge and Hashtag Heights. (Like all technology, it’s not always the seamless experience you’d hope for, but in my opinion the features outweigh the challenges.)
LUXE VACATIONS: 10 Dreamy Beach Resorts in Florida That Are Perfect for Families
There are slides and a splash area for kids, but most of the slides are meant for maximum thrills that may be too intense for little ones. Staff are strict on height requirements, so if you are counting on “sneaking by” with a smaller young person, you may not have the luck you’re expecting. Tweens and teens can share their day with friends and family back home in the Selfie Shack and Be Live!, a social media streaming attraction.
7. Adventure Island Tampa Bay
Best of the Florida water parks for epic slide enthusiasts
Located just across the street from Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay (less than a two-hour drive from Orlando), Adventure Island is tops among the Orlando-area water parks for wild water slides. Between the free-falling Vanish Point slide, the tailspinning Solar Vortex, and the corkscrewing Colossal Curl, there’s no shortage of thrills at this topical-themed Florida water park. There are also plenty of chills to be had in the kids’ splash areas, wave pool, and the lazy river.
NO HIDDEN FEES: 7 Best All-Inclusive Resorts in Florida for Families
What makes this water park even more impressive is its family-friendly pricing on extras like all-day dining, cabanas, and quick queue access that lets you skip the line on many of Adventure Island’s popular attractions. If you want to hit up Busch Gardens while you’re in town, certain ticket options include access to both parks. It’s worth noting that staffing has been an issue post-pandemic (like many places), so you may want to call ahead to make sure the majority of rides are open.
Orlando Water Park Hotels and Resorts
The best Orlando water parks are all-day attractions, but the fun doesn’t have to end when you head back to your hotel. In Orlando, the hotels and resorts are vacation destinations in and of themselves—and many of them have their own on-site water parks as well. If you want water slides, lazy rivers, splash zones, and oversize swimming pools to go alongside your overnight accommodations, consider one of these Orlando hotels with their own water parks right on the premises.
1. Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites
Pairing reasonable prices with space, activities, and amenities, Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites pairs an outdoor pool, slide, and whirlpool with other activities such as live entertainment and kids’ activities right on site. When you return from park hopping, you’ll have everything you need to relax while the kids can keep their water party going.
2. Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World
It’s definitely pricey, but the Four Seasons Resort Orlando does not disappoint. With its own five-acre water park for kids, spa and salon for adults, and delicious (and fine) dining for all, everyone can find something to enjoy at this luxurious and amenity-filled resort.
3. Encore Resort at Reunion
With three water slides extending off a sixty-foot tower, thrills abound Encore Resort. Kids 48-inches and up can do all water rides; little ones won’t be disappointed with the four slides just for them in the Surfin’ Safari Kids Splash Area. This resort is ideal for multigenerational families that want enough space for privacy and enough to do for the invaluable together time that comes with traveling as a group.