SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Theme Park Water Rides in Orlando

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers the Top Six Theme Park Water Rides in Orlando. Water rides at the parks, you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em. We here at the Saturday Six happen to love them and are glad we have so many great ones to choose from in Orlando. These rides can be just the thing to cool you off on one of those Florida days where it feels like you are walking on the surface of the sun, and as a side benefit they can be incredibly fun! Today we are going to look at the top six and we’ll start with…

# 6 – Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (Islands of Adventure)

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Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls (photo by Brandon Glover)

Located in Toon Lagoon in Islands of Adventure, Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls is based on the old Jay Ward cartoons which – like many of the characters in Toon Lagoon – have been mostly lost to time. This is unfortunate, as many of Ward’s creations (Aesop’s Fables, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Peabody and Sherman) were years ahead of their time, containing sophisticated humor and satire that children and adults could enjoy. While Ripsaw Falls is filled with the trademark humor (and puns) of the cartoon it is based on, thanks to budget and time constraints under which it was built, it doesn’t have the “wow” factor of animatronics or the immersive scenery that some other rides on this list brings to the table. What it does have is an amazing facade, several decent drops, and one great one at the end. The final drop of Ripsaw Falls can hang with any flume ride, but Ripsaw Falls doesn’t end there….

Once guests go down the intense final drop, most assume that they’ve been through the worst and the ride is over. But no, this is where the fun really begins. As the logs circle around back to the unload station, they travel under a bridge. This bridge connects Toon Lagoon to Jurassic Park and is quite large. For a quarter, guests on the bridge have an opportunity to trigger one of the dozen water cannons aimed directly at the guests on Ripsaw Falls. It can not be expressed in mere words how fun this is (for the guests on the bridge, at least), and seeing the look of surprise from the unsuspecting riders as they get one final blast of water is almost worth the price of admission to Universal itself.

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Water Cannons at Ripsaw Falls (photo by Brandon Glover)

On a hot day at IOA I have three tips for guests. Drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and bring lots of quarters to soak Ripsaw Falls riders.

# 5 – Journey to Atlantis (SeaWorld)

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Journey to Atlantis (photo by Maureen Deal)

Like much of SeaWorld, Journey to Atlantis doesn’t get as much attention as its counterparts in Disney and Universal, but the park’s first ever thrill ride is a lot of fun and has a little bit of a coaster element mixed in. Inside the elaborately themed temple, riders get a dark ride experience before heading outside for the flume ride drops and surprising roller coaster track near the end. Like Ripsaw Falls, the inside portions could use a bit of updating, but the overall thrill of Journey to Atlantis is still there, and the attraction has ride elements that separate it from any of its competition.

# 4 – Jurassic Park River Adventure (IOA)

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Jurassic Park River Adventure (photo by Mike Sperduto)

With the Wizarding World of Harry Potter dominating discussion of Islands of Adventure since the land opened in 2010 and Marvel Superhero Island getting renewed interest thanks the incredible success of the Marvel movies like The Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier, lost in the shuffle is the land dedicated to Jurassic Park. An amazingly themed area that includes one of the park’s best “weenies” in the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, Orlando’s greatest children’s play area in Camp Jurassic, and of course the E-Ticket of the Jurassic Park River Adventure, Jurassic Park is not to be missed.

JP River Adventure starts off with guests taking a leisurely boat tour through Jurassic Park, even passing through the iconic large gates. On your tour you see several large animatronic dinosaurs before “something goes terribly wrong” and you find yourself right in the middle of raptor attack. It’s during the second half of the ride when the tension gets amped up, highlighted by the incredible T-Rex animatronic and the huge drop to cap off the ride.

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The animatronic T-Rex in Jurassic Park River Adventure (photo by Jeff Kyle)

Another recommendation? Consider having lunch at Thunder Falls Terrace. It has large indoor and outdoor seating area that faces the big drop of Jurassic Park River Adventure, so you can see (and the hear the screams of) the guests as they plunge down into the water. It also has a menu that contains many of the menu items found at the Three Broomsticks, so your family can enjoy something beyond the normal theme park burgers, chicken strips, and pizza.

# 3 – Kali River Rapids

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Kali River Rapids (photo by Tom Bricker)

The rides up to now get you wet, but the next two on the list are more than likely going to get you soaked. Kali River Rapids at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is not a whitewater rafting ride, it’s a STORY rafting ride (sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) On a serious note, Walt Disney Imagineering has done an incredible job creating an environment that is gorgeous, starting in the queue itself. Once inside the raft you go through an Asian rain forest (passing by temples, waterfalls, bamboo, and all), float by the evils of greedy logging companies, and finish back in the lush vista of Anandapur after a thrilling drop. If Kali Rapids has a fault, it’s the ride is just too short and definitely could be a bit longer. Still, it’s a beautiful experience.

# 2 – Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges (IOA)

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Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Up until now, we would strongly recommend storing anything you don’t want to get wet in a locker or giving it to a friend/family member to keep safe, but can understand if you want to risk it by taking on the ride. Popeye & Blutos Bilgerat Barges? If you take something on this ride, it’s getting wet: no ifs, ands, or buts. It is impossible to walk off Bilge Rat Barges without getting drenched.

The theming of Bilge Rate Barges is whimsical and fits right into the “straight out of the funny pages” style of Toon Lagoon. Among the drops, waterfalls, and ability for guests not on the ride to spray you with water cannons (like Ripsaw Falls) AND have water dumped on you from a shower head, all the people in the raft are gonna feel like they just went swimming after exiting the ride. Bilge Rat’s length (it’s a nice long trip) and some hilarious surprises during the ride would make this # 1 on just about any water ride’s list. The problem is that THIS list contains not just one of the best water rides in the theme park history, but one of the best rides period….

# 1 – Splash Mountain (Magic Kingdom)

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Splash Mountain (photo by Mike Sperduto)

What else needs to be said? It’s Splash Mountain. You love it. I love it. What’s NOT to love about it? Rock work? Gorgeous. Animatronics? Tons of ‘em. Soundtrack? Amazing. Length of ride? Only Ellen’s Energy Adventure seems longer, but the difference is you don’t want Splash to stop! Drop at the end? Not only thrilling but can give you a wonderful view of the Magic Kingdom.

Splash Mountain is everything a theme park ride should be. It takes the log flume ride that we’ve all done a million times at every amusement park we’ve ever been to and turned the dial up to an 11. The word “story” is comically overused in theme parks, especially in Orlando, but this ride truly tells a story that you will adore. Guests do not need to have watched the film it is based on (and good luck with that because Disney has Song of the South buried so far in the vault we’ll see the fat-shaming Habit Heroes attraction come back before that film is released) to enjoy every minute. The tale of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear is told to use within the ride, and we get a clear beginning, middle, and end. The finale, itself, is one of my favorite ends to any ride in Orlando.

Burgan_ConstantSo there you have it: the Top Six Theme Park Water Rides in Orlando. See you next weekend for the latest edition of the Saturday Six, where we are going to cash in our 30 day A.A. chip and look at the Top Six Theme Park Bars. If you had fun, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles or, for your listening pleasure, check out Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast.

Special thanks to Disney Blogger Extraordinaire Morgan Crutchfield, Mike Sperduto, Tom Bricker, Jeff Kyle of Daily Disney Photo, and crack staff photographer Brandon Glover for their assistance with this article. I would also like to send a big thank you to Maureen Deal and recommend everyone to check out her site Autism at the Parks. An invaluable guide for anyone who tours theme parks with a loved one with a developmental disability, Maureen’s site is filled with tips, advice, and trip reports to help prepare you in order to have the smoothest experience possible.

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Posted on May 10, 2014

14 Responses to “SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Theme Park Water Rides in Orlando”

  • Song of the South wasn’t released on home video in North America, but it was in at least Japan and Britain. If you want a copy there are several on ebay.co.uk. Shipping would be expensive, and you’ll probably need to dust off the old VHS player, but it is still possible to see that movie.

  • I’ve spent an entire day in IOA soaked to the skin because of these rides – and I would so it again in a heart beat. Only tip, don’t wear denim shorts!!!!

  • Kali is one of the most underwhelming rides of ALL time. Disney failed on this one

  • If there’s one complaint about Splash, it’s that certain show pieces are perpetually broken, with, it seems, not a lot of interest in fixing them. In particular, I haven’t seen the progressive fountain in the laughing place working in I-don’t-know-how-long.

    • I agree! The jumping fountain was working two weeks ago and I was way too excited to finally see this element functioning!

  • by Dean Finder on May 10, 2014, at 4:06 pm EST

    The “25 cents to soak another guest” always seems like a little mean-spirited money grab from Universal, not to mention the $3 people dryers at the end of the water rides.
    On the other hand, I heard that one of the hidden theme elements in JPRA is the tile pattern in the building that houses the big drop. The tile pattern on the stripe down the middle represents a DNA sequence for a dino, with the 4 colors correlating to the 4 bases.
    The “evil greedy loggers” element of Kali is pretty bad, too. In a theme park that tries to tell accurate stories about the environment, the cartoonish evil corporation story has no place. The reality is that much of the logging of environmentally sensitive places is done by small local loggers who are just trying to survive, but that’s a far less black-and-white story.

    • Interesting note on the DNA sequence. I need more of the “These tubes are red, yellow, and white because the ride was sponsored by McDonalds and represent ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.” Other one way too smart. ;)
      I’ve never seen the 25 cent water cannons/faucets as money grabs. The people dryers are a different story and they are actually $5 now if you can believe that. Universal has several free water cannons to shoot at people including some in Camp Jurassic and Curious George’s play area.

    • At 25 cents, I think the purpose of charging is simply to help ensure whoever is controlling the “fire” button has a reason to get off and let someone else have a turn. That small charge isn’t likely to add up to “increased corporate profits,” but without at least a small charge, you know there’d always be somebody who wouldn’t see any reason to share. I think this holds for any of the rides that have this sort of feature.

      • by Dean Finder on May 11, 2014, at 3:10 pm EST

        The money factor doesn’t bug me as much as the jerk factor of squirting other customers. I mean, if you stood on the walkway near the Splash Mountain splashdown a with a Super Squirter to nail the people on the ride, you probably be asked to leave.

        • I’m pretty sure Kali River Rapids has the same setup.

        • I totally agree about the jerk factor! If you want to squirt your brother/best friend/ex-boyfriend or whoever, fine. I don’t get why anyone would want to squirt a random stranger. One time a GROWN ADULT squirted one of my young children in the face, and continued to do so even after said child started crying and was obviously very upset. Because of that incident, I no longer take my family on any water rides that have those squirters.

  • by Mike Sperduto on May 10, 2014, at 5:33 pm EST

    You can’t forget about the water cannons on Me Shop The Olive that you can blast people with while on Popeye. And the best part, those are free : )

  • Crush n’ Gusher @ Typhoon Lagoon is a ride I’ve enjoyed a couple hours at a time from park opening until I can’t climb the steps any longer. I’m not sure if that fits the article’s criteria, but I enjoy it more than any other water-themed attraction.

    • I wanted to spotlight the various attractions at water parks like Aquatica, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Wet ‘N Wild in a separate article. I agree that Crush n’ Gusher is pretty dang cool.