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)
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.
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)
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)
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.
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
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)
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)
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.
So 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.