Theme Park Ranger
August 13, 2010
Lazy summer days are perfect for lazy rivers, water-park attractions where guests kick back in an inner tube and just go with the built-in flow.
Where: Typhoon Lagoon, Walt Disney World.
Atmosphere: Well-established greenery — the park opened in 1989 — makes for a lush experience. Although there are many slides and activities on both sides of Castaway Creek, there are moments where you're unaware of the teeming masses. Exhale.
Stretches have an abundance of shade, enough to make you want to paddle back into the sunshine at times. This also could give a false sense of sunburn security, so lather up with sunscreen.
Most picturesque moment is a straightaway into a cave while the stranded boat rests high above atop Mount Mayday.
There can be logjams in the narrow portions, as slim as three tubes wide.
Theming: The Typhoon Lagoon storyline centers on the aftermath of a storm. Its remnants are scattered around as "damaged" equipment that doubles as soakers for floaters-by. Particularly interesting are old pumps and a dilapidated water tower.
Tubes: Khaki, yellow and blue with Typhoon Lagoon markings, single seaters.
Lifeguards: The course is curvy, but there's always a red-clad lifeguard around the corner. They are firm, but polite. "Guys, do not stack the tubes, please," is a repeated refrain.
What else: Even if you're not a thrill seeker, it's fun to watch the splashdown of Humunga Kowabunga, a five-story body slide that also could be called the wedgie-maker.
Cross Country Creek
Where: Blizzard Beach, Walt Disney World
Atmosphere: Cross Country Creek is about 50 percent larger than Castaway Creek. That being said, there are stretches that are straight and boring. When there, I have the sinking feeling that people are having more fun on other Blizzard Beach attractions. There are fewer sprinkling distractions, although a very good one is a cave that drips icy water. That will wake you from slumber.
On my trips here, the crowd has skewed younger and more active with lots of tube-free swimming and racing teenagers.
Theming: Overall, Blizzard Beach succeeds with its icy theme. The look of a half-melted ski resort goes a long way, but isn't dominant along the lazy river. Its best effect is the house belonging to the Ice Gator, Blizzard Beach's mascot.
Tubes: Blue with white snowflake design, seats one or two.
Lifeguards: It's a thankless job, but more discipline could be dished out for kids swimming upstream or for stationary folks clogging the flow.
What else: The ski lift to the top of iconic Mount Gushmore is inspired. Aside from an abundance of slides, there's a neighboring miniature golf course called Winter Summerland.
Where: Aquatica, SeaWorld's water park
Atmosphere: Can a lazy river be high-energy? The current of Roa's Rapids is rapid-fire. Some call it "the crazy river." Lift your feet, and it flings you near rocky obstacles and into the path of far-reaching fountains. After two rotations, I need rest.
Theming: Roa's Rapids is in the middle of the park, not on the outskirts. Outside the loop are the other Aquatica attractions; inside is a sandy seating area with private access.
Tubes: None are allowed. Life vests are encouraged — and required for guests shorter than 51 inches.
Lifeguards: Let's go with "stoic." The guards are perched high above, and they are reassuringly evident. A piped-in announcement explains that they may not make direct eye contact with you because they are busy scanning the waters. ("Nothing personal," the voice says.)
What else: Check out Taumata Racer, the eight-lane, headfirst slide.
Where: Aquatica, SeaWorld's water park
Atmosphere: It's a smaller, more traditional lazy river with an unusual design. It doubles as an entry and splashdown area for the big-bowls ride called Tassie's Twisters. This causes congestion.
Theming: Aquatica's animal interaction is at play. On the back of Loggerhead Lane, there are two options. One takes tubes past a big aquarium of colorful fish, and the other goes under a waterwall to a viewing area of the Commerson's dolphins that frolic along the tube of the park's Dolphin Plunge ride.
Tubes: One- and two-seaters, clear blue and yellow with blue markings.
Lifeguards: Same stance as at Roa's Rapids, though it's difficult to look terribly tough with dolphins in the background.
What else: It's near the Banana Beach Cook-out, which features an eat-all-day option.
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