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Going to a water park in the super-busy summer months can get pretty rough. This stresses out people, so I thought I would write a post to help. If you want a stress-free experience, here is your a useful guide to Aquatica at capacity!
Voted #1 Outdoor Waterpark
Aquatica is already an extremely busy water park in the summer. Since being named the #1 Outdoor Waterpark in America by USA Today, Aquatica has gained even more popularity from tourists and locals alike. Aquatica gets very busy during the summer, so it’s best to be prepared!
If you have small children, you might be interested in reading one of my most popular posts, Guide to Aquatica with Toddlers.
Get there early.
Tourists can be vicious. If you think you’re prepared, there’s someone more prepared than you. Meaning, if you arrive just before the park opens, there will already be a line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot. I’m not sure just how early these people get here in the morning. I’m thinking the super early birds start arriving about an hour before the posted opening time.
Get there early enough, because the lines to get into the parking lot get longer as the morning goes on. You’ll also be one of the first in the park and able to score prime seats (lounge chairs covered by an umbrella) for your family. A word of caution, people do run for the loungers, so there’s a sense of panic at “rope drop.”
Aquatica hits capacity almost every weekend during the summer months, and sometimes even during the weekdays. If you can, go on a weekday versus a Saturday or Sunday. Count on Aquatica reaching capacity between 10 a.m. and noon, so plan accordingly. The park usually re-opens around 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. once enough people have left.
Alternatively, get there late.
Usually if you arrive in the late afternoon/early evening hours, like 4 p.m., many people have gone home and you’re able to get into the park. The downside to this is you will only have a few hours of playtime before the park closes.
Another downside I noticed is that the park by this time has gotten overrun with litter and trash all over the place. Lounge chairs have been dragged to all sorts of places, life vests are discarded everywhere, and really it looks like the staff has pretty much given up picking up after people at this point in the afternoon.
Most days, however, we still choose to arrive late. We get there around 5 or 6 p.m. in the evening for a quick visit. My kid is ready for bedtime after just a couple of hours of playing in the water, so this works well for me!
The parking lot closes once it reaches capacity.
No matter how long you’ve driven to get to Aquatica, you won’t be able to get in once the parking lot is at maximum capacity. Cops will post up on the street outside the entrance and turn cars away. They don’t care if you’ve purchased your tickets in advance – every car gets turned away at the stoplight into Aquatica once the lot is at capacity.
We made the terrible mistake of arriving around 11 a.m. on the Fourth of July holiday once. The traffic to get into the parking lot extended down International Drive and all the way out to the Beeline Highway/SR 528 exit. Slowly, we inched our way toward the parking entrance. As we were about to turn in, a couple Aquatica staff members arrived in a golf cart and hopped out, holding a sign. The sign said something to the extent of “Lot Closed: Aquatica Has Reached Capacity.”
My heart sunk thinking we were about to be turned away…and we were next!
Luckily, the police officer doing traffic let us through, along with just a few other cars before they called it and stopped any more cars from entering. We lucked out that day, but don’t make the mistake we did! Don’t get turned away just because you arrived late. Arrive early to ensure you’ll get in!
Even better, you can call (866) 787-4307 and press 2 at the prompt to check on Aquatica’s current parking lot status. It’s a good idea to do this as you get closer to the park so you don’t waste your time in case it has reached capacity. This phone number will also be flashing on large LED electronic signs on International Drive and Central Florida Parkway heading toward Aquatica. When you call the number, you’ll get one of two recordings:
“Aquatica is at capacity and is expected to re-open at __ p.m.” – or – “Aquatica is currently open.” (Yay!)
Parking is not cheap.
Once you do get in, don’t forget to have extra money ready because parking is not cheap! As of July 2018, parking at Aquatica costs you:
- Cars & Motorcycles – $22
- RVs – $25
- Preferred Parking – $30
- Premium Parking – $35
They started charging variable pricing for parking at SeaWorld depending on how busy the parks are (effective July 1st), and I think this also applies to Aquatica. One family reported they paid $40 to park at Aquatica on a busy day.
There are a couple parking alternatives.
I’ve seen them really try to fit as many cars as they can squeeze in there, lining them up bumper to bumper along the side of the roads within the parking lot and all the way as far as just after the parking entrance. However, once there’s not more space, they really can’t let any more cars in.
I know people are being told to park across the street at SeaWorld and just walk or take the tram across. I personally haven’t done this, but it’s another option. Some people also use Lyft or Uber and get dropped off at the entrance. However, Aquatica usually stops admitting people into the park as well once it has reached capacity.
If you are walking to Aquatica, note that the pedestrian entrance is at the employee entrance to the right of the parking entrance. If you’re walking on International Drive on the Aquatica side, don’t walk to the parking entrance because there’s no sidewalk there and the cop will just tell you to walk one block down and go through the employee entrance side. Walk down that street, pass the employee office, take a left once you hit the Aquatica parking lot, and follow the sidewalk to the Aquatica entrance.
Expect long lines for EVERYTHING.
I’m talking the water slides, restaurants, guest services, bathrooms – everything. The lines really start to get long mid-morning.
Expect to wait around 45 minutes to an hour to slide down the slides. The wait time is even longer for Ray Rush, Aquatica’s newest attraction. Lines there can be over an hour.
They have front-of-the-line passes you can buy, but the annoying part is you have to excuse yourself through the entire line just so you can show your pass to the employee working at the top of the slide. There’s not a special queue for you to enter. In July, the Quick Queue Unlimited pass costs you $45 each (changes to $25 to $45 in August depending on the day), and a one-time Quick Queue to Ray Rush is $15 (also goes down to $10 to $15 in August). Too much money and not worth it, in my opinion. And don’t forget to check ride height requirements before you purchase any for your children.
When Aquatica is at capacity, you might have to wait an hour or even longer just to buy food.
It’s annoying because Aquatica only doesn’t allow you to bring outside food with the exception of snack-sized items. This is what irks me most about Aquatica, the stinginess when it comes to food. Then, the food lines are horrendous if you do want to buy food. They need to get it together in this department. We do bring snacks into the park for the kids.
As a backup, you can even pack some food in a cooler and leave it in your car in case of dire circumstances. (We usually just leave the park altogether for the day when everyone is ready for a real meal without the hassle of waiting in an hour-long line.)
There’s even long lines for the showers, and this one here is mostly due to poor planning by the Aquatica team.
We always use the bathrooms closest to Kata’s Kookaburra Cove because that’s where my son and niece love to play. Unfortunately, there are seriously only two shower stalls in those bathrooms. I’ve got a kid with eczema, so I have to wash the chlorine off of him immediately after he’s done playing in the water as part of my dermatologist’s recommendation. With there being only two shower stalls, the line gets really long there too.
Be prepared for ride and attraction closures due to weather.
The reality of Florida summers is it rains sporadically almost every day during the summer months. Thunderstorms and lightning are very, very common occurrences. It stinks, I know, but the best thing to do is expect it and be prepared.
With any reports of lightning in the area, theme parks shut all outdoor rides and attractions down. Rides can be closed for 15 minutes to well over two hours. This opening and closing of various water rides can happen multiple times throughout the day. People get frustrated because rides are closed even when it just looks “gloomy,” but the parks would rather be safe than sorry.
Try to get most of your rides in during the morning hours, before the afternoon thunderstorms come in. Seek shelter when they do close the rides.
Unfortunately, Aquatica does not have any system to hold your place in line, which is very frustrating for those who were close to being next to go down the slide, but were told to evacuate once the ride closed down due to inclement weather. You have to get back in line once it is open and start all over again. It makes for very unhappy families and I wish they come up with a return voucher system or something.
We experienced a closure due to inclement weather one of the days we were at Aquatica, which happened while we were at Kata’s Kookaburra Cove (aka the kiddie pool).
First, they closed the water slides, and what happened was everyone – adults, teenagers, non-children – all made their way into the kiddie pool. Now, the sign at Kata’s Kookaburra Cove specifically says that children must be under 48 inches to experience the attraction, but this is hardly ever enforced by the lifeguards, whether during times of inclement weather or not. And you can’t blame anyone for going to whatever left is still open after most rides have shut down. I think the wave pools were open too.
I like Kata’s Kookaburra Cove because my son is able to play without being run over by bigger kids, and most times it is one of the quietest, least crowded areas at Aquatica. Once everyone headed there after the slides closed, it seemed like the entire park was packed into the tiny kiddie pool!
Eventually, however, the lifeguard at Kata’s Kookaburra Cove blew her whistle and told everyone to get out of the water. It was a little bit chaotic as everyone got out, but I grabbed my kid and exited the pool. I headed straight for my lounge chair and we started packing up. It was a good time to go home.
While my sister and I were getting our together, a Spanish-speaking-only lady came up to us, looking very angry and frustrated. It was hard to communicate because we don’t speak Spanish. Even with the language barrier, I could make out that she was extremely upset and asking if the park was closed and if we had to leave. (I think she might have assumed we all had to leave because she noticed we were packing up.) We tried our best to explain to her that the park was not closing. We told her everyone just needed to wait. I still don’t think she understood us because she still looked very upset as we were leaving.
I wish she could have understood that no, they are not closing the park down! They are just closing the rides and pools temporarily. You just need to wait for the bad weather to pass, then they’ll open the rides again. Very rarely will they close the entire park for the day. It does happen, but it’s pretty rare.
You may be eligible for a Sunny Day Guarantee ticket due to inclement weather.
If you’ve been in the park less than five hours and rides are closed for an hour or more, you are entitled to a Sunny Day Guarantee ticket, which is valid for a return visit within 90 days. For those who have been there over five hours, you can still get a 50% off return ticket, which is valid for one year.
These inclement weather tickets are issued at Guest Relations (located near the park exit). You can get these after one hour of ride closure and until the rides re-open. I’m surprised not more people are aware of this rainy day guarantee. I definitely would take advantage of it if my Aquatica trip was ruined due to ride closures.
Unfortunately, no refunds will be given for parking, lockers, the All-Day Dining deal, Quick Queue, and cabana/lounger rentals.
You may see the worst in people.
It gets super crowded, which is nothing new for Orlando theme parks in the summer. At Aquatica, you’ll be bumping into people everywhere. This means the wave pool, in the lazy river, walking between attractions, in the loungers. It really starts to feel uncomfortably packed.
You’ll also come across rude and inconsiderate people, which is sad, but it’s reality. I try my best to have a pleasant attitude, but rude people can really push my buttons.
For example, watch out for “lounger stealers.” A couple that was leaving offered me their two loungers. I thanked them and set my things on one of the loungers. Then, a man comes out of nowhere and immediately plops down on the second one. He didn’t make eye contact with me. He knew what he was doing. I stared him down until he gave me some sheepish excuse about saving it for someone. I know neither of us is entitled to nor owns these loungers, but come on!
Situations and people like that make me so angry. I can’t stand rude people. Expect to run into some when the park is packed and it feels like a free-for-all.
Preparation is critical!
Now you know what to expect during a busy day at Aquatica! Preparation is critical – that’s really all it comes down to. Arrive early and with the right mindset, and have a great time! I hope you enjoyed my tips on navigating your way through Aquatica at capacity!