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Water Wonderlands: Central Florida's Nonstop Adventure

Are beaches not enough for you? Are your kids clamoring for more thrills? Do You love to get wet and stay that way? Do you like to feel your heart hammering in your chest? Then Central Florida's premiere water parks are the perfect vacation adventure for you and your family! Here are some of my all-time favorite wetlands:

Wet n' Wild: Honored by Aquatic's International as the first true water park, and voted America's number one water park by Amusement Business Magazine, Wet n' Wild has world class signature rides and quality service for "ducks" of all ages. For heart pounding, never ending, ultimate intensity, this is the theme park that will give everyone something to shout about. Located in the heart of Orlando, Florida, Wet n' Wild is the ultimate vacation destination. From tiny tots to thrill-seeking teens; from Mom and Dad to sedate seniors, there is something for kids of all ages at Wet n' Wild. The exciting Kid's Park features smaller versions of the park's most popular adult rides, including the Surf Lagoon wave pool.

For the truly adventurous there is The Blast! a two-passenger, thrilling ride which is guaranteed to leave you soaking wet and screaming for more. For the more sedate set, there is the Lazy River, a gently moving stream which allows you to hop onto an inner tube and slowly float along, trailing your fingers in the water. Open year-round and fully staffed with certified lifeguards, Wet n' Wild Water Park is a safe bet for both the young and the young at heart.

Disney's Typhoon Lagoon: Touted as the "ultimate tropical water park" this Central Florida tourist attraction invites visitors into a world of adventure, romance, and danger. You are immediately transported into the world of a tin-roofed island village, with a backdrop of wreckage strewn across the landscape by a great storm. It even includes a storm wrecked shrimp boat stranded on a mountain peak, and her name is "Miss Tilly."

Located near Downtown Disney West Side, Typhoon Lagoon is a 56 acre water theme park which features a man-made watershed mountain, "Mt. Mayday," with eight twisting, turning water slides and tumbling, roaring streams. It also includes a two-and-one-half acre wave-making lagoon which features surf-size waves! Surrounding the lagoon is Castaway Creek, a 2,100 foot stream which meanders through a tropical rain forest and a hidden grotto. One can hop onto an inner tube and enjoy a relaxing tour of Typhoon Lagoon.

Guests can also experience a one-of-a-kind, face-to-face encounter with colorful creatures from the deep, as they snorkel in the "Shark Reef," a saltwater pool sponsored by the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). In addition to geysers, fountains, bubblers, and falls, the park features a water playground, for children, and beautiful, sunny beaches.

Blizzard Beach: This 66 acre fun-filled water park is wildly eccentric. Located in Central Florida's Walt Disney World, Blizzard Beach is a tropical water park with the atmosphere and excitement of a major ski resort, giving the term "snow-bunny" an unconventional twist. One winter, not so long ago, a freak snow storm covered the western side of Walt Disney World, giving birth to a fantastic idea. Why not combine the wonders of a ski-slope with the fabulous fun of the tallest, fastest, and most exhilarating water-filled ski and toboggan runs in the world? The result of this strange "marriage" is the ski resort/water adventure park called "Blizzard Beach."

At the entrance to the park visitors are greeted by the view of "skiers" sliding down the face of the 90 foot, snow-capped mountain, Mt. Gushmore. It is also home to an incredible water slide named "Downhill Double Dipper," which are the only side-by-side racing water slides, 50 feet high and 200 feet long. Guests are sent flying on a thrilling downhill ride, 25 miles per hour, twisting and turning, before shooting out through a bursting stream of water! Wow! Mt. Gushmore also features water-sled runs, slalom, toboggan and the breathtaking "Summet Plummet," a 120 foot high free-fall speed slide, the tallest in the nation!

Cypress Gardens' Splash Island: Long before Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, there was the magic of my childhood, Cypress Gardens. Beautiful, bronzed girls, on water skis, wowed the crowds with super-human feats of daring-do, while Southern belles in hoop skirts flirted ever-so effortlessly with sight-seeing tourists. Today Cypress Gardens is all that, and much more, including a state of the art, Polynesian themed water park.

Cypress Gardens presents a perfect invitation to slow down, as you walk along tree lined paths, framed by ancient cypress trees which line the banks of Lake Eloise. The air is thick with the colors and scents of abundant blossoms, as flowing flowerbeds spill out upon a white gazebo, then gracefully cascade down a hill. A butterfly sanctuary sits at the entrance to the formal Plantation Gardens, a perfect respite for meditation and reflection.

After the Gardens, Splash Island is the perfect place for the family to cool down, kick-back, and have some water fun, especially during Central Florida's steamy summer. The water park offers a screaming good time, with the Kowabunga Bay wave pool, the Paradise River action river, the Tonga Tubes and Voodoo Plunge water slides, and the Polynesian Adventure play structure.

Cypress Gardens' Splash Island offers a perfect blend of contemporary attitude, while still maintaining the romance of the park's traditional history. All features of the park are included with your admission to the Gardens. For those who desire a slower pace, yet love the adventure of water fun, Cypress Gardens' is the perfect blend of old and new.

A Central Florida vacation has everything to fulfill the expectations of every member of your family, from the sublime to the silly, from the adventurous to the sedate. So whether you are a tourist or a romantic, Central Florida's water parks will fill your heart with fun, laughter, and memories that will make you want to return year after year.

By Jaye Lewis