Perhaps one of the best hidden gems, that isn’t really hidden at all, are Disney’s water parks. Before this summer, I had never been to either and didn’t see much of a reason to go.
I thought: I can stay on site and use the pool at my hotel. Or ride a water ride in the parks. Why do I need to pay more money to go to a water park?
Typhoon Lagoon far exceeded my expectations and experiencing at night during a special event made it even better. How did it do that? Keep reading.
H2O Glow Nights is a special after-hours event at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park held primarily during the summer months. It starts at 8 pm, but event guests can start going into the park as early as 6 pm during normal daytime hours. So you get to experience a bit of the park during the day and then watch the crowds slip away as the event start time approaches.
Speaking of crowds slipping away, let’s start there.
I was very impressed with how empty the park felt, even before it officially closed to day guests and especially afterwards. Every ride was a walk on with no waiting (it just involves a lot of walking and stair climbing) and the wave pool and lazy river both had plenty of room to move around and enjoy without bumping into anyone you didn’t want to.
I haven’t yet done an after-hours event in the other parks, but I imagine the crowd level is similar to those (based on what I’ve seen from others who have gone). It was much more comparable to that than the crowds at a Halloween or Christmas party in Magic Kingdom or even extra magic hours in the parks for resort guests.
Even the food lines (which they had specialty event food at) were reasonable and only had minimal waiting.
I can certainly see the water park getting much more crowded in the middle of the afternoon when it’s so hot, so I definitely would recommend going for the event to avoid that.
Day vs Night
I was in the park by 6:30 pm before the event, so not quite as early as possible but still close enough to see the park during the day before the sun went down.
This gave me an opportunity to see the park in daylight and appreciate the detail. Oh my gosh – it is just as well themed and immersed into a story as the other parks are (perhaps even more so than some).
The idea of the park is that you are ship wrecked on an island from a typhoon hitting and you definitely feel that tropical + deserted aesthetic throughout the park’s landscape.
Once it got dark, it was harder to see a lot but the glow lighting they added for the event was a nice touch. It was definitely nice to see it in both settings for the same ticket price.
Being there at sunset and after dark also meant we didn’t need to worry (as much) about sunburn, overheating, etc. because there was no sun out most of the time. It’s still humid and warm because it’s Florida, and the water is all heated, so it felt great nonetheless.
I’m pretty picky about what rides I will ride at a water park. I will only do ones that have a tube or raft of some sort to ride on. There was several of those to choose from, thankfully!
I knew nothing about the park or the attractions going into the event. I absolutely loved everything I rode on though! It was nice to ride things and not know what was going to happen, compared to the other parks where I’ve rode those rides many, many times!
My favorite ride of the night was the Crushing Gusher coaster. It has three different slide options, all slightly different slide tracks, and so it gave some variety. It’s clearly a top tier attraction for the park, but each slide was a walk on ride.
I also checked out the lazy river and wave pool, of course.
I’m a sucker for a lazy river and could spend all day in one. The one at Typhoon Lagoon is quite long and goes around the whole park with several entry/exit points – so we used it as a way to get around the park without walking the whole way. It was a mini-transportation system!
The wave pool – yikes. That was an adventure.
I’ve done water parks before and been in multiple wave pools. The Typhoon Lagoon wave pool was by far the most extreme of them all. The waves get very high and they will knock you completely under water.
I was barely halfway into the pool and was being forced under.
Warning: If you wear glasses (like I do), you need a strap on them around your head or you need to take them off before getting in. Because they will fall off and go for their own swim in the pool without you.
This was my first experience in the park and definitely got my adrenaline pumping! Luckily I was able to find them (blindly) in the water, but they went straight into the locker after that and I got a pair of goggles to wear.
Many of the water slides will also submerge you at the end when it spits you out into the mini pool too. So just to be safe, don’t wear glasses when you’re in anything but the lazy river at Typhoon Lagoon.
Honestly after that, I wasn’t a big fan of the wave pool. It’s almost too strong and I’m down for that when I’m all the way in, but they need to dial it back when you’re barely halfway into the water. You go from barely being waist deep (on a 6′ tall person) with no wave to completely under with even a smaller wave coming through.
The food was one of the best parts and it’s because it was special for the event. They had amazing food that you would expect at a table service restaurant in the parks – but at a quick/counter service location now.
They had a great charcuterie board, as well as beef tips and some other sides. Splitting this with two people, we were more than full (see picture).
Then they had a DUCK TUB dessert that was the hype of Instagram, which we saw before going, so we sought it out. It’s very vanilla – vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and vanilla cake. This was nice because you didn’t have to like a certain flavor to enjoy it. They give you so much in the tub and it LIGHTS UP too. Definitely a top item you have to get at the event!
It was so nice to get more than your typical park food (burgers, chicken, and fries) especially at a water park. And at your typical price if not a little cheaper – very reasonable for what you get and the quality.
The beef was cold when we first got it, but they were more than willing to replace and get us another plate once we said something.
Characters & Photo Ops
We went a few days before Toy Story 4 came out, and they had lots of Toy Story characters out to meet. They had Woody and Jessie meeting together, as well as a Forky statue (not a live character but just as real) out. They also had a special Bo meet and greet, only for annual passholders and in the adult-only area of the park (yes, there’s an adult-only area, it’s likely more of a perk during the day though).
I didn’t do these meet and greets because I was at Hollywood Studios earlier in the day and had met Woody, Bo, and Buzz there. So I prioritized my time and saw the new things I couldn’t do in the other parks.
I did have to get a picture with my homeboy Forky, of course. There was no wait for this one (and only a few people in line most of the night for the others). They did have PhotoPass out at each of these locations.
They also have a raft display set up as a Mickey head that is perfect for photo ops. This is out any time, but makes for some cool night pictures (once you play with the lighting of course). They did not have PhotoPass out at this display.
You don’t often get good photos at a water park because you’re wet, not fully dressed, etc. and so it was nice to have these spots set up for the event.
Overall Summary and Tips
I really did enjoy my time at the water park. Like I said, I got into the park at 6:30 pm. Parking was a breeze, entry was smooth, and crowds throughout the park were minimal. I stayed right up till closing time at 11 pm when the event ended and did every ride, plus food and characters.
Some tips for making your experience better:
- Stay on property and take advantage of being able to charge things to your room. By not staying on property this trip, I had to keep going back to my locker to get money to buy food, drinks, etc. But you can scan your magic band that you continuously wear if you are a resort guest.
- Wear goggles or a glasses strap (or contacts) instead of your regular glasses because you definitely will lose them.
- Wear pool shoes that you wear in the water and get wet, instead of flip flops or going barefoot, so you don’t have to leave your shoes at random places or walk around on pavement barefoot.
- Go as early as you can (for the H2O Glow event) and see the park during the day and at night.
- • Use the lazy river as a method of transportation around the park; otherwise you’re in for a lot of walking.
- Pay attention to rides with multiple slide options and ride each of them (like Crushing Gusher) because they are slightly different experiences.
I definitely want to go back to Typhoon Lagoon and also check out Blizzard Beach (Disney’s other water park). I shouldn’t have waited so long to try this out!
Have you been to Disney’s water parks or H2O glow nights? What are your thoughts on them?