Theme Park Ranger
11:41 AM EDT, July 30, 2010
When the heat is on, one sure-fire way to cool off is with theme park water rides. A good drenching or light spritzing is effective against the Florida sun this time of year.
The down side is the aftermath: wet clothes, squishy shoes, damp socks and the related misery. You might be cooler for the rest of the day, but you also will be waterlogged.
One solution? Dress for excess water and then go home. Some friends and I do that a couple of times a year. The agenda is simple: Hit the three big splashes of Islands of Adventure and we're out of there without spending the whole day in soggy swimwear.
Last weekend we began with Jurassic Park River Adventure. The wait was 20 minutes on Sunday, but when I was at IOA on Saturday, the wait was 65 minutes — longer even than the new Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at the adjacent Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Folks want to get wet.
The Jurassic Park ride is a good place to get your feet wet on the water-ride tour. Most of the attraction is flat and merely floating through a jungle environment with the occasional bobbing dinosaur that might splash folks along the edges of the boats, which seat 25 people per vessel.
Then something goes horribly wrong, and the vessel drifts off course into the raptor containment area. Inside the building, we encounter dinos gone wild and squirting streams of spit. It's all build-up to the roaring T. rex and the steep drop back to the outside world.
The attraction warns that you will get wet and that you might get soaked. In the back row, we were protected from the bulk of the splash, which appears dramatic from dry ground. The dominant theory is that the heavier the load, the bigger the splash, so beware.
Our group received a nice misting to the face, enough to mess up our hair. That made for a refreshing walk to our next stop, Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, a log ride in the park's Toon Lagoon.
The posted wait time was 60 minutes, and we maneuvered through the slick walkway (it winds beneath the ride, and spillover falls onto the queue). The line didn't look that long, but we failed to factor in the hordes of Universal Express users who enter from another direction. The standstill produced an unexpected and unpleasant damp experience — sweat.
Dudley's queue is creative but cramped and humid. We were happy to be placed finally in the log and encounter several hills and bumps that pushed water into our laps. It was nice to breathe in the open air, and from the high spots we could admire the theme park landscape, including Hogwarts and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit next door at Universal Studios.
Ripsaw Falls features a couple of fake outs before you reach the major drop, which comes with fun sound effects and an unusual gliding motion at the bottom. Most folks are wet all over by this point, but there's more to come: Bystanders pay to shoot small water cannons at riders near the end.
To cap off our all-wet day, we zip to Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges, a circular raft ride that's almost impossible to not get soaked on (we're not counting you cheating poncho people). The attraction, with an amazingly short wait time of five minutes Sunday, camouflages its wild-rapids elements from outsiders, but it bumps and bobbles at a decent speed through several stretches. In between are water blasts from all sides, including pesky guests manning cannons from above on Me Ship, the Olive. (Tip: The ship's cannons are free; the others costs 25 cents per shot).
File Bilge-Rat Barges under "soaked to the bone" — the last stretch makes sure of that. Many riders wring their shirts after exiting. We tried another method: the People Dryer.
The brightly colored contraption near the exit of Ripsaw Falls blows hot air for about five minutes for $5 (exact change, no credit cards). It's like standing in a giant blow dryer with a buddy. We got warm but not very dry at all. That might be nice on the rare cool Orlando day, but on most days I'd rather have $5.
The whole water tour took about two hours, round trip. You can pull off a wait-free version by standing in the splash zone of Jurassic Park River Adventure, on the bridge of Ripsaw Falls or by playing in the gurgling, pop-up fountains at the entrances of Toon Lagoon.
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