Ask any theme park aficionado to list all the things you can do during a day at Walt Disney World near Orlando, and you’ll hear the resort’s inventory rattled off as easily as the alphabet: four theme parks, two water-slide parks, a huge shopping district, a sports center, and more than 20 resort hotels.
Not so fast. That list was correct from 1995 until 2020, but not anymore.
Disney World has actually quietly removed an entire park from the daily lineup—and people have barely noticed.
For 25 years, during most periods on the calendar (except for brief shutdowns for winter cleanings), the resort’s two major water-slide parks, Typhoon Lagoon (pictured above; opened in 1989) and Blizzard Beach (1995), were open and running. In the warmest months, anyone visiting Disney World could choose to visit either water park on any given day. In fact, between 1995 and 2001, when River Country shut down, Disney World had three water parks in operation.
But all that Disney bounty was culled in early 2020. After the Covid-19 pandemic briefly shut down the entire Disney resort in Florida, the company reopened only a single water park.
Now if you go to Disney World, you can only visit either Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach. They are never open at the same time anymore. Since early 2021, the two Disney water parks in Florida have each been opening for about 10 months at a time—but never simultaneously.
For U.S. customers, both Disney water parks are still named during the ticket purchasing process, but one of the water parks is always marked as “currently unavailable.”
There’s nothing to explain to future customers that the “currently unavailable” always alternates between the two water parks, so most visitors will never be able to visit both sites on the same vacation unless the trip happens to coincide with the date when the opening schedule flips. (So far, that switch has always happened outside of the summer months anyway.)
The cost of adding water park entry to a Disney World ticket package did not decrease to match the drastic reduction in park availability.
Unfortunately, many customers may still wrongly assume they’ll be able to enjoy two water parks at Disney World.
Disney’s messaging about this cutback has been less than clear. In some markets, the two water parks are still being sold to consumers as if both can be enjoyed on a single visit. This is how Disney World’s website promises two water parks to Australians:
Why would the Disney World resort want to close an entire park at a time?
At first, the pandemic was the reason. But nearly 3 years later, Disney World is now contending with headlines about lower attendance across the board. The company does not release attendance figures, and its Magic Kingdom is still assumed to be the most popular theme park in the world, but there are sure signs that the resort is battling crumbing numbers.
Disney’s most recent earnings report blamed softer revenue in Florida on lower hotel rates, which is accountant-speak for we had to cut hotel prices to attract business.
Whatever the reason, when families visit Disney World now, they will only be able to visit a single water-slide park—contrary to what visitors might have heard or seen in the Disney company’s misleading messaging. One of the water parks will be closed.
For visitors in 2024 and the foreseeable future, Walt Disney World now effectively has four theme parks and just one water park.
Walt Disney World did not respond to our request for comment.