Vote of the week: What weather will keep you from the parks?
The first tropical storm of the season hit Florida yesterday. Tropical Storm Andrea is continuing its way up the east coast today -- trace a route from Busch Gardens in Tampa to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., and you'll get a rough approximation of the storm's path. The storm caused no major damage or injuries in Central Florida
yesterday, though several theme parks did close early in response to the weather. (And some of the mid-Atlantic parks are closing today.)
If you're visiting the southeast between June and November, there's a risk of encountering a tropical storm or hurricane, with August and September being the most likely months for storms. Of course, afternoon thunderstorms are a near-daily occurrence in Central Florida, so even if the forecast is clear for major storms, all visitors to the Florida theme parks during the summer ought to expect some inclement weather during their trip.
Even though we haven't seen a storm like this in a while, this still is not what you want to see on your summer vacation.
The Orlando-area theme parks are located well inland, and never have suffered major damage in a hurricane, though storms have closed the parks for a day at a time in the past. (Hurricanes have closed the Walt Disney World parks three times -- in 1999 and twice in 2004.) So fear of a hurricane or tropical storm shouldn't keep visitors from the area during the summer, though it's probably a good idea to schedule a day or two of free time during your summer Florida vacation. If the worst happens, that'll be the day you spend at the hotel riding out the wind and rain.
But the weather element that causes the most damage during the summer isn't rain, or wind. It's heat. Sunburns and heat exhaustion lead dozens of visitors to parks' first aid centers on a daily basis. Start drinking lots of water before your days in the parks, and don't forget the sunscreen if you want to spend the day enjoying yourself, instead of suffering in a first aid clinic.
If some people don't do well in the heat, many theme park rides don't do well in the cold. Low temperatures can keep roller coasters in their stations and water rides closed, while visitors run past frozen drink stands, looking for any place selling coffee or hot chocolate.
What kind of weather's most likely to keep you from visiting a theme park? Is it heat, cold temperatures, rain, or wind? That's our vote of the week.
Got a funny/crazy/interesting story about bad weather in a theme park? Please share your experience, in the comments.
And, while you're here, we'd like to invite you to join us as a fan of Theme Park Insider on Facebook, if you haven't already. It's a great way to keep in touch with everything that's happening in the world of theme parks.
I was at Sea World Orlando all day yesterday (the park closed 2 hours early because of the weather and thin crowds) through Andrea, and dealt with the terential downpours. Sea World is actually a pretty good park to visit in the rain, because there are plenty of places to wait out storms, and all of the shows feature covered seating areas. Those rainy/stormy days are some of the best because so many people stay away. The maximum posted wait for Antarctica yesterday was 30 minutes (more like 15 minutes), and there were plenty of empty seats for all of the shows.
If the park is underwater, I will probably stay home.
I recall being in Disney World back in 1988 when a major hurricane was hitting the Florida coast. Even inland, it caused huge waves of downpours and high winds at night yet we stuck through it. Have been there during those "instant monsoons" Florida always gets, rough but sometimes able to work it out. Good thing of Disney is that there is plenty of indoor things to entertain you if you can't go on some outdoor rides and wait things out.
My girlfriend and I visited Orlando (WDW and IOA) in Dec 2010, and it was way colder than it ought to be in central Florida. The first few days were nice, and then the frigid air hit like a brick. While I was prepared for cooler temperatures, I wasn't ready for what hit us. It was cold enough that when we went on the Winnie the Pooh ride at 3PM, there was ice in the tall grass around the queue. It was far too cold to get up early and spend all day outside. Most days we didn't hit the parks until noon. Hollywood Studios was always packed, because all the rides there are indoors. Animal Kingdom was near empty, and deservedly so. Most of the attractions are outside, and the restaurants and gift shops are just as cold because they don't have doors. Rain doesn't bother me, nor does heat or wind. Cold kills me.
One of my favorite Disneyland visit was a solo trip during the rainy season. I've got a great photo from Splash Mountain. I've got my rain gear on and I'm the only one in the log.
Went to Halloween Horror Nights during downpours one year...the rain only added to the eerie atmosphere!
When in Orlando there are many good options to go to a theme park whatever the weather.
A few years ago, I went to Busch Gardens Tampa and I wanted to ride Kumba for the first time. As we were headed towards it, it started raining really bad... Like it normally does in Florida, so we waited it out inside the Tiger exhibit of Jungala. As soon as it stopped, my Mom and I, the only coaster enthusiasts in our family, ran to Kumba and quickly boarded before it could rain again.
In January of 2010, I was in Disney World to run my very first marathon. Being a New Englander, I had trained in all sorts of weather, but was still rather unprepared for the Arctic nature of what hit me! I chEARed on Main Street for my family and friends running the half marathon in freezing rain and sleet (yes, SLEET!) and then Sunday, I ran my very first 26.2 in sub-freezing temps. I arrived at the parking lot to one particular cast member yelling out "Welcome to Disney, Alaska!" I can distinctly recall "skating" through water stops, as remnants from others' cups of water had frozen to the ground. At the finish, it was still only "32ish" degrees.
I have thought long and hard about this, because Disney is a dream come true. Nothing can really stop you from enjoying the park, because all the rides are practically inside. Seriously, they even have air conditioning in all of them. So it's sad for Briar Patch, Thunder Mountain, Dumbo, Aladdin, and parades, but the rest is under the roof. As for Hollywood Studios, only the walk is hard. E.P.C.O.T. is the same or better except fireworks. and Animal Kingdom is hard, because the best ride is outside. Expedition Everest. So if the weather is bad, plan that park for a sunny no wind no bad weather day.
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