Don’t let that balmy, breezy start of spring fool you. The heat is coming. Florida summers aren’t for sissies, so here’s a little help. We found six ways to enjoy being outside, even when the heat and humidity make you feel stuck inside a dog’s mouth.
VANISH POINT, Adventure Island
The first thing you hear when you step into Adventure Island’s new Vanish Point attraction is the soundtrack of a heartbeat. It sets the mood inside the capsule as you wait for the floor to collapse under you. The water park adjacent to Busch Gardens added a new ground-level queue in a shady area. To the left side is Colossal Curl, the huge 622-foot-long slide that arrived in 2015 with a "weightless wave wall." And to the right is the line for the three Vanish Point slides. You can watch a live feed as cameras catch the riders’ shocked expressions as the floor opens 70 feet above the queue. Vanish Point is three slides in total: two drop-bottom capsules and a modified third slide. When the floor disappears, there’s about a 20-foot free fall, then a 425-foot slick tube. The staff has nicknamed the third one the "bail-out slide." While it doesn’t have the frightful drop, it circles for 455 feet, so it’s longer and faster than the other two. Choose your own adventure. Adventure Island is open through Oct. 14. $59.99 online ages 3 and older. 10001 McKinley Drive, Tampa. Toll-free 1-888-800-5447. adventureisland.com.
TRADEWINDS FLOATING WATER PARK
Since 2011, both guests and locals have been invited to play on the Floating Water Park off the beach behind TradeWinds Island Resorts in St. Pete Beach. The 15,750-square-foot floating play zone offers up to 11 water features, including slides, splash zones, a bounce cave, a giant seesaw, large water loungers, splash mats, trampolines and climbing peaks. Open now, one-hour sessions are $16. You don’t have to be a hotel guest to try it out. But be warned, this can be harder than it looks. It’s set in deeper water so there’s no standing or using the ground to boost yourself. You need upper body strength to hoist yourself up, and it can be quite a workout climbing and bouncing around. 5500 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. tradewindsresort.com.
ORLANDO WATERSPORTS COMPLEX
While reclining with a cold drink is our favorite activity, Orlando’s first inflatable water park offers a bit more action. The Orlando Watersports Complex opened in March with floating climbing areas, slides, monkey bars and obstacle courses. Inspired by Lego blocks, the aqua park features a modular series of interlocking climbing obstacles, pathways and slides. Open daily from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. $20 for a 50-minute session or $40 for the day. Reservations are strongly recommended. 8615 Florida Rock Road, Orlando. (407) 251-3100. aktionparks.com.
BLACKLIGHT SLIDE, Sun ’N Fun
If you’ve ever wanted to dive down a giant waterslide in the pitch black while splashing around in neon glow-in-the-dark water, head to Lakeland on June 30. That’s when the Blacklight Slide will be set up at Sun ’n Fun. After the sun goes down, the glow-in-the-dark waterslide, which was at the Florida State Fairgrounds in October 2016, is surrounded by a live DJ and dance party. A $50 ticket gets you unlimited trips down the slide, a towel and a temporary tattoo. The event benefits the Bulls for Kids charity. Check-in is at 4:30 p.m., and the event starts at 6:30. 4175 Medulla Road, Lakeland. blacklightslide.com.
NONA ADVENTURE PARK
Keep an eye out for Nona Adventure Park, scheduled to open this summer in the Lake Nona area of Orlando. It will feature an inflatable, floating obstacle course, wakeboarders pulled by cables and a 60-foot climbing tower with a ropes course. Park builders say it will have the first solar-powered water ski and wakeboard cable system in the world. Called the Rixen cable system, it will provide two tracks around the lake. The main track will run a total of 2,500 feet and allow for speeds of up to 36 mph. It will be able to handle 10 riders at once with many wakeboard features for both beginners and advanced riders. The second track will be a two-tower cable system running just 320 feet long. It will cater to beginner and intermediate riders. No official opening date has been announced yet. nonaadventurepark.com.
Hudson didn’t have a beach of its own until Pasco County spent millions to create SunWest Park in 2015, a man-made beach and water obstacle course with a variety of activities. It offers a wakeboarding lift ($28 for two hours), a floating aqua park of obstacles and play areas ($15 for a 45-minute session), paddleboarding and kayak rentals ($10-$20) and swimming in a 70-acre spring-fed lake. Pasco County officials have been mulling the idea of taking back park operations from its private contractor after complaints about park upkeep. Rain and wind have blown most of the sand away, and county officials have complained about unkempt facilities. Stay tuned. sunwestpark.com.
Times staff writer Devin Rodriguez contributed to this report. Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.