Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
Cypress Gardens was always beautiful. Now it is exciting too. In December of 2004 Florida's original theme park opened as Cypress Gardens Adventure Park. With the picturesque gardens, aerially defiant water-ski show and the sashaying Southern belles are there Cypress Gardens Adventure Park is now much more than that. More than three dozen rides were added to the park giving it a solid collection of junior coasters, spinning flat thrill rides and kiddie rides. Animal exhibits, new shows and a water park will open in 2005. The changes have done the park good as the old formula had hit hard times as attendance fell from a peak of 1.7 million annual visitors in 1976 to just 600,000 when it closed in 2003. The new park looks amazing with young and old relishing the collection of attractions.
Pros: The lines for the rides are short. Even during peak periods the lines for the most popular attractions are rarely more than a few minutes long and that's a refreshing change from the long waits at Central Florida's other theme parks. Bring a camera because you're going to get some amazing shots against a backdrop of colorful botanical gardens, fountains, waterfalls. When in the botanical gardens make sure you catch the living fountain show where a sculpture comes to life in a musical, watery showcase. Admission, at $34.95 for adults, is $20 less than Orlando's major theme parks.
Cons: Location. The outskirts of Winter Haven can be a beautiful place and the drive is a breeze from Orlando and Disney World (hop on I-4 West, go South on US27, turn right at 540 and the park is three miles down on the left) but it is nearly an hour away and there aren't too many area attractions beyond the park. While the two most popular shows (ski and ice skating) are covered most of the ride areas and animal exhibits are out in the open so weather may play a factor in enjoying your day.
-- While the crowds are usually in check unless the park is hosting a concert the 1400 space parking lot is long and narrow. In other words, the earlier you arrive the closer you will be parking to the park's front gate. They do have a tram shuttle to get folks from the far end of the parking lot to the park's entrance, so don't despair, but arriving early does have its benefits.
-- The water ski show has dueling stages offering ample seating, but if the bleachers are too crowded or you want a more laidback perspective there is plenty of seating space on the grassy hill between the two seating areas.
-- Which rides should you hit first? The slower loading attractions include the Storm Surge water raft attraction, the Thunderbolt freefall ride and the Swamp Thing roller coaster. Train lover? Keep in mind that the park's train has two stations and they are each one-way trips on opposite ends of the ride areas. The shortest lines will be at the far end of the park to take the train back to the front of the park.
- Reviewed by Rick Munarriz
Official Park Link - CedarPoint.com
Unofficial Park Link - eCypress.com
Nearest Hotels with online booking discounts:
-- Best Western Admiral's Inn -- This is the closest hotel to the park. In fact, it rests mere yards away from the park's Paradise Pier area. You will have to walk a bit to get to the park entrance as the hotel is in the ride area, next to Thunderbolt and the train line, but you can't get any closer to the park than this.
-- Days Inn - Cypress Gardens -- Right on Cypress Gardens Boulevard, this is another reasonably priced place to stay right next to the park.
-- Other Winter Haven Hotels -- Other available hotels and motels in Winter Haven.
-- Baymont Inn & Suites -- Just a few miles from the park in Lakeland, enjoy the free continental breakfast before heading out to the park.
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