This weekend, we zipped off to the Tidewater region of Virginia to go hit the two amusement parks – Busch Gardens and Water Country USA – and two baseball games. Unfortunately, one was washed out due to the weather, but…
I know I’ve reviewed Water Country USA previously (see On the Road – Water Country USA), but this time, due to the weather on Friday, we were able to do more of a visit that would answer questions that are of interest to Autism parents.
So, per the usual: I was not compensated for this review. My family has season passes to the SeaWorld Entertainment Parks, and therefore paid for our own admission.
As with last year’s visit, we went straight to Water Country from our home in Baltimore, which entails about a 4 hour drive in the car. The weather was fairly dreary and grey, and it was drizzling when we arrived. This is probably a good thing, as far as I’m concerned – it is a water park, after all. You’re going to be wet for most of your time there. It was warm enough for it not to be unpleasant for most of the visit, though when it started to rain in earnest, it got to be a bit much. On the other hand, because of the weather, it meant that the park was not hugely busy, and it made it easy for us to move around the park.
There is, unfortunately, only one customer service window still, and it is a sharp left turn just past the entry gates. Unlike last year, we were the only ones in line, so we were able to approach them and request accommodation for the Monster. For anyone who has read my prior reviews of any of the SeaWorld Entertainment Parks, you know that they keep records on people who have requested accommodation previously, which makes it painless when you travel to another park. Getting a Ride Accessibility Program (RAP) sheet, therefore, is as simple as approaching customer service, informing them of who it is in the party who needs the RAP, and getting the bracelet and sheet.
In the past, we’ve been informed by other parents of special needs children that the staff would have you pre-program your three rides for assistance. (Like any water park, it’s not accessibility-friendly – most rides involve a climb up a structure to reach the top.) It was, therefore, a very pleasant surprise to find that they’ve implemented the exact same program that Sesame Place has implemented – you get a bracelet with three tear-off tabs, and you just have to approach a lifeguard at the bottom of a ride to have them take a tab and escort you to the top of the ride. No more pre-programming, no more planning, no more guessing what your child is going to want to ride in advance. It is an awesome program and I can’t speak highly enough of the fact that Water Country implemented it.
Further, like Sesame Place, Water Country is amenable to putting the bracelet on a parent or guardian if your child is adverse to wearing the bracelet themselves. (We had a problem on Saturday at Busch Gardens, where the person at the disability services counter insisted that the Monster wear the bracelet. Thankfully, he was in a mood to wear it, but… all of us special needs parents know there are days where the kid does not want to wear it and cannot be made to wear it.)
That said, of course… the Monster’s not really into most of the high slides. He’s more content to do things like the lazy river (which was very warm water when we rode it), the Hubba Hubba Highway (a faster-paced lazy river), a couple of lower water slides that go into the activity pools, or some of the low inner-tube slides. So while we had the option of doing one of the other rides, he was quite content to just go on things that did not require the accommodation.
The bathrooms that we used while we were at the park were noisy as you could imagine, since they also double as changing rooms for folks who need them. They do not, however, have hand driers (they use paper), which makes it a little more friendly for those with sensory concerns. I did not see any family restrooms while we were roaming around, though, so be aware that any trips there are going to involve handing off kids between parents to get them changed or to use the facilities.
I will stand by what I said in the original review, though – I don’t know that we’d have done Water Country without the passes. Managing two children, one of who is too small to go on a lot of the slides and the other who isn’t interested, puts most of the rides out of our reach. It’s a great park though if you have kids who are inclined to enjoy it – and even easier now if your child has special needs.