Making a Trip to the Zoo Unforgettable with Water Rides

If you are in the zoo business, you already know it’s not all about the animals. With so many venues vying for the wallets of families, zoos increasingly have to bring more unforgettable experiences to guests. One way zoos can add unique value to their guests’ days is with water rides.

Passengers in water ride boat

Not Your Parents’ Zoo

Zoos have drastically evolved in recent memory. No more enclosures with green tiles for walls and floors. With conservation efforts at heart, zoos now provide more hospitable and stimulating habitats and are less about putting animals on full display.

Nevertheless, with so many competing family attractions on the market, zoos must offer fun and immersive guest experiences to draw visitors, extend their length of stay so they have opportunities to spend more, and bring them back.

And a water ride is great way to set your zoo apart from other forms of family entertainment.

Passengers in water ride boat

Bringing Unexpected Experience to a Zoo

As funding for a zoo is highly dependent on attendance, to increase foot traffic and season pass sales, you have to look beyond animals, who might hide or sleep as they please. A water ride offers:

  • Fun, familiar aspects of an amusement park
  • An unexpected, engaging experience
  • A storytelling opportunity to match your existing wildlife roster
  • New branding or theming for marketing and merchandising
  • Splashes for cooling off on those hot days

A few prominent zoos in the USA are already successfully incorporating water rides in their offerings.

People inside a water transportation system boat looking at a dinosaur

Creating New Perspectives for Visitors

At Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the “Dinosaur Island Boat Ride,” a Water Transportation System, is taking guests on an adventure through its “Australia and the Islands” region where they can catch glimpses of gibbons, orangutans, Asian small-clawed otters, and up to 30 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs.

Similarly, “Lostman’s River” at Zoo Miami is a pleasant 7-minute boat ride that immerses passengers in the Florida Everglades at a leisurely tempo. Visitors love seeing the live animals, discovering whimsical theming elements, and cooling down with occasional water sprays and mists—all on a ride vehicle themed just like an airboat.

Water Transportation System is a quiet and undisruptive way to glide past animal enclosures, and the river blends in nicely with the habitat landscapes.

While the boats can sport designs that fit the zoo’s narrative, the ride journey also lend itself well to seasonal theming, providing guests different experiences at different times of the year. For example, a nighttime boat ride through Christmas lights and songs gives summer guests a reason to come back.

Making an Experience Accessible

This water transportation system also creates an inclusive experience for guests in wheelchairs, starting with queuing. All guests can wait in line together, not segregated in a different section, as the boats can be boarded from anywhere on the platform by simply wheeling straight on and off. The entire group—family, friends, and caregivers, no matter the mobility—can enjoy and see the sights and sounds of the river ride at the zoo together.

Water ride with ADA accessible boat

Water Thrill Rides at a Zoo? Yes Please!

Water rides inside a zoo aren’t limited to relaxing scenic journeys. Water ride classics such as Log Flume or Super Flume are theme park staples that can provide active entertainment and attract more zoo patrons. ZooTampa at Lowry Park, for example, has a 518-ft Shoot the Chute called “Roaring Springs.” In a 20-person boat, it sends riders down a three-story drop for a gigantic, Instaworthy splash that everyone craves on a hot day. This ride is not only thrilling for passengers, it is also fun for the spectators on the bridge waiting to get soaked.

Whatever the choice, a water ride will sure change the way guests look at zoos. Contact to explore more ideas on how to add entertainment value to your venue with water rides.

Harmony Liau