Splashing into I-Drive’s newest waterpark resort

It’s a waterpark. No, it’s a hotel. No, it’s both.

Actually, it’s CoCo Key Water Resort in Orlando (warning: loud music will play when you open this link) the newest addition to this chain of waterpark-resorts.

The above photo, which was taken just after the property opened in April, is not quite how we found it yesterday. CoCo Key was wall-to-wall with guests and their offspring who were splashing around the pools and plunging down the slides, as well it should be on a Labor Day weekend.

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This is the first time since 2004 that we’ve stayed in the International Drive area. Back then we were camped out for a week near the convention center while we waited for our house in South Florida to sell — not the best time to be a tourist in your own town.

CoCo Key actually opened in 1970 as a Hilton and predates Disney World by about a year. In fact, Disney executives are said to have stayed here while the theme park was being built. As a tribute to its origins, one of Coco Key’s pools is mouse-ear shaped.

I like these older motels. They’re built solid and they have a lot more room than the newer properties. CoCo Key reminds me of another restored motel, the Sugarloaf Lodge in the Florida Keys. Same vibe, minus the slides.

My kids loved the 62,000 square-foot waterpark, which included a zero-depth entry area, water cannons and a jungle gym. They would not try the scarier slides with names like “Cyclone” and “Boomerango” and I can’t blame them. They need a few more years, and swim lessons, before they’re ready.

It’s nice that they’ve done something with the old Hilton, but as a former history student, I would have given anything to be a guest here in the fall of 1970.

(Photo: Andrew Sullivan/Flickr Creative Commons)