The Splashing History Of Florida’s Waterski Theme Park

Wed, Nov 01, 2023 at 3:25PM

The Splashing History Of Florida’s Waterski Theme Park

Central Florida is known as a home to myriad amusement parks and attractions for families — a legacy that goes back even longer than you may think.

In fact, the region’s first theme park dates back to 1936 — and while it didn’t have rollercoasters or fuzzy, familiar characters, it did boast one-of-a-kind thrills in the form of dazzling waterski displays.

Want to learn more about Cypress Gardens, Florida — and maybe even bring your Monterey Super Sport to the area for some festive family fun? Jump in below!

A Historic Holiday Venue

Waterskiing was only invented by Ralph Samuelson in 1922 Minnesota — so how was it a thriving attraction in Central Florida just a few decades later?

A couple named the Popes started Cypress Gardens in the 1930s, constructing beautiful hanging gardens over Lake Eloise and the surrounding Central Florida marshland. Leisurely boat rides allowed guests to explore the natural beauty with ease — but it wasn’t until World War II that the park began putting on waterski shows for visiting soldiers, giving Cypress Gardens its reputation as a haven for the up-and-coming water sport.

Soon, it earned the nickname “Waterski Capital of the World.” Even Elvis Presley, Johnny Carson, and other notable figures stopped by to visit the park in all its Southern splendor!

What’s Old Is New Again

Cypress Gardens is no longer operational in 2023 — but the historic destination did pave the way for many of your favorite attractions! Not to mention what it did for the sport of waterskiing, whose reputation was certainly bolstered by the fun, sun-soaked images out of Cypress Gardens’ synchronized routines.

Even though the park doesn’t exist in the same way, its spirit lives on! You can see it for yourself by checking out one of the Cypress Gardens Waterski Team’s recurring monthly shows on Lake Silver in Winter Haven.

From the comfort of home, you can also pay a virtual visit to Cypress Gardens — to an older version of Cypress Gardens, that is — by turning on an old film like 1953’s Easy to Love, a musical that takes place at the park and features lively waterski displays!

Relive An On-The-Water Legacy

Of course, there’s nothing quite like getting out there and hitting the water yourself. Play old-fashioned, mid-century beach tunes the next time you go for a waterskiing session. Or, add a Central Florida stop to your next Sunshine State getaway! The region is home to countless unique lakes of all shapes and sizes, and Florida’s flat terrain — while, sure, not so great for mountain climbers — is perfect for achieving expansive vistas of the aquatic landscape from your Monterey Boat.

(Pro tip: Florida is home to all sorts of wildlife, of course, so just be sure to check with local parks and recreation pros for safety information about different bodies of water! As always, even if you don’t get out to ski, you can still kick back and enjoy the view.)

Who knew our favorite water sport was steeped in so much history? Whenever you take your Monterey out for a waterski session, you’re taking part in a uniquely American tradition — one whose popularity was bolstered by the fun, synchronized spectacles of Cypress Gardens!

We hope you’ve had fun on today’s virtual tour — and embark upon an in-person one very soon. The great thing about Sunshine State boating is that you can boat, swim, and soak up the sun all winter long.

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