The waterparks you'll want to cool off at this summer
Summer is more fun when wet.
In the minds of children (and children at heart) everywhere, there is only one proper destination when temperature starts to rise: the water park.
Ever since waterslides became popular in the 1940s, Americans have been spending their summers crowding waterparks. And although some naysayers may write off the aquatic attractions as swirling fungus incubators, they have probably never experienced the thrill of racing down a multi-story slide and then landing with an exuberant splash in a warm pool.
For travelers who love diving and sliding around, here we honor the best waterparks in the country from Hawaii to New Hampshire. In this country, there are scenic waterparks that overlook lakes and mountains, pools where guests can dive through dolphin habitats and even slides that project guests into “zero gravity.”
Whether the splash zone is indoor, outdoor or all over, these are the waterparks across the country that will make summer even better.
Kalahari Resort — Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
For travelers who like to prepare for every single possibility, Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin has both indoor and outdoor waterparks. Inside, visitors can experience an uphill water rollercoaster, family raft ride and wave pool while outdoors there are slides, stretches of lazy river and spas for relaxing.
Water Country USA — Williamsburg, Virginia
The largest waterpark in the Mid-Atlantic area has 11 rides and slides, including the Vanish Point, a 300-foot speed slide that drops guests completely straight down, and the Colossal Curl, a multi-person tube ride that shoots guests high above the rest of the park.
Dollywood Splash Country — Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Dolly Parton’s waterpark has 35 acres of aquatic attractions. This year, the park is opening an all-new water ride, the Tail Spin Racer. Up to six guests can race through five stories of drops, twists and turns to see who finishes first.
Pump House Indoor Waterpark — Jay, Vermont
Location — and even weather — shouldn’t stop anyone from surfing. This indoor water park in Vermont has a Flowrider station for those who want to pretend they’re shredding waves somewhere in the Pacific. For those with less equilibrium, there’s also La Chute, an epic waterslide that sends guests down at 65-foot slide at 45 miles per hour.
Carolina Harbor Waterpark — Charlotte, North Carolina
Carowinds Boomerang Bay underwent a transformation last year to become the Carolina Harbor Waterpark. Although the park retained all of its old rides, it also added a six-story tall water slide complex, a new area for toddlers and a 27-000 square-foot wave pool.
Cliff's Amusement Park Watermania! — Albuquerque, New Mexico
Watermania! may only be one wet ride at Cliff’s Amusement Park, but the entire thing packs a punch. In fact, within the ride itself, there are options for two camps: Li’l Squirts and Mega Water Monkeys. There are slides, water drops and (of course) plenty of places to tan. The summer season starts Memorial Day weekend.
Enchanted Forest Water Safari — Old Forge, New York
When making an escape to upstate New York and the Adirondacks, families can also stop off for a day at the waterpark at Enchanted Forest Water Safari. It’s the largest waterpark in New York, with more than 50 rides. The entire park is themed after adventures, so it only makes sense that the most intimidating of the waterslides is named Killermanjaro.
Wild Island Family Adventure Park — Sparks, Nevada
Wild Island does not disappoint visitors. The park itself is open year-round, although the waterpark only operates seasonally. But when it opens in mid-May, guests can check out the Red Viper, a six-story free-fall, the Scorpion and its four-story half pipe or the Zulu, a four-lane mat race across 270 feet of bumpy slide.
Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark — Boyne Falls, Michigan
It gets cold in Michigan. For those colder days, it only makes sense to have a tropical getaway available year-round. Avalanche Bay provides visitors with an 84-degree steady temp all year round. Across its 88,000 square feet are slides, a surf simulator and a hot springs area. And there’s even an “apres-ski” pub for post-waterpark drinks.
Schlitterbahn Waterpark — Kansas City, Kansas
This Kansas City waterpark allows visitors to take things as fast or as slow as they would like. For calmer guests, there’s a river system which takes guests’ inflatable tubes through more than one mile of rapids, currents and waves. For the more extreme, there are plenty of water attractions, including the Soaring Eagle Zipline, which takes guests 100 feet over the park before shooting them down at 30 miles per hour.
Six Flags White Water — Atlanta, Georgia
Competitive water parks enthusiasts will be hard-pressed to find a better destination. Six Flags White Water is home to the tallest mat race slide in the world. Guests can challenge up to five friends to lay down on water toboggans and race down from a height of 60 feet.
Soak City at King’s Island — Mason, Ohio
There are 17 rides and attractions at Soak City, meant to provide entertainment for guests of all ages. For younger visitors, there’s Lookout Lagoon, a small slide where kids can pretend to be on a pirating adventure. And for visitors looking for something with more speed, there’s the Mondo Monsoon which sends up an inner tube (with up to four people) through the dark and down a straight freefall.
Typhoon Texas — Katy, TX
Put the old maxim to the test that “everything is bigger in Texas.” Typhoon Texas in Katy, which only opened last year, bills itself as Texas’s most state-of-the-art waterpark. In addition to a 25,000-square-foot wave pool, the park also has a system that pumps 70,000 gallons of water per minute, making for faster slides and shorter rides.
NRH20 Family Water Park — North Richland Hills, Texas
The world’s largest uphill water coaster, the Green Extreme, lives at NRH20 Water Park. There’s also a waterslide that’s completely in the dark, a mat race slide that’s three stories tall and a water slide that drops riders straight down 20 feet. For those looking for something a bit less extreme, there’s a wave pool, 660-foot-long lazy river and water playground.
Great Wolf Lodge Southern California — Anaheim, California
Although the weather is usually beautiful in SoCal, it’s always nice to have a back-up plan. This indoor water park has 105,000 square feet of waterworks, including a surf simulator, a water fort with a gigantic tipping bucket and the Howlin’ Tornado, the park’s thrill ride that ends in a six-story funnel.
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park — Orlando, Florida
It gets hot in Florida. For those spending a few days exploring Disney World, be sure to take one of the days in Typhoon Lagoon to cool off. Although Disney fans go back and forth whether Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach is a better place to spend your day, check out Typhoon Lagoon for this year’s brand-new ride Miss Adventure Falls. The white water ride takes a raft (of up to four people) up and around for two minutes — one of the longest rides in either park.
Aquatica — Orlando, Florida
SeaWorld’s water park boasts several unique rides and attractions, but one of the most memorable is the Dolphin Plunge. The ride is made up of an enclosed, clear tube slide that cuts through a pool with real live Commerson’s Dolphins. Guests feel like they’re actually swimming with dolphins until the water slide brings them back up on dry land.
Noah’s Ark Waterpark — Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
America’s largest waterpark has over 80 wet attractions for visitors. There’s a Dive-in 4-D Theatre where guests can watch movies, the “World’s Largest Bowl Ride” and a black-out slide that sends guests through complete darkness. There’s also the Scorpion’s Tail, a 10-story high, 400-foot-long slide that plummets guests down at 50 feet per second and the nauseating “Point of No Return” which sends guests round and round down a near-vertical drop.
Lost Island Waterpark — Waterloo, Iowa
There are nine major waterslides at this Iowa park, all with different types of thrills. There’s Lost Soul Falls which sends guests down a freefall at 28 feet per second or the Molokini Crater, which shoots guests into a 60-foot funnel and down a waterfall. There’s also a visit with Maizie the Mermaid and swimming lessons with mermaid fins available for smaller guests.
Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Water Parks — Wildwood, New Jersey
For those who like their waterparks with a bit of history, this beachside Jersey Shore park has been family owned and operated since 1969. There are two waterpark sections with slides, lazy rivers and play areas for the kids. And after guests have experienced all the rides, the beach club and ocean is just a few steps away.