By Travel + Leisure and Travel + Leisure Staff
July 07, 2014


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Cool off with your family at one of these top affordable water parks.

Schlitterbahn, on Galveston Island, Texas, opened in 1966 and calls itself the world’s first “water resort”—but don’t write it off as old fashioned. The park opens new rides almost every year, and with more than 35 water attractions, family adventures, and thrill slides, there’s something for everyone. Teenagers will love the Cliffhanger, with drops of 81 feet and speeds approaching 40 mph, while younger visitors prefer the Treasure Island kids area, a shallow pool designed to entertain the smallest Schlitterbahn guests. Tickets for the park are $46 adults, $36 kids. Stay at the nearby historic property, The Tremont House, A Wyndham Grand Hotel, where rates start at $139 on weekdays and $199 on weekends.

If you’re in the Midwest this summer, be sure to plan a trip to Sandusky, Ohio. Kalahari Sandusky is a massive, African-themed resort, as well as one of the world’s largest indoor water parks. Because it’s so huge, it features just about every kind of water attraction you can think of, including two surfing simulators, water coasters, and lazy river rides. But the one that will get your heart beating faster is the Zip Coaster—it’s not long (only 500 feet), but you’ll be whisked through what they call “gut-wrenching drops” and even sensations of weightlessness. Admission ranges from $35 for kids to $59 for adults; it’s a much better deal if you book the hotel package. For $249 a night for a family of four, you’ll get water park passes and a guest room complete with microwave, refrigerator, internet access—and best of all you’ll be right on the grounds of the water park.

Norwegian Cruise Line Breakaway
The Norwegian Breakaway is one of the newest and most exciting cruise ships. After you get settled in your cabin, head to the Aqua Park & Sports Deck. There are five multi-story slides, including Freefall—what the cruise line calls the fastest waterslide at sea. You can also—if you’re not too chicken—walk on a platform that extends 8 feet off the side of the ship, giving you the feeling that you’re hovering over the ocean—or about to fall in! The ship has a great itinerary, especially for those in the Northeast: a 7-day cruise to Bermuda that leaves from the Port of New York. Rates are from $83/day per person. (Seven-day cruises on Norwegian Breakaway begin at $599 for an inside stateroom.) Children pay the normal fare (whether that’s 1st or 2nd guests or 3rd/4th) but they have several promotions throughout the year where kids sail free*, which they have going on now until August 2.

* Kids Sail Free offer valid for all third through eighth guests sharing a stateroom with the first and second guest paying full fare.

Just 6 miles outside of Boise, Idaho, awaits a water attraction designed for pint-sized travelers. Roaring Springs features several water slides specifically for children shorter than 48 inches tall, and this year, the park debuted the Corkscrew Cavern, the first 360-degree looping waterslide in the Northwest. You stand over a trap door, then you’re propelled down a narrow, 32-inch wide enclosed tunnel, whipping around the circle with such velocity that the G-forces pin you to the slide the entire way. While in Boise, stay at The Modern Hotel, a contemporary 39-room hotel, right in the heart of downtown. Rates are as low as $109/night.

Puerto Rico
Out on the far eastern end of Puerto Rico, with gorgeous views of the Caribbean from a high bluff above the beach, is one of the island’s most renowned hotels, El Conquistador. There is so much to do at this place you’ll hardly know where to begin—catamaran trips to the resort’s private island, horseback riding, golf, and shopping at the resort’s many boutiques, are just a few of the activities available. In fact, there’s so much to do that having a water attraction almost seems like overkill—but that didn’t stop them from building Coqui Water Park, the only state-of-the-art water park in the Caribbean. Rates at the hotel start at $149/night, but you can get the Summer Splash Package for just $189 a night for four people, including admission to the water park.