Top 10 water parks to visit with families

Arts and Entertainment

July 20, 2014

Now that the temperatures are heating up, it's time to find a place to cool off. With names like Water Country and Wet n' Wild, it's no secret we're slipping and sliding our way across the country to seek out the best places to spend the day getting wet and enjoying it. From quiet coves to extreme body slides, water parks offer something for everyone and you don't even have to know how to swim to join in the fun.  

1. A Splashin' Safari in a place called Santa Claus sounds like it might be spa for reindeer, but it's anything but a laid back experience. Splashin' Safari is a top-rated water park with rides, slides, shows and events, including holiday-themed attractions for spreading joy year round. Fireworks are a weekly attraction, but what draws the crowds in summer are the giant water coasters. Take the nearly seven story plunge on the Mammoth slide in a six-man boat that traverses the 1/3 mile long course thrilling riders with seven drops in approximately three minutes. Hold on tight, catch your breath and get on line to do it again. 

2. Schlitterbahn shows up on the list of best theme parks for their roller coasters and their water rides. It guarantees indoor and outdoor water fun across a choice of properties in Texas and Kansas and claims to be the world's first family of water parks. Each property has its own unique features as the backdrop for their activity pools, speed slides, tube chutes and river rides. Heated or refreshingly cold, enjoy a day in the water and when you're all tuckered out, spread a blanket for a picnic or find a cabin, hotel or vacation home nearby to rent for an extended stay. 

3. Head to Noah's Ark Water Park in twos (and threes and fours) for a day at the largest water park in the United States. It's located in Wisconsin Dells a place noted for its scenic beauty and named for the dells along the Wisconsin River. Slip and slide on dozens of rides designed for all age and thrill levels, like the Bermuda Triangle (no one's disappeared, yet) or the Black Anaconda, which is a combination water slide and roller coaster that whisks riders down the 1/4 mile track at 30 miles per hour. Feeling a little fragile? Hold onto some friends on Group Rides or work your way up to the thrills on the Gentle Rides. You can even duck into their arcade or 4-D theater to reboot before heading back into the water. 

4. The Great Wolf Lodge is called the largest family of water parks because their properties include 12 locations across the United States where you will find fun in and out of the sun for children of all ages and groups of all sizes. Book a stay or go for a day of dipping, dunking, splashing and laughing. Great Wolf Lodge is geared toward kids and they encourage you to explore their activities by age or even plan a party for family and friends. The rides are sure to delight even the most determined thrill seeker, like the Hydro Plunge at the Great Wold Lodge in Cincinnati-Mason, Ohio with a 52-foot vertical drop or fill a raft with friends and take the River Canyon Run for a ride you won't soon forget. 

5. Water World is only open in the summer and weather permitting, so check the forecast before you pack up the kids and the car. Since opening in 1979 the park has filled out their 64 acres with 46 water attractions and they claim more family-friendly tube rides than any other park in America. The latest innovation to arrive on scene is a magnetic water coaster called the Mile High Flyer with a thrill rating of "high" it propels riders up, down and around the track at high speeds. Back on the ground, lay out your picnic fare or pick up something from the concession stand to get your energy back before you take the Voyage to the Center of the Earth or head over to the Red Line Speed Slide.

6. White Water is part of Silver Dollar City Attractions in Branson, Missouri a place designed specifically to delight visitors and convert them to fans. White Water offers 13 acres of rides and slides and they encourage repeat visits with deals and packages. You can even save by taking advantage of their nighttime special that lets you splash until 10PM on Thursdays--Saturdays in July and August. New this year is the KaPau Plummet, that sends riders free falling at 26 feet per second before dumping them out into the water at the bottom. KaPau!

7. Don't let the Raging Waters in San Dimas scare you. It's all been engineered for your water park pleasure with wave pools and water slides for small to tall laid out at California's largest water park. Choose from 36 slides across 50 acres or spend the day on their sand beach. Take a ride through the Dark Hole on a two-person raft or line up at one of eight lanes to fling your body down a slide to a finish line that ends with a splash. You can even pretend you're a California surfer on their Flowrider with non-stop wave action. 

8. Wet 'n Wild is the name of the water park at Emerald Pointe, another in a chain of popular water parks. They have their own set of slides and rides that get your adrenaline pumping, like the Runaway Raft Ride that speeds thrill seekers along a 600-foot flume or Dr. Von Dark's Tunnel of Terror where the hi-speed spins happen in the dark. Sound too scary? Stick with the children's pool at Splash Island or the play area at Happy Harbor for tikes and their guardians.

9. Water Country is a hot spot for a number of reasons, including being close to popular perennial tourist attractions like Colonial Williamsburg as well as Busch Gardens. Sounds like the perfect vacation combination. History and colonial charm combined with water soaked thrills and chills. Water Country advertises 25 state-of-the-art water rides, including the latest called the Colossal Curl, which is a new slide with incredible stats, including being almost two football fields long with a funnel and a wave and promising a weightless experience. Get thee to Water Country for a historically good time. 

10. With a name like Aquatica, you can guess the entertainment won't be confined to above the water. Aquatica is part of a chain of water parks in California, Florida and Texas operated by SeaWorld. In Orlando the newest thrill ride is the Ihu Breakaway Falls a "drop slide" that's called one wild ride. In Texas, enjoy a water ride through a unique environment filled with flowers, birds and waterfalls at Roa's Aviary. San Diego takes the action up a notch with the new Taumata Racer high-speed racing water slide that winds through tunnels and turns on the 375 foot race to the bottom. Take your pick or plan a vacation to see them all. 

Whichever property or water park you choose, remember to tie your suit on tight and remember what your mother used to say about coming out when you're skin starts to wrinkle.


Do you have a favorite place to splash the day away?