- 1. Schlitterbahn Waterpark, New Barunfels, Texas
- 2. Jay Peak Pump House, Jay, Vermont (Indoor Waterpark)
- 3. Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, Orlando, Florida
- 4. Cedar Point Shores, Sandusky, Ohio
- 5. Noah’s Ark, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
- 6. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, Indiana
- 7. Water World, Federal Heights, Colorado
- 8. Avalanche Bay, Boyne Falls, Michigan (Indoor Waterpark)
Summertime in America is filled with time-honored rituals. Barbeques, ball games, parades, fireworks, the family vacation. All are classic examples of our fun-loving American culture. Now that vaccines for COVID-19 have reached a considerable portion of the population, health authorities across the country have relaxed restrictions on outdoor activities. And with the summer heat now pouring it on in many places, it’s time to think about a return to one of those most-American of summer getaway, the waterpark! These are places where adults and kids alike can enjoy the wave pools, race down enormous waterslides, and practice their cannonballs. If you’re considering a family vacation this year, here are our picks for 8 great water parks around the United States.
1. Schlitterbahn Waterpark, New Barunfels, Texas
If in Texas the stars at night are big and bright, so are the waterparks. Schlitterbahn currently operates two parks in Texas, one in Galveston and their flagship location in New Braunfels just outside San Antonio. Nestled along the Comal River, Schlitterbahn is better thought of as two separate parks connected by the river. As the name suggests, there’s a distinct German and Bavarian flavor permeating the park and alpine themes predominate. Within Schlitterbahn’s eastern sections, you’ll find several lodging and accommodation options including the Treehaus Luxury Suites, the Condos at Boogie Bay, and Wasser Haus Lodge. Arguably, Schlitterbahn’s prime attraction is the six story Master Blaster water coaster. With numerous loops, tunnels, and plunges, this thrilling ride certainly gets the blood moving. There’s also the Black Knight and Wolfpack Race Slide to enjoy. Kids can play on Blastenhoff Beach or along the Kiddie Coast. Practice your moves on the Boogie Bahn Surfing ride or just relax in the Dragon’s Lair Heated Pool. Schlitterbahn’s ticketing prices currently range between $34.99 and $42.99 for single-day tickets depending on whether you go during the week or on the weekend. Visitors planning to come should book online in order to utilize Schlitterbahn’s new reservation system and online health screening. You’ll also find tips on how to stay safe and make the most of your visit during the ongoing pandemic.
2. Jay Peak Pump House, Jay, Vermont (Indoor Waterpark)
Best known for its wintertime skiing, Jay Peak also features a delightful indoor water park. Tucked way up by the Canadian border, this place is remote…and an ideal destination to enjoy some stunning countryside without the hassle of crowds. The best way to arrive is via I-93 out of Boston, I-91 from Springfield, or I-89 running north out of Burlington. No matter how you come though, to get to Jay you’ll need to transfer onto the backgrounds and make your way to Vermont Route 242. After arriving, be sure to enjoy the thrill of La Chute, a seemingly death-defying plunge down 65 feet where you’ll reach speeds nearing 45 mph and go through a full 360° rotation. Kids can enjoy themselves in the Mill Pond with water cannons and a large tipping bucket that deluges all below at regular intervals. Indoor and outdoor hot tubs are great for relaxing, as is the Pump House’s lazy river. The surf’s up at the Double Barrel Flowrider, where you can practice carving through the rushing waters. The Pump House is open weekends through the fall and tickets cost $35 for kids up to 14 and $41 for anyone 15 and over. The travel and capacity restrictions put in place during the pandemic have been lifted and Jay Peak is eager to welcome visitors once again.
3. Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, Orlando, Florida
When it comes to theme parks, Disney’s motto might as well be “go big or go home.” That ethos is certainly on display at Blizzard Beach Water Park, part of the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. Located near Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Blizzard Beach has reopened for visitors. You can enjoy the heart-stopping thrill of plummeting down Mount Gushmore, which is one of the largest slides of its kind anywhere in the world. See who’s fastest when you glide down the Toboggan Races, an 8-lane waterslide that will have your shouting for joy. Kids will have a ball splashing around in Tike’s Peak, a polar-themed pool area with lots of size-appropriate slides and fountains. When you find you need a break from the water, go for a bite to eat at the Lottawatta Lodge or use the new mobile ordering experience in the My Disney Experience app at select locations. Guests who purchased tickets for Blizzard Beach when the park was closed due to COVID-19 restrictions still use any 1-day tickets that have not expired. You can also purchase new water-park only tickets or grab a combination Park Hopper. At the time of writing, reservations are not required though you should make sure to check ahead of your planned visit for any changes.
4. Cedar Point Shores, Sandusky, Ohio
Apologies to fans of Six Flags, but Cedar Point is the home of roller coasters! Dubbing itself America’s Roller Coast, Cedar Point is loads of fun and has a terrific water park to boot. Cedar Point Shores sits directly adjacent to the main park and is actually bisected by the famous Magnum XL-200, once the world’s tallest, fastest, and steepest roller coaster. Within the waterpark itself, you’ll find numerous slides, a water coaster, wave pool, kid’s areas, and more. Ride the Portside Plunge and dip down at thrilling speeds into a waiting pool below. Or ride the loops, curls, and drops on Point Plummet. Kids can enjoy themselves in Lemmy’s Lagoon while speed demons will want to make for Riptide Raceway. If you get tired, float along the Renegade River or enjoy the waves in the Breakers Bay wave pool. With its setting directly on the shores of Lake Erie, Cedar Point shores also affords lovely beach access. Spread yourself out along the nearly mile-long sands. For those coming in from out of state, the park has some camper and RV access along with a few hotel / motel options. Additional accommodations are readily available in Sandusky itself. Cedar Point Shores is open for business again and eagerly welcoming visitors. Between June 26 and August 15, 2021, the park is celebrating 150 years of Cedar Point. Come join the celebrations!
5. Noah’s Ark, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Noah’s Ark likes to boast that it’s the “best and largest” waterpark in Wisconsin Dells. It certainly lays claim to having the area’s largest wave pool. This is something of a humble brag though, because Noah’s Ark is actually, depending on your measure, the largest waterpark in the US. Spread out across some 70 acres in Central Wisconsin, the place is one of those quintessential resort locations seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Wisconsin Dells is roughly an hour north of Madison or about two hours west-northwest of Milwaukee. The town itself comprises a quaint downtown area and a forested natural area to the north, the Dells of the Wisconsin River. The sandstone formations around the Dells offer excellent places to hike. At Noah’s Ark, you’ll have your pick of several thrilling rides including Raja, with its innovative slide design that features speeds up to 32 mph, numerous twists and turns, and a heart-stopping final plunge straight into the mouth of a king cobra! Feel the wind on your face as you ride the Black Anaconda, a quarter mile long water coaster with plenty of ups and downs. There’s also the Point of No Return, a truly exhilarating, nearly vertical drop that will have you screaming. For a tamer adventure, visit one of the park’s wave pools, or lounge in the Adventure River. There’s also mini golf and plenty of places for the kids. The park is once again open and welcoming visitors though visitor numbers of monitored to ensure physical distancing. Make sure to book ahead so you can be sure to enjoy your day in the water.
6. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, Indiana
Southern Indiana might not be the place you expect to find a Christmas wonderland, but that’s exactly what you get in Santa Claus, Indiana. At Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari you basically have the entire year covered. Located roughly an hour west of Louisville, Santa Claus is a bit off the beaten path. Surrounded by nothing by farmland, the quaint Midwestern countryside is an idyllic place for a summertime adventure. At Splashin’ Safari there’s lots to choose from including the Cheetah Chase, a brand new ride for 2020. This water coaster zips riders up and around with the same speed and ferocity as its namesake from the animal kingdom. It’s not just water coasters at Splashin’ Safari either, there are also traditional steel rollercoasters like the Thunderbird and the Crow’s Nest. The park’s large wave pool is fun for the family and there are loads of kid’s rides and dedicated areas. Speed down the Jungle Racer or tube through Otorongo. Splashin’ Safari is open this season and adult tickets cost $49.99. These can be booked online in order to secure a suitable reservation slot. Season passes and military discounts are also available. There are some accommodations on location or you can scout around in Santa Claus. Make it a summer-winter combo and experience Christmas a bit early in rural Indiana.
7. Water World, Federal Heights, Colorado
Located in the Northern Denver suburb of Federal Heights, Water World has been in the business of summer fun for over 40 years. This is a great stop if you’re passing through the Denver area. Be sure to get your adrenalin going on the Mile High Flyer, a family-friendly side where you ride down together on an inflatable raft. The Wave is a flow rider adventure that will let you practice your surfing skills. There’s also the Skyline Speed Slides where you can rocket down and claim bragging rights against your competition. Kids can enjoy the Caribbean Family Adventure play area, the Warming Pool, or Wally World with its coves and gentle slides. Take a ride on the park’s gondola or just float along one of the lazy rivers. Water World is divided into several zones, each with lots to offer so don’t worry about running out of things to do here. No matter if you’re riding waves in North Shore or catching a swell at South Beach, there is something for everyone in Water World. Tickets are available in two-flavors. Single-date tickets start at $49.99 for adults and $44.99 for kids. Flexible tickets that allow access anytime start at $36.99 for adults and $31.99 for kids.
8. Avalanche Bay, Boyne Falls, Michigan (Indoor Waterpark)
Northern Lower Michigan is a spectacular summertime getaway. With loads of scenic towns, small lakes, great lakes, and epic sand dunes, there’s just buckets and buckets of fun to experience. Boyne Falls is located not far from the small town of Charlevoix, easily accessible if you’re traveling north along I-75 towards Mackinaw or along US-131. Tucked between the summer destinations of Petoskey, Charlevoix, and Traverse City, Boyne Falls is a popular wintertime ski destination. Avalanche Bay is the region’s large, indoor waterpark. Packed with slides like the Big Couloir, the Downhill Mat Racer, and the Super-G, the ski-themed waterpark is a fitting addition to the outdoor attractions. Avalanche Bay sports a Lazy River Adventure as well as a number of pools and hot tubs. Day passes start out at $40 for adults and $34 for kids and are available in several hour blocks for the morning, afternoon, and evening. During summer, the nearby Adventure Center runs guided hiking tours around the various slopes and provides a fun set of family-friendly outdoor activities. Avalanche Bay is open this season. If you’re thinking about a road trip this year, it’s hard to do better than Northern Lower Michigan.
A family trip to the waterpark has long been a favored activity all across the US. If you’re still thinking about things to do this summer and determined to make up for lost ground, the fantastic parks we’ve profiled will give you plenty of food for thought. Remember to stay safe and always consult the latest information regarding COVID-19 safety precautions and policies before making travel decisions.