The Best Water Parks in the USA
From wave pools and lazy rivers to thrill rides and high-tech attractions, there’s something for everyone in our roundup of top water parks from coast to coast.
Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando
Orlando’s Theme Park Water Parks
Aquatica features Commerson’s dolphin encounters while riders zoom through an underwater tube and the new Ihu’s Breakaway Falls—Orlando’s tallest, steepest multi-drop tower. This tropical paradise also has adjacent wave pools with varying surf heights (the only ones in the U.S.) and a Sunny Day Guarantee in case rides are closed due to a change in the weather. There are parks in San Antonio and San Diego too.
Walt Disney World
The most magical place on earth offers two options for cooling off (separate admission for each). At the center of Blizzard Beach is Mt. Gushmore, with slalom courses, toboggan runs and the 120-foot-high Summit Plummet, plunging riders at 55 mph from the top of a “ski jump” tower. Typhoon Lagoon recently debuted the white-water rafting Miss Adventure Falls.
The biggest blast of the season is Volcano Bay, billed as Universal Orlando’s third theme park. The star attraction is Krakatau Aqua Coaster, which whisks families through a 200-foot-tall volcano that gushes water by day and fiery “lava” on the nights it’s open. TapuTapu wearables, one of the coolest innovations, allow visitors to explore the island while waiting in line virtually.
Walt Disney World's Typhoon Lagoon
Keep Riding the Wave Across the USA
Adventure Island, Tampa, FL
Adventure Island’s thirty acres of water-drenched fun in the sun are located across the street from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and offer a rousing combination of high-speed thrills and tranquil surroundings. adventureisland.com
Cedar Point Shores, Sandusky, OH
One highlight of the redesigned Cedar Point Shores is Point Plummet, a six-story water slide. cedarpoint.com/cpshores
Dollywood's Splash Country
Dollywood’s Splash Country, Pigeon Forge, TN
Revving up its engines this year is TailSpin Racer, a six-lane mat-style slide. It joins Splash Country’s other attractions including RiverRush, the only water coaster in Tennessee, and Fire Tower Falls, the state’s tallest twin speed slides. dollywood.com/waterpark
H2OBX, Powells Point, NC
Opening in the Outer Banks is the state-of-art H2OBX, with 30 different water slides, wave pools and attractions like the inflatable obstacle courses of the Deep Six Adventure Lagoon. h2obxwaterpark.com
Raging Waters, San Dimas, CA
Raging Waters sports Southern California’s only water coaster: the 1,000-foot Aqua Rocket and its three lighting-fast drops. ragingwaters.com
Roaring Springs Waterpark, Meridian, ID
The 360-degree looping Corkscrew Cavern and Cliffhanger’s six-story vertical-drop water slides are among the highlights of Roaring Springs, near Boise. roaringsprings.com
Six Flags White Water
Six Flags White Water, Austell, GA
Wahoo Racer is one of the tallest mat-racing slides anywhere—60 feet tall with six side-by-side lanes. But Six Flags White Water’s tallest slide is Dive Bomber, boasting a 10-story drop. sixflags.com/whitewater
Splash Lagoon Water Park, Bowling Green, KY
Residing within family-owned Beech Bend Park, Splash Lagoon recently added Cyclone Saucers, the first-ever Flying Saucer water slide in North America. beechbend.com
Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, IN
Holiday World’s Splashin’ Safari has the two longest water coasters in the world. Guinness certified the 1,763-foot Mammoth as number one and, at 1,710 feet, the Wildebeest is just a smidge shorter. holidayworld.com
Water Country USA, Williamsburg, VA
Virginia’s largest family water park, Water Country USA, features state-of-the-art rides and attractions with a retro surf theme. Colossal Curl is the park’s latest thrill. watercountryusa.com
Wet ’n’ Wild, Las Vegas, NV
The 20-plus-acre Wet ’n’ Wild is no gamble when it comes to drenching fun: There are more than 25 rides, including the Hoover Half Pipe, which whooshes riders into a giant half pipe, and the Colorado Cooler, a super-long lazy river. wetnwildlasvegas.com
Water Country USA
Water, Water Everywhere
About 90 miles northwest of NYC, a cluster of water parks surged in the Pocono Mountains. The latest: Kalahari, America’s largest indoor water park. The first in the area was an offshoot of the Great Wolf Lodge chain. Next was an expansion of the local all-season Camelback Resort, with its two-year-old Aquatopia indoor water park—7 pools and 13 water slides—on-site winter skiing and tubing, and nearby adventure course and outdoor water park.
The Lone Star State is dominated by Schlitterbahn, with locations in Corpus Christi, Galveston Island, New Braunfels and South Padre Island (there’s one in Kansas City, KS, too). Galveston Island’s MASSIV was declared the World’s Tallest Water Coaster by Guinness World Records, and Padre’s Plunge is a new flume ride in Corpus Christi.
The small town of Wisconsin Dells launched the indoor water park concept in 1989 with the Polynesian Water Park Resort. Nearly 30 years later the area is flooded with chains and one-offs for watery pursuits, including the outdoor Noah’s Ark and the indoor-outdoor Wilderness Resort.
Great Wolf Lodge
Leader of the Pack
Great Wolf Lodge is the alpha predator, with the largest collection of indoor water park resorts in North America. Stretching from Canada to California, including a new woodsy-themed property in Colorado Springs (and one opening in LaGrange, GA, in 2018), Great Wolf Lodge can claim more tipping buckets, lazy rivers and water slides than any other brand in the country.
Ride du Jour: Slideboarding
Water ride meets gaming technology in this innovative attraction that’s currently in only eight parks across the U.S., including
- Great Wolf Lodge, Pocono Mountains, PA, and Williamsburg, VA
- Wet ‘n’ Wild, Las Vegas, NV
- Wilderness Resort, Wisconsin Dells, WI
- Typhoon Texas, Katy, Texas
Photos: (Volcano Bay) © 2016 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved. (Typhoon Lagoon) Kent Philips. (Water Country USA) © SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved.