When the temperatures start rising, there's no better place to be than a water park. As suited to little kids as to grown-up thrill-seekers, they're the perfect place to blow off some steam and enjoy some slides, rides, and surf. The best thing? They're everywhere. Regardless of which part of the country you live in, you won't have to travel far to find some watery fun. As to which ones rank as the very best, find out now as we count down the 20 best water parks in the U.S.
20. Legoland Water Park - Carlsbad, California
If your kids are obsessed with lego, treat them to a visit to Legoland Water Park in Carlsbad. As well as having the chance to customize their own rafts using soft lego bricks for a ride along the lazy river, they'll also get the opportunity to design, build and race boats in the Lego Legends of Chima section.
19. Water World - Federal Heights, Colorado
Spanning 70 acres, Water World is one of the largest (and best) water parks in the U.S. Located just 10 miles north of Denver, it boasts 50 rides and attractions, all of which promise hours of family-friendly fun. The circus-inspired lazy river is perfect for lounging. Kids, meanwhile, will love the pirate-themed water playground and Thunder Bay Wave Pool. As an added incentive, children under 40 inches tall qualify for free admission.
18. Sandcastle Waterpark: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Set in a woodland setting, Sandcastle Waterpark comprises fifteen waterslides, a wave pool, a mushroom-shaped waterfall, a lazy river, two children's play areas, and a clutch of other family-friendly games and activities. Be sure to stock up on loaded Potato Patch fries while you're here - they're some of the best in Pittsburgh.
17. Splashin’ Safari - Santa Claus, Indiana
Splashin’ Safari has been around for a while now, and has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the best waterparks in Indiana. In 2020, it went from good to great when it added the Cheetah Chase water coaster (the world's very first launched water coaster) to its list of attractions. Blasting riders straight out of the station at speeds of 20 miles per hour, it's a must-do for thrill-seekers. Be sure to check out the two other coasters, Mammoth and Wildebeest, before you leave. Visit on a Friday during the summer and you'll be treated to a fireworks display to round out your day.
16. Silver Dollar City’s White Water Park - Branson, Missouri
Silver Dollar City’s White Water Park might be a lot smaller than some of the other parks on our list, but the best things really do come in small packages sometimes. Family-friendly and a whole heap of fun, the park offers visitors 13 acres of slides, rides, and waves to enjoy. Small kids will love Coconut Cove, while those looking for a rush should check out the KaPau Plummet, which drops riders down a 70 degree, 40-foot plunge at a thrilling 26 feet per second.
15. Water Country USA - Williamsburg, Virginia
There's more to Williamsburg than a history lesson. Once you're done learning about the past, bring yourself bang up to date at the Mid-Atlantic's biggest water park, Water Country USA. Rides not to miss include Virginia’s first hybrid water coaster, Cutback Water Coaster, which utilizes a water jet propulsion system and a unique saucer feature to create an exhilaratingly steep, 850 feet ride; the US's first funnel-and-wave raft ride, the Colossal Curl; and the huge wave pool, Surfer's Bay. For small kids, the Cow-A-Bunga splash area is a winner.
14. Water World - Denver, Colorado
With over 50 slides and rides to enjoy, Water World in Denver, Colorado, offers a huge amount of variety for fun-seekers. For $35 (or $40 on weekends), you'll get to experience everything from kid-friendly tube rides to heart-pumping thrill rides. Top attractions not to miss include The Mile High Flyer, a high-speed water coaster guaranteed to get your adrenalin coursing; The Storm, a pitch-black tube ride with thunderclaps, lightning, and plenty of rain; and the Tubo Racer, an eight-across slide competition that promises a ton of fun for speed freaks.
13. Big Rivers Waterpark & Adventures - Houston, Texas
As Fodors says, even by Texan standards, the 80-acre Big Rivers Waterpark & Adventures is huge. Set 30 minutes outside of Houston in the grounds of the 632 acre Grand Texas entertainment, dining, and shopping development, the park offers plenty of family-friendly experiences, including Gator Splash, Texas' largest interactive play structure with over 300 water-based adventures. Another highlight not to miss is the Wild Isle Lake with its massive inflatable challenge course. One-day admission costs $40, or $35 for kids and seniors.
12. Schlitterbahn Waterpark New Braunfels - New Braunfels, Texas
The flagship water park for the Schlitterbahn brand in New Braunfels is a huge, family-owned park offering over 51 attractions suitable for all age groups. The Tadpole Kiddie Pool has mini slides, jets, and water blasters for little ones; the Blastenhoff Beach has a wave pool for everyone; and the Kristol Cove has a large, warm pool and white sand beach for the families. Thrills and spills come by way of the high speed, 6 stories high Master Blaster Uphill Water Coaster and the pitch-black flumes of the Black Knight.
11. Volcano Bay - Orlando, Florida
Orlando does theme parks better than almost anywhere else in the world, and Volcano Bay is no exception. Based at the Universal Orlando Resort, the water park is themed around a giant 200-foot-tall volcano named "Krakatau." If you're visiting with kids, don't miss the family-friendly Waturi Beach, a huge lagoon with golden sands and lush landscapes where the whole family can safely splash around in the warm waves. Toddlers should head toTot Tiki Reef, a carefully supervised area packed with pint-sized slides and safe play areas. Other attractions not to be missed include the thrilling Krakatau Aqua Coaster, which takes you through the center of Krakatau before spitting you out into a plunging waterfall, and the Ko’okiri Body Plunge, a scream-inducing 70-degree drop in a beautiful pool.
10. Aquatica - San Antonio, Texas
As texashillcountry.com rightly notes, Sea World San Antonio has your family-friendly fun in the Texas sun sewn up. Not only does it have a huge variety of indoor animal exhibits and rides, but it also boasts its own water park section called Aquatica. With thrill rides, up-close animal experiences, and over 42,000 square feet of beach area, it's a must-visit for anyone visiting San Antonia. Be sure to check out Stingray Falls, a thrilling four-person ride that twists and turns its way down into an underwater grotto viewing area for the park's 500 stingrays and colorful collection of tropical fish.
9. Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Adventure Park - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Set over 235 acres of lush mountainside, Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Adventure Park offers a ton of fun for the whole family. Top attractions include RiverRush, Tennessee's only water coaster; Big Bear Plunge, a white water rafting slide that comes as close to the real thing as a water park can get; the Fire Tower Falls, a scream-making 70 feet twin slide; and The Cascades, an 8,000-sq.-ft. lagoon-style leisure pool. Once you're ready to dry off, be sure to check out the amusement park rides over at the adjacent Dollywood.
8. Adventure Island - Tampa, Florida
As part of the SeaWorld Entertainment group, you'd expect a lot from Adventure Island. Fortunately, it delivers on all counts. Well organized, suitable for the whole family, and blessed with a heap of attractions, it's one of Tampa's top destinations. Young kids will love the jumping jets and mini jungle gym at Fabian’s Fun Port, not to mention the huge treehouse and equally huge assortment of water toys at Splash Attack. Those looking for a more thrilling adventure will get a kick from the high-speed twists and turns of the Caribbean Corkscrew. If all the fun leaves you feeling peckish, you're in luck. The park offers a wide variety of eateries - stop by Duval Street Barbecue for big portions of tasty ribs, Colossal Snacks for a cooling sundae, and Beachside Craft Brews for a glass of something refreshing.
7. Cowabunga Bay Water Park - Draper, Utah
Named by US News as one of the best water parks in the US, Cowabunga Bay Water Park is a 1960s themed water park set just 20 miles south of Salt Lake City. With surfboards, sandcastles, and a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle water feature, it's got nostalgia down to a T. Its huge water playground spans 12 levels, offering multiple opportunities for watery fun with its bridges, tunnels, and water toys. Younger kids are sure to love Cowabunga Kid's Cove's mini slides, while older thrill-seekers will get a big kick out of the 1,000-foot-long Mondo waterslide.
6. Raging Waters - San Dimas, California
As Cheapism.com says, Raging Waters is a blast, offering over 50 acres of water-based fun and games. The highlight is the Seven-story Drop Out, one of the tallest vertical slides in the nation. Expect to hit up to 40mph as you descend the super-fast four-second drop. If you want to skip the lines, take advantage of the H2Go ride reservation system - you'll need to pay a little extra to reserve your spot, but it's worth the cost for the extra time you'll get to enjoy all the attractions.
5. Kalahari Resort - Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Dells knows how to do waterparks. Not only is it home to Noah’s Ark, the US's biggest outdoor water park, it's also home to Kalahari Resorts, the US's biggest indoor water park. Spread over 125,000 square feet, it promises no end of watery fun, regardless of the weather. Packed with family raft rides, a wave pool, a water coaster, activity pools, swim-up bars, hot tubs and spas, body slides, tube rides, and a whole lot more besides, it's got enough to please just about anyone. If you've ever wanted to learn how to surf, be sure to check out Flowrider, a surf simulator that pumps out a massive 50,000 gallons of water every minute to recreate the feeling of riding a five-foot wave.
4. Splish Splash - Long Island, New York
As Attractions of America says, Splish Splash is one of America's most fun-filled water parks. Kids will love riding the tube slider where dinosaurs await them at every turn. The Barrier Reef is a rapid water ride with a difference (the difference being a shark... although fortunately, not a real one). Also not to be missed is the Giant Twister, a twisting body slide that weaves through the treetops before descending into the glistening pool before.
3. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park - Orlando, Florida
On June 1, 1989, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park threw open its door to the public. In the years since, it's welcomed millions of visitors, all keen to enjoy the largest wave pool in the US and a host of other treats to boot. Based around the Disney legend of a typhoon that wreaked havoc on a tropical paradise, the park offers a myriad of opportunities for water-based fun, including the kid-friendly side by side mini slides, mini inner tube rapids rides, and crawl chutes of Ketchakiddee Creek; the Miss Adventure Falls for family raft rides; and the thrilling Humunga Kowabunga. It isn't cheap (expect to pay around $69 for entry), but if you're planning on visiting the rest of Disney World, the Park Hopper Plus tickets will help keep costs to a minimum.
2. Discovery Cove - Orlando, Florida
Discovery Cove is a tropics-themed water park that offers visitors the unique opportunity to get up close with bottlenose dolphins, tropical birds, and even otters. Educational but a whole lot of fun to boot, it's the perfect destination for the whole family. If your kids have ever wanted to swim with dolphins and feed rays, it's unmissable. Understandably enough, it's been ranked as one of the best things to do in Orlando by Trip Advisor reviewers, who recommend spending as much time on the Wind Away River as possible. Entry is expensive, but worth every penny.
1. Noah’s Ark - Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
With over 70 acres of attractions, Noah’s Ark is the biggest water park in the US. Size doesn't always guarantee greatness, but in this case, it does. The park is crammed with goodies, including a surfing simulator, two wave pools, and over 50 rides. Top attractions include the Black Anaconda, a water coaster that clips along at a speed of 30 mph; the Scorpion’s Tail, a near-vertical slide that's guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping; and Raja, a 335-foot tube slide with more twists and turns than a detective novel. Be sure to buy your ticket online to save $5 on the gate price.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn