WATER PARKS OF AMERICA
Top U.S. Water Parks
We've found 15 water parks packed with waterslides, inner tube rides, and raging rapids that satisfy water babies of all ages. Best of all, they are close to major cities, meaning you won't have to go far to make a splash.
Wilderness Territory Waterpark Resort at Wisconsin Dells
Near Madison, Wis. (55 miles)
The Wilderness Territory's most popular ride is the Hurricane: Riders experience the eye of the storm as they rapidly descend through a four-story funnel. Flashes of lightning, rumbling thunder, and drifting fog convey the sense of a full-blown natural disaster.
Details 511 E. Adams St., Wisconsin Dells, Wis., 800/867-9453, wildernessresort.com. Kids eat free with adult purchase.
Other Wilderness locations A new, 150-acre Wilderness resort in Sevierville, Tenn.
Parks nearby Other water parks in Wisconsin Dells: Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park and Noah's Ark.
Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, Ohio
Near Toledo (60 miles)
Kalahari doubled the size of the park in December 2007. The highlight is the Swahili Swirl. In a four-person inner tube, you'll be ejected from a steep tube slide into a 60-foot-diameter bowl; it's a dizzying three times around before you're sucked down the drain and dropped into a 50-foot-long landing pool. It's like a really fun toilet bowl. To mellow out, relax under the 40,000-square-foot clear Texlon roof, which houses tropical plants and allows guests to catch sun year-round.
Details 7000 Kalahari Dr., Sandusky, 877/525-2427, kalahariresort.com. Look for "Beat the Clock" lodging specials on the website.
Other Kalahari locations Wisconsin Dells Wis. And a new water-park resort is under development in Fredericksburg, Va.
Geauga Lake's Wildwater Kingdom, Geauga Lake, Ohio
Near Cleveland (25 miles)
Older children and teens flock to the 60-foot-tall, 253-foot-long Liquid Lightning tornado slide. The ride launches you—at speeds of up to 24 mph—from a tube slide into a giant funnel, before spitting you into the calm waters of the finishing pool. Tamer settings include the Splash Landing family activity center, with waterslides, soaker hoses, bubbling geysers, and a raining umbrella, and Coral Cove, an activity pool with three basketball hoops and huge climbable animals.
Details 1100 Squires Rd., Aurora, Ohio, 330/562-8303, wildwaterfun.com.
Aquatica by SeaWorld, Orlando
Near Tampa (85 miles)
The signature experience here is the Dolphin Plunge, 250 feet of clear underwater tubes that plunge riders into a lagoon populated by charismatic black-and-white Commerson's dolphins. For a split second, you'll feel as if you're swimming with them. Aquatica's attractions include something for everyone: 36 slides, six rivers and lagoons, and more than 80,000 square feet of white-sand beaches.
Details 5800 Water Play Way, Orlando, 888/800-5447, aquaticabyseaworld.com.
Daytona Lagoon, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Near Orlando (55 miles)
Daytona Lagoon's most hair-raising experience is Blackbeard's Revenge. After you climb the 62-foot tower and mount an inner tube, you'll take a 15 mph, six-story tumble down a twisting, pitch-black tunnel slide. Don't miss the brand-new Kraken's Conquest, either: It's a four-lane, 55-foot-long ProRacer-series speed slide. Friends and families can challenge each other to high-speed, watery showdowns.
Details 601 Earl St., Daytona Beach, 386/254-5020, daytonalagoon.com. The park offers a different special each day; for example, every Thursday you can get unlimited use of miniature golf, the carousel, and the rock-climbing wall from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for $10.
Splash Island at Cypress Gardens, Winter Haven, Fla.
Near St. Petersburg, Fla. (74 miles)
At the interactive water-play area, the towering Tikki Head—basically a massive, dressed-up bucket—dumps more than 300 gallons of water over bathers every few minutes. The variety in the surrounding Cypress Gardens theme park is impressive, too, with a concert venue, picturesque gardens, and numerous animal exhibits.
Details 6000 Cypress Gardens Blvd., Winter Haven, 863/324-2111, cypressgardens.com/splashisland.