Summer is just a few months away, which means soon you’ll be looking for ways to beat the heat. You could hit your local community pool (dodge the yellow spots!) or book in some time at one of the best beaches in the USA, but why not opt for a more extreme outdoor adventure at one of the country’s wildest water parks? Hear us out: waterslides aren’t just for kids anymore. Today’s water parks feature terrifying drops and crazily looped slides that rival the most stomach-testing rollercoasters in the best amusement parks in America for thrills. To help you choose your own slippery adventure, we’ve ranked the country’s 11 best parks, based on a handful of criteria such as number of rides, price and overall wet-and-wild fun. No matter if you’re into the wave pool, the lazy river or the slides, these are the best water parks in the USA for you.
Best water parks in the USA
With 49 total attractions, including the theme park-quality Voyage to the Center of the Earth and Lost River of the Pharaohs rides, Water World is the Mt. Everest of waterparks. Visitors often require multiple days to ride each waterslide, and instead focus on the park’s various slide clusters. The Mile High Flyer water coaster shoots riders up and over hills. The Screamin’ Mimi shoots riders down a wheeled sled into a splash tank. And the recently added Warp Speed combines traditional tube slide action with a virtual gaming experience.
Schlitterbahn’s original water park is a soaring maze of waterslides, wave pools and lazy rivers. It’s so big, in fact, that showing it requires two full maps on the Schlitterbahn website. Schlitterbahn rates its slides by its degree of scariness, similar to ski slopes. Serious thrills abound at rides like the Boogie Bahn, Backsplash and Deluge. The park also features multiple calm pools for chilling out. IF you’re a serious waterslide aficionado, this park is a must-see.
Atlanta’s muggy summers are no match for White Water park, part of the Six Flags network of theme parks. Like the other Six Flags water parks, White Water boasts a large collection of slides and pools. But unlike the others, White Water is a stand-alone park, so no efforts have been wasted on rollercoasters. The ride Typhoon Twister features a toilet bowl-like swirl, and the Atlanta Ocean Wave pool serves up regular swells.
Walt Disney World features two separate water parks at its Orlando headquarters, and both serve up a dizzying amount of soggy fun for the price of one ticket. Blizzard Beach is where waterslide lovers can experience the thrill-ride drop of the Summit Plummet and Slush Gusher. Typhoon Lagoon’s emphasis is on its enormous surf pool—he largest in North America—where six-foot swells and smaller bobbing waves pop up all day long. Both parks are ringed by their own lazy rivers, which transport riders to and from various attractions.
Six Flags operates Hurricane Harbor waterparks in New Jersey, Texas and Los Angeles, and all three feature a vast array of waterslides. The Jackson, New Jersey park caters to crowds from Philadelphia and New York City, and in the summer months, it provides a refreshing cool-off from the muggy east-coast heat. The park has more slides (20) than anyone can do in a single day, including the funnel-like Tornado and the world-famous King Cobra, which resembles an enormous snake. We recommend taking in Hurricane Harbor on a weekday, as lines can become exceptionally long on the weekends.
Action Park is built into a hillside, which gives it a creative layout and lots of elevation change for the various slides. With 28 total attractions, the park serves up a day’s worth of slides and pools. The H2-Oh-No plummets riders down a 99-foot drop. Tarzan Swings allows anyone to do his or her best rope swing into a pool. And the Bombs Away and Cliff Jumps simulate real-life cliff plunges.
In Texas, the name “Schlitterbahn” is synonymous with waterslides, as the family-owned chain of water parks has operated since 1979. Always looking to push the limits of water-themed fun, Schlitterbahn boasts the world’s tallest and fastest slide at its Kansas City park, and the world’s largest water coaster at its park on Galveston Island. We put Schlitterbahn’s South Padre Island destination on our list due to its jaw-dropping size, indoor/outdoor floor plan and close proximity to the actual beach. South Padre is a renowned party destination for spring breakers, making Schlitterbahn a favorite for water lovers of all ages.
Part of the Holiday World theme park, Splashin’ Safari features two wave pools, numerous tubes and open-air slides and two fun zones for children. The park also features the Mammoth, which is one of the longest water coasters on the planet. The ride propels a tube up and over hills, and then down into splash pools, before finishing with a huge drop. As an added bonus, the water rides sit next to the theme park’s roller coasters, allowing water fans to gaze upon overheated park guests.
Not as big as some of the other parks on this list, Myrtle Waves made the cut due to the balance of pools, slides and attractions, as well as its proximity to the sand. The park still serves up plenty of slide fun, with the toilet bowl-like Arooba Tooba and the open-air slides on Snake Mountain. Want a real thrill? Check out the purple Turbo Twisters slides, which sent riders on a twisting, twirling descent. And when you’re done, the beach is just a short drive away.
Noah’s Ark is a soaring water park, with 3 million square feet of space and 22 different water attractions, including two wave pools. The park has an incredible balance of traditional tube slides, such as the Quadzilla and Scorpion’s Tail, and open-air slides, like the Congo Bongo Rapids and Bermuda Triangle. The park’s pinnacle attraction is the Black Anaconda tube slide, which gives riders a quarter-mile journey from the top to splashdown.Photograph: Courtesy WDVCB
Waterparks don’t all have to be outdoors—visit Avalanche Bay and see for yourself. Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark is located at the base of a ski mountain, and provides year-round fun, even when it’s snowing. While the park lacks the size of the other parks on this list, Avalanche Bay makes up for it with innovative, space-saving rides. The park has its own man-made surfing wave. And its most recent addition, the Big Colouir, provides an unexpected and terrifying drop.