Amazing Water Parks in the U.S.
When summer months bring the heat, America's water parks beckon. But with more than 400 to choose from, it's hard to know where to begin.
Which parks stand out most?
We’ve compiled your go-to guide for some of the biggest and best water parks in the country. Whether you want to scream on a hair-raising coaster, chill out while floating along a lazy river, or learn to surf on man-made waves, we've got you covered.
Grab your towel and throw on your swimsuit…these parks are cool in more ways than one.
Universal's Volcano Bay: Orlando
Universal upped the water-park game in Orlando when it opened this new water-themed amusement park in 2017.
The exotic island-themed getaway is meant for all-day fun and includes rides like the 1,565-foot Krakatau Aqua Coaster, which will actually fling you up hill on magnetic tracks.
This is a place where size matters: Volcano Bay touts more than 10,000 feet of water slides, and its sandy Waturi Beach spans 87,000 square feet.
Splash zones, kiddie play areas and low-key rides are also available – this is family-focused Orlando, after all.
Craziest thrill ride: Ko’okiri Body Plunge, a fast-and-loose free fall that drops you 125 feet in just 30 seconds
The Boardwalk at Hersheypark: Hershey, Pennsylvania
It’s hard not to love a theme park with a candy theme; the 11-acre Boardwalk at Hersheypark sweetens the deal with its 24,000 square feet of “tubular relaxation."
The Boardwalk may not be the largest water park on this list, but it is connected to Hersheypark so you can ride roller coasters and water slides all in one visit. (A ticket to Hersheypark includes, in the summer, entry to the Boardwalk.)
Six water-tube slides, a lazy river, four "sprayground" areas for kids and a 378,000-gallon wave pool make this a good fit for everyone in the family. With cabanas, locker rooms and changing rooms, you can go back and forth between the dry and wet attractions for a refreshing day of fun.
Craziest thrill ride: Breakers Edge, featuring high-speed tunnels and g-force curves, which can reach speeds of up to 20 feet per second
Noah's Ark Waterpark: Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
In Wisconsin Dells, the “Waterpark Capital of the World,” how do you decide between the various water parks available at every turn? Simple: Go with the biggest.
Noah’s Ark isn’t just the biggest water park in The Dells; at 70 acres it is the largest water park in all of America. More than 80 different attractions, 50 water slides and not one, but two wave pools fill the space.
Plummet 400 feet on Scorpion’s Tail, race a quarter-mile at speeds of 30 miles per hour on the Black Anaconda, travel in total darkness on the four-person Flying Gecko, and feel your stomach drop three times as you descend 500 feet on Kowabunga.
Craziest thrill ride: The new King Cobra waterslide, the tallest and longest of its kind; descend from six stories along 335 feet of tubular track, reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour as you're sent flying into the cobra’s mouth.
Silver Dollar City's White Water: Branson, Missouri
Named a reader’s choice top water park by "USA Today," Silver Dollar City’s White Water near the Ozarks boasts 13 acres of rides and slides to beat the summer heat. On select Fridays and Saturdays in July and August, the park offers extended hours past sunset, allowing you to stay cool on hot summer nights.
Head to the seven-story Kalani Towers, where you'll find two 300-foot drop slides and four 312-foot lane-racing slides for high-speed excitement.
Families can visit Splashaway Cay for interactive rides and geysers, or kick it at Coconut Cove, featuring tipping buckets, hose jets and gentle slides for the little ones.
When it’s time to sit back and coast, the 800-foot Aloha River float will take you beneath fountains, misters and more geysers.
Craziest thrill ride: KaPau Plummet – climb a four-story tower, step inside a launch pod and then 3…2…1…kapau! Drop 70 degrees and 240 feet.
Dollywood Splash Country: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
A little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, Dolly Parton’s 35-acre Splash Country water park is an extension of the amusement park she created in her hometown of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Ready to rock? Take a four-person raft on RiverRush, Tennessee’s only water coaster. You’ll follow the tree line four stories high and drop, spin and ride through tunnels along 1,175 feet of water track.
Feeling a little more country? Take it slow and easy along the Downbound Float Trip, a 1,500-foot river winding through the Tennessee trees. You can also chill near the 8,000-square-foot Cascades lagoon, where kids can play with 25 different water elements as you keep cool on a chaise lounger.
Craziest thrill ride: Fire Tower Falls, the park's tallest and fastest slide, which starts 70 feet above the ground and sends brave souls free-falling for 280 feet
Schlitterbahn Waterpark: Kansas City, Kansas
"Schlitterbahn" literally means “slippery road” in German – fitting for a water-park company with multiple beloved parks in Texas.
Through last summer, the original San Antonio Schlitterbahn water park took home top honors from "Amusement Today" for 20 consecutive years. The park has been a true trailblazer in the industry: It offered the world’s first uphill water coaster in 1994, the world’s first wave river in 1996, the world’s first inland surfing ride in 1992 and the longest tubing river, The Falls, when it debuted in 2011.
This summer, the Galveston Island park will break records, too, when its Infinity Racers becomes the fastest head-first mat racer ride. The space-themed ride is a nod to nearby Johnson Space Center and the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the moon.
Schlitterbahn parks are also found on Padre Island and in Corpus Christi.
Craziest thrill ride: Galveston Island's record-busting Infinity Racers; from eight stories up, travel 696 feet through tunnels with special lighting effects inside.
Ready to hang 10? SeaWorld’s Aquatica water park in Orlando is opening a weightless water slide in April that will mimic riding a wave. KareKare (Maori for “waves”) will take two riders on a raft down a water tube before jetting them out to a vertical wave wall for a rip-curling ride.
The water park knows it’s competing with the big Orlando amusement parks and aims to please with stomach-dropping rides like Tassie's Twisters, which shoots you down a tube into a giant bowl for a series of heart-racing spins.
Of course, you could take it easy at this park, as well, with cabanas, pools and lazy rivers. This park features, as far as we know, the only lazy river that passes through an aquarium with dolphins.
There are also Aquatica parks in San Antonio, Texas and San Diego, California.
Craziest thrill ride: Ray Rush, named the best new water-park ride by "Amusement Today" last year; shoot out on a super-fast tube ride before twisting into a water sphere and then ending on giant manta wings to fly up and down.
Water Country USA: Williamsburg, Virginia
The largest water park in Virginia is brought to you by the folks behind Busch Gardens, proving that water rides can induce the same shrieks as amusement parks. Try a “surf-boggan,” a toboggan/ski-jump-like slide on the water, race your friends on the six-lane Nitro Racer, or climb a 75-foot tower and drop into a 300-foot speed slide.
The entire park has a retro surf theme. Enjoy a '60s vibe at the 23,000-square-foot Surfer’s Bay wave pool with four-foot waves and Rock ‘n’ Roll Island, where children can enjoy an activity pool and slides.
Give the water obstacle course a try and see if you can stay dry!
Craziest thrill ride: Cutback Water Coaster, featuring an 850-foot slide that takes a four-person raft flying through tunnels and around curves before dropping into five saucers; the ride will open this summer.
Cedar Point Shores Waterpark: Sandusky, Ohio
In the self-proclaimed Roller Coaster Capital of the World, amusement-park leader Cedar Point provide thrills in the water at Cedar Point Shores.
This 18-acre park is designed for free-wheeling fun. Enjoy five-story tube slides on solo or double rafts at Portside Plunge, or try the tame-but-exhilarating Perch Plunge, a three-slide tower with tubes that entwine and speed around one another.
Whether you want to ride the wild Runaway Rapids or take it easy on the lazy Cedar Creek, this water park with 17 different attractions will keep you cool in the heat of summer. A family “splashground” even offers 12 pint-sized slides for little ones – water gadgets, curtains and geysers included, of course.
Craziest thrill ride: Point Plummet, a six-story, four-person slide featuring a 400-foot vertical free-fall that morphs into s-curves and flat loops
Legoland Water Park: Carlsbad, California
Just outside of San Diego, Legoland has been serving up adventure with (you guessed it) a Lego theme for 20 years. Not surprisingly, Legoland's 10-acre waterpark also adds Legos to the thrill-seeking mix.
Build-A-Raft River allows you to customize a raft with soft Lego bricks before floating down a lazy river, while Imagination Station offers Lego bricks to test against flowing water as you construct bridges and dams.
A 45-foot Lego tower with four slides provides the big bangs; race side by side on the 130-foot Twin Chasers or slide 240-feet on the open-body Splash Out slide.
Tickets: $106 (you must purchase Legoland admission in order to visit the separate water park)
Craziest thrill ride: Orange Rush, a 320-foot slide that gently spins four kids at a time (Legoland attractions are designed for little ones, so the scares are slight).
Disney's Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon: Orlando, Florida
Sometimes the chaos and crowds of Disney’s theme parks can be too much, especially during Florida’s hot and humid summers. Thankfully, Disney offers not one, but two water parks to help you stay chilled-out in Orlando.
Which one should you choose?
Well, Blizzard Beach definitely wants to add a little nip to your summer vacay with a snow-covered water-park theme complete with Christmas music. Yes, Christmas music. Oddly cute and designed more for little tykes, there are still some scintillating rides to be found, such as the Summit Plummet, featuring a terrifying 12-story straight-down drop.
Typhoon Lagoon boasts a more tropical vibe and rides with a bit more bite. A fantastic wave pool features six-foot waves on which you can actually take surf lessons.
Happily, you don’t actually have to choose between parks. The water-park ticket allows you to try them both on the same day, so you can decide for yourself which is best.
Craziest thrill ride: Humunga Kowabunga at Typhoon Lagoon; though it drops you just five stories, that drop is done in the dark.
Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark: Tannersville, Pennsylvania
The largest water park in Pennsylvania can be found nestled into the hills of the Poconos at Camelback Mountain. The thrills are a little tamer at Camelbeach than many of the parks on this list. But if you stay at Camelback’s resort, you’ll also receive free tickets to its indoor water park, Aquatopia – a two-for-one deal that will keep your fingers pruned well into the night.
Aquatopia, open year-round, is a 125,000-square-foot multi-level water park with 13 water slides, a wave pool, a river ride and seven pools. One stay at Camelback means more than 50 rides, between the two parks, during the summer months.
Craziest thrill ride: Highnoon Typhoon, a new four-person funnel ride perched six stories up
Knott's Soak City Water Park: Buena Park, California
When it comes to fun, the more the merrier, right? Check out these numbers:
- 750,000-gallon Tide Wave Bay wave pool
- 1/3-mile Sunset River
- 3-story Beach House with 200 interactive ways to get wet
- 23 water slides
- 15 acres of splash-worthy fun
Knott’s Berry Farm’s separate water park is the largest in Orange County, and its impressive numbers don't end there. You can also drop 63 feet on the Old Man Falls free-fall slide, or race your friends on the 41-foot-tall Banzai Falls.
The numbers don't lie; you're going to have a blast at Soak City.
Craziest thrill ride: Shore Break's drop slide; anxiously wait for the floor to drop from beneath you, so you can plunge seven stories before reaching the pool.