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.
25. Wet 'N' Wild SplashTown: Houston, Texas
Craziest thrill ride: Paradise Plunge, where you'll drop down seven stories of water in a virtual free fall. Make sure you hit the height requirement before you show up.
Bottom Line: Wet 'N' Wild SplashTown
The Alien Chaser is a new ride at the Wet 'N' Wild SplashTown, where you have to consistently bring in new attractions to compete with all of the water parks in Texas.
One cool thing to do at Wet 'N' Wild is go to the wave pool on Fridays in the late evening.
Stay until dusk, and you'll catch a free movie.
24. Big Kahuna's Water and Adventure Park: Destin, Florida
Craziest thrill ride: Honolulu Half Pipe, you're going to be surfing as 1,700 gallons of water per minute get pumped into this virtual wave pool. As close to surfing as you can get without actually getting into the Gulf of Mexico.
Bottom Line: Big Kahuna's Water and Adventure Park
Few water parks can compete with being as beach-adjacent as Big Kahuna's in Destin, Florida, which is right across the street from the sugar-sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.
Big Kahuna's has dealt with a lot of financial difficulties in the last few years and despite changing hands several times — and a bankruptcy filing — is still providing fun to people in the Florida panhandle.
23. Aquatica San Antonio: San Antonio, Texas
Craziest thrill ride: Ihu's Breakaway Fall, where the cool thing is three people get in tubes and they all don't drop at once. So you're sitting there waiting to plunge 80 feet without knowing who goes first. It's the tallest free fall drop at any waterpark in Texas.
Bottom Line: Aquatica San Antonio
The companion to SeaWorld San Antonio opened in 2012 and combining the two experiences — we suggest SeaWorld in the morning and Aquatica in the afternoon — makes for a pretty fun day.
What you'll find is the two experiences overlap in quite a few places, but none more notably than Stingray Falls, where you'll be on a tube with several other people going through slides and dives, then descend into an underwater grotto where you're surrounded by stingrays and tropical fish.
22. Six Flags Darien Lake/Splashtown: Darien, New York
Craziest thrill ride: Brain Drain, all you need to know is you get propelled over 300 feet of water in 10 seconds, which is wild.
Bottom Line: Six Flags Darien Lake Splashtown
Splashtown is now officially known as Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, which easily confuses it with the also awesome park of the same name in New Jersey.
So we'll just call it Splashtown for our purposes and make sure to tell you that whatever you do, please make sure you hit that gigantic, blue-and-yellow slide that looks like something out of a Christopher Nolan movie.
21. Raging Waters Los Angeles: San Dimas, California
Craziest thrill ride: High Extreme. It's going to be a different level of thrills when you're going headfirst down two, 600-foot-long slides, where you'll be moving at up to 35 miles per hour.
Bottom Line: Raging Waters Los Angeles
We just want to point out that Raging Waters Los Angeles is actually located in San Dimas, California, which has a special place in our heart because it's also the setting for "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure."
We can only hope that Raging Waters would live up to the standards of the members of Wild Stallyns and report back to us if it's as amazing as it looks.
20. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor: Jackson, New Jersey
Craziest thrill ride: Cannonball, Wahini and Jurahnimo Falls, which is 357-feet long of enclosed water slide. You'll be going 40 miles per hour in seconds, and at one point, in the dark, you drop down 65-75 feet depending on which entrance you choose.
Bottom Line: Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
We can walk you through a good chunk of your day at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, the New Jersey version, because they do a pretty amazing job of being able to scope out what rides you want.
If you're a thrill seeker, they literally have a section called "Thrill Rides." Nothing warmed our heart more than seeing the New Jersey-based water park had a ride named for the classic TV show "The Sopranos" — the Bada Bing, Bada Bang, Bada Boom.
19. Sandcastle Water Park: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Craziest thrill ride: Dragon's Den, the newest ride at Sandcastle is double-rider only and pushes you through darkness and mist until you come out right into the Dragon's Den itself. Then there's a mystery drop. Or something like that.
Bottom Line: Sandcastle Water Park
Sandcastle Water Park might not have the firepower, but it has staying power. They've been around since 1989 and located on almost 70 acres along the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh.
Fittingly, it's the location of a former U.S. Steel factory. Sandcastle used to have additional attractions like mini-golf and go-karts, which were bulldozed over the years to make way for more water rides.
18. Kalahari Resort: Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Craziest thrill ride: Master Blaster. The biggest indicator of how great (or crazy) this ride is going to be is the fact you have to get in an actual raft to ride this great water coaster. Almost 600 feet of awesomeness.
Bottom Line: Kalahari Resort
The Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells is an African-themed water park that makes a mint off of also being a lodge. They want you to come and stay for a few days.
It's also one of the few water parks that's exclusively indoors to make this list. It was the largest indoor water park in the country until another Kalahari Resort opened in 2007.
17. Water World: Federal Heights, Colorado
Craziest thrill ride: Voyage to the Center of the Earth, which we know isn't the scariest ride at Water World but is definitely the coolest. You'll get to experience a bunch of different things on this ride, including a cave, drops and slides built in. Oh, there's also dinosaurs.
Bottom Line: Water World
The heat in the Denver area during the summer can be oppressive, making Water World one of the most popular places to visit.
The park has everything you can think of, including 52 total water-based attractions with two wave pools, a boogie board pool and slides that will make you dizzy.
We can't underscore how massively popular Water World is for the Denver metro population — almost 3 million people.
16. Big Rivers Waterpark: New Caney, Texas
Craziest thrill ride: Pecos Plunge. You can only go one person at a time, and the main thing you need to know is you'll drop seven stories straight down.
Bottom Line: Big Rivers Waterpark
When we think of Big Rivers Waterpark, we need to consider the bigger picture as well. It's been open since 2017 and is awesome on its own, but will hit another level in summer 2023 when it becomes part of the larger, Grand Texas Theme Park.
Until then, you can lose yourself for a day at Big Rivers, including a next-level, American Ninja-warrior style obstacle course.
15. Splashin' Safari Water Park: Santa Claus, Indiana
Craziest thrill ride: Bakuli. You can't even ride it by yourself or if you have any kind of pre-existing medical condition. Which probably tells you all you need to know.
Bottom Line: Splashin' Safari Water Park
The next time you're in good 'ol Santa Claus, Indiana, on a really hot day, head to Splashin' Safari.
The water park was added to Holiday World in 1993, making for a dual amusement park and water park experience. Splashin' Safari just opened the Cheetah Chase ride in 2020.
You can't beat water coasters duking it out.
14. Cowabunga Bay Water Park: Draper, Utah
Craziest thrill ride: Mondo, where you'll shoot through approximately 800 feet of darkness. So maybe start with the Hang 5 or Hang 10 rides first?
Bottom Line: Cowabunga Bay Water Park
We'll give it up for the only water park from Utah to make the list. They took a big swing, and it worked.
Cowabunga Bay has also expanded to Las Vegas, and even though it's located in Draper, Utah, that's just a suburb of Salt Lake City.
Cowabunga Bay opens again in Draper on May 28, 2021, but good luck finding a ticket, which seems to be a hurdle for a lot of the water parks on this list.
13. Legoland Water Park: Carlsbad, California
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.
Bottom Line: Legoland Water Park
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.
12. Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark: Tannersville, Pennsylvania
Craziest thrill ride: Highnoon Typhoon, a new four-person funnel ride perched six stories up.
Bottom Line: Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark
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 water parks. 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.
11. Aquatica Orlando: Orlando, Florida
Craziest thrill ride: Ray Rush, named the best new water-park ride by "Amusement Today" in 2018. 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.
Bottom Line: Aquatica Orlando
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.
10. Water Country USA: Williamsburg, Virginia
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 opened in 2019.
Bottom Line: Water Country USA
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.
9. Knott's Soak City Water Park: Buena Park, California
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.
Bottom Line: Knott's Soak City Water Park
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
- Three-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.
8. Silver Dollar City's White Water: Branson, Missouri
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.
Bottom Line: Silver Dollar City's White Water
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.
7. The Boardwalk at Hersheypark: Hershey, Pennsylvania
Craziest thrill ride: Breakers Edge, featuring high-speed tunnels and g-force curves, which can reach speeds of up to 20 feet per second.
Bottom Line: The Boardwalk at Hershey Park
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, 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.
6. Noah's Ark Waterpark: Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
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.
Bottom Line: Noah's Ark Waterpark
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.
5. Dollywood Splash Country: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
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.
Bottom Line: Dollywood Splash Country
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.
4. Disney's Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon: Orlando, Florida
Craziest thrill ride: Humunga Kowabunga at Typhoon Lagoon. Though it drops you just five stories, that drop is done in the dark.
Bottom Line: Disney's Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon
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.
3. Cedar Point Shores Waterpark: Sandusky, Ohio
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.
Bottom Line: Cedar Point Shores Waterpark
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.
2. Schlitterbahn Waterpark: New Braunfels, Texas
Craziest thrill ride: Galveston Island's record-busting Infinity Racers. From eight stories up, travel 696 feet through tunnels with special lighting effects inside.
Bottom Line:Schlitterbahn Waterpark
"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.
In 2019, the Galveston Island park broke records, too, when its Infinity Racers became 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.
1. Universal's Volcano Bay: Orlando, Florida
Craziest thrill ride: Ko’okiri Body Plunge, a fast-and-loose free fall that drops you 125 feet in just 30 seconds.
Bottom Line: Universal's Volcano Bay
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.