The 30 Best Water Parks in the USA

Stay cool on a hot day at America's top indoor and outdoor water parks.

By Kyle McCarthy, ContributorJune 28, 2018
By Kyle McCarthy, ContributorJune 28, 2018, at 9:00 a.m.
View all in one page
3 of 31
Cowabunga Bay Watar Park in Draper, Utah is one of the best water parks in the USA
Credit

(Getty Images)

Cowabunga Bay Water Park: Draper, Utah

Sitting less than 20 miles south of Salt Lake City, this 1960s-themed water park is decorated with surfboards, sandcastles and a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle water feature. At the park's elaborate water playground, kids have access to bridges and tunnels that span 12 levels, as well as 300-plus water toys and a 1,500-gallon dump bucket. While older children twist through the 1,000-foot-long Mondo waterslide in the dark, little ones can lounge at Cowabunga Beach or enjoy Cowabunga Kid's Cove's smaller slides.
Sandcastle Waterpark in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is one of the best water parks in the USA
Credit

(Courtesy of Sandcastle Waterpark)

Sandcastle Waterpark: Pittsburgh

This wooded Pittsburgh oasis is a nostalgic treat. Though the main attractions at this former railroad yard are its 15 waterslides, the property also features a wave pool, a lazy river, a pool with a mushroom-shaped waterfall, and shallow play areas for young ones. Plus, family-friendly games, activities and more are available every Friday from mid-June to mid-August. Come for lounging, heart-pumping fun and bingeing on loaded Potato Patch fries – a local specialty.
Next:
Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida is one of the best water parks in the USA
Credit

(Courtesy of SeaWorld)

Discovery Cove: Orlando, Florida

A tropics-themed water park designed by SeaWorld, Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort where visitors interact with and learn about marine life. Change into swimwear and join a trainer to swim with dolphins (a premium, must-try activity), feed rays and tropical fish, and tour a screened-in aviary with exotic birds. Most activities and all meals and drinks are included in the $170 per person standard admission rate.
Next:

Whether you want to enjoy a big splash or a relaxing float, these water-focused resorts and amusement parks offer ample facilities to keep you entertained.

America's 309,000 public swimming pools have whet the national appetite for all sorts of summertime water play. Today's water park attractions range from towering slides to sandy spots to lazy rivers, delighting thrill-seekers and sunbathers alike. To safely enjoy the country's top water parks, pack sunblock, towels and bathing suits, and take advantage of available life jackets. It's splash time!

Discovery Cove: Orlando, Florida

A tropics-themed water park designed by SeaWorld, Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort where visitors interact with and learn about marine life. Change into swimwear and join a trainer to swim with dolphins (a premium, must-try activity), feed rays and tropical fish, and tour a screened-in aviary with exotic birds. Most activities and all meals and drinks are included in the $170 per person standard admission rate.

Cowabunga Bay Water Park: Draper, Utah

Sitting less than 20 miles south of Salt Lake City, this 1960s-themed water park is decorated with surfboards, sandcastles and a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle water feature. At the park's elaborate water playground, kids have access to bridges and tunnels that span 12 levels, as well as 300-plus water toys and a 1,500-gallon dump bucket. While older children twist through the 1,000-foot-long Mondo waterslide in the dark, little ones can lounge at Cowabunga Beach or enjoy Cowabunga Kid's Cove's smaller slides.

Sandcastle Waterpark: Pittsburgh

This wooded Pittsburgh oasis is a nostalgic treat. Though the main attractions at this former railroad yard are its 15 waterslides, the property also features a wave pool, a lazy river, a pool with a mushroom-shaped waterfall, and shallow play areas for young ones. Plus, family-friendly games, activities and more are available every Friday from mid-June to mid-August. Come for lounging, heart-pumping fun and bingeing on loaded Potato Patch fries – a local specialty.

Noah's Ark Waterpark: Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Located in Wisconsin Dells, the "Water Park Capital of the World," the 70-acre Noah's Ark Waterpark is home to more than 50 attractions, including the Flash Flood flume ride and a 4D dive-in theater that engages all the senses. This innovative park's latest thrill is the side-by-side tube racer, Raja, which sends riders speeding around 335 feet of track before they plunge 37 feet into the mouth of a king cobra.

Water World: Federal Heights, Colorado

One of America's largest water parks, this 70-acre park, which sits approximately 10 miles north of Denver, features 50 attractions, including a circus-inspired lazy river and the Thunder Bay Wave Pool. Children may also have the opportunity to meet the park's walrus mascot when they're not zipping down slides or playing in the pirate-themed water playground. Plus, families have access to free parking, complimentary admission for kids shorter than 40 inches, and reduced rates for seniors.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort New Braunfels: New Braunfels, Texas

When owners Bob and Billye Henry added a replica German guard tower with four waterslides to their riverfront resort near San Antonio in 1979, they started what would become one of America's most well-known water park chains. The first of five indoor and outdoor water park resorts, New Braunfels' Schlitterbahn features 51 German-themed attractions, including the Kinderhaven wading pool, a castle with eight tube chutes, and the thrilling Master Blaster uphill water coaster.

Legoland Water Park: Carlsbad, California

Young builders will love this park's Lego-themed rides, slides and splash pads. Kids can even customize rafts for the lazy river using soft Lego bricks. Cartoon Network fans will especially appreciate the Lego Legends of Chima section that's based on the popular kids television show. Noteworthy features of this area include a spot for kids to design, build and race boats, and the Lion Temple Wave Pool's arch, which is made of more than 260,000 Legos.

Disney's Blizzard Beach: Orlando, Florida

Take 66 acres resembling a failed ski resort, add a snow-capped Mount Gushmore, sprinkle some pixie dust and enjoy endless thrills at one of two Walt Disney World Resort water parks. Older kids will love the 120-foot-tall Summit Plummet waterslide, which drops riders 350 feet at speeds of up to 55 mph. From the Tike's Peak toddler play area to the world's longest multipassenger whitewater raft ride, there's an attraction for every member of the family.

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor: Jackson, New Jersey

This massive tropics-themed water park sits about 55 miles northeast of Philadelphia. Just as the adjacent Six Flags Great Adventure theme park is known for big coasters, the 45-acre Six Flags Hurricane Harbor (which is one of several in the country) is popular with water lovers. It features more than 25 thrill slides, including the multilane Big Wave Racer and Tornado, which boasts a 60-foot-wide funnel. Additionally, visitors will find a 1 million-gallon wave pool, a nearly half-mile-long lazy river and the family-friendly Caribbean Cove water playground.

Raging Waters Los Angeles: San Dimas, California

Raging Waters features three California water parks, but its most impressive is Raging Waters Los Angeles. Situated less than 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, this water park is the state's largest. It's home to a FlowRider surf simulator, a seven-story drop slide and Aqua Rocket, a four-person hydromagnetic water coaster, among other attractions. If you'd rather chill during your visit, check out the quarter-mile-long lazy river.

Darien Lake Splashtown: Darien Center, New York

Situated roughly 45 miles southeast of Niagara Falls, this 10-acre water park is part of the Darien Lake amusement park complex, which has entertained families seasonally for more than 50 years. Splashtown offers seven slides, such as the 70-foot-tall Brain Drain and 700-foot-long Big Kahuna. In addition to slides, visitors can float in the heated lazy river, play in the pirate-themed water playground and splash around in the 600,000-gallon wave pool. The property also features a hotel, cabins and campsites.

Universal's Volcano Bay: Orlando

Opened in May 2017, Universal's Volcano Bay was designed around the idea of a volcano created by the mythical god Krakatau and the Waturi tribes who found it. Admission covers access to nearly 20 rides, plus a waterproof TapuTapu wristband, which guests can use to book rides, report wait times, pay for meals and open lockers. The wristband also triggers park cameras, sprayers at Tot Tiki Reef and special effects in the volcano's caves.

Silver Dollar City's White Water: Branson, Missouri

Branson is all about country music and family-friendly fun. One of the city's most thrilling attractions is this 13-acre water park, which features rides like KaPau Plummet, a dual-slide option that begins with a plunge through a drop floor, and the four-lane Kalani Towers Mat Racer. If little ones are in tow, drift in a tube in the Aloha River or splash around in the 20,000-square-foot water playground.

Wilderness at the Smokies: Sevierville, Tennessee

This family resort just north of Great Smoky Mountains National Park combines lodging with a recreation center and indoor and outdoor water parks. At the three water parks, guests have access to 17 waterslides, nine pools and multiple rides. Lake Wilderness Outdoor Waterpark and its array of slides is a must for teens during the summer months, while Salamander Springs Outdoor Waterpark offers an activity pool, a four-level play structure and a zero-entry pool with toddler swings for families with younger kids.

Adventure Island: Tampa, Florida

Within walking distance of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is the 30-acre Adventure Island water park. Offering mat-racing slides, corkscrews, a lazy river and more, all with Key West-inspired decor, this outdoor water park gives you plenty of ways to cool off on a hot Florida day. If you'd rather work up a sweat, challenge your clan to a game in the championship sand volleyball complex.

Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Part of Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, this family lodge sits on relaxing wooded grounds and boasts amenities like a championship golf course, an arcade and Moose Mountain Falls, a 50,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor water park. Overnight guests get four complimentary passes to the facility's twisting slides, lazy river and heated pool. Kids will especially love climbing ropes at the activity pool and riding Avalanche Falls, which plays various songs as riders zip past colored lights.

Cedar Point Shores Waterpark: Sandusky, Ohio

Overlooking Lake Erie from a stretch of shoreline that's hosted beachgoers since 1870, Cedar Point Shores Waterpark features both baby rides and exciting slides. The park's 17 water attractions range from the extreme Point Plummet body slide to a toddler zone named after the lake's mythical monster. For even more aquatic thrills, families can play in Lakeslide Landing, which is home to a dozen miniature slides.

Big Kahuna's Water and Adventure Park: Destin, Florida

Don't expect big waves on Florida's Gulf Coast – the warm, calm water is often why travelers visit. But if you're itching to hang 10 during your vacation, head to Destin's Big Kahuna's Water and Adventure Park. At this water park, you'll find the Honolulu Half Pipe, a surf simulator that you can ride with a bodyboard or flowboard. The property also offers more than 40 rides, slides and attractions should you want to do more than just surf.

Kalahari Resorts & Conventions Wisconsin Dells: Wisconsin Dells

This Africa-themed Kalahari Resorts property (which is one of three major Kalahari parks in the country) boasts the largest indoor water park in Wisconsin. Visitors can take surfing or mermaid lessons, lounge in whirlpools, ride the Master Blaster water coaster and more. An outdoor water park, with additional rides and slides, activity pools and private bungalows, is also located on-site.

Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark: Tannersville, Pennsylvania

One of several parks that make up the Camelback Mountain resort complex, this Poconos playground offers families year-round recreation. During the summer months, travelers can take advantage of two water parks, including Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark. This outdoor facility boasts 37 attractions, plus DJ-spun tunes every weekend. To secure the best rates, opt for one of the park's vacation packages.

The Boardwalk at Hersheypark: Hershey, Pennsylvania

After sampling some Hershey's Kisses during a chocolate factory tour, head to The Boardwalk to get wet on 17 attractions. Entrance fees for this seasonal water park are covered by all Hersheypark ticket prices. Amenities you can enjoy here include a hydromagnetic water coaster and the Coal Cracker hydroflume ride. For more heart-pumping fun, compete against your friends or loved ones on Whitecap Racer, the longest mat-racing slide in the world.

Disney's Typhoon Lagoon: Orlando, Florida

A storm-damaged tropical paradise is the setting for Walt Disney World Resort's second water park. The focal point at Typhoon Lagoon is its Mount Mayday, where slides and raft rides travel through and around caves, waterfalls and rock formations. The park's huge surfing lagoon is equally impressive, measuring approximately 109,000 square feet. Meanwhile, families can't miss Ketchakiddee Creek, a water playground that boasts a child-sized whitewater rafting experience and an interactive tugboat.

Splash Island Waterpark: Valdosta, Georgia

With 10 attractions ranging from waterslides to a wave pool to designated kids areas, Splash Island Waterpark offers a variety of ways to beat the heat on warmer days. Families won't want to miss the Ohana Bay area, where parents can comfortably supervise kids from lounge chairs as they play on multiple slides. For those who desire more activities, check out the animal exhibits and roller coasters at Wild Adventures Theme Park. Two-day access to both parks is covered in standard admission.

Dollywood's Splash Country Water Park: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dolly Parton's water park, which sits around 10 miles north of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, pays tribute to local heritage and culture. Themed rides and slides include an 8,000-square-foot lagoon with interactive features like a rustic water tower and a waterfall, the wooden Bear Mountain Fire Tower play structure, and dual slides that end at a butterfly-shaped pool. If you're after an adrenaline rush, ride RiverRush, Tennessee's only water coaster.

Aquatica San Antonio: San Antonio

Located next to SeaWorld San Antonio in the heart of Texas, this park draws inspiration from the sea with white sand beaches, a powerful wave pool and Stingray Falls, where four-person rafts float through a tank of stingrays. Animal encounters with fish, birds and stingrays are also available, though extra charges may apply. No visit would be complete without experiencing the park's latest thrill, the 375-foot-long Taumata Racer mat slide.

Water Country USA: Williamsburg, Virginia

Water Country USA is easy to reach from Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and the Yorktown Battlefield should you need a break from Williamsburg's historical attractions. Noteworthy amenities include climate-controlled pools, multiple slides, Virginia's largest wave pool and the Hubba Hubba Highway, a river ride that measures 1,500 feet. What's more, guests as young as 6 months can take swim lessons, and lifeguard and babysitting classes are available for children 11 and older.

Cool Zoo: New Orleans

The coolest thing about this small water park in New Orleans is that it's inside the lushly landscaped Audubon Zoo, where families can explore exotic animals and indigenous swamp life by foot or train. Though you'll pay extra to visit the zoo's water park, you'll find instant relief from the heat in its water geysers, its pools and Gator Run, a 750-foot-long lazy river that's connected to two beaches.

Splashin' Safari: Santa Claus, Indiana

A perennial favorite among families, Splashin' Safari, which is situated roughly 75 miles west of Louisville, Kentucky, is best known for having the world's two longest water coasters, Mammoth and Wildebeest. Plus, two new attractions are available this year – the eight-slide Tembo Falls and the Tembo Tides wave pool. When you need a break from the water, visit the charming Christmas-themed amusement park Holiday World that's located next door. Ticket prices include access to both parks.

Wet 'n' Wild SplashTown: Houston

In a state where water park competition is fierce, Wet 'n' Wild SplashTown, one of the brand's many parks, has flourished by updating and expanding its offerings. The latest ride to open here is the six-story Alien Chaser, which takes two riders through dark tunnels and around alien-themed saucers. Other options include the Big Kahuna raft ride, an interactive children's section and a FlowRider. Stay until dusk on select Fridays to catch a free movie at the Wild Wave Pool.

Knott's Soak City Water Park: Buena Park, California

This Knott's Berry Farm-affiliated water park less than 6 miles west of Anaheim features 15 acres of amenities, including a lazy river and four slides that drop riders from chambers. Families will love the ocean-themed Gremmie Lagoon and the Beach House water playground, where kids can climb and splash beneath a three-story structure. The 750,000-gallon Tidal Wave Bay wave pool is another crowd favorite.
3 of 31

Kyle McCarthy, Contributor

Kyle McCarthy is the author of a dozen Frommer guidebooks, contributor to many publications, ...  Read more

Recommended

The 20 Best Michigan State Parks

Two peninsulas, four Great Lakes and innumerable natural highlights elevate Michigan's state parks.

April 18, 2019

50 Awesome Vacation Ideas for Every Type of Traveler

Consider these vacation ideas for your next getaway.

April 11, 2019

The 13 Best National Parks in California

You won't regret adding one of these national parks to your California itinerary.

April 10, 2019

10 Beautiful Places to Visit in the South of France

Plan a getaway to these special destinations to soak up culture, cuisine and quaint atmospheres.

April 8, 2019

Best Carry-on Luggage of 2019

U.S. News rated the best carry-on luggage, considering recommendations from experts and consumers.

Lyn MettlerApril 3, 2019

The 11 Best Utah National Parks to Visit

From birding to bouldering to boating, Utah's national parks have it all.

April 2, 2019

The 30 Best Zoos in the U.S.

Get an up-close look at wild creatures in natural settings at America's top animal parks.

March 28, 2019

15 Scenic Train Rides

Climb aboard these locomotives for jaw-dropping views.

March 26, 2019

13 Top Places to Visit in Tuscany, Italy

Ditch the crowded streets of Rome or Milan and head to Italy's picturesque countryside.

March 25, 2019

10 Excellent Educational Vacations for Families

Make sure your next getaway is both enjoyable and informative.

March 14, 2019