Sure, all water parks are geared to families. Some of them specialize in toned-down slides and water play structures that are specifically designed for young children. Others feature uphill water coasters, funnel rides, and other thrilling attractions that daredevil teens would enjoy. To please visitors of all ages, many parks try to offer a mix of things to do.
But which water parks have features that target adults? We’ve traveled far and wide, hurled ourselves down countless water slides, and endured wrinkly, prune-like fingers in pursuit of parkdom’s best bars, spas, and lazy rivers.
One of the most relaxing things to do at a water park is to float around in a lazy river. The name itself—lazy river—conjures tranquility and calm, doesn’t it? In our estimation, Typhoon Lagoon has the best—and perhaps laziest—lazy river.
Called Castaway Creek, it encircles the property, and at 2,100 feet is among the longest lazy rivers at any water park. With its lush, tropical landscaping, Typhoon Lagoon offers a stunning setting, and just may be the industry’s most beautiful water park. Its lazy river is a lovely way to merrily mosey along amid the idyllic splendor.
Sloth may be one of the seven deadly sins and something to generally avoid in everyday life. But when you are on vacation at Disney World, sloth, in the form of Typhoon Lagoon’s lazy river, is heavenly.
Sloth, take two. When even the lazy river is too taxing, many water parks offer repose in their spas.
Indoor water parks almost always include spas. And some, like the Kalahari in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, feature spas that begin inside the park and extend outside the building. There may be few things more refreshing and just plain enjoyable than to enjoy the contrasting sensations of an indoor-to-outdoor spa.
Picture the scene: It is a frigid day in the Poconos. Kalahari’s climate-controlled, indoor water park is a pleasant 73 degrees as you enter the spa. After acclimating to the intense heat of the water, you slip under a barrier and exit into the outdoor portion of the spa. With the wind chill factor, it is well below freezing, and you can see your breath as you exhale in the cold breeze. A gentle snow is falling, and flakes are landing on your head. But you are submerged from the neck down in the warming embrace of the spa. It is a water park nirvana.
If you like to indulge in adult beverages, some water parks offer a cool feature: the swim-up bar. Among the best is Margarita’s, the indoor swim-up bar at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells.
Instead of having one park, the sprawling Wilderness, one of the largest indoor water park resorts in the world, offers multiple parks spread across its campus. Margarita’s is located inside the Wild WaterDome indoor waterpark. Whenever the mood strikes you, you could enter the 1,400-square-foot indoor/outdoor pool, belly up to the bar (literally), and order your choice of beer, wine, or specialty drinks. As you might expect, margaritas are on the menu.
If you have discerning taste and enjoy indulging in things that are not readily available to everyone, consider heading to Perfect Day at CocoCay. There’s only one way to get to the exclusive Bahamian island: aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise.
Many cruise lines have private islands, and some of them offer water park attractions. But Perfect Day at CocoCay features a vast, thrill-packed water park, complete with 21 water slides. Among them is the 135-foot-tall Daredevil Peak, one of the tallest water slides in the world. There is also a swim-up bar, a huge wave pool, and a helium balloon that takes visitors up 450 feet in the air.
You’ve lazed along the lazy river. Then you plopped into the spa. If you're still not relaxed enough, how about catching some shut-eye on a hammock or reclining chair in a private cabana? You'll have to pay extra for the exclusivity, but oh, the tranquility.
Among the most lovely water park cabanas are those offered at Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando. One- and two-story units are available. All come equipped with a stocked refrigerator, a fruit and snack basket, a concierge at your beck and call, and, most importantly, cushy lounge chairs. Let the world pass you by (or at least the folks floating by in the park’s Kopiko Wai Winding River) as you snooze in serene slumber.
If you are all about getting the most value for your Benjamins, check out Splashin’ Safari. Not only is it one of the country’s biggest and best water parks, but it is included with admission to the adjacent Holiday World theme park (which is one of the country’s most wonderful regional theme parks in its own right).
How big is Splashin’ Safari? It includes two wave pools, and not one, not two, but three water coasters, two of which are the longest rides of their kind in the world. Not only do you get two full-featured parks for the price of one, but Holiday World also tosses in free parking, free sunscreen, and—get this—free soft drinks.
Do you crave thrills? Of the parks at Walt Disney World, which one would get your pulse racing the most? Disney's Hollywood Studios for the Rock' n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith or The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror? Disney's Animal Kingdom for Expedition Everest? The Magic Kingdom for Space Mountain? (Fun fact: Despite its reputation for thrills, the classic indoor coaster only reaches a top speed of 27 miles per hour.) Nope, nope, and nope.
In our estimation, the most thrilling attraction at Disney World is at the resort's other water park, Blizzard Beach. With speeds up to 60 mph and at a daunting height of 120 feet, Summit Plummet will take your breath away as you nudge yourself over its edge. It is is one of the world's tallest, fastest water slides.