Theme parks and water parks used to be separate entities. If you wanted to ride coasters and carousels, you went to the theme park; if you craved water slide fun and relief from the heat, you headed to the water park. The idea of combining the two concepts seemed crazy. (But not that crazy. After all, water frolickers have been riding coasters at traditional seaside and lakeside amusement parks for years.)
Today, you had better bring along your bathing suit, since most theme parks offer onsite water parks. The following are the best water parks that are included in admission at North American theme parks.
Splash Works Water Park at Canada's Wonderland
Location: Maple, Ontario, Canada, just outside Toronto
Summers may be relatively fleeting in the Great White North, but Canada's Wonderland offers some great wet, summer fun with a full complement of slides and water park attractions at Splash Works. Highlights include the Barracuda Blaster bowl ride, the Super Soaker family raft ride, and the enclosed Black Hole speed slide.
SplashTown at Darien Lake
Location: Darien Center, New York (between Buffalo and Rochester)
After a major expansion in 2010, SplashTown at Darien Lake got the capacity and rides to qualify as a major water park. Among SplashTown's features are the Tornado funnel ride, the huge Big Kahuna family raft ride, the 'Cuda Bay and Swirl City slide towers, the Crocodile Isle wave pool, and Hook's Lagoon, an interactive water play area for the young kiddos.
Aquatica at SeaWorld San Antonio
Location: San Antonio, Texas
In 2012, SeaWorld expanded its existing water park and lavishly re-themed it with a South Seas overlay as Aquatica. In addition to the usual slides and other water park rides, the park integrates animal exhibits. It's not as large as the standalone Aquatica at SeaWorld Orlando, but the Texas park is included with admission to the marine life park, and it is lushly landscaped.
Location: Langhorne (near Philadelphia), Pennsylvania
Who knew there was water park fun along Sesame Street? Sesame Place offers a good collection of water slides and other water park attractions, including The Count's Splash Castle, Big Bird's Rambling River, the family raft ride Sky Splash, and a mini wave pool that's ideal for mini guests.
Hurricane Harbor at Six Flags New England
Location: Six Flags New England in Agawam, Massachusetts.
An enormous and attraction-packed water park, Hurricane Harbor features the Tornado funnel ride, the Typhoon water coaster, Commotion Ocean and Monsoon Lagoon wave pools, three different family raft rides, Hook's Lagoon, an interactive water play area for young kiddos, and the usual water park complement of water slides. Best of all, like all of the water theme parks listed here, the water park is included in the general admission price to Six Flags New England.
Splashin' Safari at Holiday World
Location: Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana.
Opened in 1993, Splashin' Safari was one of the earlier waterparks built next to an existing theme park. Today, it is among the best and biggest parks even when compared to standalone water parks. Highlights include the Wildebeest water coaster and the ZOOMbabwe family raft ride as well as a gaggle of other slides and attractions.
Hurricane Harbor at Six Flags Great America
Location: Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois (near Chicago).
A huge tropical-themed water park, Hurricane Harbor features Skull Island, an enormous interactive water play structure. It also offers a funnel ride, body slides, wave pool, tube slides, speed slides, lazy river, family raft ride, and mat racing slides. (Note that I cheated a bit on this one. Six Flags now charges a small extra fee to enter Hurricane Harbor.)