From the tony Hamptons to the boardwalk-adorned Jones Beach, there's no shortage of water and ways to get wet on New York's Long Island. But smack in the middle of the island, miles from any beach, is a man-made oasis that's teeming with water worshippers in search of some major splashage.
Splish Splash, just off of the Long Island Expressway in Riverhead, regularly shows up on lists of best water parks by the likes of The Travel Channel. And it's no wonder why. With slides and water rides of nearly every type, the park aims to please splashers of all ages, abilities, and thrill thresholds. But what sets Splish Splash apart is the inviting, fun atmosphere it creates with its thick canopy of trees, lovely landscaping, friendly and attentive staff, and unique attractions.
Where's the Park?
From the highway, Splish Splash maintains a low profile. Except for a glimpse of the Cliff Diver's (an enormous speed slide) climbing tower poking through the treetops, you'd never know the park was there. That's because its developers have wisely retained much of the foliage, and it camouflages the park. Compared to the concrete jungles of many water parks, Splish Splash is a shady haven.
The low profile continues as a generic "Water Park" sign directs vehicles onto the property and a low-key Splish Splash sign welcomes them. Once inside the parking lot, however, the nearly 100-acre property's grand scale takes hold. Built to accommodate a deluge of visitors, Splish Splash offers tram service to shuttle carloads from the lot's hinterlands to the main gate.
Within the park, even on a jam-packed day, there are enough attractions spread throughout its densely wooded layout to help soften a sense of overcrowding. And Splish Splash offers a ton of lounge chairs in shady areas. To its credit, the water park is one of the few I've visited where most of the chairs haven't been claimed by mid-morning.
Most of the attractions have enough capacity to keep lines moving at a reasonable clip. (Be prepared for loooong waits on the popular Dragon's Den bowl ride and the Giant Twister body slides, however.) If you are wondering what a bowl ride is, check out my article, "10 Types of Crazy Water Park Rides."
Among the more unique slides is Shotgun Falls. A deceptively simple, yet wildly fun attraction, two short, steep slides drop riders a few feet above the water where they momentarily hang before kerplunking in the pool. It's one of those rides where people get out and run right back into line. The park's family raft ride, Mammoth River, is especially tame; even the wimpiest of adults and the smallest (minimum height is 36 inches) family members should be able to handle it. Adrenaline-seekers can check out the Hollywood Stunt Rider, a family raft ride in a steep, completely dark tube.
Splish Splash also offers enclosed tube and body slides, the smaller Max Trax speed slides for those who get squeamish just looking at Cliff Diver, and a gaggle of attractions for the young'uns. Monsoon Lagoon is the park's interactive water play structure. It features a galleon-themed bucket that periodically dumps a load of water to the delighted squeals of its soaked victims.
Lazy, Wavy River
The Lazy River is particularly lazy -- and particularly delightful. In a display of Splish Splash's attention to detail, instead of the anarchy that prevails at most lazy rivers, attendants help guests board the single- and double-rider tubes in an orderly fashion. The first half of the ride meanders under and through some fountains and other gotchas. For the second half, riders merrily bounce in a channel of gentle waves. And speaking of waves, the park's Surf City wave pool accommodates a huge posse of body surfers.
There is a lot of downtime between surf cycles, however. Why is it that water parks often program their wave pools for such long and frequent waveless periods? Aren't guests there to have fun in the waves?
The food at Splish Splash is mostly typical water park fare (read: greasy fast food), although one stand does offer salads, wraps, yogurt, and other options. (On the busy day I visited however, hardly anybody was chowing down on the healthier items -- at least the line for that stand was short.) In a nod to its younger guests, the park offers "uncrustable" peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. What a great idea! Parents were just going to break off the crust and throw it out anyway. What is it about kids and crust?
The park also offers a couple of gag-filled shows featuring a high-dive act and a trained birds performance.
If you're planning a trip to Splish Splash and you're heading to Long Island from the north, consider taking a ferry to nearby Port Washington. It'll be a great adventure and you'll bypass the frenzied NYC-area traffic.
The park is open late May through early September. Check with Splish Splash for exact operating days and hours.
Location and Directions:
The physical address is 2549 Splish Splash Drive in Calverton, New York. It is on Long Island, near Riverhead. From NYC, Nassau, or Western Suffolk, take the Long Island Expressway East to Exit 72 W. Take the West ramp, turn left at the first traffic light onto Splish Splash Drive.
Reduced price for children (under 48") seniors (62+), and guests with disabilities. Ages 3 and under are free. Reduced rates for guests arriving 3 hours before closing. Season passes and group rates are available. Special promotions may be available online at the park's Web site. Parking is additional.
A gaggle of nearly every type of water slide imaginable, including speed slides, enclosed slides, a funnel ride, a bowl ride, plus a lazy river, wave pool, lots of activities for small children, an interactive water play area, and shows.