Water parks are those special places that please parents and children on a hot summer's day!
More than one parent has taken hot, cranky kids to a water park, got them lathered up in sunscreen and released them - just in time to sink into a beach chair with a great book.
Whether your kids are into floating down a lazy river or hurtling down a chute on an inner tube, few places are so perfect for the entire family!
The difference between water parks often comes down to two factors - cost and distance.
The good news here is that it's the small, cheap water parks that are quite plentiful while the big expensive ones often require some quality family time in the car.
There are three main types of water parks:
- Public parks with water features such as fountains, wading pools, or splash pads are all over and inexpensive you can't beat free!
- Medium size water parks charge admission, but are not huge. They may have a few slides and other features, but probably only enough to entertain kids for a few hours. They can be indoors or outdoors and also include lakes and lagoons.
- Giant water parks are fewer in number - thanks to their size, they need more land and generally involve a long drive, but they are oh-so-worth-it for a full day of fun!
What Water Parks Offer
PUBLIC PARKS WITH WATER FEATURES
Public parks with water play areas range from a simple fountain to elaborate geysers and water cannons.
Older parks often only have wading pools or fountains. Many new playground water parks have splash pads, which are designed to eliminate standing water — it's either quickly drained off to the side of the pad or absorbed by the ground material.
Spash pads at small water parks may include one or more of the following features:
- Ground nozzles - to shoot water straight up
- Mushroom / tree showers
- Water cannons
Kids get a real kick out of the cannons and form lines to use them!
Most splash pads run on a timer. The water turns on and off at specific intervals or is controlled by a motion sensor. This can actually work on the parent's behalf — Oh look! The water's gone, time to go home!
MEDIUM WATER PARKS AND LAKES
Indoor and outdoor water parks contain numerous types of slides, flumes, water chutes or hydro slides, in addition to lazy rivers and water play areas.
Slides or tubes may be straight or curvy, with a steep or gentle gradient. Most end with the sliders plunging into a small, shallow pool. Some of these types of parks also have swimming pools on the property.
Lakes and swim lagoons are wonderful because many have a slow, sloping entry and a sand or dirt bottom. Younger kids can enjoy digging at the shore while older ones swim or splash around in chest-deep water.
GIANT WATER PARKS
The larger, more expensive water parks typically have slides designed to maximize g-force and to enhance the "fear factor".
These parks also have:
- Wave pools for floating or wave jumping
- Lazy rivers that you can float on with the help of an inner tube
- Spray grounds for water play
- Body slides where riders hit top speeds by sliding up the sides of enclosed tubes
Two types of specialty slides found in larger parks are uphill slides which use water or a conveyor belt to shoot sliders up or down and extreme slides which are straight slides with sudden near-vertical drops in the middle.
Riders on these definitely get a thrill!
What to Consider
When choosing a water park, be sure that it doesn't exceed the comfort level of you or your kids.
One ill-fated trip down the "Monster Dragon Flume of Death" for a kid who is not comfortable with water or heights and you might have to kiss your $30 admission fee good-bye.
I highly recommend going to a water park with certified lifeguards. You can never be too careful with the safety of your kids.
One of our favorite water parks is a man-made lake with a floating dock.
I often thought the lifeguards were overly picky about the people they stopped from paddling to the dock. However, after seeing their quick action in rescuing a struggling swimmer last summer, I now understand why!
Keep in mind that on the hottest days, any type of water park will be crowded. All of the umbrellas and towels begin to look the same. It is so easy for a kid to get lost in the maze of slides or to head the wrong way after a bathroom break.
Never take your eyes off your younger kids, even if the water is guarded! I have seen too many little ones accidentally knocked over by older ones running through fountains and too many tikes unintentionally pushed under water.
How to Decide
Use Great-Kids-Parks to help you find a water park that fits with both your budget and your tolerance for time in the car.
Indoors, outdoors, lakes, fountains, slides, lazy rivers - there are more water parks out there than you think. You just have to know how to find them - that's where we can help!
Select your state from the list below to find great water parks near you.California