Outdoor water parks have come a long way since 1969, when thefirst wave pool opened in Tempe, Arizona. Today’s best water parksare constantly upgrading to offer taller, faster and moreoutrageous slides and rides—as well as features that can entertainthe whole family, from little-kid splash areas to mini spas andmovie nights.
Here’s where to find this summer’s five splashiest debuts—fromnew attractions at existing big parks to totally new (or revamped)whole parks:
Aquatica San Diego
In Chula Vista, on the outskirts of SanDiego, the former Knott's Soak City got a massive marine-lifemakeover from its new owners and has emerged as the third of SeaWorld’s Aquatica parks. There are six slides, five waterattractions, and plenty of living, breathing “hosts”: You can checkout Caribbean flamingos as you float down the Loggerhead Lane lazyriver, or look at the freshwater turtles (mostly red-eared sliders)living in an amphibious habitat near the Big Surf wave pool.
Six Flags America & Six Flags NewEngland
The latest must-do ride at these Six Flags theme parks near Baltimoreand Boston, respectively, lies inside their Hurricane Harbor waterparks. Bonzai Pipelines is a 65-foot tall body waterslide complexfeaturing six freefalling, looping body slides, each beginning in alaunch chamber with a drop-hatch bottom.
Wet ‘n’ Wild Las Vegas
If there is a founding father of the water park industry it maybe Wet ’n’ Wild, which has just opened a 41-acre park outside Vegas,billing it as “Nevada’s biggest ‘n’ best.” Of the more than 25rides, the most exciting is arguably the Rattler, a four-personride with a 360-foot descent that claims to be the first of itskind in North America. During summer, you can get a discount (andneed less sunscreen) if you arrive during the evening, and watchdive-in movies every other Friday night.
Schlitterbahn Kansas City
This Missouri park is still building its wildly anticipatedMeg-A-Blaster, an uphill water coaster that promises to be theworld's tallest and fastest—topping the 65 mph,needs-no-translation “Insano” slide in Brazil. In the meantime, theTorrent Wave River, which claims to be the longest Tidal Riverattraction in the world, is no lazy ride itself: it runs 1,800 feetand features a 20,000 gallon wave (about 4 feet high) lifting youup every 19 seconds.
Six Flags Over Texas
At this big theme park located between Dallasand Fort Worth, the Hurricane Harbor water park recently introducedthe Tsunami Surge slide: a 68-foot enclosed tunnel and 40-foot waveslide that delivers a quick sensation of zero gravity before yourraft lands in the pool.
KatrinaBrown Hunt contributed this to MiniTime.com.
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