An exciting way to cool down.
When a week at the beach isn’t in the budget or schedule, look towards the other summer activity that cools you down while submerging you in a day of fun. Water parks can be found across the U.S., meaning a dip in the water or a trip down the slide could just be an hour’s drive away.
We’re rounding up the best waterparks in the U.S.—from family-friendly to thrilling—for an easy getaway and day-long cooldown.
WHERE: Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
The Dells are famous for their waterparks which, because of indoor-outdoor options, are able to be visited year-round. With that said, there’s really no better time to visit the famous Kalahari waterpark than in summer when you can take full advantage of the outdoor options, where you’ll find several of the more exciting slides. Kalahari is also the area’s largest indoor option (perfect for the heat-sensitive of sunburn prone) with a number of slides, a lazy river, and a surf experience all located under the resort’s roof.
Holiday World Splashin’ Safari
WHERE: Santa Claus, Indiana
Splashin’ Safari is part of the larger Holiday World, a holiday theme park in southern Indiana. Spend your mornings riding the park’s famous Voyage coaster—one of the longest wooden rollercoasters in the world—and spend your afternoon exploring the destination’s popular water park. Here you can partake in the classics, like the wave pool or tubed slides, or you can try something new—this park has the world’s longest water coaster.
INSIDER TIPA truly family-friendly park, Holiday World provides sunscreen and free drinks to all visitors.
WHERE: New Braunfels, Texas
If you’re looking for something that pleases both kids and thrill-seekers in Texas, there are few places better than Schlitterbahn Waterpark in New Braunfels. This park has been around since 1979, offering the same charm that attracted visitors 40-plus years ago with new and improved rides. Blastenhoff Beach and Downhill Race are perfect for those looking for more excitement while the Congo River Expedition and the alcohol-friendly, heated Boogie Bay Pool are where you head for a moment of relaxation—yes, it’s possible even in a waterpark.
Mountain Creek Waterpark
WHERE: Vernon, New Jersey
Most waterpark’s main attractions are the slides and pools, but at Mountain Creek Waterpark, you can count the view into reasons why you need to plan a visit. Located among green, mountain foliage, this waterpark feels like it’s truly part of its surrounding environment. Rogue and Colorado River are slides built into the mountain while Bombs Away sends you down a cliff where you drop into the pool below. Zero-G has riders reaching 50 MPH and Canyon Cliff Jump gives you a chance to do a little cliff-diving into blue waters without a trip to Hawaii.
WHERE: Orlando, Florida
Fodor’s writer Tarah Chieffi recently went to this Universal waterpark to see how this popular attraction has pivoted post-COVID, and the consensus? It’s pretty remarkable. Slides jut out of the volcano and the surrounding blue waters transport you to locations far from Orlando. For something a bit more relaxed, there’s also the option to rent a cabana, which makes social distancing (and a moment away from the adventures) even more achievable.
WHERE: Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Just outside of Orlando is Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. Unsurprisingly, the city known for theme parks that go above and beyond, you’ll find another incredible waterpark. This massive park has the country’s largest wave pool, a thrilling white water rafting-inspired slide, and a lazy river that transports you from central Florida to a shady grotto with a rainforest design surrounding you.
Aquatica, San Diego
WHERE: San Diego, California
If you prefer chlorine to saltwater, this waterpark in sunny San Diego is the perfect beach break. Here you’ll find variations of the traditional waterslides you’ve always loved as well as wave pools, lazy rivers, and kid-friendly parks. It’s where you spend your San Diego day if you’re burnt out of the ocean or just looking for something a little less dangerous (but just as thrilling) as dodging surfers.