Fodor’s Travel

The 9 Best Water Parks in the U.S.

By Kristy Alpert

Across the country, water parks featuring heart-stopping attractions are breaking records and taking riders to new heights, while offering family-friendly fun that offers something for everyone.

Water parks in America offer some of the best ways to cool off when the temperatures heat up. Whether it’s a summertime treat or a year-round pursuit, wave pools, giant slides, tubing rides, and lazy rivers will keep you diving in. From heart-pounding waterslides in Wisconsin to the largest indoor waterpark in America, soak in these aquatic thrills at the best water parks in the U.S.

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Noah’s Ark 

WHERE: Wisconsin Dells 

As the nation’s largest water park, Noah’s Ark in the Wisconsin Dells lives up to its title with an overwhelming assortment of water rides. With more than 50 slides, two wave pools, and a surfing simulator, Surfing Safari, Noah’s Ark offers something for the whole family. Thrill-seekers head to Noah’s Ark for its extreme rides including the Scorpion’s Tail, which sends riders down a near-vertical slide into an inclined loop. Be sure to check out the Black Anaconda as well, touted as America’s most thrilling water coaster, which clips riders through the dizzying course at speeds up to 30 mph.

INSIDER TIPAfter working up an appetite exploring Noah’s Ark, head over to The Dell’s best burger joint, Monk’s Bar & Grill. No trip to Wisconsin is complete without indulging in the local staple of cheese curds, and Monk’s offers some of the finest. Be sure to ask for extra dipping sauces!

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Schlitterbahn Kansas City Waterpark 

WHERE: Kansas City, Kansas 

The 42-foot tall tower at Schlitterbahn Kansas City Waterpark has not one water slide, but three pouring out from its perch high above this Kansas City water park. For those looking to stay closer to sea level, Schlitterbahn offers the turbulent Torrent River, the chilled out Boogie Bay, and the slow-flowing Kristal River.

INSIDER TIPSeek out the swim-up bar for the chance to relax in the heated pool while enjoying your favorite refreshment.

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Splashin’ Safari 

WHERE: Santa Claus, Indiana 

When the Cheetah Chase water coaster opens in 2020 in Indiana, Splashin’ Safari will be home to the ultimate trifecta of water coasters. The ride will be the world’s first launched water coaster, blasting riders uphill to 27 feet at top speeds of 20 miles per hour. The ride will join the park’s already famous lineup of coasters, Mammoth and Wildebeest just two of the prized rides that lend Splashin’ Safari its reputation.

INSIDER TIPSplashin’ Safari features fireworks on Fridays during the summer, the perfect way to end your day in the sun with a boom.

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Water World 

WHERE: Denver, Colorado 

With nearly 40 aquatic attractions, Water World in Denver is enormous. The Mile High Flyer, a water coaster, is one of the park’s star attractions for its speed and intensity. The Storm is a unique take on a raft ride as riders zoom down a pitch-dark tube themed to recreate a storm. With loud thunder, flashes of lightning, and of course, rain, let Mother Nature delightfully disorient you. If speed piques your interest, be sure to step up to the Turbo Racer, an eight-across slide competition that ends each bout with an announcement of the winner

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Silver Dollar City’s White Water Park 

WHERE: Branson, Missouri 

While smaller than some of the other parks on this list, Silver Dollar City’s White Water Park in Branson, Missouri, makes up for its size with its well-organized, family-centered park. KaPau Plummet is a dueling drop-floor slide that plunges riders down at 70 degrees into an unyielding turn. For attractions that all ages can enjoy, check out the Splashaway Cay with geysers and aqua shooters all housed in a fort with elevated walkways and slides.

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Water Country USA 

WHERE: Williamsburg, Virginia 

Water Country USA stands as one of the best themed, well-maintained parks in the country. The park is home to the brand new Cutback Water Coaster and the nation’s first-ever funnel-and-wave raft experience, the Colossal Curl. Experience weightlessness as the raft races down a hill only to go right back up on a giant inclined wall. Grab three friends and head to the fast-and-furious Aquazoid. Another raft ride, this one is an enclosed, dark experience that harbors a few splash surprises.

INSIDER TIPWhile in Williamsburg for Water Country USA, be sure to head down the road to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, home to some of the most thrilling roller coasters on the East Coast, including Verbolten.

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Big Rivers Waterpark & Adventures 

WHERE: Houston, Texas 

Big Rivers Waterpark & Adventures is big, even by Texan standards. This 80-acre water and adventure park is nestled within the grounds of a 632-acre amusement park in New Caney just 30 minutes outside of Houston. Drop seven slippery stories down the Pecos Plunge before heading to the Gator Splash, Texas’ largest interactive play structure, where more than 300 watery adventures await.

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Dollywood’s Splash Country 

WHERE: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee 

Each of the 35 acres of Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Adventure Park is dripping with fun for the entire family. The park is home to Tennessee’s first-and-only water coaster, RiverRush, where four drops and hairpin turns through dark tunnels have made the coaster a fan favorite. The Big Bear Plunge is a white water rafting slide that simulates the challenges of a real river expedition. Reaching the highest heights, Fire Towel Falls is a terrifying twin slide drop from 70 feet.

INSIDER TIPDollywood also offers up an incomparable theme park for the whole family. With America’s first wing coaster, Wild Eagle, as well as the Mystery Mine steel coaster that explores an abandoned coal mine, the theme park is well worth a visit.

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Kalahari Resort 

WHERE: Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin 

Open rain or shine, the 125,000-square-foot indoor water park at the Kalahari Resort is simply palatial. Head straight to the Sahara Sidewinders for the thrill of a lifetime as you enter an enclosed capsule seconds before the floor drops out. Learn how to surf alongside the best with Kalahari’s powerful Flowrider, a surf simulator that pumps 50,000 gallons of water under you every minute, creating what feels like a five-foot ocean wave.

So get excited for next summer’s getaway with tips for how to save!