Nothing takes the edge off a hot summer day like a dip in the pool, but if you're looking for a little more excitement this summer, we have the perfect suggestion. 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. From water coasters to the country's first inclined loop on a waterslide, check out what's on tap this summer at America's best water parks.
by Zachary Laks
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 51 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 Tip: After 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!
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Wisconsin Guide
Schlitterbahn Kansas City Waterpark
WHERE: Kansas City, Kansas
Verruckt, the tallest water slide in the world is scheduled to open this summer at Schlitterbahn Kansas City Waterpark. By all accounts, there simply is nothing else like it. Having garnered incredible buzz online for its sheer height, Verruckt plummets four riders at a time on a raft down 15 stories, reaching speeds up to 70 mph. For those looking to stay closer to sea level, Schlitterbahn offers the Torrent River, the world's largest tidal wave river. Mind the rough seas as you drift through a canyon and around the colorful park.
Insider Tip: Seek out the swim-up bar for the chance to relax in the heated pool while enjoying your favorite refreshment.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Kansas Guide
WHERE: Santa Claus, Indiana
You'll surely feel your heart stop with a ride on the world's two longest water coasters, formidably dubbed Mammoth and Wildebeest, two of the prized rides that lend Splashin' Safari its reputation. Mammoth's unique six-person raft takes riders to the top of a seven-story hill before starting the course of seven drops. Gliding down facing forward, sideways or backwards, your raft spins independently making each ride unique. Wildebeest's remarkable track of underground tunnels and drops add to its clipping speed of 36 feet-per-second. With toboggan-style sleds that seat four, Wildebeest offers a comparable thrill to Mammoth.
Insider Tip: Splashin' Safari features fireworks on Fridays through August 1, the perfect way to end your day in the sun with a boom.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Indiana Guide
With nearly 40 aquatic attractions, Water World 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 lighting, 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.
Insider Tip: While in Denver, take a drive on the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, a 28-mile picturesque drive that climbs up to 14,265 feet. Gorgeous panoramic views await above up in the clouds.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Denver Guide
White Water Park
WHERE: Branson, Missouri
While smaller than some of the other parks on this list, White Water Park makes up for its size with its well-organized, family-centered park. KaPau Plummet, one of White Water's newest attractions, 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. But perhaps the best park of this park is its hours; Thursday-Saturday during July and August, attractions are open until 10 p.m.
Insider Tip: Friday nights at White Water are “Dive-In” Movie Nights, where favorite films are screened over the wave pool. This summer's line-up includes Frozen, The Little Mermaid, and E.T.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Branson Guide
Water Country USA
WHERE: Williamsburg, Virginia
Water Country USA stands as one of the best themed, well-maintained parks in the country. This year, the park welcomes 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. Next, 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 Tip: While in Williamsburg for Water Country, 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.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Williamsburg Guide
Raging Waters San Dimas
WHERE: San Dimas, California
Splash to the extreme with Raging Waters San Dimas' water slides, guaranteed to raise your heart rate. Dark Hole is a pitch-dark slide that speeds riders down in a two-seater raft, conquering a 52-foot drop. One of the fastest slides in America, the Bermuda Triangle offers three courses for riders in the dark, accelerating to 50 mph. Looking for some sun? Head to the million-gallon wave pool.
Insider Tip: Raging Waters San Dimas features exclusive cabanas for an extra fee. Escape the sun in your own private area great for relaxing and dining.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Los Angeles Guide
Dollywood’s Splash Country
WHERE: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Most recently added last season to Dollywood's Splash Country was Tennessee's first-and-only water coaster, RiverRush. Four drops and hairpin turns through dark tunnels have made RiverRush a new 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 Tip: Dollywood also offers up an incomparable theme park for the whole family. With America's first wing coaster, Wild Eagle, as well as the new Mystery Mine steel coaster that explores an abandoned coal mine, the theme park is well worth a visit.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Pigeon Forge Guide
Wet ‘n Wild
With the most multi-rider rides in the country, Wet 'n Wild Orlando was built with families in mind. The Black Hole: The Next Generation, a recent addition, is a dizzying slide that transports riders through outer space on a two-person tube. Wet 'n Wild's Disco H2O features the hits of the 70s as a four-person cloverleaf raft coasts down an enclosed disco nightclub with tunes blasting, lights, lasers, and of course, a disco ball.
Insider Tip: Wet 'n Wild is right next to Universal Orlando Resort, the mega enterprise of amusement park coasters, interactive thrill rides, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Orlando Guide
WHERE: Wisconsin Dells
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. Add this to the well-themed outdoor water park, Zambezi, and you have more than a day's worth of fun.
Insider Tip: Not far from the Wisconsin Dells in Baraboo, Wisconsin, is the Circus World Museum, birthplace of the Ringling Brothers. The museum features an inside look into the Brother's success story. Go for the history and stay for the shows, as the museum offers an array of circus performances daily.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Wisconsin Guide