Travelling this fall? Don’t put away the swim suits and beach towels. America’s indoor water parks don’t kowtow to seasons or climate change — they’re consistent hydrotherapeutic oases with the thermostat set at 84 degrees and chlorine at 11. Shock your system with looping thrills, or zen out on a tube ride. Sometimes entertainment is at its very best when it’s “watered down.”
Kalahari Water Park, Sandusky, OH
Kalahari claims to be America’s largest indoor waterpark, and in addition to the usual array of aquatic amusements, its Texlon transparent roof means you can tan (and burn) indoors. It’s also got a 12,000 sq. ft. wavepool, two FlowRider areas for surfing and boogie boarding, a 60′ diameter bowl raft ride, an uphill water rollercoaster waterslide, mat slides, raft rides, indoor/indoor spas, and a swim-up bar.
Wings and Waves Waterpark, McMinnville, OR
It’s genius to include a water park inside the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum (though what water has to do with space and aviation is a bit bewildering). Still, science and water fun are an unbeatable combination, and while kids clamber around on the ten waterslides (ranging from slides for the little ones to slides for daredevils) and the wave pool, a children’s museum dedicated to teaching visitors about the power of water provides a little stealth education. Purchase a day pass at the museum.
Splash Lagoon, Erie, PA
Splash Lagoon’s Wild Waters Wave Pool is the largest indoor wave pool in the Eastern US; the 200,000 gallon pool rocks waves that can reach a maximum height of six feet and mixes things up with six different wave patterns. If gerbils could swim, they’d head for the Aqua Tumbler, a giant rolling ball of awesome wet and wild fun that catapults humans in an endless looping inversion. And the Shark Attack is a fast and furious slide with surprises around every turn, especially when you find yourself in a tube outside the building. Adults can escape the mayhem at Paradise Cove’s swim-up bar. Those who are water averse can try the Tree Tops Ropes Course, which climbs three stories high over the water park below.
Schlitterbahn, Galveston, TX
Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark is a 26-acre oasis of rides, water play, and relaxation. Its trademark Transportainment river system combines three unique rivers into one endless floating pleasure. The heated indoor waterpark section is open from early spring through December and boasts a dozen heated rides, including four tube slides, three body slides, two kids’ areas, the Torrent wave river, a wave pool, and a man-made surfing wave.
Great Wolf Lodge, Bloomington, MN
Open year-round, Great Wolf Lodge asserts its dominance as “the tallest water park” in the U.S. and features the country’s biggest and baddest slide, the Eagles Nest. It also has body slides, tube slides, a family raft ride, a flowrider, and two activity pools. Plus, after hours semi-private surfing lessons are available.
Avalanche Bay, Boyne Falls, MI
At 88,000 square feet, Avalanche Bay — designed to resemble a snow-covered village straight out of the Swiss alps — is Michigan’s biggest indoor water park. In addition to the slides, rides, kids pools, climbing walls, lazy river, and surf simulator, the Big Couloir, Michigan’s first ProSlide SuperLOOP, is opening in December 2013, and its launch capsule is angled 10 degrees from vertical (the steepest drop in the industry) with a trap door on the bottom. When the floor suddenly drops out, riders are propelled into the narrow enclosed tunnel and instantly accelerated to a top speed of 38 feet per second. Extra points if you yodel on the way down.
WaTiki Water Park, Rapid City, SD
Open year-round, WaTiki is the largest indoor water park in the Dakotas, with 30,000 square feet of pools and slides. An expansion, already in progress, is set to more than double the facility’s size, and includes an above-pool projection screen, a high-flying zipline, a banzai slide, and an aqualoop. Call 1-877-545-2897 for information about hours and rates.
Breaker Bay Water Park, Sheboygan, WI
It’s always a balmy 84 degrees inside Blue Harbor Resort’s 54,000 square-foot entertainment area and indoor waterpark. Breaker Bay’s water activity center features 12 levels of water-based adventure interconnected with suspension bridges, cargo nets, web crawls, and more than 60 guest-activated water effects. Every few minutes a nearly 1,000-gallon “tipping ship” at the top of the 48-foot tall structure fills with water, tips, and douses the entire fort and everyone gathered at the bottom. Guests can also plunge down seven waterslides, including the Soaker and the Splashdown, two three-story, dueling tube slides that cover more than 600 linear feet, exiting the building and then re-entering and opening into a plunge pool below. Call 920-457-9882 the “day of” to check for availability.
Big Splash Adventure, French Lick, IN
Buccaneer Bay, Big Splash Adventure’s centerpiece, is a three-story structure made up of ten platforms and nearly 50 interactive play features, along with two body slides and a 1,000 gallon dumping bucket. The Splish Splash pool, for little ones, features bouncy swings and a shipwreck slide. But the star of this park is the Vortex, which has a strong circular current that whirls swimmers around. The park also has two enclosed slides, Scallywag Scuttle and Pirate’s Plunder, that twist and turn through a winding course and spit riders out into the splash pool.
Water Park at Massanutten, Mcgaheysville, VA
Surfing in the Shenandoah Valley? Massanutten Water Park has the first and biggest FlowRider in Virginia, called “The Pipeline.” Massanutten also has all the other water park bells and whistles, from water cannons to water falls, a giant tipping bucket, tube slides, body slides, and hot springs.