The 10 best waterparks in the United States that make the grade on our list are not your ordinary average parks. Each of them has that special something to them that puts them ahead of the pack of one of America’s favorite facilities to go out and have some watery fun. Before getting into that list, let’s cover the history of waterparks, shall we? Even though waterslides first began to spring up in the 1940s, the first official waterpark wasn’t open to the public until the 1960s. In order to qualify as a top-rated waterpark, it needs a water play area that includes a lazy river, swimming pool, splash pads, and water slides.
When put together in the form of an amusement park, it should cater to everyone who is a fan of having some watery fun, whether it’s under the sun or indoors. Such parks need to have areas reserved for bathing, floating, and swimming. Among the more modern waterparks, there’s usually an opportunity to do some bodyboarding and surfing, making good use of a well-designed FlowRider or wave pool.
In the United States, there are over one thousand waterparks. Year after year, new ones pop up, hoping to continue capitalizing on one of the biggest draws that keep people coming back for more. Waterslides, along with the parks they call home, have gone a long way since their humble beginnings in the late 1940s. Some of the coolest waterparks I’ve personally been to that always have the “wow” factor tend to behave as if they’re a world of their own. I have to be honest, I’m especially fond of waterparks that look like scenic retreats. In that retrospect, I couldn’t care less if the park is indoors or outdoors.
10 Best Waterparks in the United States
# 10 – Cedar Point Shores (Sandusky, Ohio)
Odds are, you’ve heard of Cedar Fair as this is the same company behind world-famous rollercoasters. Actually, rollercoaster fans are more likely to know this company as Cedar Point. Its headquarters are in Sandusky, Ohio, so it stands to reason if there was a standalone waterpark they’d design that isn’t paired up with another one of their amusement parks, Cedar Point Shores would be it. It’s actually adjacent to Cedar Point, the incredible park that sits on a Lake Erie peninsula.
In 1988, it first opened up as Soak City with ten waterslides before it was rebranded in 2016 to the name it has now. Since then, it has expanded to become a sixteen-acre waterpark that has twelve waterslides, five pools, and four children’s areas. What puts this waterpark on the map as one of the best is comes with the dedication from Cedar Fair to make their waterparks just as awesome as their other amusement parks. It’s also pretty cool to have a waterpark double as a rollercoaster haven for fans who enjoy both of these. One of the highlights of this park is Breakwater Bay. Since 1997, this massive wave pool sends three to four-foot waves for guests to either body surf or ride out in inner tubes.
#9 – Typhoon Lagoon (Disneyworld, Lake Buena Vista, Florida)
It stands to reason when factoring in the best waterparks that one of the world’s most popular amusement parks may have something that makes the grade. Located in Disneyworld, Typhoon Lagoon has been recognized on a global scale as one of the “it” waterparks to visit. Lake Buena Vista, Florida, already stands at the top of the hill as one of the all-time favorite tourist destinations. The appeal of Typhoon Lagoon for waterpark enthusiasts like myself merely sweetens the deal to go pay it a visit. This one opened up in 1989 and was the second waterpark added to the Walt Disney World Resort.
The first was Disney’s River Country, but that one closed in 2001. Typhoon Lagoon was designed as a tropical paradise that came with pirate-style ships, as well as surfboards and fishing tackle. The highlights of this waterpark include Bay Slides, the watercoaster known as Crush ‘n’ Gusher, and Storm Slides. These are awesome rides for thrillseekers wanting a truly memorable experience. If you’d rather be laid back, Castaway Creek is a lazy river ride that’s perfect for the entire family. This is where the largest wave pool in North America is located, designed as if Disney already knew Typhoon Lagoon would join the ranks of their biggest tourist attractions.
While at Typhoon Lagoon, Mount Mayday’s Miss Tilly is a manmade mountain that offers awesome launching areas for the waterslides, which is one of the waterpark’s top draws for visitors. If you want to ride the waves, Typhoon Lagoon’s pool sends out six-foot waves every ninety seconds. Aside from a brief annual shutdown for routine maintenance, Typhoon Lagoon is always open. The only exception came when COVID-19 gave cause to keep the doors closed until it was deemed safe to open.
#8 – DreamWorks Water Park (East Rutherford, New Jersey)
Up until September 30, 2020, Edmonton’s World Waterpark held the record as North America’s largest indoor waterpark. That changed on October 1, 2020, when DreamWorks Water Park first opened up its doors to the public. Located within the American Dream entertainment and shopping complex, this indoor waterpark is located at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It has fifteen waterslides and fifteen attractions that take up over eight acres of space. For the Triple Five Group, this became the Edmonton-based Canadian conglomerate’s new pride and joy. Both the American Dream Meadowlands and West Edmonton Mall are owned by them. By teaming up with DreamWorks Animation, these two giants intended to open up the park on March 19, 2020. However, the events revolving around COVID-19 caused the opening date to be put on hold until October 1, 2020.
Sitting six stories high, DreamWorks Water Park sits next to the Nickelodeon Universe American Dream. This impressive waterpark has themed areas such as Kung Fu Panda Zone for kids, as well as Madagascar Rain Forest, and Shrek’s Soggy Swamp. It is through the Shrek-themed area the lazy river runs through it, along with the huge indoor wave pool. Each of these themed areas has infamous characters from their respective shows who make daily appearances at the waterpark to visit the crowd.
The park’s waterslides were designed exclusively by ProSlide Technology, another Canadian-based company that has become the “it” name when it comes to the production of world-class waterslides. One of the coolest features at the waterpark is the dueling slides, which happen to be the world’s second-largest ever built. It stands 142 feet high and has a fifty-foot freefall feature. Adding to the appeal of this waterpark is a hydromagnetic rollercoaster known as Toothless Trickling Torpedo. This particular ride, along with Dragon Racer, are two rides fashioned after the How to Train Your Dragon series. Dragon Racer features a Proslide KrakenRACER mat racer slide that has become an instant fan favorite with the locals, as well as tourists wanting to check this indoor waterpark out.
# 7 – Water Country (Williamsburg, Virginia)
When visiting Williamsburg, Virginia, one of the community’s biggest highlights is Water Country USA. It features an impressive collection of rides and slides that has every interest group in mind when they come to a world-class waterpark to have some fun under the sun. Ride Nitro Racer, is a thrillseeker’s dream that sends riders down a nearly vertical drop. There is also Big Daddy Falls, one of the park’s tallest and fastest water slides that features a fifty-foot drop. For a family-friendlier experience, Hubba Hubba Highway offers a raft ride through the dark tunnels and sharp bends that make this a fantastic opportunity too irresistible to pass up. Owned by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, this waterpark sits just a few miles away from Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
Water Country opened up to the public for the first time on June 20, 1984, as a surf-themed waterpark that sends visitors back in time to the 1950s and 1960s. While there, be sure to visit Rock N’ Roll Island, a rock and roll-themed area that plays music from the 1950s and 1960s. The water obstacle course on this island is surrounded by a lazy river. Another highlight is the Jammin’ Jukebox, a slide tower that has three different slides descending to the pool that’s waiting to receive the riders daring to ride them.
# 6 – Water World (Federal Heights, Colorado)
Going to Federal Heights, Colorado without checking out Water World would be considered ludicrous among fans of waterparks. Situated on over seventy acres of land in the great outdoors, this community’s waterpark is just outside of Denver’s city limits. It has fifty-two different watery attractions that have something for everyone and is America’s largest waterpark. For surfer enthusiasts, The Wave lets you enjoy a wild ride on the boogie boards. If you’re a thrill seeker, there are three different speed slides that drop you at a near-verticle angle as high as six stories tall.
Among the three, I was especially fond of Pirate’s Plunge. If you want a unique ride experience, the Zoomerang glides you back and forth on a half pipe. For rollercoaster fans, Mile High Flyer is a hydromagnetic watercoaster that’s definitely worth the ride. For rides that almost seem like a Jurassic Park experience, Voyage to the Center of the Earth is a raft ride that features dinosaurs along the way. This is a great ride for all age groups and is the waterpark’s top attraction. For kids, Wally World and its Beaver Tailslide are just for them, as well as their own shallow pools and watery play area.
1979 was the first season Water World became accessible to the public seeking some watery fun under the sun. Consistently, Water World remains ranked as one of America’s best waterparks. In 2021, it received a Golden Ticket Award for being one of the best waterparks in the industry. These are handed out to recipients who’ve managed to establish themselves as a world-class facility that offers an elite collection of rides and attractions that keep them on top as a waterpark enthusiast’s favorite.
#5 – Discovery Cove and Aquatica (Orlando, Florida)
This listing is actually two parks, acting as one. In Orlando, Florida, Discovery Cove and Aquatica serve as a unique waterpark that behaves as an all-inclusive resort that allows visitors to get close and personal with some marine life. This is usually offered as part of a hotel package and is a major favorite among travelers wanting to come to Florida’s most popular city when it comes to tourism. Don’t worry as you swim with the dolphins and sharks as the waterpark ensures your safety remains a top priority while you enjoy such an incredible experience. At the park, you can feed the tropical birds, as well as encounter sea otters.
The winding river inside the waterpark offers a great opportunity to swim with the waterfalls, which is awesome. All of these features sum up Discovery Cove as a fun and relaxing experience for guests. As for visitors wanting to jazz things up with some thrills, Aquatica serves that up in abundance. Reef Plunge offers some twists and turns that come with an incredible light show. It is also at Aquatica where the world’s tallest dueling race rides call home. This area also has two large splash areas, each one designed for a specific age group. The one is meant for toddlers while the other has bigger kids in mind. They each have their own slides and features that safely give them their brand of fun that will keep them busy for hours.
Discovery Cove and Aquatica are owned by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment. These two first opened up to the public on July 1, 2000, as sister parks to SeaWorld Orlando. This ranks among the most popular waterparks in the United States as visitors opting to visit SeaWorld tend to include Discovery Cove and Aquatica as part of their itinerary.
#4 – Noah’s Ark (Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin)
Wisconsin Dells has a reputation for waterparks that has established itself as the State of Wisconsin’s pride and joy. Regarded as the waterpark capital of the world, it has over twenty of them that grace this community’s landscape. The largest waterpark of them all is Noah’s Ark. This one has over eighty attractions to keep visitors entertained for hours. The behemoth water bowl enclosure, Time Warp, is one of those water rides where you should expect the unexpected. There is also the scorpion-shaped Raja, a huge open slide that keeps riders going back for more.
For the kids, Tadpole Bay features a kiddie pool, splash pad, and scores of opportunities to have some watery fun. The park itself takes up seventy acres of land that have forty rides that are divided into four categories between Adventure River, Family Rides, Kiddie Rides, and Thrill Rides. One of the all-time favorites is the one-of-a-kind watercoaster known as Black Anaconda. This one speeds up to thirty-five miles an hour and is quite the adrenaline rush. As for Adventure River, this is where visitors can take advantage of its lazy river ride as a laid-back opportunity to take in the waterpark’s scenery.
The humble beginnings of Noah’s Ark began in 1979 when the Waterman family purchased frontage property along U.S. Route 12 in Wisconsin Dells. It started out as a park featuring a bumper boat ride and go-cart track. It started out as Noah’s Incredible Adventure before it was renamed in 2003. In the meantime, the ownership of the park changed hands to the Gantz Famly out of Iowa. Through their ownership, the park underwent a series of upgrades and expansions before it was sold to Palace Entertainment in 2012. This was also the unfortunate year the park’s iconic Noah’s ark structure was destroyed by an electrical fire. A new one has since been built in its place.
#3 – Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park (Orlando, Florida)
When it comes to the ultimate tourist destination as a city, Orlando, Florida usually comes to mind. This is where a visitor can have access to a flurry of attractions that include Disneyworld and Universal Studios. I personally recall in the 1990s my best friend and I eyeballed Orlando like a pair of crazy Canadian snowbirds, eager to see how much trouble we could possibly get into as tourists. I was reluctant at first but after looking at a brochure of Universal’s Volcano Bay, that reluctance was shoved aside and I made the trip. She and I never did go to Orlando so in my head, I was determined to go, even if it meant going with my somewhat boring boyfriend at the time. I recall specifically the boyfriend’s eyes lit up like a kid when he observed the Krakatau Aqua Coaster upon our arrival. This incredible rollercoaster ride races you up and down the hills of the waterpark’s two-hundred-foot volcano. When not riding the coaster, the drop slides let you out several feet above the water so you can experience an ultimate freefall into the pool. Among visitors wanting to take it a bit easier, the large beach, lazy river, and wave pool are incredible. For the kids, Runamukka Reef is designed to ensure they have their own watery playground of fun.
Volcano Bay opened to the public in 2017. America’s tallest body slide can be ridden here, via the Ko’okiri Body Plunge. This is a 125-foot-tall drop capsule slide that had the boyfriend ride it not once but twice. He would have gone a third time, but I suggested he should maybe give the other rides a try. He wound up going to Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slide next before realizing maybe he should tone things down a bit. What was the biggest appeal here was the Polynesian theme that so heavily influenced the design of this waterpark.
#2 – Schlitterbahn (New Baunfels, Texas)
In New Braunfels, Texas, Schlitterbahn is the top draw that brings locals and tourists in as its top attraction. This world-class waterpark has over fifty rides and attractions for visitors to enjoy in the great outdoors, underneath the brilliance of the sun. The highlight ride here could be the highspeed water coaster, Master Blaster. If you’re into surfing, try the Boogie Bahn simulator. There’s also Torrent River for folks opting for a more laid-back ride as they ride along the lazy river through the park. When the outdoors doesn’t seem so great, Schlitterbahn also has an indoor waterpark. This way, the park gets to stay open throughout the year. Whenever travelers rate their idea of the best waterpark in the United States, Schlitterbahn almost always gets the double thumbs up.
The Schlitterbahn is owned by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, the very same that is recognized for its epic rollercoasters. Leave it to a conglomerate that knows a thing or two about wild rides to come up with a waterpark that would deliver fun and entertainment in abundance. While Schlitterbahn has more than one waterpark to its name, the 1979 design in New Braunfels was the first. There were three others in Texas, as well as one in Kansas, but the only one still standing aside from the one in New Braunfels is the Schlitterbahn in Corpus Christi. That one opened up in 2006. In 2019, it was rebranded from Schlitterbahn to Beach Park at Isla Blanca.
# 1 – Splish Splash (Calverton, New York)
Calverton, New York’s Splish Splash is America’s biggest waterpark as it sits on ninety-six acres of land, as well as one of the most popular for visitors to enjoy on a summer’s day. Dinosaur Falls is a thrilling tube ride for kids to encounter dinosaurs at every turn. Among more adventurous thrill seekers, there is also Barrier Reef and its scary shark attack as a rider plummet through the twists and turns of this rapid ride. Gentle Twister lives up to its name as a watery slide that has the body thread through treetops before splashing into the pool. For a thrill ride that comes with some cool sounds and light, Hyperlight fits the bill. There is also Bomb’s Away, a slide ride that has the floor drop out from under you. Splish Splash is a waterpark designed with the entire family in mind. Mammoth River’s raft ride is one fine example of this, as is Monsoon Lagoon.
Splish Splash opened to the public for the first time in May 1991 with three body slides and two speed slides. It also came with a pair of tube slides and kiddie pools. It had its own lazy river and a restaurant. Since then, it has expanded to feature eighteen water rides and attractions, including Bootlegger’s Run. This became New York’s first watercoaster when it was introduced in 2013, thanks to the new generation of hydromagnetic technology that became available at the time.
10 Best Water Parks In The United States article published on BigCityReview.com© 2023
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