As spring gives way to summer, families start thinking of staying cool in the heat. The obvious places to go are the beach and the pool, but when those start to bore the kids, plan a trip to the water park.
Many modern water amusement parks combine the best elements of theme parks and a day at the beach. Water slides are no longer the 15 second, stick-and-go ride with a piece of Styrofoam from yesteryear. These new parks continuously find new and innovative designs to draw visitors. The largest single-person drop slide, for example, plunges 120 feet. Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Texas has perfected the uphill ride, and Six Flags White Water in Atlanta is famous for its thrilling "Tornado".
As visitors expect more, the parks deliver. Many of them encompass 20 acres or more, with the largest in the United States spanning 70 acres. Besides coasters and slides, they now include kiddie pools and playgrounds, lazy rivers to float down, surf machines and wave pools.
And water-themed parks are no longer limited to day trips. Entire resorts have sprung up around the splish-splash fun. Great Wolf Lodge and Kalahari Resorts are two such places. Each company now runs several themed water resorts, as does the wet summer fun icon, Six Flags. Indoor water resorts, such as those in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, enable visitors to enjoy balmy weather and wet fun year-round, even when it's snowing outside.
Of course, water parks are not just found in the United States. One of the largest in the world is housed in an old airship hangar in Germany. Spain and Britain are home to numerous such parks. Malaysia has a Aqualand, Cancun is home to a Wet 'N Wild, and in Dubai three such water playgrounds exist.
Municipalities are also getting in on the fun. Though the city's wet park may not be as large or exciting as Wet 'N Wild, it still makes for a fun day, especially for toddlers and younger children. Often called splashparks or spraygrounds, these parks feature fountains, jumping water, small slides and buckets that tip on unsuspecting children when they fill up.
So what does all this water fun mean for you? There's bound to be a water park near you for your summer, or winter, enjoyment. So pack the suits, towels and sunscreen and head out for a day at the park... the water park, that is. Marisol Dayton