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Want to beat the summer heat? Make a date at a water park near you. After many parks were closed last summer due to COVID-19, this summer sees the reopening of most of the country’s favorite water theme parks. Whether you prefer adrenaline-pumping rides, lounging by the pool or drifting through lazy rivers, there’s no better way to cool down and have fun on a hot day than enjoying the many thrills and spills of a water park.
Coast to coast, America’s many water parks offer a low-cost day of fun. Let’s take a look at a few top-notch parks.
Pump House Indoor Waterpark at Jay Peak Resort in Jay, Vermont
Its signature ride called La Chute, an indoor AquaLoop water slide, is Pump House Indoor Waterpark’s main attraction. You’ll feel an unbelievable rush as you drop almost straight down in an enclosed tube with a 360-degree loop in roughly 6 seconds. There’s also a FlowRider surf simulator and even a rock-climbing wall directly above a deep pool. For relaxation, drift along the lazy river or soak in a hot tub, while kids play with a tipping bucket and water cannons at Mill Pond. Because of COVID-19, capacity is limited to 75 people in the water park this summer You can also enjoy the Tramside Elevation 1851’ Family Arcade and take a ride on the Jay Peak Aerial Tramway for a good look at Vermont and even a peek of Canada when skies are clear.
NEA member discounts on travel: You can fly into Burlington International Airport (BTV), which is about a 1.5-hour drive away. Search for the best airfare on NEA Travel’s portal. You can also get great deals on car rentals there. For the most convenience, stay right at Jay Peak Resort for around $195 a night. Nearby is the Black Lantern Inn, a seven-room inn and restaurant that rings in at around $142, and a little further afield is La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham St. Albans, which has rates from $102 per night. For summertime discounts, check the hotels page at NEA Travel.
Legoland Water Park in Carlsbad, California
Photo courtesy of Legoland Water Park
Legoland Water Park offers plenty of Lego-building activities with a water park backdrop. Design and build your own Lego raft to float down the lazy river or let kids build bridges, dams and cities with Duplo bricks. Play with Duplo characters in the Splash Safari (6 years and under) and interact with Duplo animals in the Splash Zoo (1 to 3 years). Tots can go on a pirate adventure in a shipwrecked vessel in Soak-n-Sail and blast water cannons in Pirate Reef and Joker Soaker. Plus, you can take a spin on a giant orange raft in Orange Rush, slide in Splash Out or win the race in Twin Chasers.
NEA member discounts on travel: Check NEA Travel’s portal for great airfare to San Diego International Airport (SAN), which is about 45 minutes’ drive away, or Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which is about 1.5 hours away. Stay overnight at Best Western Carlsbad by the Sea, which starts at $106 per night via the hotel page at NEA Travel’s portal. Other options include Carlsbad Suites for $118 per night or for a splurge, book the Grand Pacific Palisades for around $259 a night and enjoy its condo-style rooms with balconies and two pools.
Cedar Point Shores Water Park in Sandusky, Ohio
A family-friendly park with many rides and dining options, Cedar Point Shores Water Park is just steps away from the complex’s renowned roller coasters. Inside Lemmy’s Lagoon, the mythical Lake Erie monster Lemmy waits for playmates, and kids can enjoy mini-slides, fountains and geysers at Lakeslide Landing.
Thrill-seekers can visit the Breakwater Bay Wave Pool or experience Point Plummet, a 6-story, 4-capsule drop slide, while others head to Cedar Creek’s meandering streams to unwind.
Visitors who need a quick snack or a meal can choose from the many offerings that are scattered all over the park. Choices include pizza, ice cream, hamburgers and hot dogs, barbecue and Subway sandwiches.
NEA member discounts on travel: Use NEA Travel’s portal to book airplane tickets to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) or Toledo Express Airport (TOL), both about an hour away. Then check the hotels page at NEA Travel for discounts on your accommodations. Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Port Clinton, OH averages about $102 per night, or try Comfort Inn Sandusky at $109 per night. To get even more water park action, book a room at Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky OH, which has its own indoor water park and averages around $200 a night.
Water Country USA in Williamsburg, Virginia
Photo courtesy of Water Country USA
Virginia’s largest water park, Water Country USA, has 11 rides and slides, including the Colossal Curl mega-slide and the all-new Cutback Water Coaster, plus a lazy river and wave pool. If you have a need for speed, get in line for Nitro Racer, Malibu Pipeline or Jet Scream. Another must-try is Vanish Point, where you have the option to speed-slide 300 feet down or “vanish” through the floor.
Parents can lounge while watching kids play in H2O UFO, Cow-A-Bunga and Kritter Korral. Plus, its KIDsiderate program offers stroller rentals, kid-sized menu options, free life jackets, nursing rooms and baby-changing tables. And, kids under 5 get in for free. Everyone else must reserve tickets in advance, due to COVID-19.
NEA member discounts on travel: Fly into Norfolk International Airport (ORF) or Richmond International Airport (RIC), both about 50 minutes away. Find great airfare prices through NEA Travel’s portal. For around $125 a night, stay at the DoubleTree by Hilton Williamsburg, bookable on NEA Travel’s hotel page, or Wyndham Garden Williamsburg Busch Gardens Area sometimes has rooms for under $75 per night. For $170/night, upgrade to Williamsburg Lodge, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection.
Six Flags White Water in Marietta, Georgia
Photo courtesy of Six Flags White Water
Well-known for its extreme and fun slides (there are more than 20), Six Flags White Water’s Typhoon Twister (a 67-foot-wide bowl), Tornado (a gigantic blue-and-yellow funnel), Dive Bomber (the park’s tallest water slide), wave pool and lazy river are crowd pleasers. Wahoo Racer and the Caribbean Plunge are a must to try. Littles will enjoy splashing through Lilypad Crossing, Captain Kid’s Cove and Buccaneer Bay.
To get the most out of your visit, visit during weekdays to avoid the crowds and long waiting times. Pack a cooler and eat in the car or eat burgers, barbecue, pizza and ice cream in the park.
NEA member discounts on travel: Check NEA Travel’s portal for great airfare deals before flying into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). Also check out NEA Travel’s hotels page for summertime discounts. For under $100/night you can stay at Comfort Inn Kennesaw or for around $140/night you can get a room at the well-rated Hilton Atlanta Marietta Hotel & Conference Center. For more space, check out Hyatt Regency Suites Atlanta Northwest, which averages around $170/night.
Aquatica at SeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas
Photo courtesy of Aquatica
Inspired by a South Seas oasis and equipped with island resort amenities, Aquatica at SeaWorld, with its lush vegetation, projects a tranquil vibe reminiscent of a tropical rainforest. The park combines thrilling rides with up-close animal experiences, like at its signature attraction, Stingray Falls, where visitors take a raft ride to view more than 500 stingrays and tropical fish. Be sure to check out the new Tonga Twister, a water slide that features fully enclosed glowing AquaLucent tubes that deliver an exciting sight and sound experience, the first of its kind in Texas.
Other intimate and can’t-miss animal experiences include Stingray Encounter and KeRe Reef. If you can afford to splurge, get a cabana for a dedicated and secure place to sit in the shade, relax and store your belongings. Online reservations are required this season due to COVID-19.
NEA member discounts on travel: Fly into San Antonio International Airport (SAT). For summer airfare deals, check NEA Travel’s portal. Also check the hotels page at NEA Travel for summertime savings. For $116/night you can get a room at the well-reviewed RiverWalk Plaza right in downtown San Antonio. The Marriott Plaza San Antonio is another good option, at $140/night. To stay right near the park, book a room at SpringHill Suites by Marriott San Antonio SeaWorld Lackland for around $179/night.
Surfin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana
This Midwest favorite attached to Holiday World amusement park is known for having three water coasters, quite possibly the most at any park. It also features the world’s first launched water coaster, called Cheetah Chase, which opened last summer. Other exciting attractions include Otorongo, three enclosed and dark water slides and Zinga, which rocks riders back and forth in a huge funnel until they fall down the slide. Younger kids will enjoy Safari Sam’s Splashland, mini wave pool Tembo Tides and the mini slides at Tembo Falls.
This park is a great bargain because all tickets include entry to Holiday World as well, and its cabanas are among the most affordable at $79.
NEA member discounts on travel: Fly into Louisville International Airport (SDF), which is about an hour away. Visit NEA Travel’s portal for great deals on plane tickets. Stay overnight at SureStay Plus by Best Western Jasper for less than $100 a night, or book a room at Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Jasper for around $130 a night or at Quality Inn Huntingburg for $135 a night. You’ll find these and other discounted hotel stays on NEA Travel’s hotels page.