Nothing says summer vacation like cooling off at one of the best outdoor water parks in the U.S. Whether you’re lazing around the pool, dropping down high-speed slides, or bobbing on the waves, the best water parks in the U.S. are loaded with enough splash pads, dump buckets, and water slides to thrill everyone in the family.
The Best Outdoor Water Parks in the U.S.
From the Disney and Universal Studios water parks in Orlando to the steepest, tallest, and fastest water slides and coasters in the Midwest, here are the most thrilling outdoor water parks across the country.
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1. Schlitterbahn New Braunfels
New Braunfels, Texas
Recognized as the best water park in the world for more than two decades by the theme park industry’s Golden Ticket Award, Schlitterbahn New Braunfels is located about 30 miles from San Antonio on the banks of the Comal River, not far from some of the top family resorts in Texas. This outdoor water park embraces its natural landscaping with 100-year-old oak, cedar, and cypress trees throughout its 70 acres.
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Schlitterbahn New Braunfels has a staggering variety of river rides, water slides, and experiences ranging from mild to wild for a total of 51 attractions. Each section of the park contains a swim-up bar, children’s area, and a unique signature attraction. And one of its signature attractions, The Falls, consistently ranks among the best water park rides in the country.
2. Aquatica Orlando
Aquatica Orlando is the first outdoor water park to combine live animals and traditional water park rides and attractions. The Reef Plunge body slide shoots guests past dolphins, leopard sharks, sardines, and other cold-water fish on the way to the splashdown. Reef Plunge is a revamped and reimagined take on Aquatica’s original signature ride, Dolphin Plunge.
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Aquatica is also home to Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, one of Orlando’s tallest, steepest multi-drop towers; Riptide Race, the first dueling racing raft ride in Florida; and 84,000 square feet of white sand beaches. Aquatica Orlando is also the first outdoor water park to be designated as a Certified Autism Center.
3. Disney’s Blizzard Beach
Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
It should come as no surprise that the Most Magical Place on Earth has two of the best water parks in the U.S. in addition to its four Orlando theme parks. One of these Disney water parks is Blizzard Beach, an outdoor water park with the clever and creative theme of a melting ski resort (and, naturally, some theming to the Disney film Frozen too).
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Centered around the spectacular Mt. Gushmore, you’ll find slalom courses, toboggan runs, and the 120-foot-high Summit Plummet that plunges riders at more than 50 miles per hour from the top of a “ski jump” tower. Blizzard Beach is currently closed for refurbishment, but its sister park Typhoon Lagoon is open.
4. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon
Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The second of Disney’s Orlando water parks, Typhoon Lagoon, is home to the Crush ‘n’ Gusher, the first-ever water coaster in the Orlando area. Families will also like the Miss Adventure Falls white-water raft ride, North America’s largest wave pool, and the Castaway Creek lazy river.
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On select nights during some seasons, Typhoon Lagoon hosts an after-hours Disney H2O Glow event with a DJ dance party, including snacks, and lower wait times.
5. Holiday World’s Splashin’ Safari
Santa Claus, Indiana
Holiday World’s Splashin’ Safari outdoor water park in Santa Claus, Indiana, consistently pushes the envelope with innovative attractions. Cheetah Chase is the water park’s newest ride and also the world’s first launched water coaster. It joins Splashin’ Safari’s other long-standing coasters Wildebeest and Mammoth.
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Other Splashin’ Safari attractions include the Kima Bay monkey-themed water play area and Safari Sam’s SplashLand for little swimmers, perfect for vacations with toddlers.
6. Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park
Universal Orlando Resort, Orlando, Florida
Volcano Bay is such an impressive outdoor water park that Universal bills it as its third Florida theme park. At the heart of this water park is the Krakatau Aqua Coaster, which whisks you through a 200-foot-tall volcano that gushes water by day and fiery “lava” at night.
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There’s also a lagoon called Waturi Beach where waves lap along a sandy beach, and plenty of drop slides, raft rides, water play areas, and a rapid roaring river that’s anything but lazy.
7. Knott’s Soak City Waterpark
Buena Park, California
Right next door to the popular Knott’s Berry Farm theme park, but separately ticketed, Knott’s Soak City is the way to stay cool in Southern California. Catch a ride down any of 23 different slides or take a relaxing trip down one of the longest lazy rivers in the country. With high-speed thrill slides like The Wedge, the 15-acre area is one of the best outdoor water parks in the U.S. for older kids and teens, but it also has a dedicated place for the younger kids as well.
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8. Noah’s Ark Water Park
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
The small town of Wisconsin Dells launched the indoor water park concept in the late 1980s, and now this water park mecca is one of the most popular family vacation spots in the U.S. year-round. Boasting more than 50 water slides and dozens of attractions, Noah’s Ark in the Dells is the largest outdoor waterpark in the Dells.
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Notable rides include the Black Anaconda water coaster that reaches speeds of 30 miles per hour; Scorpion’s Tail, America’s first looping, near vertical waterslide; and the Surfing Safari surf simulator.
9. Dollywood’s Splash Country
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Adjacent to the Dollywood theme park, Dollywood’s Splash Country is home to popular rides like TailSpin Racer, a six-lane mat-style slide; River Rush, the only water coaster in Tennessee; and Fire Tower Falls, the state’s tallest twin speed slides.
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Splash Country also has a lagoon-style leisure pool called The Cascades; the Bear Mountain Fire Tower multi-level water play structure; the Mountain Waves pool; the Downbound Float Trip lazy river; and an interactive children’s play area.
10. Cowabunga Bay Water Park
Head to Cowabunga Bay outdoor waterpark, not far from surprisingly kid-friendly Las Vegas, to take on the world’s largest manmade parabolic wave on a giant slide called Wild Surf. Or for something tamer, bob in the Surf-a-Rama wave pool surrounded by a 1950s style drive-in movie theater. Other attractions at Cowabunga Bay include a fully enclosed pitch-black waterslide called Point Panic and the 300-foot-long Rock-A-Hoola bowl slide.
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11. Water Country USA
Virginia’s largest family outdoor water park, Water Country USA, features state-of-the-art rides and attractions with a retro surf theme. The Cutback Water Coaster thrill slide, one of the park’s more popular slides, combines a water jet propulsion system with a saucer feature to create a steep, smooth ride more than 800 feet long. Water Country’s newest attraction, Aquazoid Amped, is an 864-foot fully enclosed slide featuring special effects, sudden splashes, and pulse-pounding music.
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Water Country USA is not affiliated with the smaller (but still very popular) Water Country in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is New England’s largest outdoor water park.
12. Cedar Point Shores Waterpark
Cedar Point Shores is the water park associated with Ohio’s Cedar Point amusement park. At Cedar Point Shores, kids can play with Lemmy, the mythical Lake Erie Monster; and thrill-seekers can brave Point Plummet, a six-story, four-capsule water slide. Other attractions include the six-lane mat slide Riptide Raceway, the Cedar Creek lazy river, and the Breakwater Bay wave pool.
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13. Water World
Federal Heights, Colorado
Ten miles north of Denver is Water World, a community park that rivals the largest private outdoor water parks in the country. Water World features 52 attractions, including the Voyage to the Center of the Earth raft ride with animatronic dinosaurs.
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Other attractions include the Thunder Bay wave pool, Foothill Falls tandem racer, the high-tech space outpost training simulator Warp Speed, the Roaring Forks Dueling Water Coaster, and Centennial Basin tube bowl. And the park’s Alpine Springs Express Gondola evokes Colorado’s best family ski resorts by taking guests high above the park.