From California to Florida, these are the best water parks in the United States.
Published on May 12, 2023
Water parks have come a long way over the years, with meandering lazy rivers and basic water slides now joined by record-breaking water coasters, thrilling rivers with simulated, rushing rapids, and slides that defy belief, plunging down multiple stories.
Park choices abound, too. You can test your courage (and beat the summer heat) at seasonal parks, or enjoy year-round fun at sprawling indoor complexes. Including favorites like Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and the soon-to-debut beachfront Island Waterpark in Atlantic City, these 18 top water parks in the U.S. offer thrills and fun for all ages.
Schlitterbahn: New Braunfels, Texas
Everything is bigger in Texas, so it's fitting that the flagship location of Schlitterbahn is there, and it is home to the largest collection of water rides in the world, all powered by natural spring water from the Comal River. This award-winning park is known for offering the first-ever uphill water coaster, the world’s first "not-so-lazy" wave river, and the world’s longest tubing river. It also has four different themed areas, each with its own swim-up bar, plus on-site resort accommodations. A staggering $5 million renovation will ensure it remains one of the world’s very best water parks.
Universal’s Volcano Bay: Orlando, Florida
After exploring The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, there’s no better way to soak up the Florida sun than a day at Universal’s Volcano Bay. The South Pacific-themed water park is unlike anything else out there, embracing a resort-like feel with lush vegetation, sandy beaches, and winding walking paths. A towering 200-foot volcano is the setting for a scream-inducing drop slide. Those seeking a gastronomical thrill can enjoy inspired bites from gourmet beachside eateries that will have you completely forgetting you’re at a theme park.
The Boardwalk at Hersheypark: Hershey, Pennsylvania
Hersheypark draws candy fans to the hills of Pennsylvania, and its thrilling coasters are a treat, too. When the summer heat arrives, park goers head to The Boardwalk. Included with park admission, the expansive water park includes 15 attractions, among them the g-force reaching water/roller coaster hybrid ride called Breakers Edge. For something a bit more chill, hang out at The Shore, a zero-entry 378,000-gallon wave pool. With more than 10 on-site dining destinations and three affiliated resorts nearby, the park is a true stay-and-play haven.
Noah’s Ark Waterpark: Lake Delton, Wisconsin
Touted as the “water park capital of the world,” the Wisconsin Dells welcomes thousands of families each year, from the Midwest and beyond. Noah’s Ark Waterpark stands out as a fan favorite, delighting guests since its seasonal operations began in 1979 — and it currently stands as the largest outdoor waterpark in the country. Attractions include oceanic wave pools, lazy rivers, and a whopping 51 slides. Don't miss Raja, a heart-pumping tube slide with a 37-foot drop as its climatic finish.
Knott’s Soak City: Buena Park, California
Knott’s Soak City, located across from one of the oldest theme parks in the country, offers water thrills just minutes from Los Angeles. The 15-acre park entertains with over 20 tube, speed, and body slides, including a family raft attraction called The Wedge. A 750,000-gallon wave pool is the perfect place to cool down, and guests of all ages will love the Beach House, a three-story interactive water playground.
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon: Lake Buena Vista, Florida
A prime example of Disney's excellent storytelling, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park brings to life a tropical oasis destroyed by a typhoon, complete with a ship wrecked atop a volcanic mountain. Known as Miss Tilly, the ship looms above North America’s largest wave pool, and the simulated mountain is also a massive geyser that erupts every half hour. For more adventure, ride Miss Adventure Falls, a family-friendly raft attraction, then take a break to enjoy a refreshing, swirly Dole Whip.
Disney’s Blizzard Beach: Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Disney’s Blizzard Beach is uniquely themed to resemble a wintery wonderland that just so happens to be smack dab in the middle of Florida. Cleverly blending colorful Caribbean flair with elements of a ski resort, the park features a slew of both family-friendly attractions and those designed especially for thrill seekers. Summit Plummet beckons the most daring of guests to the top of Mount Gushmore, from which they can soar down one of the tallest and fastest free-fall body slides in the world. The youngest park goers might instead opt for the newly upgraded playscape Tike's Peak. Inspired by the film "Frozen," expect polar-themed slides for tots that are watched over by Olaf and his adorable Snowgie pals.
Dollywood’s Splash Country: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Set in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and oozing Southern hospitality, Dollywood’s Splash Country was inspired by the very mountain watering holes that Dolly Parton visited as a child growing up in the region. There’s something for every park goer here, including water coaster RiverRush and The Cascades, an interactive, 8,000-square-foot lagoon pool. The latter attraction is the ultimate retreat for kids and parents alike, offering geysers, water jets, a waterfall, and plenty of shady seating.
Legoland California Water Park: Carlsbad, California
Everything is awesome in Legoland California Water Park, where you can float and play alongside the brand's beloved bricks. Splish, splash, and soak at the park's sandy beaches, on seven water slides, and a unique build-a-raft river where guests create their own Lego float before heading downstream. Two on-site resorts — Legoland Hotel and Legoland Castle Hotel — are just steps away, making overnight trips or longer stays easy and breezy.
Carolina Harbor: Charlotte, North Carolina
Theme park Carowinds celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and its water park, Carolina Harbor, is the ultimate place to beat the Carolina heat. Water-filled fun includes interactive, multi-level play structures, plus slides and the longest mat-racing attraction in the region, Boogie Board Racer. One of two wave pools, Surf Club Harbor uses generators to produce waves up to six feet tall. It features interactive water geysers as well.
DreamWorks Water Park: East Rutherford, New Jersey
In the shadows of Manhattan, you can swim the day away year round at the indoor DreamWorks Water Park. Set inside the American Dream Mall, the park's centerpiece is a gigantic wave pool surrounded by 15 slides and a play structure inspired by the film "Kung Fu Panda." Appearances by DreamWorks characters like Shrek are part of the fun, too. Added bonus: It's a perfect 81 degrees in here, 365 days a year.
White Water: Branson, Missouri
Visitors to the Silver Dollar City amusement park can find welcome respite — or thrilling adventure — at White Water, its sister property located just down the road. The centerpiece of the park is a 500,000-gallon wave pool, great for just hanging and splashing around. Those looking to continue the thrills can slip and slide across the park’s 13 acres of fun. The bravest guests might tackle KaPau Plummet, two dueling 245-foot drop slides that feature a 70-degree, 40-foot plunge.
Cowabunga Bay Water Park: Henderson, Nevada
Families heading to Las Vegas may love a water park pit stop, especially when the summer heat sizzles over 100 degrees. Cowabunga Bay Water Park, a seasonal hotspot in Henderson, embraces a 1960s retro theme. Mountains loom in the distance as guests enjoy spacious beaches, the large wave pool, and nine water slides, including a pitch-black waterslide dubbed Point Panic.
Aquatica: San Antonio, Texas
Aquatica is a tropical paradise that offers something a little different than the standard water park, as a few attractions allow guests to get up close and personal with sea animals. Riders on raft attraction Stingray Falls travel through an underwater grotto, where they'll see tropical fish and stingrays. If you're with little ones, enjoy the newly upgraded, 3,000-square-foot play area called Kata’s Kookaburra Cove, which is surrounded by whimsical sea creatures. There's a stingray encounter in the park, too.
Sesame Place San Diego: Chula Vista, California
Set in a former location of Aquatica that's been completely reimagined, Sesame Place San Diego is a hybrid water park and theme park with plenty to do for the littlest guests. After greeting Elmo and Cookie Monster, the entire family can enjoy body and tube slides, Big Bird’s Rambling River, The Count’s Splash Castle, a Cookie Monster-themed family raft attraction, and a family-friendly wave pool at Big Bird’s Beach.
The Lost Island Water Park: Waterloo, Iowa
This kid-friendly water park may be set in Iowa’s vast cornfields, but it draws inspiration from faraway lands, and aims to transport guests to Polynesia. Opened in 2022, The Lost Island Water Park is an oasis lined with swaying palm trees and more than 20 slides and rides, with an instant favorite being the Wailua Kupua, a hydromagnetic water coaster that’s one of only several in the world.
Island Waterpark: Atlantic City, New Jersey
When Atlantic City’s Island Waterpark opens this summer at the historic Showboat Resort, it will introduce thrill seekers and families alike to the world’s largest beachfront water park, occupying more than 100,000 square feet of space that’s topped by a retractable roof, allowing for year-round fun. The treasures of this island-themed park are sure to be the 11,000-foot lazy river and a 1,000-foot “cloud coaster” that will offer jaw-dropping panoramic views of the boardwalk and ocean.
Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari: Santa Claus, Indiana
Guests visiting the award-winning Holiday World can take advantage of its on-site water park, Splashin’ Safari. Included with admission, the water park is home to two water coasters, Wildebeest and Mammoth, that hold the record for longest in the world, and a third ride, Cheetah Chase, is the world’s first launched water coaster.