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Splish-Splash Pools No More, Today’s Thrilling Water Parks Are Vacations Unto Themselves

Outdoor, indoor, and hybrid, the 21st century’s many unbelievably spectacular water parks are worthy of their own dedicated vacations. Once the placid, splish-splashing domain of families with small children, today’s aquatic fun zones are a top draw for thrill-seekers of any age. Why should the kids have all the fun? It’s quite a sight to see Boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Yers, and Millennials hit the slides, towers, cannons, and rapids side-by-side for unbeatable adrenaline rushes at the world’s best water parks. And yes, there are still those calm zones for the ones who need or prefer it, so no one in the family has to get left behind.

When we went searching for our top water park picks, we decided to focus on the U.S. and Canada, and bypass those that are right next to the ocean – it’s hard to beat as a water attraction. With those parameters in mind, we hereby present our picks for North America’s Top 3 Water Parks.

1) Typhoon Lagoon at Walt Disney World – Orlando, Florida, USA

It almost feels like cheating, or at least taking the easy way out, to pick any Disney park for a list like this, Because Disney. But that’s the thing isn’t it, they kill it every time and their water parks are no exception. There are actually two, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, but the lagoon is the king here. And no surprise, it ranks at #1 in the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards for Top U.S. Water Parks and #6 in the world. It’s going to be even better soon, since it’s in the last stages of renovations that will wrap up mid-March.

The scene is a beach town in the aftermath of a raging typhoon and the extensive, fun-filled detail lives up to the Disney standard. The attractions…where to begin?! Well, we can start by saying that there truly is something for everyone, from toddlers to village elders, and from take-it-easy-on-me to scare-me-half-to-death thrill levels. For takers of the latter, there’s the Crush ‘n’ Gusher, one of the parks signature rides. This is a multi-passenger, 400-foot roller-coaster raft ride that uses powerful jets to propel you through uphill climbs and good ole gravity to plunge you into sudden snaking hairpin curves (good times!), ultimately delivering you safely to Hideaway Bay.

No friggin’ way, you say? Okay, head over to one of Castaway Creek’s 5 landings for a nice and easy inner tube float along a 2,000-foot scenic lazy river that encircles the entire park. But nice and easy doesn’t mean boring, of course. That scenic element includes thunderous waterfalls, refreshing mists, lush rainforest landscapes, and still more delightful and totally not scary features. These are just two of our favorites from a whole lot more. Simply put, like any other Disney park, one day won’t be enough!

2) Noah’s Ark – Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, USA

The biggest water park in the United States, Noah’s Ark Waterpark sprawls across 70 acres in Wisconsin Dells, the Waterpark Capital of the World. And it isn’t just the biggest, it’s rated among the best by the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards — specifically, it comes in at #6 in the Top U.S. Water Parks category. Its huge array of features includes (but is certainly not limited to) 2 endless rivers, 2 giant wave pools, a surf simulator, 4 children’s water play areas, bumper boats, and even a mammoth 4-D movie theater for when you need to de-prune for a bit. Of course, there’s also plenty of good eats and treats right onsite. Want somewhere to hangout in between all the fun? Rent your own cabana! They accommodate 6, 8, or 12 guests and include bottled water, towels, souvenir tote bag, and a locker. The higher-end options also have a ceiling fan, mini-fridge, wait service, and more.

There are adrenaline rushes a-plenty here, most especially at The Black Anaconda and The Scorpion’s Tail. The Anaconda is billed as “America’s Most Thrilling Water Coaster” and the wildly popular Tail is America’s first near-vertical looping waterslide. Yes, this engineering feat of physics drops you through a trapdoor into a nearly inverted daredevil ride. And with this hair-raising thought in mind, it’s also good to know that Noah’s Ark has received the industry’s top award for aquatic safety every year since 1995.

For the littlest kiddies — and anyone of any age who is absolutely not into being terrified — there are 12 fun yet quite calm attractions. Our favorites are Tadpole Bay, where parents can ride with their children on gentle slides, and Big Kahuna, which brings the ocean to the Midwest. Here, you can body surf big waves peaking every 10 minutes, or just soak in the sun and ride the highs on an inner tube. It needs to be said again, and we’ll say it one last time in the next entry – one day is just not enough to do it all.

3) World Waterpark – Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

This indoor tropical oasis has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to superlatives. It’s the biggest water park in North America. It’s the TripAdvisor travelers’ pick for #1 water park in Canada. It’s the world’s second-largest indoor water park (after Germany’s Tropical Islands Resort in Brandenburg). And it has the world’s largest indoor wave pool. Yeah, wow!

Due to that indoor bit, weather is irrelevant for having all the fun that’s waiting to be had here. Set inside the jaw-dropping West Edmonton Mall (mind you, we would never call a “mall” jaw-dropping but this place is completely misrepresented by the term – among muuuuch else, it has 7 major attractions including this water park, an ice palace and Galaxyland, North America’s largest indoor amusement park. Mall? Please! Now back to our regular programming…), it’s open every day of the year, which is a good thing because if nothing else – here it comes – you’re going to need a lot more than one day to experience it all.

In addition to the world’s largest indoor wave pool, there are 3 giant pools, a FlowRider surfing simulator, 17 slides, a zipline, and the holy #%*! Cyclone, an extreme slide ride that drops you through a disappearing floor into a vertical plunge that careens you into a gravity-defying spin that leads to your being briefly – wait for it – airborne. Yes, really. And yes, yes, fear not, there are plenty of calm attractions where you can float in peace, splash with the kiddies, or just completely zone out. World Waterpark also has onsite eateries and private cabanas for rent so you can relax in your own space. There’s only so much fun you can have without a break, right?


And speaking of relaxing in your own space, these worth-traveling-to destination water parks have a crazy amount of onsite offerings, but not hotels – that’s where we come in. Check us out at for great room rates and Cash Back Rewards on all bookings, no exceptions!

Have you been to one of these awesome spots or think you might head on over for spring break or a summer escape? We’d love you to share your pics and stories on our Facebook page!


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