People generally treat theme parks and waterparks like they’re exclusively built and run for children and parents. But the adult fascinations with Disneyland and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter show that there are plenty of people looking to hit up an amusement park solely for their own enjoyment, kids be damned! (Not literally damned, don’t @ us.) Though the single, grown waterpark enthusiast isn’t quite as well known (and wrongly loathed) as the adult Disney-goer, they’re definitely out there and ready to hit some slides.
To help people get straight to slipping down waterslides of the man-made variety (we also stan for the natural ones), we collected ten waterparks that are actually just as fun for adults as they are for kids. You can still watch your skin pucker in the water, get drunk on the smell of chlorine, and feel your heartbeat increase when the wave pool buzzer sounds. On top of that, a lot of these places have adults-only hours, so you get all the fun you remember as a kid without there being… you know… kids.
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park (Orlando, Florida)
By day, Typhoon Lagoon is a solid water park. It boasts North America’s largest wave pool, a raft ride that feels like a coaster, and a slide with a near-vertical five-story drop that you take in the dark of an enclosed tube. Plus, they offer surfing lessons. Point being: there’s plenty for grown people to do during a visit. And although we totally support you slapping on some sunscreen and braving the park under the summer sun, it’s even more fun to join in on a glow party at the park. Over 25 select summer nights between May 30 and August 24, 2019, Typhoon Lagoon holds H2O Glow Nights. Obviously, these events aren’t gonna be exactly like a foam party at a Vegas club, but you are going to get your fill of glowing elements like wristbands, backdrops, specialty rafts, and even an inflatable Partysaurus Rex.
A DJ-hosted dance party takes place on the sandy beach alongside the surf pool, and there’s a designated area for adult partygoers. The Warf is only for people over 21, and it offers specialty cocktails served with glowing ice cubes as well as glasses of champagne in light-up flutes. As far as water parks go, it really is hard to beat enjoying all the rides in a genuine party atmosphere.
Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park (Denver, Colorado)
Sometimes you’re in the mood for a theme park, but sometimes you feel like a true, full-on water park. It’s the classic Mounds/Almond Joy nut dilemma but in recreation form and with less potential food allergies. Elitch Gardens gives people the option of rendering the dilemma moot by taking in both for the same cost between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. Any person presently trying to manage student loans and rent appreciates a deal. They also appreciate the Friday night Dive-In Movies that are also included with admission. The water park closes up shop at 6 pm, but they leave the Wave Pool open, and people can hang there until the movies start at 7:30.
It’s worth noting that Elitch Gardens is the home to one of the most hyped attractions in the nation: Meow Wolf’s Kaleidoscape, which is called a “thrill ride for the mind.” USA Today and the Los Angeles Times both called it one of the most anticipated rides of the year because this installation from the Santa Fe art collective Meow Wolf is freaking cool and a little trippy. Follow that up by hitting the water park and getting in on the Mega Wedgie (Colossal), a 62-foot long enclosed tube that makes for a corkscrew speed slide, or the Mega Wedgie (Epic), a 65-foot tall high-speed free fall. As you can tell from the juxtaposition of a modern art innovation and a bunch of rides named Mega Wedgie, this is a complex place.
Summer Fun Water Park (Belton, Texas)
Summer Fun Water Park sits roughly 60 miles north of Austin and offers the kind of awesome adult water park action that makes that drive seem totally worth it for the sake of getting in on the fun. With over seven acres of park, there’s a lot of room to play. During the day, you’re going to have to fight your way through throngs of screeching young people. Luckily, this is another water park that offers an adult night. Between June and August, every other Saturday night is reserved for guests over 21 years of age. Between 8 pm and midnight, live music, watery thrill rides, and DJ-hosted dance parties are all options for adult guests.
As an added bonus, all events are BYOB. No glass containers are allowed, but every guest is entitled to bring in one six-pack. That’s enough to get pretty buzzed (there are cops there so don’t get trashed). The upside to this moderate drinking is that you won’t be at a water park with a bunch of screeching drunks in place of kids. They can both be a total pain. The best part may be that adult night is only twenty dollars, so you won’t have to pony up for amusement park prices.
Pretty solid for a night with a lot of cold beer, lazy river action, and immediate entry to attractions. In your face, lines.
Mountain Creek Waterpark (Vernon, NJ)
Mountain Creek Waterpark sits on the original site of Action Park, which ran from 1978 to 1996. It became the stuff of legend because it featured unsafe rides frequented by intoxicated guests and managed by underaged employees with minimal training. It was super popular, but mounting personal-injury lawsuits put it out of business. We like to think that just enough of the thrill-seeking energy and sheer white knuckle good times have remained at Mountain Creek, which opened only two years after Action Park said goodbye. That feels like a safe bet with rides like the Zero-G, which invites guests to stand 100-feet above the ground when a trapdoor opens and sends them into the world’s tallest double looping thrill slide.
Like other parks on the list, Mountain Creek holds After Dark adult nights. Every Friday, people over 21 can pay $19.99 in advance or $29.99 (if available – they sell out quickly) on-site to enjoy some of the park’s most popular rides and slides, live DJs dotted throughout the park, and eight bars. There are drink specials by Stoli & Moët Hennessy, so you know it is perfectly possible to get a buzz going before dancing and hitting the thrill rides. The Zero-G is open at these events, and the Vertigo is also worth a visit. This double tube ride hurls you and a friend through total darkness in an enclosed speed slide. It’s a ride made for screaming.
Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park (Erie, PA)
It is hard to resist the allure of large Polynesian murals. Just try going to a tiki bar without grinning all night. It’s no surprise therefore that we think the island-themed Splash Lagoon Indoor Waterpark is dope. Not that the décor is the only thing that sold us. This park has made numerous lists ranking the top ten waterparks in the country because the 84-degree tropical paradise has nine water slides, a 12-level interactive treehouse, a ropes course, a 6,500-square-foot arcade, and the largest wave pool in the eastern United States. Does it have the tallest or scariest rides? Nope. But you can ride these slides when it is 15 degrees outside and not a lot of parks can make that claim.
Check out rides like the Hurricane Hole, which shoots you down a tube at 40 mph and into a huge bowl where you circle around feet-first before getting funneled into six feet of water! The Aqua Tumbler is a good time, too. It’s a rotating ball of thrills that catapults riders into an endless looping inversion. There are some awesome attractions here, and when you’re ready for a break, you can chow down at Hooch & Blotto’s, one of the restaurants associated with the park. Their menu is straightforward pub food, but it is a damn sight more exciting than a microwaved burger or limp corndog.
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor (Jackson, NJ)
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Some people want their waterpark to be a kid-free, glowstick adventure. Others are looking for good food and drinks along with their floats down the lazy river. And then there are the slide aficionados who only need access to speedy, twisty, and towering slides to increase their heart rates and make them scream. For the people in this third category — meet Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
This Jackson, New Jersey park is perfect for the thrill-seeking set. It is part of a theme park chain, but each individual property has a different makeup. We picked this one because twenty of its total attractions are slides, and among them is sure to be the perfect one for each customer. We like the Big Wave Racer, a four-story-tall thrill ride with multiple lanes designed to build speed as you race through 1,800 feet of slide with several steep drops. Also cool is the three-slide complex that includes Cannonball Falls, Wahini Falls, and Jurahnimo. Cannonball Falls is an enclosed slide that takes riders through a 64-foot elevation change in seconds as they shoot through the tube at 40 mph. Wahini Falls is very similar, as it also involves taking curves very quickly in the dark. Jurahnimo, however, is fully open so you can feel the wind in your face as you speed through the 76-foot drop.
SoundWaves (Nashville, Tennessee)
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SoundWaves is interesting for a few reasons. The first of which is that this indoor/outdoor water attraction at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center isn’t open to the general public. Only hotel guests and people attending private events have access to it. Because of this, the whole place is hella chill. It may be the only waterpark that could honestly be described as relaxing. It also can be described as upscale, which is also rare in the waterpark world. But with a chic restaurant, two adults-only areas complete with private infinity pool and bar, and private cabanas, it is legit. Plus, on top of all these dope features, the slides, wave pool, and lazy river, there are these huge, human-sized dryers that are way more effective than towels. They’re like being in a Kubrick film with more chlorine smell.
Now, let’s get into the food. Summer means food trucks outside the resort, so you can always head out to those. But if you stay inside and make your way to Decibels, the 230-seat indoor restaurant with seasonal outdoor seating, you can order pear goat cheese salad, fried coconut shrimp with mango pico de gallo, and a Cuban pressed sandwich. That’s a pretty big improvement over typical amusement park fare like soft pretzels, rubbery pizza slices, and oil-soaked chicken fingers. And if you want to get even further from everyday options, hit up Status Cymbal, the adult pool and bar. They serve tuna poke with sesame, cucumbers, seaweed salad, and avocado crema. See? Upscale. The honey used in dishes comes from onsite beehives, and all the bread is baked on the premises. This place isn’t kidding around with their food game.
Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Maybe this is semantics on our part, but we are willing to call any place that has both a waterslide and a good vibe for grown-ass men and women a waterpark. So though The Tank, the Golden Nugget’s pool isn’t on par with a large scale set up, it has a lot to offer that those places can’t. And by a lot to offer, we mean sharks. It has sharks to offer. There is a 200,000-gallon aquarium filled with the chompy little suckers and a three-story waterslide that takes daredevil riders through a clear plastic tube smack inside the shark tank. That’s so unusual that it might make a visit worthwhile entirely independently, but it’s worth noting you can also reserve a private cabana, dry off and grab a drink at one of the bars near the pool, or let one of the waterfalls cascade over your body.
The pool complex has a third-floor infinity pool that is reserved for guests who are 21+. It is positioned right next to the Hideout Bar. It is less waterpark and more super legit hotel pool experience, but wouldn’t every waterpark experience be a little better if you got to step away from the kids and families for a while to have an artisan cocktail on a plush daybed before taking some laps? If you don’t need the adults-only area, but still need a drink, the H2O bar sits on the opposite side of the shark tank. You can grab some light fare to enjoy in the glittering water before you hit the lazy river. Or you can lounge by one of six fire pits.
Noah’s Ark Waterpark (Lake Delton, Wisconsin)
Built in 1979, and situated on 70 expansive acres, Noah’s Ark Waterpark is probably why the Wisconsin Dells is thought of as the Waterpark Capital of the World. When you’re home to the largest waterpark in the country, you get to have self-proclaimed titles like that. People who visit not only have a lot of choices when it comes to attractions, they also have access to attractions that come with pedigrees. People talk about the Scorpion’s Tail a lot because you begin standing up, then the floor drops beneath you and you drop ten stories immediately. Next, traveling 50 feet per second, you enter America’s first nearly vertical waterslide loop.
Damn, right? Yep. You go through 400-feet of slide in between five and eight seconds.
The Raja opened last year and it is the big draw right now because it is the world’s largest king cobra waterslide and only the second to be built in the United States. Riders start six-stories up and race each other in side-by-side tubes along more than 335 feet of twisty, turny tubing before taking an abrupt 37-foot dive into the mouth of a gigantic king cobra. The park also has the world’s largest bowl ride. It’s hard to imagine an adult waterslide fan who wouldn’t line up to ride these.
Wings and Waves Waterpark (McMinnville, Oregon)
This waterpark makes the list for much the same reason that The Tank at the Golden Nugget did: it offers a singular experience that most waterparks do not. In this case, it is the chance to ride a waterslide built around a Boeing 747 rather than sharks. Although, if someone figures out how to combine the two, give us a call because sharks on a plane seems like a winning idea. For now though, the 747 is an excellent draw, especially as Wings and Waves Waterpark sits on a property with the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, where you can step inside the original Spruce Goose, check out a Titan II missile in its silo, and see an SR-71 Blackbird (one of the world’s fastest aircrafts) up close. For those of us who are really into these kinds of things, the chance to combine a love of aviation with waterslides is so freaking cool.
The plane sits on the roof and thrill-seekers get to take four different slides into the pool below. The Sonic Boom slide gives the sensation of flying through the air. The Tail Spin slide has a number of bends and figure-eight turns. The Nose Dive slide invites two people to hop on an innertube together to make a rapid air descent. And the Mach 1 slide is all about rushing speedways and sudden drops. They all try to mimic some aspect of flight and succeed with… ahem… flying colors.