Ride the Wave
Texas' 10 best waterparks for families, thrill-seekers, and everyone in between
By all indications, it's going to be a scorching summer in Texas. The best way to beat the heat is by floating in a brightly colored plastic tube around a fake German castle on a lazy river, or being propelled through a tube chute at 20 miles per hour into a refreshing pool of blue water. Luckily for us, no matter where you are in Texas, you are never too far from a waterpark. Here are 10 of the state's best. (Check the links for summer hours, admission, and more.)
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Arlington
Adrenaline junkies, this is your place. The waterpark in Arlington has it all: water coasters, pitch-black enclosed water slides, free falls, shotgun tube slides, and zero-gravity funnels. It even has the Mega Wedgie, an 83-foot-tall half-pipe where riders rush up and down its walls at 23 miles per hour.
Those who want a more relaxing experience can spend time at the lazy river, the million-gallon wave pool, or the giant swimming pool.
NRH2O Family Water Park, North Richland Hills
Situated between Dallas and Fort Worth, NRH20 has rides for every level of thrill seeker. Tiny swimmers gravitate toward the Tadpole Swimming Hole or spend most of the day hanging out at the Frogstein's Splashatory, a five-level interactive water playground. Those who want to get their heart rate pumping make a beeline for the Green Extreme, an 81-foot uphill water coaster, and the plummeting 61-foot drop Sidewinder.
This city-owned park also hosts movie nights throughout the summer. It is also one of the cheapest waterparks in Texas. Weekday admission for children is less than $20, and the park allows guests to bring in coolers full of food and nonalcoholic beverages.
Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine
Does it look like rain on the day you plan to go to the waterpark? Bad weather does not dampen the fun at Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine. The indoor park caters to guests of all ages with its various pools, slides, and tandem tube rides. For those who do not want to spend all day in the water, the resort also offers dry land attractions, like a ropes course, an arcade, live action games, and story time.
At 80,000-square-feet, this waterpark is one of the smallest on the list, but it is a great option for families with children who do not want to spend all day in the water. Not planning to stay at the lodge? Day passes for the water park only are available.
In DFW, also be sure to check out:
Hawaiian Falls: With four DFW locations — Garland, The Colony, Mansfield, and Roanoke — Hawaiian Falls has parks in almost any direction you travel. Each offers a variety of slides like the ultra-steep Torpedo and the two-person Hawaiian Halfpipe, wave pools, and kids areas. But for sheer bang-for-your-buck, the Roanoke location is tops, with double the number of attractions as the other locations. (Note: For a drive farther out of town, there's a Hawaiian Falls in Waco, too.)
Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark: The only public indoor waterpark in Dallas-Fort Worth means guests can enjoy it rain or shine and throughout the year. The Grand Prairie waterperk features six appropriately epic slides emanating from the same central location, along with a kids area, a Flowrider boogie board ride, and the Epic Waves Outdoor Wave Pool.
Pirates' Cove at North Texas Jellystone Park: This Burleson waterpark and camp ground complex, just off Interstate 35, features one of the coolest places to stay in the state: A giant pirate ship. A 260-foot-long pirate ship is docked next to the water slides at the Pirates' Cove Water Park. Inside the three-story red and black ship are 10 two-bedroom cabin suites that can each accommodate families of six to eight people. The highlights of the waterpark next door are two 65-foot tall, 350-foot long tubular waterslides that twist and turn underneath existing slides.
Schlitterbahn, New Braunfels
The OG of Texas waterparks, Schlitterbahn opened along the Comal River in 1979 with four water slides. Today, the park in between Austin and San Antonio offers more than 50 water rides split over two sections of a sprawling 70-acre park. The original section, home to the signature Schlitterbahn Castle, has tube chutes, enclosed twisty slides, seven kids' pools, and a swim-up pool bar for adults. All the rides on this side are still powered by the natural spring fed water of the Comal River.
The newer Blastenhoff section is where the majority of high-thrills rides are located, including the six-story Master Blaster water coaster. To see the entire park from the comfort of your own tube, hop on The Falls. The whitewater river is 3,600 feet long, making it the world’s longest waterpark ride.
White Water Bay at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, San Antonio
Their website says access to White Water Bay is included with the price of admission to Six Flags Fiesta Texas, but we like to think it is the other way around. Bypass those Superman coasters that have you hanging upside down screaming for dear life and head to the Texas-shaped wave pool. The rides here are no joke. The Bahaman Blaster drops riders at an 80-degree angle to reach speeds of up to 40 miles-per-hour where they descend straight down six-stories. The Twister body slide descends into darkness, while the riders on the Tornado begin on by traveling through an enclosed slide before being shot out onto a funnel where they twist and turn on a four-person tube ride to the end.
Kalahari, Round Rock
Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Round Rock is dubbed “America’s largest indoor waterpark resort.” The African safari-themed park has 223,000 square feet of water rides, including the Screaming Hyena, which drops thrill-seekers through the waterpark roof into a 60-foot slide; the Tanzania Twist — known for flinging bodies down a funnel at 40 mph; and the Kenya Korkscrew, where visitors ride on a tandem raft down a spiral tube slide.
Day passes are available, but guests who stay overnight at the 975-room resort can access the park for free.
With 20 fewer rides than its sister property in New Braunfels, Schlitterbahn Galveston is much more compact. But that doesn't mean it is less fun. The Galveston location has Massive Monster Blaster, which is credited as the world’s tallest water coaster. Riders on the tandem raft twist, turn, and drop down three football fields' worth of water coaster fun. The Galveston location also has the world’s tallest and longest mat slides. Riders on the Infinity Racers race head first down an eight-story water slide in hopes to beat their fellow racer.
Typhoon Texas, Katy
This Houston-area waterpark has more than 30 slides, a lazy river to help visitors get around the park, and a 375,000-gallon pool that makes waves up to three feet tall. But arguably the most popular ride is the Monster Storm, where a six-person raft barrels down an open-air tube before sliding into a gravity-defying Texas-sized boomerang wall.
The park shows off its Texas pride by matching each area with Texas landmarks, rivers, and rocks. Following the fine tradition of the love of live music in Texas, the park also has a stage for live performances by local musicians.
While you're in the Houston area, be sure to check out Texas' largest crystal lagoon during the uber-popular Lagoonfest.
Elsewhere in Texas
Castaway Cove Water Park, Wichita Falls
At 15-acres, the paradise-themed waterpark is small compared to the big dogs in Arlington and San Antonio. However, with water slides, a wave pool, lazy river, and sand volleyball courts, it has everything a park needs to keep families entertained for the day. It also has what few waterparks in the country have — a ride with a 360-degree loop. The Pirate’s Plunge begins with a 37-foot vertical free fall, accelerating the rider up to 40 mph before reaching the loop. This ride is not for the faint of heart.
Wet 'N' Wild Water World, El Paso
Waterpark enthusiasts in DFW need to travel to the opposite end of the state to experience the largest wave pool in Texas. This oasis of freshwater in the middle of the West Texas desert draws all levels of thrill seekers. For smaller adventurers, the net ladders, slides, jungle gyms, and dump buckets of Atlantis Adventures are a huge draw. The park even has a slippery rock climbing wall where climbers race their friends to see who can make it to the top first. A refreshing pool of blue water is there to catch anyone who loses their grip.