7 top water parks for enjoying splashy summertime thrills
From Israel's Mediterranean coast to the Canadian prairie, you'll find aquatic fun all over the world.
As summer heats up, our thoughts naturally turn to sliding, floating, tubing, swimming, wading, frolicking and cooling off with friends and family. We've rounded up seven of the wildest aquatic amusement parks around the globe – including two indoor options, where you'll never have to worry about ending the day with a wicked case of sunburn. Check out our list, then tell us about your favorite water park – in Israel or elsewhere – in the comments!
Dollywood Splash Country | Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
There’s a lot to love about Splash Country, a water park with a down-home, Dolly Parton-esque twist. Located adjacent to the Dollywood theme park in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, highlights of 35-acre Splash Country include a double waterslide dubbed the Butterfly; RiverRush, a hydromagnetic water coaster with 25-foot drop; the somewhat terrifying-looking SwiftWater Run funnel slide; and Big Bear Plunge, an “extreme white water rafting adventure thrill ride.” There’s also the requisite wave pool and a bounty of less white-knuckle-y attractions for the tykes. But take it easy on the concessions because there’s nothing quite as uncomfortable as plunging down a waterslide, head first, on a stomach full of Dogs ‘N’ Taters.
Meymadion | Tel Aviv, Israel
Variety is the name of the game at Meymadion, a well-attended and decently sized (25 acres) aquatic theme park located within sprawling Yarkon Park, Tel Aviv's version of New York City's Central Park or Los Angeles' Griffith Park. Meymadion offers plenty of cooling-off options, including waterslides for different ages/comfort levels, a wave pool, an Olympic-size swimming pool, aquatic playgrounds ("spraygrounds," if you will) and plenty of grassy, well-shaded areas with chairs in which to stretch out, relax and take it all in.
Splashin’ Safari | Santa Claus, Ind.
A bevy of water slides beckon in the town of Santa Claus, Ind. (Photo: Leigh Caldwell/Flickr)
Located in the southwest Indiana town of Santa Claus (yes, Santa Claus), Holiday World Theme Park’s soggy sibling, Splashin’ Safari, frequently ranks as one of the top U.S. water parks. It even beat out several formidable contenders from the Wisconsin Dells (aka “Water Park Capital of the World”) to be named Best Water Park in USA Today’s 10 Best Reader’s Choice Awards. The star attractions of Splashin’ Safari are without a doubt the Mammoth and the Wildebeest, which, respectively, are the longest and second-longest water coasters in the world. If careening down a steep manmade hill backward in a raft that you’re sharing with five other swimsuit-clad strangers doesn’t float your proverbial boat, there’s always the Zinga funnel slide, two wave pools and Monsoon Lagoon, which offers more than “60 fun ways to get wet.”
Tropical Islands Resort | Krausnick, Germany
Even if standing on long lines barefoot and in a dripping bathing suit doesn’t exactly sound like your idea of a good time, the jaw-dropping spectacle that is Tropical Islands, a bonkers indoor water park resort outside of Berlin, is well worth the price of admission. Located within a gargantuan decommissioned zeppelin hangar - the largest freestanding hall in the world -this artificial tropical heaven offers the typical water-park attractions (wave pool, slides, etc.) but also the world’s largest indoor rainforest, mangrove swamps, spa facilities, hot air balloon rides, a Balinese gate house and an honest-to-goodness beach complete with expanses of white sand. And in case you wondering, the temperature within Tropical Islands is kept at a balmy 77 degrees with 40 to 60 percent humidity.
World Waterpark | Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
West Edmonton Mall's World Waterpark. No need to fret if you forget to pack your bathing suit. (Photo: Everett Mar/Flickr)
There’s really no better way to unwind after a long and exhausting day of nonstop consumerism than bobbing around in the world’s largest indoor wave pool with hundreds of your fellow shoppers. Canada’s West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping mall in North America, boasts a massive indoor water park that, at 225,000 square feet, is the second-largest indoor water park in the world behind Germany’s Tropical Islands. In addition to the super-popular wave pool, World Waterpark, a “tropical paradise” smack dab in the middle of Canada’s western prairies, boasts a decent number of traditional waterslides spanning across four levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced and extreme. It’s in the latter category where you’ll find sinister-sounding slides such as Nessie’s Revenge and the Sky Screamer Extreme.
Yas Waterworld | Abu Dhabi, UAE
Yas Waterworld: For those who dream of plummeting out of the mouth of a viper and into a chlorinated body of water. (Photo: Sarah Ackerman/Flickr)
Billed as the UAE’s first “mega water park,” Yas Waterworld is a facility geared toward serious water park aficionados – that is, those jaded thrill-seekers who have traveled the world, ridden slide after slide after slide and truly “been there done that.” Even they’ll find something to go gaga over at this massive Yas Island complex, which opened to the public in 2013. For starters, there’s the Liwa Loop, a looping waterslide; Bubble’s Barrel, a surf simulator boasting the world’s largest sheet wave; a hydromagnetic tornado waterslide dubbed the Dawamma; and a rather frightening waterslide called Hamlool’s Humps. To be honest, some of the more “intermediate” attractions at Yas Waterworld look rather intimidating - maybe we’ll float this one out along the gentle and soothing (read: lazy) currents of the Al Raha River.
Shefayim Water Park | Kibbutz Shefayim, Israel
Shefayim Water Park may not appear on the traditional must-see lists for first-time visitors to Israel. However, those savvy tourists looking to cool off and partake in summertime thrills of the damp and dripping variety know to beeline it (May through October) toward this sprawling, 24-acre water park that’s located on a kibbutz about a 20-minute drive north of Tel Aviv. There’s a lot of different watery attractions to choose from, including more than 25 slides - the Kamikaze and Crazy Cones attract some of the longest queues - a beach-mimicking wave pool, play areas for kids and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Once you dry off, more fun awaits at the paintball and go-kart complex right next door.
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