As a Midwesterner, I know a few things about water parks, as summers spent at the local waterpark seem a uniquely Midwest phenomenon. Growing up, our family vacationed in the “Water Park Capital of the United States”: Wisconsin Dells, a small town boasting over 20 out-of-this-world waterparks.
Floating down the lazy river, frolicking in the kiddie pool, or screaming our lungs out on the season’s latest mega slides -- there can be no place better suited for family fun than time spent at a waterpark.
And with the majority of resorts and parks operating both indoor and outdoor facilities, it is easy to bask in summer’s glow even in the depths of winter. With the hope to inspire your own family’s adventures, here is a list of the absolute best water parks in the Midwest.
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Using the map of United States, you can explore all the water parks.
Every summer, thousands of families arrive from across the Midwest for a chance to visit Wisconsin Dells, the "Water Park Capital of the World." And no other waterpark seems to have such an appeal as Noah’s Ark, a true original, open from Labour Day to Memorial Day, every summer since 1979.
The park operates two oceanic wave pools, two lazy rivers, and 51 slides, including Raja, a 6-story speed slide that snakes over 335 feet and plunges 37 feet into the open mouth of a king cobra.
Chula Vista is a Wisconsin Dells stalwart. Its 27 exhilarating waterslides stretch over 1.5 miles, and its massive indoor and outdoor waterparks include nine pool areas with everything a family could wish for. It is a must on your family travel bucket list!
The outdoor waterpark megaplex includes the 350-foot-long Rattlesnake Run waterslide and the Durango Drop, plunging over eight stories, while inside houses the world’s largest indoor watercoaster, The Fly’an Mayan.
When you get hungry, head to Kaminski’s Chop House for a classic ribeye and the Wisconsin favorite, a brandy Old Fashioned press.
Without a doubt, the Wilderness Resort is the most impressive park featured on this list. With four massive outdoor water parks spanning over 100,000 sq. feet and four imaginative indoor waterparks, The Wilderness bills itself as “America’s Largest Waterpark Resort.”
Adults will love Margarita’s Swim-Up Bar, an indoor-outdoor 21+ watering hole. At the same time, kids will go crazy for Klondike Kavern, featuring 65,000 sq. feet of adventure, including the towering Bonanza Bluff with a 750-gallon dumping bucket, water blasters, and slides.
Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark (Moose Mountain Falls) is located within the incredibly scenic countryside of Lake Geneva, easily accessible near both Chicago and Milwaukee. Moose Mountain Falls is the resort's petite waterpark, ideal for a weekend getaway with the kids.
Two water slides crisscross 30 ft above the pools below. The first, Timber Rapids, sends you flying on a volley of twists and turns, while the second, Avalanche Falls, offers a concert-like experience of music, lights, and speed. The beautifully designed indoor waterpark boasts a lazy river, kiddie pools, and a relaxing hot tub.
This 1880s themed amusement park serves up a bit of history and a whole lot of fun! White Water is a water wonderland with dozens of slides and rides for every age.
Thrill-seekers go crazy for the 70°, 40-foot plunge on the KaPau Plummet, while parents prefer letting their little ones splash out in the Coconut Cove kiddie pool.
If you are looking to bliss out, float down the Aloha River or head into the 500,000-gallon Surf’s Up Wave Pool if you are up for a little adventure.
Castle Rock is the perfect place to take the kids, with slides and interactive water gardens designed with children in mind. You will not find any extreme rides here; instead, a water wonderland where kids can be kids and adults can get a well-needed rest.
The waterpark features a 500-gallon tipping bucket, numerous kiddie pools, waterfalls, and themed water slides. Parents can swim in the outdoor lap pool or enjoy the multi-level sun deck, while water basketball is popular with teenage visitors.
As Kansas City’s hometown theme park and Missouri’s largest, Oceans of Fun is the sister park to the amusement park World's of Fun. That’s right, two theme parks, spanning over 235 acres, for the price of one!
This summertime paradise includes 40 waterslide attractions, including the brand new Riptide Raceway (the world’s longest mat racing waterslide). Other attractions include Hurricane Falls with its harrowing 72-foot-tall super-slide drop, an 800-foot lazy river, and kids-favorite Captain Kidd’s pirate ship.
Just steps away from the famed Mall of America, The Great Wolf Lodge’s indoor waterpark is open all year (a welcome respite in Minnesota’s frigid winters). A splashtastic four-story water tree fort, built on an island in a lazy river, provides endless fun with interactive water toys and twisting body slides.
If you dare, Alberta Falls offers high-speed fun, with the waterslide shooting across heights, taking you right outside the building and in again, before an epic final drop into the plunge pool.
Stepping into the savannah, the Kalahari has the ultimate splash safari. Thrill-seekers will love the high speeds and fast curves of the Sahara Sidewinder, while Storm Chaser provides an unforgettable video-game-water-sliding adventure.
Aside from the wave pools & water slides, the Kalahari boasts Safari Adventures Animal Park, an on-site zoo offering up-close encounters with the wild animals of Africa. And should you never wish to leave, the Kalahari offers an epic monthly pass, granting access to all the resort's incredible amenities.
On the shores of Lake Erie, Cedar Point Shores is an American classic: the original amusement park. It opened to the public in 1870, making it the second-oldest theme park in the United States.
This combo amusement park and waterpark is home to over 17 roller coasters and 71 rides. Cedar Point Shores offers attractions such as Lakeside Landing, a kiddie pool with over a dozen miniature slides and fountains.
At the same time, the Lake Erie Nor'easter is a waterslide that is as powerful as the mighty waves & winds that hammer the Erie Shore. For the daring, don’t miss the Point Plummet, with its near-vertical drop into the waters below!
With its state-of-the-art, death-defying rollercoasters, Six Flags is a country-wide favorite for thrill-seekers; however, before you melt in the summer sun, head over to Hurricane Harbor.
The biggest waterpark in the Chicagoland area is massively popular during the summer with its endless range of family-friendly attractions and, true to the Six Flags spirit, plenty of thrills. Towering over 86 feet, the park is home to the world’s tallest watercoaster, Tsunami Surge. Can you brave the Six Flags experience?
While not a waterpark in the traditional sense, The Quarry Cable Park is certainly something special: a return to nature. Part of Crystal Lake’s Three Oaks Recreation Area, the quarry fell into disuse after years of exhaustive gravel mining. It eventually filled with fresh groundwater and formed two large lakes.
The North Lake offers a 32-acre cable wake park where thrill-seekers can explore their wild side on the waves. And when the sun sets over the water, enjoy live music and sand volleyball at the lakefront tap & grill.
For over 30 years, Wild Water West has been the summer destination for families across the Dakotas. The park features five waterslides, a wave pool, lazy river, and kids activity pool; alongside go-karts, batting cages, bumper boats, and mini-golf.
While this may not be the most show-stopping park on the list, it offers the charms of a simpler time when a trip to the local waterpark meant spending quality time together as a family.
Boyne Mountain Resort is the ideal year-round destination for family fun, boasting over 60 ski runs and a colossal indoor waterpark.
Avalanche Bay Waterpark is home to four pools, a surprise-filled lazy river, a wave pool surfing simulator, an 800-gallon waterfall, and seven waterslides: the Big Coulior running the steepest drop in the industry with its mega 360° Super Loop.
Boyne Mountain is known for its fantastic culinary offerings, with Apres Ski Pub and the Biergarten being popular options for after a busy day spent in the water or on the slopes.
Opened in 1946, Holiday World & Splashin' Safari has been a family favorite for generations. This combination theme park and waterpark is arguably the nation’s best, earning the sought-after Applause Award in 2004.
The Splashin' Safari's two water coasters— Mammoth and Wildebeest— hold the title for longest in the world, while a third, Cheetah Chase, is one the fastest water coasters in America.
If you need a break from the water, head over to the charming Holiday World Amusement Park that is divided into four sections celebrating Christmas, Fourth of July, Halloween & Thanksgiving.
Amidst Iowa’s cornfields lies a Polynesian paradise. The Lost Island Water Park is a summertime favorite for locals and was last year voted the #1 Outdoor Waterpark in the US by USA Today, thanks to its kid-friendly attractions.
Lost Island boasts over 20 rides and slides, including nine watercoasters (teens go crazy for the hydromagnetic Walilua Kapua). Park-goers can race friends down the Ta’Katipo mat racer or soar through the 60-foot tunnel of the Molokini Crater, while kids will surely enjoy the imaginative Starfish Cove.
A summer spent in the Midwest is a summer spent at a waterpark. Escape the routine, throw caution to the winds and let loose! Every state has something unique to offer, some offbeat water wonderland.
Let this list be your guide and take the plunge into the lazy river, leaving your cares to disappear on the summer breeze (watch out for that 80-foot plunge at the river's end!)
This article was edited by Loredana Elena.
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