Summertime is here and that means lots of fun times are ahead with family and friends! We just got back from our first big trip of the summer – Texas! I know, who goes to scorching hot Texas in the middle of summer – but we do. We visited with family and took a road trip from Houston to San Antonio. Along the way we checked out the Alamo, walked through Natural Bridge Caverns, tubed down the Comal River and spent an awesome day at Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort.
Located in New Braunfels, TX, which is just outside of San Antonio, Schlitterbahn is a family friendly waterpark. In addition to New Braunfels, they have a few other locations scattered around Texas — in South Padre Island, Galveston, Corpus Christi — and one located out-of-state, “up north,” in Kansas City, KS.
Schlitterbahn is a sprawling park divided into three distinct sections featuring 40 water attractions including tube chutes, wave pools, children’s water playgrounds, water slides, swim-up bars in heated pools (yea for mom & dad!) and even an uphill water coaster.
I was surprised to see that spread out among the multiple sections of the park were more than 250 hotel units including cabins, cottages, bungalows, motel-style rooms and suites where families could get a totally inclusive experience and special guest-only perks such as early ride times on some of the park’s most popular water rides.
What I really liked about Schlitterbahn was that there was a variety of activities and rides for every member of our family, ranging from the confident swimmers (me & my sister-in-law) to less experienced ones (everyone else, both husbands & kids).
The park used a color-coded attraction rating system for all their rides. At the entrance to each ride there was an information sign that included a ride description, thrill rating and skills required for riding. This made it super easy for The Hubs and I to decide which rides were appropriate for our kidlets – aged seven and four and pretty inexperienced swimmers.
Schlitterbahn also gets big kudos for its free parking, free tubes, free life jackets, free transportation between park sections and for allowing their visitors to bring in their own coolers, drinks, food and snacks.
Our favorite rides were the tube river ones with The Congo and The Falls rating the highest with us.
The Congo is a jungle adventure where you travel deep into the heart of the rainforest to discover an ancient river teeming with wild animals, restless natives, a mysterious underground diamond mine and of course, thundering waterfalls. This was my son’s first ever waterfall ride and he loved every splash of it.
The Falls is the world’s longest water park ride, a 3600-foot long tubing river filled with raging rapids, careening waterfalls and giant waves. It’s a continuous rushing river that features something called a AquaVeyer (the photo below)– which is a huge conveyor belt lift hill – which takes riders back to the beginning of the ride for an endless float experience.
We also enjoyed the various wave pools with the Torrent Wave River at Blastenhoff Beach being the best. It’s a wave pool on steroids with strong currents that create tidal waves. It’s incredibly addictive, we must have gone around at least 25 times!
Being a little adventurous, I tried out the Soda Straws which is a fast, twisting tubular body slide which shoots you out a chute at the end and riders skim along the surface of the Lagoon Pool. My “skim” was pretty ungraceful and I wound up getting all topsy-turvy. Anyone who was watching got a pretty good laugh – and quite frankly so did I!
Outdoor water parks like Schlitterbahn are great places to visit and keep cool during the hot summer months. With just a little planning you can make your trip to a water park safe, stress-free and enjoyable for the entire family. Here are some helpful tips:
- Dress appropriately – You’re going to a water park, not sunbathing on the beach. Proper swimming attire ensures a day without any wardrobe malfunctions. Gals may also want to consider bringing some hair accessories such as a brush/comb, scrunchies, bands or hair clips to keep hair up and out of your face. Loose t-shirts, shorts, bathing suit cover-ups, hats and sunglasses are good items to wear around the park to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Bonus tip: Bring a dry set of clothes to change into at the end of your day and recycle some old Ziplock bags (2 gallon bags work best) to put your wet swim suits and towels in and keep the water in the bag and not all over your car.
- Sunscreen: Wearing sunscreen is also essential for skin protection and to prevent sunburn. Remember to bring lots of it with you. Make sure to get water-resistant lotion, many brands now make quick drying sprays that are non-greasy, easy to apply and work really well. Since you’ll be in and out of water all day, reapply sunscreen throughout the day for the best protection results.
- Water Shoes: Walking on the bare surface of the water park can cause blisters, sore feet and stubbed toes. The surfaces change in different areas of the park – going from rough pool floor surfaces to slippery walkways. Water shoes, sneakers or sandals with are better than flip-flops that might fling or fall off on water chutes or slides.
- Towels: You can buy towels at water parks, but they can be pretty pricey since they “have you” at the park, so be sure to bring your own.
- Follow all instructions for water rides and activities: Listen to the lifeguards on duty and children under 48 inches or anyone who is not a strong swimmer should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Most parks offer life jackets at the park for free or for a small fee, rent them to you.
- Actively supervise children: Don’t be more than arm’s length away from them whether it’s in pool or on land to prevent accidents or getting lost. Keep tabs on kids in pools to keep them safe, but also to stop them from any unruly behavior (i.e. wild splashing) that might impact other waterpark visitors.
- Keep hydrated: You’re out in the sun and heat all day having and when you’re surrounded by all that water – it’s easy to forget to get a drink of water. Drink lots of fluids throughout the day and try to avoid caffeinated drinks since they contribute to dehydration.
- Arrive early: Get there before the park opens, at least a half hour so you can park close to the park, be among the first people in line to buy tickets and get in. By arriving when the park first opens you can use many of the rides and slides with minimal wait time. However, I recommend that as soon as you enter, you should set up a “base camp” in a shaded area spreading out your towels, tubes, coolers, etc. A base camp is a great place to take breaks throughout the day in order to get away from the sun and revitalize yourself for the next round of water fun. Use the camp as a place to refuel with food/snacks and drinks. It can also be used as a meeting place if you decide to split up to visit different areas of the water park.
- Invest in a waterproof cases for electronics: I missed out on a ton of photo opps with the kids and family since I left my phone in the car because I didn’t want it to get wet. If it weren’t for my brother-in-law and his GoPro camera (takes both video and photos) in a waterproof case that strapped around his wrist I wouldn’t have had any photos for this post!
- Check out discounts: Entry fees for water parks aren’t cheap. You should visit the water park’s website in advance to check out discounted tickets or coupons. Most parks team up with local retailers for these special offers. It’s a great way to save a few bucks off each person’s ticket.
Now it’s your turn to share. What’s your favorite water park? What’s your favorite ride?