Water Worlds - the most fun on-site water parks at US resorts
These days, there's no need to leave your resort property to get your feet wet by JB Bissell
Water parks make the world go ’round…
Ok, that’s probably overstating things. But ever since I became a dad 15 years ago, I’ve been handing out one solid piece of parenting advice to anyone who would listen: the key to fun, happy, family holidays is teaching your children to swim. Once they’re confident in the water – and you’re comfortable with them in it – the little ones can happily splash away countless hours while you get to sit back and finally take a few deep breaths.
Swimming pools may well we be fun, but no one can deny that the slides, fountains, inner tubes, cabanas, lazy rivers and simulated wave sets that water parks have to offer are way better. More to the point, a water park isn’t just an hourly diversion for the kids, it’s an entire day of fun for the whole family, and a proper holiday activity you can look forward to .
Could my parenting advice have gone viral? Probably not, but during the last few years, managment teams at various vacation ownership properties – especially those on the other side of the Atlantic – have recognised the travelling public’s interest in water parks and overhauled their swimming areas accordingly. The end result? More and more often you can partake in that full day of aquatic merriment without having to leave the resort.
Here’s a collection of some of the US timeshare world’s most fun on-site water parks.
Westgate Town Centre, Kissimmee, Florida
It’s no secret why most families make their way to Orlando. Still, as fun as all the theme parks are, it’s nice to count on at least a couple days of simply waking up at your resort and not having to go anywhere. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time (just that you don’t have to leave the property to do so).
Westgate Town Center unveiled their pirate-themed Ship Wreck Island Water Park in 2015, and the swashbuckling hasn’t stopped since. The immense play area features an impressive pirate ship outfitted with slides, water blasters and even a plank for any mutinous scallywags in your group. There’s a lazy river, too, and so many fountains and sprayers (heads up when walking past the faux palm trees) that you can’t help but cool off on a particularly hot day.
The Galleria at Split Rock, Westwood at Split Rock and Willowbrook at Lake Harmony Pennsylvania
Approximately two hours from New York City’s famed theatre district (hello, Wicked, Hamilton, The Book of Mormon and many more!) and the heart of Philadelphia (Philly cheesesteak, anyone?), the Pocono Mountains region is an outdoorsy destination with four seasons of fun activities to enjoy.
Although, not all of those seasons are ideal for swimsuits and waterslides. Unless the waterslides are indoors, of course. and at the Split Rock Resort complex, that’s precisely where you’ll find the enormous and enormously fun aquatic park known affectionately as H2Oooohh!
The spacious area has wave and activty pools, a handful of slides and play areas – Jungle Falls and Leapin’ Lizards – that cater to younger visitors. There’s also a FlowRider surf simulator. But the true highlight trifecta is the cluster of Viper, Piranha and Amazon Blast slides that drop, twist and plunge from four storeys high – and will excite even the hard-to-please teenager set.
Finally no matter where you fall on the age chart, the Tiki bar and snack shack will keep you fuelled up between rides on the Viper or soaks in the hot tub.
Mountainside Villas at Massanutten, McGaheysville Virginia
Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley is popular with travellers who like to mix countryside charm with urban sightseeing: downtown Richmond, Virginia, is only two hours away, while the US capital, Washington DC, is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive to the north-east.
Still, similar to Poconos, it’s probably not the first place that comes to mind when comtemplating ideal water park locales (especially during the winter months, when temperatures drop and people start heading to ski areas). But never fear, Mountainside Villas at Massanutten has a generous dedicated indoor splash space – and no matter what Mother Nature’s doing outside, it’s always a comfortable 29C at the Massanutten WaterPark.
The centrepiece is a massive play structure called the Massanutten Meltdown. Complete with multiple platforms, slides, bridges, and water cannons – as well as an extra-large bucket that slowly fills, then tips over and drenches everyone below – the Meltdown provides endless adventures for imaginative youngsters. Other attractions include a lazy river, a collection of tube slides, a FlowRider and when the summer sun is shining, an outdoor racing slide and wave pool.
Bay Gardens Beach Resort St Lucia
Admittedly, the beach is enjoyable enough all on its own – any stretch of nice sand with some gentle waves will do, thank you very much. If everyone’s being honest, though, adding a large-scale inflatable obstacle course to the seaside scene sounds absolutely thrilling. And that’s exactly what was done at Bay Gardens Beach Resort in August 2015.
Splash Island isn’t your typical water park. There are no hair-raising six-storey speed slides or family inner-tube rides. Instead, it’s described as “the Caribbean’s first and only open-water entertainment complex” and it looks like something out of television’s Total Wipeout. The floating structure has various obstacles – a climbing wall, monkey bars, a swing, hurdles and so on – linked together in an oval shape so that partcipants can make laps to try everything, or choose a certain section and practice specific skills. There’s even a water volleyball arena, and, in the middle of it all, a giant trampoline.
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