Where Should We Go: Water Park or Amusement Park?

BY: Aimee Algas Alker |Aug 15, 2018


Summer's winding down, just in time for parents to squeeze in one last family activity. Many families opt for an easy-to-love trip to an amusement or water park, but which one is better? Let's run down 5 questions to determine which of these classic outings is a surefire win.

1. What should I bring?

Water Park

Because you can't splash around in what you walked in wearing, this outing requires quite an assemblage of items, such as

⋅  Sunscreen
⋅  Bathing suit
⋅  Goggles
⋅  A full change of clothes
⋅  Towel
⋅  Floaties for very small children
⋅  Water shoes or flip flops
⋅  Shampoo and soap

Amusement Park

The list for an amusement park is much shorter:

⋅  Sunscreen
⋅  Change of clothes (just in case!)

Point to: Amusement Park


2. How do I stay comfortable?

Water Park

You're in your swimsuit much of the time you're in a water park, so it's easy to cool off: just go for a dip. Also, when you need to take a rest, there's often no shortage of lounge chairs for you to doze off in.

Amusement Park

When the heat starts to get to you at the amusement park, you don't have many choices. You could score a spot on a bench in the shade, if you can find one. Alternately, you could climb aboard a water flume ride and get splashed, but then you'll have to deal with slogging around in wet clothes all day.

Point to: Water Park


3. How much do I have to walk and wait?

Water Park

Water parks are on the compact side, so it's never a far walk from one end of the park to the other. Similarly, wait times to get on even the most popular slides aren't too long; it's rare to hear of an hour-long wait for any slide.

Amusement Park

Roller coasters take up a lot of room, and that means lots and lots and lots of walking. Not to mention the way park-goers trudge through the endless lines for each ride—unlike water parks, hour-long waits are the norm, especially at more popular parks.

Point to: Water Park


4. Is there something to do for the whole family?

Water Park

Water parks generally have something for everyone: splash pools for toddlers, mid-sized slides for younger kids, and more thrilling flumes for older kids and adults. Even the wave pool is perfect for a big family—little ones can stay close to "shore" while older ones can take to the swells. And who doesn't like a cruise down a lazy river?

Amusement Park

While older kids can have a blast at an amusement park, whipping around roller coasters and other daring rides, usually the rides for littler kids are all variations on the same thing: sitting in an animal-shaped buggy that moves in slow circles, over and over again. But do these little kids even know the difference?

Point to: BOTH


5. Can you go there in the winter?

Water Park

Across the country, we've got so many options to splash around indoors. Great Wolf Lodge, located in 17 states and counting, has the upper hand when it comes to indoor water parks, with a carefully curated selection of slides and pools designed for different age groups, including, in some parks, adults-only hot tubs for parents who need a break from their vacation. The best part is, families can book a room on site, so they don't have far to go to wind down from all the fun.

Read some hot tips for a Great Wolf Lodge vacation.

For those without a Great Wolf Lodge nearby, there's like another indoor water park in your area. Here's a roundup of our editors' favorite indoor water parks.

Amusement Park

Indoor amusement parks do exist. One only needs to look to Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN, or the Adventuredome at Las Vegas's Circus Circus to find weather-safe thrill rides. But thrill is used lightly here. While Adventuredome does have one coaster with a loop and speeds up to 55 mph, and another with a 90-foot drop, being indoors limits the fun you can have. In fact, most indoor amusement parks are much smaller than their outdoor counterparts, and the rides are mostly geared toward the 8 and under set.

Point to: Water Park



Water parks, with a very slight edge.


We've got you covered, no matter what you're looking for:

⋅  Amusement parks near me
⋅  Water parks near me


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