Readers Choice

Best American Water ParksAs chosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best

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    Wet 'n Wild Emerald Pointe
    Greensboro, NC

    With two heavily-themed family areas - which include a kid-sized wave pool, interactive play areas and tube slides - this park definitely has something for everyone. Thrill seekers get swept away in Polynesian rip tides, fully-enclosed chutes and 40 mph tube slides. Guests spin 360 degrees at high speeds in Dr. Von Dark’s Tunnel of Terror, then chill at Leisure Lagoon.  They can also ride an 84-foot wide wave after lounging in a private cabana.

    Photo courtesy of Digital Vision

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    White Water Park
    Branson, MO

    A part of the Silver Dollar City entertainment complex in Branson, Missouri, White Water Park's 13 acres of rides are sure to entertain. Visitors get adventurous in the 6-lane free-fall Kalani Towers thrill ride, float through Polynesian jungles in the Aloha River, or take a break in shaded cabanas/  Kids love the water blasters and super soakers.  Guests can watch classic movies from the wave pool and this park stay open until 10 pm during the summer, which means water slides at night.

    Photo courtesy of White Water

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    Raging Waters
    San Dimas, CA

    An inland location warms California’s largest water park. With over 36 slides and attractions, Raging Waters provides what the park cleverly likes to call outRAGEous fun for all ages. Its Kids Kingdom includes 30,000 square feet of slides and mazes  specifically for kids under 48” tall.  Adults and kids like to bask lazily on the tropical river, while an above-water obstacle course and  various tube and body slides quench a thirst for thrills and laughs.

    Photo courtesy of BananaStock

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    Water Country USA
    Williamsburg, VA

    Countless families cool off at Williamsburg, Virginia's Water Country USA, where guests are transported back to the surfin' safari days of the 1950s and 1960s.  This popular water park boasts a pool with ocean-like waves and more than 30 rides and attractions. Chief among its adrenaline rush-inducing features: Vanish Point, where the floor drops out for a straight-down ride. Pools are climate-controlled and there's plenty for non-swimmers to do, from live entertainment to shopping.

    Photo courtesy of Watercountry USA

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    Water World
    Denver, CO

    Just outside of Denver, Colorado, Water World has a mind-boggling 49 attractions within its 64 acres. from kids' play areas to speed slides and tube rides.  One of Water World's unique rides is a “hydromagnetic” water coaster which sends guests up and down for a full two minutes of fun. An enclosed body slide called the Space Bowl spins guests into a bowl and then down another tube.  This  water park also has a popular wave pool. 

    Photo courtesy of BananaStock

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    Wilderness Territory
    Wisconsin Dells, WI

    Wilderness Territory’s eight indoor and outdoor water parks are exclusive to resort guests only and included with their stay. Park features include a see-through roof to allow natural sunlight in on the country’s largest indoor wave pool; thrill slides such as the Hurricane and Black Hole; lazy rivers; deluxe indoor and outdoor cabanas; and tons of water slides. Guests who try the extreme five-story-tall Lunar Loop and Cosmic drop slides discover a trap door launch.

    Photo courtesy of Joseph Leute

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    Great Wolf Lodge
    Williamsburg, VA

    One of many Great Wolf Lodge locations, this popular Williamsburg, Virginia-based water park boasts 79,000 square feet of indoor fun.   With water temperatures set at a pleasant 84 degrees, one splash-filled amusement to the next will keep the entire family comfortable.  Rides range from the thrilling to the relaxing, truly offering something for everyone.  In addition to the indoor area, there's an outdoor space complete with a pool, play area and luxurious cabanas for rent.

    Photo courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge

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    Noah's Ark
    Wisconsin Dells, WI

    Wisconsin Dells is famous for water parks so it’s no surprise that America’s largest, Noah’s Ark, calls the area home. The park boasts over 60 water-based activities spread throughout its 70 acres. It’s a thrill seeker’s paradise with three miles of water slides including a four-lane mat racing ride, tube slides in total darkness, and a ¼-mile long water coaster (rollercoaster and water slide combo). Young kids have their own separate areas. Leisure riders can drive bumper boats or choose mild tube rides while families bond in 5-person tubes or plunge down falls together. There's even a 4-D dive-in theater and an arcade.

    Photo courtesy of Noah's Ark

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    New Braunfels, TX

    Over three miles of tubing and seven kids' areas complete this popular water park between Austin and San Antonio.  It sets itself apart with three uphill water slides (a novel concept invented by Schlitterbahn) as well as The Falls, a 3,600-foot-long lazy and not-so-lazy river: the world's longest water park ride.  Many families make this water park a multi-day trip by parking the family at one of the hotels, condos or cabins surrounding Schlitterbahn.

    Photo courtesy of Schlitterbahn

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    Splashin' Safari
    Santa Claus, IN

    Part of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, a combination theme park and water park, Splashin’ Safari is safari-themed with most rides named after animals. Families get soaked on Mammoth, the world’s longest water coaster, featuring six-passenger boats and plenty of twists and turns. Wildebeest, the world’s second longest water coaster, provides 2.5 minutes of thrills, including a four-story drop. Water play areas, a lazy river and wave pool round out this park which offers free soft drinks and sunscreen all day long!

    Photo courtesy of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari

Splashin' Safari Slides Into First Place for Best Water Park

Schlitterbahn, Noah's Ark also place high on list

It was a wild competition for the title of Best Water Park, appropriate considering which nominee made the biggest splash in the end.  Americans love love love their water parks, including indoor parks in winter – a surprising concept for resident of southern climes.   Families across the US rallied the vote for their favorite fun-filled destination, and we’re happy to announce the winners:

1.  Splashin’ Safari – Santa Claus, IN
2.  Schlitterbahn – New Braunfels, TX
3.  Noah’s ArkWisconsin Dells, WI
4.  Great Wolf Wilderness Lodge – Williamsburg, VA
5.  Wilderness Territory – Wisconsin Dells, WI
6.  Water WorldDenver, CO
7.  Water CountryWilliamsburg, VA
8.  Raging Waters – San Dimas, CA
9.  White Water Park – Branson, MO
10.  Wet ‘n Wild Emerald Point – Greensboro, NC

Congratulations to all our winners!  Tens of thousands of votes came pouring in and these water parks came out winners.  The next time you feel the urge to tackle a giant water slide, make this your go-to list.    

Be sure to check out which other Readers Choice' contest categories are LIVE right now.  We have four contest categories going at all times, and a new winner is announced each and every Wednesday at noon.    

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The Experts

Katie Dillon

A former ex-pat, Katie Dillon loves flying around the world with her young daughter to explore theme parks, food and kid-friendly hotels. She writes a Southern California good living guide called La Jolla Mom that has an emphasis on family travel. When not on the road, Katie soaks up sunshine in seaside La Jolla, CA.

Candyce Stapen

Family travel expert Candyce Stapen has authored many family travel tomes including National Geographic Guide to Family Adventure Vacations.  She's written thousands of family travel articles for diverse media outlets and appeared, as an expert, on the TODAY show. Candyce also produces travel apps for families, such as DC With Kids, Boston With Kids and the soon-to-launch New York City Family Guide.

Tawanna Browne Smith

Tawanna Browne Smith serves as a Family Travel Expert on 10Best.   Her family is based in Baltimore, but they’re constantly on the go, seeking new experiences of all types.  She is also the Editor in Chief of Mom’s Guide to Travel and describes herself as a family travel strategist.  Tawanna's a nomad and daredevil at heart - always up for the next adventure.

A.D. Thompson

Veteran journalist and travel writer A.D. Thompson is an avid snorkeler and diver, and the tomboy daughter of a lifelong sailor and fisherman.  She never lived more than 10 miles from the ocean until moving to Orlando.  As such, she tries to make it up to her kids with regular visits to water parks.  

Christina Nellemann

Christina's first stop when visiting her husband's home of San Antonio, TX is to the Schlitterbahn Water Park in New Braunfels. Her travel articles and tips have been published in several magazines and websites, and she's a lover of all water sports: swimming, diving, snorkeling, kayaking and sailing.

Joanne DiBona

10Best Travel Expert Joanne DiBona got hooked on water parks when living in Germany. Raising three kids in San Diego was the catalyst for dozens of water park visits.  Joanne’s a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and has contributed countless travel articles and photographs to publications around the world.  

Kristi Marcelle

Kristi is a family travel expert with over seven years of experience in the luxury family travel industry. She has firsthand experience riding water thrill rides at over ten destinations from the deserts of California to the indoor water parks of the Midwest to the islands of the Bahamas. With two young children of her own, Kristi is always first in line for the next great water park experience. 

Lara DiPaola

A well-traveled wanderer and writer, Lara DiPaola’s work has appeared in dozens of print and online publications. Spending her formative years in the parched desert of Southern California set Lara on a lifelong quest for the perfect watery oasis. Her four kids now join her on the quest to find the best water parks in the world.

Skye Rodgers

Tampa resident and 10Best Local Expert Skye Rodgers has lived in Florida for 17 years.  Since childhood she’s had a passion for swimming and water sports, and is convinced she was a mermaid in a previous life.  While she loves waterslides and wave pools, nowadays her favorite water park activity is floating down the lazy river. 

Tom Molanphy

Tom has lived near the Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific and has a deep love of water. He also spent a long time in the landlocked south - which he would not have survived without water parks. When he can't get to the ocean, Tom loves screaming his lungs out while flying down the biggest water slide he can find.

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