Best Outdoor Water Park (2017)


When the summer gets hot, there are few better ways to cool off than a day at a water park. According to the World Waterpark Association, there are more than 1,200 water parks in the United States, and 10Best set out to find the best. 

  • Splashin' Safari

    Splashin' Safari
    Santa Claus, Ind.

    It may be in Santa Claus, Ind., but Splashin’ Safari’s about as far from the North Pole as you can get, offering myriad thrills to cool guests off in the summer heat. Families who thrill-ride together will revel catching actual air on Mammoth – a water coaster so massive its seven-story bulk takes up more than three acres! Multiple drops employ cutting edge technology, lifting up to six passengers to plunge again and again and again.
    Photo courtesy of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari

  • Lost Island Waterpark

    Lost Island Waterpark
    Waterloo, Iowa

    At Lost Island Waterpark in Waterloo, Iowa, park-goers can take the plunge at Lost Soul Falls, catch a wave in Tsunami Bay, float the Kailahi River, play some volleyball in Blue Iguana Lagoon or ride one of the world's only hydromagnetic water coasters, Wailua Kapua.
    Photo courtesy of Lost Island Waterpark

  • Hurricane Harbor

    Hurricane Harbor

    Hurricane Harbor, a Caribbean-themed water park inside Six Flags Over Georgia, represented the largest expansion in the park's history when it opened in 2014. Facilities include a 38,000-square-foot wave pool, the world's first zero-gravity hybrid single slide, a 2,000-square-foot interactive play area with six kid-sized slides and a 41-foot slide tower.
    Photo courtesy of Six Flags Over Georgia

  • Carolina Harbor

    Carolina Harbor

    Carolina Harbor, the water park at Carowinds in Charlotte, is home to a state-of-the-art wave pool capable of producing waves up to 6 feet tall, as well as a six-story water slide complex, 2-acre family area and a four-person family raft slide. A 1,000-foot lazy river sets the scene for relaxation.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Noah's Ark

    Noah's Ark
    Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

    An apt name for a water park of Biblical proportions, Noah’s Ark is the apex: America’s largest. Guests enjoy body boarding on the Surfin’ Safari, spooky thrills (four choices in all) on the deep, dark Black Thunder slide, or hair-raising chills on Point of No Return, with its no-joke, near-vertical plunge. Two lazy rivers, two wave pools, four kids play areas and bumper boats are the icing on the cake.
    Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Dells

  • Schlitterbahn

    New Braunfels, Texas

    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. 
    Photo courtesy of Schlitterbahn

  • Water World

    Water World

    For those who like their attractions big, Water World is a definite contender. At roughly 70 acres, it’s one of the nation’s largest – with wave pools, towering slides, interactive offerings and winding rivers from mild to wild. While rides like the Funhouse Express Gondola take guests high above the winding slides for a birds-eye view reminiscent of winter’s ski lifts, Warp Speed allows riders to cool down with a journey through an interstellar wormhole that’s both game and ride in one.
    Photo courtesy of Water World

  • Dollywood's Splash Country

    Dollywood's Splash Country
    Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

    Dolly’s Smoky Mountain oasis offers up more than 24 slides and thrill rides for all ages at Splash Country. The littlest guests enjoy loads of interactive play time in places like the Cascades – a lagoon-style pool where hidden misters, bubblers and secret slides make for fun discovery. Thrill seekers, on the other hand, revel on rides like the RiverRush. It’s four stories of family fun on a water coaster with multiple drops, twists, turns.
    Photo courtesy of Dollywood

  • Knott's Soak City

    Knott's Soak City
    Buena Park, Calif.

    Knott’s Soak City kicks off with a splash this summer season! Orange County’s largest water park is the perfect family destination to cool off during summer as it debuts two brand new water slide towers, Shore Break and The Wedge. Plus, Soak City has undergone a 2-acre expansion and thematic renovation, which included new shaded seating areas, spacious cabanas and a newly remodeled Longboard’s Grill.
    Photo courtesy of Knott's Soak City Waterpark

  • LEGOLAND Florida Water Park

    LEGOLAND Florida Water Park
    Winter Haven, Fla.

    Guests at LEGOLAND Florida Water Park can explore 5 acres of water features and attractions. Get those creative juices flowing at Creative Cove, where kids can build and race LEGO boats along a fast-flowing river or Build-a-Raft River, where families construct their own vessels for a lazy river-style float. Thrill seekers can choose between high-octane attractions like Splash Out, Twin Chasers or the LEGO Wave Pool.
    Photo courtesy of LEGOLAND Florida Resort

For the past four weeks, our readers have been voting daily for their favorite American outdoor water parks from a pool of 20 nominees. The results are in!

The top 10 winners in the category Best Outdoor Water Park are as follows:

  1. Splashin' Safari - Santa Claus, Ind.
  2. Lost Island Waterpark - Waterloo, Iowa
  3. Hurricane Harbor - Atlanta
  4. Carolina Harbor - Charlotte
  5. Noah's Ark - Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
  6. Schlitterbahn - New Braunfels, Texas
  7. Water World - Denver
  8. Dollywood’s Splash Country - Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
  9. Knott's Soak City - Buena Park, Calif.
  10. LEGOLAND Florida Water Park - Winter Haven, Fla.

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Jacqui Boland (Red Tricycle) and Mommy Nearest ( were chosen based on their knowledge and experience of family travel in the U.S.

Congratulations to all 10 of these winning outdoor water parks!

License the 10Best Readers' Choice Award Logo



AlertThe Experts

Jacqui Boland

Jacqui Boland

Jacqui Boland

Mommy Nearest

Mommy Nearest

Mommy Nearest

10Best Editors

10Best Editors

10Best Editors