Friday, June 14, 2013
Summer splash: Your guide to beating the heat at North Texas water parks
As the mercury rises, the parks transport melting North Texans worlds away, where water pours from buckets the size of states.
I must admit, the thought of 3 million gallons of water rushing around a concrete metropolis kept me up at night as I prepared to write this story. Water parks had never been my forte, after a bad experience riding a waterslide with a woman whose legs were unshaved left me biased against the attractions at just 8 years old. However, that was then and this is now. Somehow, I found myself staring at the shining gates of Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Arlington, with bright eyes, sunscreen, and a reporter’s notebook, ready to conquer my fears.
Water parks have long been the quintessence of summertime. As the mercury rises, the parks transport melting North Texans worlds away, where water pours from buckets the size of states, shoots riders through fast-paced slides, and, most importantly, cools them off.
In terms of North Texas’ water park history, Hurricane Harbor has been the shining city in the sky for the last 15 years (and before that when the venue was known as Wet ’n Wild), acting as an example to competing parks in the area. Other booming suburbs have procured their own aquatic entertainment through venues like Hawaiian Falls and Bahama Beach, but Hurricane Harbor still retains its title as North Texas’ go-to summer hot spot. Over time, the park manages to stay relevant by adding new rides, updating old ones, and maintaining the property. Today, about 25 attractions are included in the sprawl.
As the age-old saying goes, there are two ways to enter a pool; one can either ease in by simply dipping toes in the water, or throw caution to the wind and show the world one’s best cannonball. I chose the latter approach during my visit to Hurricane Harbor and started my day with the park’s biggest, baddest attraction … the Geronimo.
The line for the Geronimo was long and hot and forced riders to appreciate the park’s Lazy River for the cooling mechanism it can be. After 20 minutes of idly waiting and making valiant efforts not to stare at people clad in what seemed to be decades-old swimming attire, I made it to the top of the slide. Just as the park’s description promised, the Geronimo started off slowly, almost underwhelming, and then dropped me, screaming, seven stories into a shallow pool of water.
In terms of extreme rides, Hurricane Harbor has plenty. In addition to the Geronimo, the park features attractions such as the Dive Bomber, the Tornado, and the painfully honestly named Mega Wedgie. Other rides, particularly the Black Hole and Der Stuka, fall short of their extreme billing. However, don’t take the word extreme too seriously; this is a family park, after all. Thrill-seeking kids and parents alike can conquer any of Hurricane Harbor’s most extreme offerings.
For the patron who prefers a tamer trip to the water park, Hurricane Harbor features a host of family-friendly attractions including the kid-focused Hook’s Lagoon Treehouse, a high-climbing aquatic jungle gym that was filled with squawking kids who seemed to be having a blast.
As the summer heat’s stranglehold on North Texas grows stronger, Hurricane Harbor’s appeal will only become increasingly harder to resist. With genuinely thrilling rides and fun to be had for the entire family, Hurricane Harbor is one water park that appears to be decades from running dry.
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Arlington: 1800 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington. See website for hours and prices. 817-640-8900. sixflags.com/hurricaneharbortexas.
Other water attractions in DFW
Hawaiian Falls — With five locations (Garland, The Colony, Roanoke, Mansfield, and Waco), the Hawaiian-themed chain features attractions that vary at each park. Examples include the Pineapple Express, a multilane slide where riders can race one another, and the Hawaiian Halfpipe, where riders end up going backward part of the time.
For locations and other info, go to hfalls.com. 1-888-544-7550.
Bahama Beach — This southern Dallas water park houses four slides and numerous other aquatic attractions, such as a winding lazy river and shallow tanning pool.
1895 Campfire Circle, Dallas. 214-671-0820. bahamabeachdallas.com.
NRH20 — North Richland Hills’ NRH20 is the perfect park for the suburban family looking for a smaller setting. Single- and multi-rider slides, a wave pool, and the Endless River are among the highlights. NRH20 also offers cabanas to reserve for those looking for privacy during their trip.
9001 Boulevard 26, North Richland Hills. 817-427-6500. nrh20.com.
Wet Zone — Nestled in Rowlett, Wet Zone offers two slides, a lap pool, and kid-friendly play areas. In keeping with its community feel, the water park also offers swimming lessons as well as Junior Lifeguard training.
5304 Main St., Rowlett. 972-412-6266. wetzonewaterpark.com.
Great Wolf Lodge — Considering that most of Great Wolf Lodge’s water park is climate-controlled and indoors, North Texas’ first hybrid hotel-water park isn’t just a summer spot. It is only for lodge guests, however, who can enjoy the impressive water attraction as part of their stay. Slides range from a six-story funnel to a kiddie version, and there’s a wave pool, a lazy river, and more.
100 Great Wolf Drive, Grapevine. 817-488-6510. greatwolf.com.
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