Take the plunge
Yeah, it's spring. But it sure isn't swimming weather – at least not outside. For a day trip or a weekend away, choose one of these seven (indoor) water parks within driving distance of Boston.
If a tropical getaway isn’t in your budget, but your family needs a quick hit of warm-weather fun, picture this: rocketing down a water slide into the bubbling drink or watching giddy children anticipating giant buckets spilling gallons of water onto their heads. Best of all: The temperature is downright balmy.
It’s a road trip, but Great Wolf Lodge (http://www.greatwolf.com) in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains (800-768-9653) is impressive. About a five-hour drive from the Boston area, this 75,000-square-foot water park includes the Double Barrel Drop, a six-story behemoth with dramatic artificial fog, lights, and music. The ride, which has two funnels, a 450-degree hairpin turn, and a stomach-dropping plunge, is not for the fainthearted. (There is a 48-inch height requirement.) Or shoot down Alberta Falls (42-inch minimum) on an inner tube that zigs and zags until it drops riders into the pool.
Other adventures include climbing stairs and suspension bridges four stories into the Fort Mackenzie treehouse. As we walked up one set of stairs, my children were delighted to discover that they could press buttons to dump water on their new friends. One night, my son and I bonded while bobbing along Crooked Creek, a lazy river ride. Another favorite was the nightly story time held beneath the Great Clock Tower with animatronic animals that sing.
Park entry is reserved for guests, which keeps the lines manageable. Passes are included in the room rates, which begin at $229 a night.
If you’re heading north, stay over at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort (800-752-2538, http://www.redjacketresorts.com) in North Conway, New Hampshire, which includes the 40,000-square-foot Kahuna Laguna Waterpark. Some highlights: shooting hoops at the basketball court with a waterfall, or tubing down the Super Tsunami enclosed slide, considered the fastest of the park’s four slides. The 25-person hot tub welcomes adults and kids 6 or older. Rates start at $209 per night for a family of four and include passes to the water park. Tickets are sold to guests only. If grandma wants to come and watch without getting wet, admission is $10.
Tip: If the Kahuna is sold out, the Hampton Inn & Suites down the road (888-420-7275, http://www.hamptonnorthconwayhotel.com) offers guests two four-story flumes and a toddler area featuring a whimsical frog slide and a “mushroom” with cascading water. Rates start at $89 a night midweek.
Back in Massachusetts, the John Carver Inn & Spa in Plymouth (800-274-1620, http://www.johncarverinn.com) has an 80-foot water slide that shoots out of a model of the Mayflower and a “Plymouth Rock” hot tub for mom and dad. Rates start at $99 on weekdays and $139 on weekends. For day-trippers, the water park offers two-hour passes for $15 per person, depending on availability, and hosts birthday parties Sunday through Thursday.
Another option that doesn’t require a night’s stay is the CoCo Key Water Resort (http://www.cocokeywaterresort.com), with two locations in the Bay State: the Courtyard by Marriott in Fitchburg (877-875-5016) and the Crowne Plaza hotel in Danvers (877-875-4706). The Parrot’s Perch play area encourages little ones (under 48 inches) to feel mighty, with water cannons, a zero-depth-entry pool, and smaller, more manageable slides. Older kids can play water basketball or balance on lily pads at Coral Reef Cavern; children are expected to be adequate swimmers. The Coconut Grove Adventure River draws in raft lovers, including parents riding on inflatable tubes holding their babies. Older kids can climb towers in search of the fastest slide – Shark Slam, Pelican Plunge, or Barracuda Blast? – and the Danvers location also has the Gator Gush slide (all 48-inch requirements). Surprisingly, my kids’ favorite spot was the swim-through inside/outside whirlpool.
Guest rooms include entry to the park ($149 a night for a family of four), but you can also buy a day pass in advance, online only, for prices ranging as low as $10 per person to $32, depending on the day and location. Outside food is not allowed, but there are some fast-food restaurants inside the park. Note: In mid-February, both hotels were sold in an online auction. While the new owners are expected to continue water park operations, it’s best to check before you go.
Another option for a day plunge is the Cape Codder Resort & Spa in Hyannis (888-297-2200, http://www.capecodderresort.com). This modest indoor park features a large wave pool, two water slides, an umbrella water fountain, and a 24-person whirlpool for ages 16 and up. Rates begin at $99 a night; day passes may be purchased for $20 Monday through Thursday and $25 Friday through Sunday, based on availability. Note: The pool closes daily for maintenance from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. The resort is planning to expand by 2013, creating an indoor/outdoor water park with a retractable roof.
If your appetite has been whetted, go ahead and mark your calendars for next winter. Jay Peak, about four hours north of Boston in Jay, Vermont, is slated to open a 50,000-square-foot water park this December featuring a lazy river, two Surf Riders, and North America’s first indoor AquaLoop slide (the only other indoor AquaLoop in the world is in Japan), which propels riders at 40 miles an hour and drops them 60 feet per second. Whew.
So much heart-pumping excitement . . . you’re going to feel like you need a vacation.
Michelle Bermas is a freelance writer in Hanson. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.