Smaller and more compact than nearby Busch Gardens, Water Country USA offers a full day of fun for families of all sizes and ages. On a recent weekday visit, we spent 6 happy, soaked hours there and would have gladly stayed longer if it wasn’t for a serious thunderstorm that came along in the late afternoon.
Before you head to Water Country USA (or anywhere else, for that matter), OK says make a plan. We are big on visiting theme parks on non-peak days whenever we can, and visited Water Country USA on a Monday. While there were a lot of people there, it did not feel overcrowded and the most we waited for a ride was 30 minutes.
Regardless of when you go, take a look at the park map online before your visit to become familiar with what the park has to offer. Print off a copy and let your kids take a peek and maybe even have them circle some of the top places that they want to go.
The SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. company really has made it a point to make sure their parks are good for the whole family. Whether you have young children, elementary-aged children, teens or college students — there is something here for everyone.For the youngest kids, Water Country USA has three main “Kidsiderate Attractions.” Start with Kritter Korral, a large play area with smaller waterslides, floating creatures to play on, water spraying features, a two-foot deep wading pool, and plenty of lounge chairs all over the area for parents to cop-a-squat. Next door is Cow-A-Bunga, a 4,500-square-foot heated pool offering kids a chance to splash around and to play with water cannons or slide down gentle kid-friendly slides. A short stroll away is another child-ready attraction, H2O UFO, Water Country USA’s largest children’s area.
There are spray jets, climbing structures, a waterfall and other fun interactive features. It comes complete with many lounge chairs so you can leave your belongings and splash with the kids. Kids will love going down one of the two waterslides on a double tube with a friend or with a parent.
Don’t worry – there is plenty here for the older kids and other thrillseekers in your group. Water Country USA has lots of watersides with single tubes, double tubes, big multi-person rafts, gentle curves and sudden drops – they are all fun in their own way. Some of our personal favorites were:
- The Aquazoid. After a 6 story stair climb, load up a 4-person raft and shoot down an enclosed 850 foot long run mostly in the dark with two brief moments of daylight. I have never heard my 12-year-old scream so loudly, in the end she loved it.
- Big Daddy Falls. This is a really cool ride with lots of water surprises. Load up in a raft with your family and head down the white water where you’ll encounter drops, twists and turns plus a few waterfalls.
- Malibu Pipeline. Carry a two-person tube up several fights of stairs, to head back down 450 feet through mostly enclosed tubes with water sprays, drops and excitement to then plunge into the pool at the end.
- Jet Scream. This was one of the first waterslides we took on and it remains a favorite. You can choose from one of four flumes and you go down in single tubes ending up in a pool of water at the bottom. Lines may seem long here, but hang tight as they did move fast.
- Meltdown is another family-friendly slide that should be fun for all but the smallest kids. This is a big drop, big chute ride that uses a three seat boat-shaped inflatable. The climb up several stories moves fairly quickly, but you’ll have plenty of time to marvel at (and think up reasons not to go on) the Vanish Point, which is located nearby.
We weren’t able to try the scariest looking one, the Vanish Point due to an acute attack of parental cowardice, but we were able to keep our eyes open to watch others try it. We saw lots of people going on it multiple times, so it definitely garners thrill-points for whomever is brave enough to take the plunge.
When you need to chillax for a little bit, head over to Surfer’s Bay, where you can relax on a lounge chair and take a dip in the 23,000 square foot wave pool. Waves are on for about 8 minutes followed by a 10-minute break. It is a zero-entry depth pool so you can sit on the edge and watch from afar or brave the waves and do a little body surfing.
Another great place to relax is the Hubba Hubba Highway. It’s a lazy river, but a fittenly fast one. A fast moving current carries you around and around through sprays to get you just a little more wet. You can wear a life vest which will help you float around easier or you can forgo it as we did and just self propel.
If you are still looking for a place to take a breather, go to Rock ‘N’ Roll Island. Here you will find a traditional (slow moving) lazy river where you can lay in tubes and casually float around and around. The lazy river circles a three tube slide ride called Jammin’ Jukebox. Climb a few flights of stairs, pick a color and down you go at the lifeguards command, plunging into a pool at the end. Other features in this area are an 11,000 square foot pool and a smaller slide for kids under 42″.
There are five main restaurants within the park – Hot Spot Cafe, Cosmic Cafe, Catalina Grill and Surfside Market. Many of them have similar fare – burgers, pizza, hot dogs, tenders, etc. For a change of pace, we tried out Launch Pad Pub & Subs which serves freshly prepared sandwiches and salads.
The highlight there is an amazingly large Mediterranean salad for $8.99. Kids meals were available for $5.99 and included either a turkey sandwich or hot dog plus fresh fruit.
For dessert you can head to Daddy O’s Eats, Chow Market or Way Out Candy. We decided that after a day in the water we had earned it, so we sampled two large waffle ice cream cones (4.50/cone) and a delicious funnel cake.
Hours of Operation and Admission
- The park is open daily at 10am from now until September 3, 2012. The park closes at various times depending on the day — as early as 5pm and as late as 8pm. You can see a full schedule online. Note that the park can close for inclement weather, so be prepared, and if it does happen, use this as a teachable moment on handling disappointments.
- A variety of ticket options are available. The Water Country Summer Sizzler ticket is $47.99 for ages 3 and up. For that price you get unlimited admission to Water Country USA through September 3, 2012. You can also choose to purchase a single day ticket: $47.99/adults; $40.99 ages 3 to 9.
- If you have more time, make it a multi-day trip and purchase the Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA Discovery Ticket for $84.99/ages 3 and up. This ticket allows for unlimited visits to Busch Gardens Williamsburg (and Water Country USA when open) for up to seven (7) consecutive days from date of first use. It also includes free parking at both parks.
- You can also choose from other ticket options that allow you to include Historic Williamsburg in your visit. The Williamsburg Bounce Ticket and Williamsburg Flex Ticket are great options.
- Parking is $13 per vehicle per day. You can purchase your parking ticket in advance online.
- Like Water Country USA on Facebook to get updates on happenings at the park plus special offers.
- Anheuser-Busch salutes active duty, activated or drilling reservist and National Guardsmen through their Here’s to the Heroes Program. This program allows the aforementioned heroes to free admission. You need to register online or you can submit your information at the entrance plaza to the park. As many as three direct dependents of military personnel also are entitled to free admission.
- There are restrooms conveniently located throughout the park. They were all surprisingly clean and many have baby changing areas. There are also two places with showers, so you can rinse off and change before loading back into the car if you’d like. This makes a long day trip from DC very doable if you are short on time.
- Check the website before going to get a feel for height restrictions for the various activities.
- If you have a stroller or wheelchair, note that some areas through the park can be quite hilly.
- Life vests are available at no extra charge throughout the park. Kids (and adults) can wear them on just about any ride (with the exception of a few of 100the crazy waterslides!).
- Rent a locker to store your valuables. They start at $13 and that gives you access to the locker for the entire day. In addition, each ride does offer cubbies to store your shoes, and lots of people were leaving drinks and totes nearby as well. We also saw lots of people with small dry cases around their necks; others kept wallets in a ziplock bag, and that seems like a good “go light” alternative.
- Consider wearing water shoes. Some of the climbs up to waterslides were hot and burned the bottom of our feet. No biggie, but it might get old after a while for some.
- Don’t forget to bring sunblock and water.
- If you want a little space and a place to call home, consider renting a cabana or lounger package. Cabana Rental starts at $119.99/day and goes up depending on the day you will be at the park and which cabana package you choose. Lounger Rentals start at $24.99/day and also goes up depending on the day you will be at the park and the location of the loungers that you choose. These might be a good option if you have a large group, particularly if you have less active adults or little little kids with you. Having a space to call your own on a crowded day might make it that much more enjoyable.
- Another way to upgrade your experience is to purchase the Quick Queue Pass. This pass offers unlimited priority sliding for Vanish Point, Big Daddy Falls, Malibu Pipeline, and Wild Thang. Prices start at $10.95/person and goes up depending on date of visit.
Williamsburg is about a two and a half hour drive from the DC metro area. It makes for a fairly easy car trip if there isn’t any traffic.
For hours of wet family fun, head to Water Country USA. It’s the perfect cure for a hot summer day!