Slippin’ ’n’ Slidin’ Spots
Nothing beats a day at the beach—except maybe a day at a water park, especially if you’re a kid.
We in Central New York are lucky to live within easy driving distance of several water parks that can keep any child and family entertained for one day or even more.
For parents, the beauty of water parks is that they offer attractions for kids of all ages. From the “baby pool” to the “toilet bowl” swirling water slide, toddlers to teens love to dip their toes and more into these slippery adventures.
If a parent plans on taking a group of children who range in age, try to bring along another adult or two to help monitor the various places kids will want to go.
Plan on the following to make your water park visit more fun:
• Bring towels, preferably those you don’t mind losing or leaving behind by mistake.
• If the kids use water shoes, bring those for the water rides and sneakers for the dry attractions.
• Consider getting a locker at the park. A change of clothes can be stored there as well as purses, wallets and food.
• Bring water, snacks and lunch. Some parks even provide picnic areas.
• Try to avoid paying full price. Check the park’s Web site for discounted ticket rates or coupons for buying tickets at the park’s entrance gate. Area businesses often offer coupons for reduced-price tickets, too. And some weekdays, even in the midst of summer, may feature reduced prices and smaller crowds. Remember to factor in a parking fee, if required, and consider more expensive tickets that save a few dollars when combining two parks for one visit.
Here are some notes about some of the parks in our region.
Several parents say they like to start their kids at Thunder Island in Fulton because of its manageable size and attractions that suit the younger crowd (toddlers through kindergarten age). It’s also located just north of the greater Syracuse area.
But don’t leave the bigger kids at home, as if that was an option. There’s plenty for them to do from the lazy river to water slides to the towering Ferris wheel. When you’re tired of splashing and whirling, try the Jungle Mini-Golf or go-karts. And all this is just 20 miles from Syracuse.
Pack the family and bathing suits in the car for a drive to Seabreeze, located in Rochester. It’s tough to decide where to start at this park, situated across from Lake Ontario. Make sure to spot the lake when racing to the top of a roller coaster or log flume. Kids of all ages can spend an hour or three in the “spray area,” where the giant bucket of water fills and pours down on waiting heads and bodies every few minutes. There are hoses to shoot, little water slides for the tots, and a magical jumping fountain to walk or jump through. More daring park-goers will be challenged by several big water slides, including the Helix, nicknamed the “toilet bowl” by some kids because of the draining motion in one part of the slide’s downfall.
Don’t miss the train ride around the log flume or the shows of acrobats and other performers that take place a few times each day. And games of chance stand ready when everyone is tired from all the moving fun.
When you’re ready for more of a drive, head up into the Adirondacks to Water Safari (and its amusement park sister, Enchanted Forest) found in Old Forge. About a two-hour drive from the Syracuse area, Water Safari is definitely worth the wait. One can easily spend the whole day (the park closes at 7 p.m.) in the water attractions. But it is possible to split one’s time with the “dry rides” next door in Enchanted Forest. One mother of three advises doing the wet rides in the morning, then stopping for lunch and a change of clothing. Then it’s time to hit the “dry” rides and games to finish off the day.
It’s fun to start the safari adventure with a ski-lift type ride that takes off from right inside the entry gate near the giant-size statue of Paul Bunyan. This ride carries passengers across the park for a bird’s-eye view of slides, pools and even a show area. After surveying the property, wander through some fairy tale spots like the crooked house and try not to wake Sleeping Beauty on your way to the water attractions. Parents may pick a few chairs to camp out in near several slides and two swimming pools. Further along, the wave pool alternates between calm and bouncy waters near where a family-size tube ride ends. Take the main path further into the park to discover several “dry rides,” especially for younger children, and try to time it right to watch a show. Tigers may circle a stage under their trainer’s watchful eye or acrobats of the human kind may twirl above a tightrope strung for walking and bicycling. Then it’s back to the water slides or over to Enchanted Forest.
Many families prefer to make a trip to Darien Lake a longer adventure, staying in nearby campgrounds or motels in the Buffalo area. Whether for one day or two, Darien Lake offers non-stop excitement in its newly expanded and renovated SplashTown Water Park or its theme park, which features dry rides and entertainment. SplashTown now offers 11 water rides or slides and its own wide, lazy river, in which occupants glide along in roomy tubes. Cabanas can be rented for taking a break out of the sun next to the wave pool, and even some water creatures come out to visit during the daily sea lion shows.
SplashTown debuts a quad complex of four water slides this summer, in addition to the tornado-on-its-side slide and others giving riders a drop, a twist and even a rafting experience.
And what if the forecast is gloomy for your precious vacation days? A solution opened last fall at nearby Cascades Indoor Waterpark at Greek Peak’s Hope Lake Lodge in Cortland. An overnight stay in the new wood-trimmed lodge guarantees two days’ of fun in the water park (beginning the morning of check-in through afternoon the day of checkout). Toddlers will love the “baby swings” that circle over the baby pool! Toddlers also can splash at the edge of the wave pool, which reaches 5 feet at the opposite end for adults and good swimmers.
Several small to medium-size water slides are available for children (and energetic parents) while two larger, covered slides take taller riders in tubes outside the building in twists that drop them into a waiting pool. A heated outdoor pool, reached through a water passageway from the indoor park, beckons year-round as does the indoor-outdoor hot tub. When walking from the wave pool to other attractions, stay alert for water hoses aimed by pirate children and the big bucket of water that just may spill as one goes by.
Eileen Gilligan, a mother of two, lives in Baldwinsville.
Cascades Indoor Waterpark
Water Park Safety
Before heading to a water park, remember to prepare for the sun as well as water fun. Pack and apply sunscreen and bring a hat and a loose shirt for when you don’t want more sun or the weather gets cool. Water shoes can protect feet against hot surfaces and cushion steps during a long day of walking and climbing.
Three basic rules should be followed when at a water park or swimming anywhere, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
• Do not swim or go in the water if you have diarrhea.
• Do not swallow the pool water.
• Practice good hygiene and shower before swimming or using a water park, and wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing a diaper.
These steps go a long way in helping maintain healthy water quality and preventing the development of any waterborne ailments.
Of course, water parks should provide plenty of lifeguards to monitor activity at each attraction.
Security World (securityworld.com) reminds parents to pay special attention to the posted signs at each attraction and to make sure the water depth is OK for their children. Never assume the water depth is the same for each slide or wave pool at a park.
• Before going down a water slide, get in the correct position: On most rides, that’s face up and feet first.
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions offers an overview of safety features at water parks at www.iaapa.org.
The organization’s top tips:
• Swimmers under 48 inches tall, weak swimmers and non-swimmers should wear a life vest. Parks may provide them or guests may bring their own.
• Designate a meeting place in case you get separated. Sticking with a buddy system makes sure no one ends up on his or her own.
• Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
• Follow lifeguards’ instructions and let them know if you see someone in trouble.
• Children in diapers must wear waterproof swim diapers. Diapers should be changed away from water areas, preferably in designated diaper-changing areas.
Finally, the CDC reminds park-goers of every parent’s frequent admonition: Don’t run! It’s slippery in and around water; take your time when getting from ride to ride or slide to slide.
Upstate Water Parks
Thunder Island. Off Route 48 at 21 Wilcox Road, Fulton. 598-8016. www.thunderisland.com
Water Safari. In the Adirondacks at 3183 Route 28 Old Forge. 369-6145. www.watersafari.com
SplashTown at Darien Lake. Exit 48A off the Thruway and six miles south on Route 77 to 9993 Allegheny Road, Darien Center. (585) 599-4641 www.splashdarienlake.com or email@example.com
Seabreeze Amusement Park. 4600 Culver Road, Rochester. (585) 323-1900 or (toll-free in New York) (800) 395-2500. www.seabreeze.com
Cascades Indoor Water Park. Greek Peak Mountain Resort, 2000 Route 392, Cortland. (877) 965-6343. www.greekpeak.net
Roseland Waterpark. 250 Eastern Blvd., Canandaigua. (585) 396-2000. www.roselandwaterpark.com