HAPPY WANDERER: Best Waterslides in America


As we prepare to celebrate summer, let’s pay homage to the sultan of splash, Herbert Sellner. This Minnesota inventor came up with the water slide in 1923, the most exciting way ever to enter the H2o.

     My affair with the water goes back to my childhood, growing up in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”. We would splash down from rope swings and rings, even bridges and cliffs. I remember as a child, the most popular kid had an above-ground pool with a slide.

     Fast forward to today and I still get the same thrill from water. Indeed, the land of 10,000 lakes is home to America’s biggest indoor water park, Water Park of America. It’s a maze of pipes and pools that slosh you around like a sock in the washer. The park is so large that some slides have to start outdoors and work their way in – making the outside of the building look like Medusa. The day I was there I lost 10 pounds running up ramps and sliding down tubes at a frantic pace. It made me feel young again, until I tried the Flow Rider Surf Simulator and was tossed to the side of the wave pool like a crumpled-up Kleenex. There’s a skill to surfing on a thin sheet of water and a person who bruises easily should stick to the ocean.

     Yet, most resorts don’t have an ocean. They use things like wave simulators instead. My first experience with a wave pool was in college, at an attraction that’s still around today. Big Surf in Tempe, Arizona, has been operating so long; it should be listed under the definition of oasis. It’s also where I lost my first swim top. Body-surfing in my bikini, I underestimated the force of the wave as it crashed onto shore. I won’t go into details but suffice to say, I have been wearing a one-piece to surf ever since.

     The granddaddy of all water park towns is the Wisconsin Dells. With 20 water resorts in the area, it’s earned the distinction of “The Waterpark Capital of the World”. Maybe it’s the harsh winters (they’re home to the nation’s first indoor water park), or the fact that the Wisconsin River winds its way like a great serpent through the center of town, but people here are crazy for water sports. The Dells was the first area to use the World War Two amphibious vehicles, the Duck Boats, for recreation. They were brought here in 1946, letting visitors rumble through the woods and plunge into the river all in one wet and wild trip.

     The Dells, as long as we’re sharing, is where I learned much about the force of gravity. If a person falls ten stories at a high rate of speed, then something has to “give” at the bottom. In the case of my trip down the Anaconda water slide at Treasure Island (now called Mt. Olympus), it was my jean shorts that ended up around my ears. (I assure you, it’s not fatal – just a little uncomfortable).

     Brazil’s Insano water slide is the tallest on record, dropping 135 feet from the height of a 14 story structure. In comparison, Disney’s Blizzard Beach water slide is the tallest in America, dropping 121 feet at a top speed of 55 miles per hour. Any woman needing a facelift could just pay for a wrist band and go down this slide a few times. You’d come out with taunt skin by the end of the day. You’d need a new swimsuit, but your skin would be tight.

Looking for a waterslide this summer? Check out Rapids Water Slides in Pleasanton, Waterworld California in Concord or Antioch City Prewett Water Park in Antioch.


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