I have never been a fan of amusement parks. Why anyone would want to strap themselves to three tons of steel and hurl themselves through a loop-the-loop 200 feet in the air, then do it all over again backwards is beyond me. It gives me anxiety just thinking about it.
Who is it exactly that named Disneyland the happiest place on earth? My happy place does not include $7 sodas, three-hour lines, and teenagers running around in animal costumes.
My happy place is full of tube slides, wave pools, and lazy rivers. Waterparks are where it's at. I could spend days at a waterpark without getting bored.
I love everything about them. I love the thrill-seeking plummet slides, the colorful tubes, the pirate ships and the tube chutes. I love floating through “abandoned mining caves” past Beware of Wildlife signs before fake, oversized snakes shoot water at you as their plastic eyes light up. I love the overly chlorinated water so blue you'd think it might be a touch radioactive. I love the smell of cheap coconut suntan lotion and plastic tubes.
In my fantasy life when I get fed up with car payments and rent and sitting behind a computer for eight hours a day, I drop out of life to work at a waterpark, but not as a lifeguard— watching other people have all the fun would make me resent them and probably not want to jump in to help them should the need arise. It would be safer for everyone if I spent mornings folding towels, then I could spend every minute of the afternoons in the water.
Being a proud Texan, my go-to waterpark is Schlitterbahn. In the late 1960s the Henry family bought a small resort on the banks of the spring-fed Comal River. The family of five noticed their guests gravitated to the water slides near the river. The family expanded their original vision of the resort and opened Schlitterbahn Waterpark in 1979 with four water slides coming out of a German castle. Loosely meaning Wet Road, Schlitterbahn is a nod to Central Texas’s German heritage. Bahn and haus are added to almost every word in the park giving you the feeling that you're learning a bit of German as you wait in lines.
Today the New Braunfels location has 51 attractions over a 72-acre park. It is known as the Best Waterpark in the World, a nickname I wholeheartedly approve of. And it's only likely to get better— as of last month, the park has new owners, Cedar Fair Entertainment Co., who plan to put millions of dollars of upgrades into its attractions in the years ahead.
I have been visiting Schlitterbahn for 25 years, but until recently I had no idea that they had a resort on the property—people can sleep overnight at the park. What? Why aren’t they telling people this as soon as they buy a ticket? If any cashier said, “Here is your day pass, also you know you can sleep here," I would grab that person’s hand and demand to immediately be taken to my new room.
Once I found out you could stay on property, I booked two nights at The Resort at Schlitterbahn. It was heaven. I woke up, rolled out of bed, and rubbed my sleepy eyes as I grabbed my towel before making a beeline straight to the park’s entrance. Guests who stay at the park are allowed to enter the park an hour early, which means no lines for the Master Blaster, Wolf Pack or Black Knight, the park’s trifecta of high-thrill rides. My room was so close to the park I could hear the rushing water of the rides as I took my mid-day nap. It was as close to my dream of dropping out of life to become a waterpark bum as I will probably ever realize.