America’s heartland region is perhaps best known for its quaint towns, mountain recreation areas and family values. This area is also chock full of water parks, one of America’s favorite pastimes. With notoriously hot, humid summer days, there’s no better way to have fun cooling off with kids than by swooshing down a water slide, floating in a tube down a lazy river or jumping over waves in a 200,000 gallon pool. But, thanks to an influx of indoor water parks in recent years, aquatic fun can now be enjoyed during the state’s equally notorious cold, grey winter seasons. If it’s been a while since you’ve been able to partake in such simple joys, you might be surprised by some of the amazing water features, technology and attractions we found for this list of the best water parks in Pennsylvania.
Waldameer Park & Water World: Erie
Built in 1896 near the Lake Erie shore visitors appreciate the park’s historic character and “retro feel.” Water World, the attraction’s outdoor water park, opened in 1986 and operates during the summer months. Its main features include 31 water slides as well as a 500,000-gallon wave pool that can accommodate up to 1,000 people. An interactive Battle of Lake Erie splash zone brings history to life with a water-spurting replica of a local ship that was used in the War of 1812. This play area encompasses 103 water features like water guns, slides of all shapes and sizes, and a 400-gallon tipping bucket. Those looking to take it easy can unwind in two oversized hot tubs, doze off in a sea of chaise lounges in front of the Giant Wave Pool or float down the slow-moving Endless River in an inner tube. Travelers applaud the many affordable aspects of this park, such as free parking and a price-per-height entrance fee structure. If time allows, a visit to the nearby Presque Island State Park is worthwhile, where you can explore 13 different beaches, take a sightseeing boat tour and visit historic landmarks.
Great Wolf Lodge: Scotrun
(Courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge)
This resort group operates one of the best water park hotels in Pennsylvania. Located in the Pocono Mountains, the property maintains a cozy, rustic feel throughout with a timber design, stone accents and glowing fireplaces. Overnight guests say that kids love sleeping in the in-room bunkbeds, which are outfitted to feel like an outdoor campsite. The indoor water park is accessible year-round featuring a colorful, cavernous maze of waterslides, swimming pools, tubing rides and hot tubs, including one for adults only. Don’t miss the River Canyon Run ride, which can accommodate up to five people on one tube and is designed to mimic a thrilling white water rafting adventure. The resort also offers a full schedule of free, family-friendly activities such as crafts, costumed character appearances, game nights and story times is offered to keep everyone busy from dawn until dusk. Towels and life jackets are provided free-of-charge, and an on-site swim shop carries water park essentials such as bathing suits, flip-flops and goggles. Several casual eateries serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and those with a serious sweet tooth will be pleased to find candy, ice cream and doughnut vendors, too. Lodging guests receive complimentary access to the water park, but day passes are also an option for visitors.
Camelback Resort: Tannersville
(Courtesy of Camelback Resort)
Located near the base of Camelback Mountain ski resort, this is one of the best indoor water parks in Pennsylvania to visit after a day on the slopes. Aquatopia has 13 waterlogged attractions designed for different age groups (indicated by rider height). Teens can learn to surf on the Bombora Flowrider wave simulator, or get an adrenaline rush on the Storm Chaser, an uphill water coaster. Younger kids can splash and slide safely in a shallow, penguin-themed play area, or explore Kartrite’s Quest, a multi-level playground with 84 interactive water features. The Venus Slydetrap is made for the whole family with tubes that accommodate up to six people at once. The accompanying Camelbeach outdoor waterpark has even more slides, rides, pools, patios and private cabanas (available to rent) for enjoying hot summer days. Don’t miss the Titan, an eight-story tall group tube ride, or the Vortex, a unique bowl-shaped body slide. Other on-site amenities include an arcade, snow tubing hill, bumper cars and mountain coaster. Travelers warn of the additional parking fees and high cost of food and drinks and recommend visiting during mid-week when the attractions are not only less crowded, but also less expensive.
Sandcastle: West Homestead
(Courtesy of Sandcastle Waterpark)
With attractions for all ages and a 30-year history at its riverside location in West Homestead it makes sense that Sandcastle is known as “Pittsburgh’s Hometown Waterpark.” After all, the park is less than 10 miles southeast of Steel City. The park features multiple aquatic attractions organized by thrill level, from “mild” to “intense.” The lazy river meanders alongside the scenic Monongahela River, giving an authentic feel to your float trip, which is appreciated by adult visitors. A sprawling lawn and beach area dotted with trees offers a peaceful, shady respite from the waterpark action. The Bombs Away free-fall body slide – anticipated to open in 2022 – is recommended for teenagers and adults only, but younger kids will find plenty of fun at Wet Willie’s Waterworks and the Tad Pool water playgrounds. The adjacent Riverplex venue comprises a park, playground, picnic pavilions and amphitheater, and is home to an array of entertaining events including the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, held annually in September. The water park is generally open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Sesame Place: Langhorne
(Courtesy of Sesame Place)
This is the only amusement park in the country completely dedicated to the Sesame Street television show and its loveable characters, and visitors claim this is one of the best waterparks in Pennsylvania for young children. The water park opens around Memorial Day weekend and features character-themed aquatic delights like Big Bird’s Rambling River, a 1,000 foot long float trip; the multi-level Count’s Splash Castle, with interactive elements like a tipping bucket, jet soakers and water wheels; and Elmo’s Silly Splashy Slides, a set of winding flume slides. Many visitors also highly recommend the daily character parade which gets kids dancing along with the costumed performers. Others bemoaned the long lines for rides, food and drinks. This park is the first in the world to become a Certified Autism Center, with specialized staff training, quiet rooms and noise-cancelling headphones available. Book a stay at a Sesame Place partner hotel, such as the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Philadelphia Langhorne or the Holiday Inn Express Langhorne to gain perks like early entry and discounts on dining, retail, tickets and VIP experiences, including character photo sessions. Ticket prices do not include taxes or parking. There is no charge for children younger than 2 years old.
Idlewild Park & SoakZone: Ligonier
(Courtesy of Idlewild & SoakZone)
This is the longest operating amusement park in the state of Pennsylvania, and one of the oldest in the country. Originally founded as a railroad stop picnic area, it now wins industry awards as a top attraction for children and their families for its wide variety of both aquatic features and dry land activities. Travelers say that the SoakZone outdoor waterpark was the highlight of their visit, with 12 water slides, an interactive splash pad and a lazy river for all ages. The 280,600-gallon Wowabunga Family Wave Pool produces swells at regular intervals for ducking, diving and body-surfing, just like the ocean. Another noteworthy attraction is the vintage wooden carousel, which was constructed in the 1920s and is one of few remaining of its kind. Dining options inside the park include fair favorites like burgers, funnel cakes and ice cream, but visitors warn that items are pricey. Numerous gift shops and convenience stores are scattered throughout the park stocked with everything from souvenirs to sunglasses and anything else you might need during the day. Idlewild and SoakZone are both open in the warmer months.
(Courtesy of Hershey)
This 121-acre kingdom of fun and chocolate was first created as a scenic space for employees of the Hershey’s Chocolate Factory, but now aims to bring joy to visitors of all ages with attractions like roller coasters, a water park and special seasonal celebrations. Arguably one of the best water parks in Pennsylvania, the 11-acre Boardwalk area, open Memorial Day to Labor Day, features an array of slides, rides, pools and playgrounds reminiscent of a day on the Atlantic shore with attractions cheekily entitled Sandcastle Cove, Bayside Pier and Intercoastal Waterway. Head to The Shore wave pool to wade into six-foot depths to brave the intermittent swells that wash over the crowd. For a more thrilling experience, take a ride on the Tidal Force water coaster where you’ll zoom down a 100-foot drop into a pool of water for a refreshing finish. Little kids will enjoy the sensory delights of the water curtains, fountains, sprayers and a tipping bucket at the Shoreline Sprayground. With so much to see and do, visitors recommend planning to spend multiple days here in order to experience everything. Book a stay at one of the park’s accompanying lodging properties − choose between a historic hotel, campgrounds or lodge with its own on-site pool complex − to receive perks like complimentary parking, extended visiting hours and discounts at nearby attractions like ZooAmerica.
Splash Lagoon: Erie
Splash Lagoon is unique in that it is the only Polynesian-themed indoor waterpark in Pennsylvania on this list, complete with palm tree decor, a 12-level Tiki Treehouse water playground and a year-round temperature of 84 degrees Fahrenheit. It also boasts a 200,000 gallon indoor wave pool that can produce waves up to six feet tall. The facility has three adjoining hotels offering a multitude of stay-and-play packages for discounts on meals and dry-land entertainment like the Treasure Island arcade, virtual reality experiences and laser tag. Guests appreciate the adults-only hot tub and bar areas, as well as the array of conveniences and other activities in the surrounding area, like an axe-throwing gallery and ice skating rink.
Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom: Allentown
The Wildwater Kingdom outdoor waterpark showcases 19 refreshing rides, slides and play areas for all ages to enjoy in the summer months. Some of its most unique features include the 65-foot tall Python Plummet body slides, a not-so-lazy river with waterfalls and geysers to provide a surprising splash around every bend and two wave pools. One of the wave pools, called Wildwater Cove, provides a more mellow experience for families with younger children thanks to a shallow end featuring fountains and a slower wave interval sequence. Located near the lockers and lazy river attraction, the Tidal Wave Cafe boasts handmade meals like pulled pork and build-your-own macaroni and cheese bowls, plus serves a signature craft beer specially brewed for Dorney Park down the street at HiJinx Brewing Company. The adjoining amusement park has roller coasters, live entertainment and an expansive Snoopy-themed children’s zone with a large selection of mellow rides for little kids. Locals love the park’s seasonal events here, like the annual Halloween Haunt. Visitors recommend upgrading to the Fast Lane pass if you’re short on time to help you get through the lines more quickly.
Duke’s Lagoon at Dutch Wonderland: Lancaster
(Courtesy of Dutch Wonderland)
Guests of this Medieval-themed water park, open Memorial Day through Labor Day, say it is great for younger children, who love to explore the multi-level aquatic playground featuring spray nozzles, kiddie slides and a tipping water bucket. Older kids can take a ride on two water slides with tubes at the Pipeline Plunge one of which amps up the adrenaline by turning out the lights so you ride in the dark. Keep an eye out for Duke, the park’s purple dragon mascot, as he makes his rounds giving hugs and high-fives to his fans throughout the day. One of the park’s nearby partner hotels, the Cartoon Network Hotel, has its own splash pad, plus indoor and outdoor swimming pools.
DelGrosso’s Park & Laguna Splash: Tipton
What started as a spaghetti sauce factory has grown into an Italian-themed destination for family, food and fun with roots reaching back to 1946. Now, after spending a hot day riding roller coasters and floating in the refreshing River Lazio you can fuel up with a meatball sandwich, pizza or build-your-own pasta dish, all featuring the family’s famous red sauce recipe. The water park showcases six slippery waterslide rides, a six-foot deep wave pool and Bambini Cove, a shallow pool for younger children anchored with a replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, complete with stream of water coming off the top. Older kids can race each other down the Twin Twisters, a fast-paced slide that shoots passengers face-first into a pool at the bottom. In addition to the food, guests adore this park’s affordability and cleanliness. A day pass is required to access the water park, parking and admission to the amusement park area is free (tickets must be purchased to ride each ride). Discounts are also available for evening and weekday visits. While the park is open from May through mid-September, Laguna Splash is open only from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Kalahari: Pocono Manor
(Courtesy of Kalahari)
This resort and convention center located in the Pocono Mountains is one of the best waterpark hotels in Pennsylvania and houses an indoor aquatic complex featuring 220,000 square feet of swimming pools, 16 water slides, rides and fountains to be enjoyed year-round. Cutting-edge features and programs like a Flowrider surf simulator, mermaid swim lessons and the country’s first virtual waterslide experience provide endless enrichment and entertainment for all ages (additional fees apply for some features). In the summertime, the fun continues outdoors with a spacious swimming pool, sundeck and several waterslides. If slipping and sliding isn’t your thing, take a shot on the court at the Lost Lagoon basketball pool. Those in need of a break from the action can find relaxation by lounging in a private cabana rental, floating along the Lazy River or soaking in several indoor and outdoor spa tubs. Six family friendly dining outlets are available across the indoor and outdoor water parks, serving everything from tiki cocktails and ice cream to burgers and pizza. Adult visitors like to hide out in the Paxton Grotto swim-up bar, and mention appreciation for special entertainment touches like elegant holiday decorations and live music in the summer. If you’re waterlogged, there is a slew of dry land activities, too, such as an arcade, miniature golf course and escape room experiences. Hotel guests receive complimentary access to the indoor and outdoor water parks, and also receive extended hours in the facility.
Jellystone Park Camp Resort: Quarryville
(Courtesy of Jellystone Camp Park Resort)
Located in a lush, rural setting surrounded by Amish country, the main attraction at this campground resort is its on-site water park. There are two spacious outdoor swimming pools to help visitors cool off in the hot summer months (one of the pools is heated), as well as two hot tubs. The activity pool has basketball hoops and volleyball nets for splash-worthy competition, as well as a rolling log for endless water-logged entertainment. It is located next to Yogi Bear’s Water Zone, a colorful aquatic playground stocked with interactive elements like spray shooters, fountains, a water cannon blaster and four water slides, which visitors say will keep your kids busy “for hours.” While kids are exploring this fun water fort, adults can find some peace and quiet at numerous shady lounge chairs that surround the pool area, and in the adults-only hot tub. The poolside Pic-A-Nic Basket food truck serves hearty lunch items like cheesesteak sandwiches, chicken tenders and loaded waffle fries, and also offers a kid’s menu. The pool area is adjacent to a recreational zone featuring games like miniature golf, laser tag and shuffleboard for dry-land fun. Access to the water park is included in your stay if you reserve a room, cabin or campsite at the resort. Day passes to the park are also available for non-resort guests, but can only be used Sunday through Thursday during the peak summer season of June through August.