Where I live in the Midwest, water park resorts and hotels are popular for vacations and day trips, especially during the very long, cold winters. Universally, at these establishments, the sensory overload level is set at "to the max." The hotel rooms are costly, yet nothing special to look at. The food is as awful and unhealthy as it is expensive. The opportunities to separate you from your money in stupid ways (arcades, I hate you!) flow as freely as, well, water. And you will leave feeling certain that you or your child has picked up some sort of icky fungus from the shower room.
However, I believe there are some advantages to taking your family to a steamy, chlorine-laced warehouse stuffed with inner tubes, slides, fountains, over-sized fiberglass sea creatures, bored teenage lifeguards, and pirate-y puns. It's obvious what kids get out of the deal, but for us parents, water parks can offer some goodness:
No sunscreen required. This makes me, a very-fair-skinned mom to fair-skinned kids, so happy. Just slap on a swimsuit and you are good to go. There's no need for a head-to-toe coating, and frequent reapplication, of SPF 45. (Life jackets are available for little ones, too.)
Two words: Lazy River. You can't drift on a gentle current of relaxation at Chuck E. Cheese's, that's for sure.
Two more words: Hot tub. Ahhhh. I couldn't care less about the swim-up bars, but a good soak in scalding hot water will always improve my mood. Sometimes you can even catch some quality tub time with your spouse while the kids splash and slide.
One-stop shopping. Yes, you'll probably spend a bundle, but at least you don't need to leave the premises to do so. Any water park worth its salt (er, chlorine) has pools, slides, and other splashy activities to appeal to kids of every age—something for everyone in the family. You can sleep, eat, play, and play some more all under one roof. Park your car and forget about it for while. Plus, you can do everything while wearing plastic shoes and a swimsuit; cover-ups and robes are totally optional. (See #6, below.)
Free StairMaster workout included with the price of admission. Want to ride on one of those cool, giant slides? You'll have to walk up a not-so-cool, but equally giant flight of steps to do it. You'll probably be carrying an enormous inner tube too. If your kid wants to ride (and ride again, and again, and again) but isn't tall or brave enough to go it alone? Start climbing, mama.
- Feel better about your body. No, really. Whatever your height, weight, hairiness level, number of tattoos/piercings, and preferred amount of swimsuit coverage, some other park-goer will match or exceed you. It's a pretty handy reality check.
So pack up your swim gear, flip-flops, and towels (the ones they'll give you at the park? Tiny and scratchy, so bring your own) and hit the splash zone. I bet you'll be glad you did.