Summer comes and goes every year, but that doesn’t mean you and the family can’t still enjoy a little wet and wild fun throughout the cold winter months. The United States has thousands of miles of beachfront that boast water temperatures warm enough to swim in any time of year. Plus, even when you can’t get away, almost every area of our nation has an indoor water park or two to help melt away the winter blues. So, forget what the calendar says and check out America’s top ten destinations for wet winter family fun.
Indoor Water Parks
When budgets or schedules don’t permit a full-blown getaway, the U.S. has lots of indoor water parks sprinkled throughout the country. Some are just right for a day trip, while others are part of larger resort areas perfect for a long weekend or a week’s vacation. And with young kids, you may prefer to avoid the beaches while they’re still taking their swimming lessons or not yet fully confident in the water.
Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin
The sprawling Wisconsin Dells amusement and resort area has a suitably sized indoor water park to match, at 125,000 square feet. The park boasts rides for every level of thrill seeker, from tranquil to extreme. There’s also an indoor/outdoor spa, a 3,000 square-foot activity pool, and an underwater, virtual reality experience.
Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park Resort, Pennsylvania
Who needs summer when Pennsylvania’s Polynesian-themed Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park maintains a balmy indoor air temperature of 84 degrees? Seven thrilling water slides, including the Black Hole – a slide that keeps you in the dark until you are shot out at the end – helped Splash Lagoon earn fourth place honors in a 2018 USA Today poll of the country’s best water parks. The Splash Lagoon complex also features a three-story high ropes course, an arcade, and Monkey Shines Island – a play area with gentle slides and shallow pools perfect for the littlest ones.
Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark, Pennsylvania
Also, in Pennsylvania, Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark offers the best of winter and summer in one package. Its location on Camelback Mountain means you can ski in the morning and splash in the afternoon. Aquatopia boasts the biggest breakers in the Northeast in its Great Ka-Na-Gawa wave pool, as well as the world’s only combo raft ride of its kind, the Venus SlydeTrap.
Wild Water Dome, Tennessee
A Foil Tech glass roof lets the sunshine in and keeps the Wild Water Dome water park warm enough to swim any time of year. The park has a wide range of indoor water rides, including a five-story-high raft ride, a zero-gravity slide, and several play areas for the kiddies. You can stay right on-site, since the park is part of the Wilderness at the Smokies Resort Hotel, or you can opt for the nearby Smoky Mountains vacation cabins of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark, Michigan
The huge Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark offers 88,000 square feet of thrills, chills, and play zones perfect for the kids. Its Big Couloir slide boasts the industry’s steepest drop (along with a 360-degree loop). Soak for a while in Glacier Hot Springs, an authentic apres-ski experience, or dine in one of the parks’ many eateries. Avalanche Bay has it all with on-site lodging, shopping, and ongoing events.
Massanutten Resort, Virginia
Virginia’s Massanutten Resort encompasses an indoor/outdoor water park, a ski area, and two golf courses. It also features a variety of dining options, plenty of shopping, and a day spa. Its location in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley makes Massanutten easily accessible from several major cities. A USA Today poll in 2018 rated Massanutten as one of the top two indoor water parks in America.
When budget and schedule permit, nothing beats a warm-weather vacation to help get you through the winter. Fortunately, most of Florida, the Gulf Coast states, and Southern California enjoy temps warm enough for swimming, body surfing, and sandcastle building throughout the entire year. And, with average daytime highs of around 78-degrees, winter is the perfect time to take that Hawaiian vacation you’ve been dreaming of too.
The Florida Keys longest island, Islamorada boasts gorgeous sunsets, palm tree-lined beaches, and a tropical paradise feel. Thanks to daytime temperatures in the upper 70’s throughout the winter, you and the family will be able to splash it up on both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico side of the island. Islamorada has several family-oriented attractions like Theater By the Sea – a marine mammal park – the History of Diving Museum, and Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park.
Kauna’oa Bay, Hawaii
Its gentle slope and secluded location make Kauna’oa Bay (a.k.a. Mauna Kea Beach) perfect for building sandcastles with the kids, bodysurfing, or curling up with a good book. Located on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, Mauna Kea Beach features the state’s whitest sand. Nearby attractions include Parker Ranch – the nation’s largest privately-owned cattle ranch – and Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano.
The Emerald Coast, Florida
Teal green waters and sugar-white sand earned a 50-mile stretch of beach along the Florida Panhandle the name “the Emerald Coast.” At the eastern end, Panama City Beach offers year-round fun with seven area amusement parks, including Shipwreck Island Water Park, Coconut Creek Family Fun Park, and Gulf World – a world-class aquarium and sea life habitat. Drive west towards Destin along Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A for spectacular views of the Gulf. Stop for lunch, or stay a few days in the charming little town of Seaside – which Travel & Leisure Magazine once named as having “the Best Beach on Earth for Families.” At the western end of the stretch, the Emerald Coast’s most visited destination – Destin – also has a gorgeous beach, a bustling downtown harbor area, and lots of family-friendly attractions.
Vero Beach, Florida
Old World Florida charm, a gorgeous oceanfront, and proximity to a wide range of attractions make Vero Beach the perfect home base for a warm-weather vacation. Several major league baseball teams hold their spring training camps less than an hour’s drive from Vero in February and March. Other not-too-far attractions include Disneyworld, Cape Canaveral, and the Kennedy Space Center. Closer to home, downtown Vero Beach has plenty of shops, restaurants, and several fascinating museums.