Saturday, August 31, 2013

The WET and WILD of Vegas

In May of 2013, Wet n Wild opened a third park in Las Vegas, NV. I just went out to visit in August. (Their other U.S. properties include Phoenix and Honolulu, both of which have been reviewed previously.)

Before I get into the rides, there is one neat feature that this park includes: For $35, you can buy a rubber wristwatch. Around the park, there are some computer kiosks that allow you to select which ride you would like to go on next. If you have one of the park's wristwatches, you can use this feature, and the watch will tell you when the ride is ready - this way you won't have to wait in line, and the watch is also useful in determining when it is time to put on more sunscreen. I haven't seen this before, but I have read that Wet n Wild Phoenix added it after I have visited that park.

The park was somewhat busy in terms of crowds, but the wristband made it seem like the park was only lightly filled.

The rides include:

The Rattler - this ride looked exciting, but required multiple riders - the Wet n Wild Las Vegas site didn't exactly make this clear.

Royal Flush Extreme - A bowl slide - it was fast and exciting, but the color scheme here seemed a bit bland. Clever title, though, especially for Vegas. Still, a very exciting ride.

Constrictor - A very exciting tube slide. There are parts of the slide that are wider to speed up your riding experience.

Hoover Half Pipe - a ride that would push you up a wall, I didn't do this ride as it required multiple riders, but I would likely be apprehensive about this ride even if I did have other riders, it did look a bit scary.

Canyon Cliffs - a steep body slide, skipped as this didn't really interest me. Note that this ride cannot be reserved in advance with the wristwatch.

Desert Racers - a mat racing slide - I actually didn't like this one as much as similar types of rides in other parks, as the beginning did not have me entering an enclosed tube - I don't know why this matters to me.

Zipp Zapp Zoom - a standard tube slide, it actually felt a bit slower than other tube slides elsewhere, but it was still fun. If you go down the correct tube (the green one), there are interesting light designs throughout the tube.

The park additionally has a wave pool and a lazy river, although only one of them appears to open at a certain time.

Food: Pricey, as with most water parks, and very bland choices such as hot dogs and burgers (interestingly you can only buy the food packages here, e.g. hot dogs and fries, as opposed to just one hot dog.) Unfortunately, there are no other places for food even in the vicinity of the park.

Transportation: Obviously, you'll want to fly into Las Vegas, NV (LAS). Unfortunately, if you don't have a car, you'll need to take a taxi from the Strip, as there are no public busses that move you close to the park, and the park does not have it's own transportation. This could change, however, as the park only opened in 2013. A taxi from the Strip is about $40 each way.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars; this is subject to change if more features are added to the park.

Wisconsin's Kalahari Maji Hifadhi Ya

Hujambo, wenzake msomaji,

Wisconsin Dells is one of the water park capitals of America. The Dells are an interesting place, as, aside from the water parks, the town would seem like a standard place to pull off the highway for an overnight hotel stay - most of the restaurants and hotels are generic brand-name hotels. But this blog is about the Kalahari water park. I visited my brother who was spending the summer in Milwaukee, WI, and one day we drove up to the Dells for some water park fun - it was surprisingly cold for a July day, so we went to the Kalahari water park, the largest indoor water park in the Dells. There is a smaller outdoor section - I went on some of the rides, but it was too cold to stay out for long.

It was built in to it's own hotel - unlike Great Wolf, however, they sell a limited number of day passes.

The rides include:

Victoria Falls - a raft ride, I didn't go on it.

Master Blaster - a water-coaster type ride that propels you up and down the hills. When I was reading about this ride before, the site said "no single riders", but that turned out to be a blatant lie (note that it no longer says that on their website.) Be careful where you position your feet however, you don't want your ankles to be rubbed by the grills. This was probably the best ride in the park.

Screaming Hyena/Sahara Sidewinders - body slides that involve being dropped through a trapdoor at the start. I didn't go on this - as adventurous as I can be sometimes, this seemed way too scary for me.

Rippling Rhino - a tube slide with where you go down with a long raft.

Elephant's Trunk - a body slide. It is exciting, until the end where I would be thrown into a pool and get water up by nose.

Tanzanian Twister - a bowl slide where you are dumped into a pool of water at the end. I didn't do this ride - I've done a similar ride at Splash Lagoon (Erie, PA) but had no desire to do it again.

Zig-zag zebra - your standard tube slide deal - get an inner tube and have fun!

The Outdoor section of the park includes:

Extreme Rush - a mat slide, but one with twists and turns, unlike the straight mat slides in other parks. I personally didn't care for the twists and turns while I was on my stomach.

Swahili Swirl - A bowl slide, where you would be Swahili Swirled in an inner tube and then dropped into the exit pool.

Wild Wildebeest - An inner tube slide - it had parts that would drop water on you, and was more exciting than Zig-Zag Zebra, but as the weather was colder this day, it was harder to enjoy.

Anaconda - a raft ride outdoors, I skipped this ride.

The water park had a number of hot tubs, a wave pool, and a lazy river inside. One hot tub would be entered from the indoor park but went outside.

Food: Everything was pretty standard as far as water parks go. There may be more restaurants on the hotel premises, but I didn't want to get too far from the park. As much as I enjoy water parks, eating at them is becoming my least favorite part of the experience - the food offered is always along the lines of poorly-prepared burgers, hot dogs, and fatty fries.

Transportation: Wisconsin Dells doesn't really have any public transportation. I got up here by driving up with my brother from Milwaukee. The closest airport is Madison-Dane County (MSN), and the Kalahari hotel does have a shuttle from MSN (about 50-60 mins in distance), but that's pretty much it. Wisconsin Dells isn't easy to get around if you don't have a car or a friend with a car.

Overall: It was a very nice indoor water park. Some of the rides are pretty intense, so if you enjoy the more extreme types of slides, you will love this place. It's probably the largest indoor water park I've been to. It was crowded, but this was a Saturday in July, whereas I usually try to go in May/early June/late August/off-season.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Water Park Rankings

With my visit to Wet 'n Wild Hawaii, I have now visited 10 different water parks!

With this, for the first time on this blog, I will directly compare the water parks I have been to, listing them from favorite to least favorite.

Without further ado....

1. Wet n' Wild Phoenix - While there are a few things I wish were done differently, and it can get a bit on the crowded side, I believe this to be the best water park I have visited at this point. It had almost every exciting ride one could ask for, including the Water Coaster. (3.5/4 stars)

2. Aquatica Orlando - A close second to WnW Phoenix, it had many great slides and was very large. (3.5/4 stars)

3. Adventure Island (Tampa) - A very unique looking park, with lots of great water slides. (3/4 stars)

4. Wet n' Wild Hawaii - It was hard to determine whether Wet n Wild Hawaii or Adventure Island should get the better ranking, but I did feel that the slides were slightly more fun in Tampa. I would say that as a whole, Oahu is much more preferable for vacation than Tampa, but when it comes to the water park, I ultimately feel the the water park in Tampa holds a slight edge due to the larger availability of activities. (3/4 stars)

5. Splash Lagoon (Erie)  - While it is a smaller indoor water park, if you go at the right time, there are almost no lines and many fun attractions. (3/4 stars)

6. Splish Splash Long Island - I haven't been to this water park in a while, and two new rides have been added since the last time I have been here, so this ranking is subject to change pending a future visit. The reason this water park is harder to compare to the other water parks I have been to is that Splish Splash is about the only water park I can visit where I know I would have access to the multi-person water slides (which many of the slides are). Despite the exciting rides, the water park is really brought down by the excessively long lines. Also, the 'bowl' requires two riders, which is not true of 'bowl' rides in almost any other water park. (2.5/4 stars)

7. Golfland SunSplash (Phoenix-Mesa) - While Phoenix does have the amazing Wet 'n Wild water park, it also has SunSplash, which is basically just okay. The water park was very crammed (not in terms of crowds, but in terms of space), and most of the rides seemed on the 'okay' side. Even the water coaster didn't seem especially exciting here. (2.5/4 stars)

8. Great Wolf Lodge - Charlotte - A small water park with exciting rides, but two of the five rides were multi person (I wasn't by myself here, so I could ride those two rides), and you pretty much have to either stay at the hotel or be a guest of a hotel guest to use the water park, so access is limited. (2.5/4 stars).

9. Water Park of America (Minneapolis/St. Paul) - Very few rides, but still can be a nice diversion if you're in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. (2/4 stars)

10. Splash Works of Canada's Wonderland (Toronto) - while it was convenient to have the water park attached directly to the theme park, the water here was way too cold to enjoy. (2/4 stars)

A WET and WILD ALOHA Adventure

Wet n Wild Hawaii - the only water park in the state of Hawaii - has quite a few slides and activities to offer.

This company also runs Wet n Wild Phoenix, which I have blogged previously, and is opening Wet n Wild Las Vegas this year.

As said, this is the only water park in the state of Hawaii. It is located in Kapolei, HI, west of Honolulu,      on the island of Oahu. There were many things to enjoy about Wet 'n Wild Hawaii, but there were also several things that could have been run better.

I'll start with the activities:

Three of the rides (the Tornado, the Raging River, and the Shaka) don't accommodate single riders. Unlike most visits to water parks, I did actually have a chance to ride the Raging River with people I met at the water park. I didn't have a chance to ride the Shaka, and the Tornado was closed for repairs. The Raging River was fun albeit a standard family raft ride.

Then, there is the Big Kahuna - a tube slide, which is wide and moves pretty fast. However, one problem with this ride is that the sign specifically states "solo riders must ride in single tube" for this ride. However, no single tubes are offered with the ride, and the only way to get one is to rent one from the locker stand. Not only does that mean I had to pay $7 extra to be able to ride on this slide, but that I also have to lug the tube around with me wherever I go in the park (and when I ride on a slide that doesn't call for an inner tube, I have to set it down somewhere and hope no one takes it!)  Also note that there are also single tubes available for the Kapolei Kooler river and the Hawaiian Waters wave pool, but THOSE tubes somehow are not for use on the Big Kahuna.

To borrow a phrase from internet film critic Confused Matthew, why should I have to do that?

That being said though, having your own rental tube does allow you to skip lines for getting a tube. Still, I would much prefer that single tubes be provided at the bottom of the slide.

Okay, I know that's an unusually large rant, but no other water slide I have seen at any water park has such a ridiculous system.

On to the rest:

The Wainae Coasters are the standard tube slides, and they move very fast and have some exciting drops. One of the four slides was down for maintenance, the other slides included a blue, red, and yellow slide - the blue was part enclosed, part open, the red one was all open, and the yellow was all enclosed - the yellow flume was actually quite hot inside, unlike the other flumes.

The Surfsliders are the standard body slides, and move quickly - I appreciated the fact that the slides did not end in a pool - I often get water up my nose when I ride on slides that do.

The Flyin' Hawaiian are short body slides that drop you into an 8 foot pool at the end. It is different from the standard body slide in that you actually drop into the pool, as opposed to the water meeting you at the very end of the slide.

The Island Racers are probably my favorite ride at the park - you get down on a mat and go down to slide on your stomach - this might be the best version of this ride yet, since it had many different stages, although the Taumata Racer (Aquatica, Orlando, FL) is a tough competitor for this honor.

There was also the Wave Pool (Hawaiian Waters), and the Lazy River (Kapolei Kooler). I must admit, after having been to several water parks, these activities are more fun in indoor as opposed to outdoor water parks. I guess I don't like sitting out in the sun...

For reference, the Shaka is a half-pipe ride that accommodates 2 riders. There actually was a version of this ride in SunSplash Phoenix-Mesa that allowed for a single rider, but it was extremely scary, even for me. The Tornado is a funnel that allows 2-4 riders. I have been on versions of the Tornado in Splish Splash Long Island and in Great Wolf Lodge, Charlotte, NC.

There's also Da' Flowrider, which is an artifical place to bodyboard/surf (costs extra to use), but somehow I'm too nervous for artificial bodyboarding.

I can't speak for the crowds and running of the water park in the peak season, but I was here in May, which seemed to be an off season for the water park - some things worth noting:

1. Barely any crowds - although Hawaii is a popular tourist destination, the water park doesn't get too busy in May. That was good because the lines would range from short to non-existant.

2. However, Wet n Wild Hawaii would only have 3-4 of the rides open at a time, so I would have to wait until a ride opened in order to use it. Rides would rotate every 30 minutes or so.

3. The water park (even in the peak season) closes earlier than parks on the mainland, likely due to the fact that it gets darker in Hawaii earlier.

Finally, the scenery was amazing - lots of palm trees and great weather. You can get a (distant) view of the ocean from the top of some slides.

Transportation: The water park is on Oahu, so fly into Honolulu International Airport (HNL). The water park is on Farrington Drive, Kapolei, HI. If you're not driving, the best option to get to Wet n Wild Hawaii is to pay for a transportation package - the water park has it's own bus that will take you to it. This is very convenient, hopefully other water parks may follow suit. ;)

Food: On the expensive side. However, if you go to this water park, expect to eat their food: there aren't any outside food places in the area, and outside food is not allowed in the park.

Overall: Many good slides, and in a place with great weather (general note about Oahu - some areas have almost constant sunshine while other areas have frequent rainfall).  I just wish that the Big Kahuna would provide single inner tubes with the ride, and that, in general, there were more 'special' rides that would accommodate single riders, such as a 'toilet bowl' or the 'maximum velocity' ride in Phoenix, for example.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

(Pictures coming soon...)