With its proximity to the ocean and heavy cultural emphasis on the sea, it’s no surprise that California has plenty of great water parks. Here are ten of the best water parks in California, including some of their top attractions and what sets them apart from the others.
- Raging Waters
- Six Flags Hurricane Harbor (LA)
- Wet’n’Wild Palm Springs (The Palm Springs Surf Club)
- Knott’s Soak City
- Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove
- Boomerang Bay (South Bay Shores)
- Wild Water Adventure Park
- Waterworld California (Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord)
- Aquatica San Diego (Sesame Place)
- LEGOLAND California Resort
- Other fantastic water parks to consider for some family fun
Raging Waters is a series of three water parks set in Sacramento, San Jose, and Los Angeles. The LA location is especially notable as one of the largest water parks in California, sprawling over 60 acres and boasting more than 50 rides and attractions.
The Aqua Rocket is a must-see ride here, mixing a traditional raft ride with the speed and turns of a roller coaster for an intensely thrilling experience. Raging Waters LA also has several dark flumes, giving an element of surprise to the speed and turns of the ride down.
If you’re visiting with children, the Kid’s Kingdom is a 30,000 square foot child-friendly playground, supported by the Little Dipper Lagoon for more kid-friendly fun. If you’re interested in more active rides, the Lily Pads are an obstacle course demanding both strength and skill, and they’ll dunk you if you lack either.
Raging Waters stands out as a great park no matter which of the three locations you visit, and most of that has to do with the high variety of rides. Whether you’re going for a casual stroll or a heart-pounding run, Raging Waters has multiple options for everyone. They’re also surprisingly affordable, with the basic season pass costing only slightly more than general admission.
Six Flags has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most reliable theme park chains in the country, and their Hurricane Harbor water parks are no exception. As the name suggests, Hurricane Harbor locations have an emphasis on thrill rides, and those make up most of the attractions at their LA location.
One of their major highlights is Black Snake Summit, a collection of four high-speed water slides. Two of them are fully enclosed and travel through about 500 feet of curves in total darkness. The other two slides are high-speed options that let park visitors race down. For more thrills, the Bonzai Pipelines go down almost vertically.
Thrills are the clear focus here, but kid-friendly areas like Splash Island and Castaway Cove provide a safer and calmer environment for visitors that aren’t ready for the main rides. There are also several family rides, including a racer, a wave pool, and a gentle river cruise.
Hurricane Harbor isn’t as large as Raging Waters, but the high intensity of its thrill rides make for an experience you won’t soon forget.
Wet’n’Wild Palm Springs (The Palm Springs Surf Club)
Wet’n’Wild is one of the more curious water parks in California, partially because it’s been closed for the last few years. It’s scheduled to open in 2022 after an aggressive renovation, making this a rare opportunity to experience new slides and rides. The new name will be The Palm Springs Surf Club.
The highlight of this upcoming park is a massive wave pool, with support for everyone from newcomers to experienced surfers. Other amenities for the 21-acre property will include a lazy river and areas for kids kept from the old park, as well as a more modern restaurant, spa, and bar area.
Other rides are yet to be announced, but with its relatively large area and support from outside investors, The Palm Springs Surf Club is shaping up to be an exciting place for visitors of all ages. It doesn’t have a website right now, but will have one closer to its opening.
An add-on for the famous Knott’s Berry Farm park, Knott’s Soak City is a separately-gated 15-acre facility right next door. This park highlights its water slides, with an impressive 23 different options focusing on the speed, tube, and body styles to give plenty of variety for every guest.
Make sure to take at least one visit to the Beach House, which has hundreds of interactive components including water guns, faucets, and nozzles. Every few minutes, the ride also dumps hundreds of gallons of water on people standing below. This is an impressively feature-dense ride, suitable for the whole family. Or rather, it’s much more fun in a group!
For something more relaxing, the Sunset River is a 1,780-foot waterway with well-cushioned tubes and great views of the rest of the park. The river itself is kid-friendly with a maximum depth of just two and a half feet, and the river itself is wheelchair-accessible. Water wheelchairs are available, although only in limited quantities.
Knott’s Soak City has a bigger emphasis on family fun than many of the other best water parks in California. It’s especially great if you enjoy water slides. If you’re looking for a bigger experience, you can get a pass for both Soak City and the bigger Knott’s Berry Farm next door, ensuring a full day of fun.
The Great Wolf Lodge is primarily a themed resort hotel, but it makes this list thanks to having an indoor, on-site water park with a surprisingly high density of rides and attractions. Water park passes are included with stays at the lodge, so you don’t have to worry about getting them separately.
This is a relatively family-friendly park, featuring attractions like the four-story Fort Mackenzie with numerous interactive components, toys, and slides. This fort is suitable for children as young as toddlers, ensuring a truly family-friendly experience.
Adults can have plenty of fun, too, with options like the Coyote Canyon vortex slide and the Wolf Tail drop providing heart-pumping fun. Access policies are generous here, with a stay at the lodge letting you keep having fun at the park until closing time on the day of your departure, even if you’ve already checked out.
South Bay Shores, formerly known as Boomerang Bay, is part of California’s Great America park. This is a largely family-friendly area, with the Pacific Surge as the only thrill ride in the water park. This seven-story tower is a collection of six water slides with three noticeably different styles.
Family attractions notably include the Coastal Cruz, which takes a four-person raft through numerous turns and both up and down the walls of the slide for a thrill. For those with a competitive streak, the Reef Racer offers your choice of a free-fall slide or a dark tube, both timed to offer real competition between riders.
Kid-friendly areas at South Bay Shores include a heated tide pool with gentle slides, dozens of interactive play elements at the Pup’s Pier structure, and the Otter Trotter’s spray jets. That last one is a great place for the family thanks to numerous shade structures and lounge chairs set around the area.
Overall, South Bay Shores is as casual as water parks ever get. While there are some exciting elements, its real focus is family fun, and especially so for families with small children.
Wild Water Adventure Park is one of California’s larger options, covering about 52 acres. It’s not quite as big as Raging Waters, but it’s still more than twice the size of many other water parks. This area has about 20 main attractions and 38 water slides, making it a top choice for fun if you’re anywhere near Fresno.
Be sure to stop by the wave pool, which covers about 30,000 square feet and holds almost a million gallons of moving water. For more thrills, the southern part of the park has most of the water slides in a relatively dense area, so you can quickly return and try another slide. The number of occupants varies by slide, ensuring many different experiences.
The main highlight for kids is Adventure Bay, which covers about 15,000 square feet of youth-friendly fun. Immediately adjacent is a series of child-friendly water slides. If you’re visiting in a larger group, you can reserve cabanas in various sizes, complete with extra lounging areas, picnic support, and more.
Wild Water definitely puts the water in the water park, with almost all of its attractions involving getting wet somehow. It’s particularly good for slide enthusiasts and anyone who enjoys wave pools, both of which are major highlights of the area. Unusually, you can fish from some of the cabanas, making this a great place for fishers to relax while kids go to the slides.
Waterworld California (Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord)
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord is the companion to their Los Angeles location, and formerly known as Waterworld California before it got added to Six Flags portfolio. Like other Hurricane Harbor locations, this park has an emphasis on thrill rides while still offering a little support for families.
The highlight of this park is the Honolulu Halfpipe, which features a rapid shift between sliding forward and back before you finally splash down. Meanwhile, the Break Point Plunge offers instant adrenaline with a sharp drop before a long slide. This ride goes down about a hundred feet total, with a length of 270 feet.
Hurricane Harbor Concord emphasizes thrills, but kids can play over at Caribbean Cove, a tropical play area with numerous splashing areas, jets, and geysers. Family attractions include The Big Kahuna, a massive water slide, and the Splashwater Island interactive playground. For something more relaxing, float down the Kaanapali Kooler Lazy River.
Six Flags’ Hurricane Harbor Concord isn’t the biggest water park in California, but its intense thrills and a generous number of slides offer a full day of entertainment.
Aquatica San Diego (Sesame Place)
Aquatica was one part of the larger SeaWorld portfolio in Southern California, but it’s permanently closed as SeaWorld converts it to a new water park: Sesame Place. Based on the iconic Sesame Street franchise, this new park features a 500,000-gallon wave pool, live character shows, daily parades, and plenty of splashing.
Family-friendly rides include a large swing ride, a climbing tower, music zones, and a relaxing coaster. Meanwhile, water slides include a variety of enclosed and open-air tunnels, a lazy river, and Cookie’s Monster Mixer as a six-story family rafting experience.
Sesame Place also has the rare distinction of opening as a Certified Autism Center, with extensive training for staff in areas like sensory and emotional awareness, communication needs, and designated quiet zones. This focus on inclusive play makes Sesame Place a particularly good choice for children with special needs.
As the styling of this park suggests, Sesame Place is a kid-and-family theme park. Adults and couples may not find too much to enjoy alone here, but it’s easily a top choice for visiting with younger kids or those with special needs. Brochures and other information will be available to help plan visits when the park opens.
LEGOLAND is one of the larger theme parks in California, with numerous rides and components. You can enjoy a stay at the thematic LEGOLAND hotels, look at an on-site aquarium, or visit the regular park for higher-octane thrills.
The water park covers about 10 acres, with a surprisingly high density of rides and attractions. The lazy river is a little less lazy than usual because you can design and build your own raft before you start floating along. Meanwhile, the Pirate Reef ride lets you fire water cannons at other ships, while the red Twin Chasers let people race down to the bottom.
Unsurprisingly, LEGOLAND is a kid-friendly park. Areas like the Imagination Station allow building with bricks and testing them against the water flow, while the Splash Zoo is particularly appropriate for children between 1 and 3 years old. The bigger Soak-N-Sail zone has hundreds of gallons of water dumping over an interactive play zone.
LEGOLAND works well as a water park on its own merits, but the real fun here comes when you go for the complete experience. Consider visiting either the main park or the water park first, staying overnight at the hotel, and going to the other park the next day for even more fun. Between all of its components, LEGOLAND is easily one of the best water parks in California.
Looking for more incredible family fun during your vacation? We’ve gathered the best places for families to visit in California that your kids will be sure to love!
Other fantastic water parks to consider for some family fun
If you’re hoping to find some more of the best water parks, our round-up below will be the perfect place to start.
- 12 of the Best Indoor Water Parks in Michigan
- 6 of the Best Indoor Water Parks in Texas
- 18 of the Best Indoor Water Parks in the US
- 16 of the Best Water Parks in Texas
- 11 of the Best Water Parks in Kentucky
- 12 of the Best Water Parks in Tennessee
- 11 of the Best Water Parks in Ohio
- 11 of the Best Water Parks in Indiana
- 13 of the Best Water Parks in Colorado
- 10 of the Best Water Parks in Mississippi
- 9 of the Best Water Parks in Massachusetts
- 11 of the Best Water Parks in Arizona
- 9 of the Best Water Parks in Illinois
- 7 of the Best Water Parks in Atlanta, Georgia
- 9 of the Best Water Parks in New England
- 9 of the Best Water Parks in North Carolina
- 7 of the Best Water Parks in Oregon
- 8 of the Best Water Parks in Orlando
- 8 of the Best Water Parks in Maryland
- 13 of the Best Water Parks in the Caribbean
- 6 of the Best Water Parks in The Bahamas
- 10 of the Best Water Parks in Las Vegas
- 12 of the Best Water Parks in Florida
- 6 of the Best Water Parks in Oklahoma
- 9 of the Best Water Parks in Alabama
More about our TFVG Author
A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.
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