Oregon Water Parks

Oregon’s water parks are few and far between — most people flock to the sunny Oregon Coast to fill up on watery good times. But as if to make up for the lack of water parks, Oregon offers wonderful municipal aquatic centers. Here are Oregon’s water parks, aquatic centers and water slides.

 

Oregon water parks

Oregon Water Parks: Wings and Waves Waterpark

Wings and Waves Waterpark at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. McMinnville, Oregon.

It’s an air museum. No, it’s a water park. Well, it’s both. Although admission is pricey ($32 for an adult), you’ll get to enjoy a wave pool, a vortex pool, fountains, slides that take you right past an airplane (and nine more slides), along with an indoor playground. Located about an hour away from downtown Portland.

Splash! At Lively Park. Springfield, Oregon.

In a Eugene suburb, this indoor city water park is one of the best in Oregon. Ride inner tubes in the wave pool, slip down the 144-foot water slide and let babies and toddlers sit in the bathtub-warm infant pool.

Pendleton Aquatic Center. Pendleton, Oregon.

A fantastic outdoor, summer-only aquatic center in dry, hot Eastern Oregon. Fountains, a giant pool (with zero-depth entry), huge slides and baby slides, too.

North Clackamas Aquatic Park. Milwaukie, Oregon.

A suburban indoor water park with three brightly colored water slides, an 85-degree wave pool and free lifejacket rentals. Just south of downtown Portland.

City of Astoria Aquatic Center. Astoria, Oregon.

When the weather just won’t cooperate, this North Oregon city aquatic center offers two slides, a hot tub, lazy river and toddler pool, along with the usual lap pool.

Emigrant Lake. Ashland, Oregon.

Yes, this is a lake — but it’s a lake with a water slide. How cool is that? A 280-foot twin flume water slide splashes down into the lake, right next to the campground.

Jamison Square. Portland, Oregon.

Located in the Pearl District shopping area — just a few blocks from Powell’s Books — this is a low-stress water feature. Fountains of water create little water falls down steps, which pour into a shallow bowl below, filling it. The water drains, and the cycle repeats. Great for toddlers and preschoolers.

Washington Water Parks & Water Slides

Washington State Waterparks

Washington State Waterparks: Birch Bay Waterslides

Need a way to cool off the kids this summer? Try one of Washington’s waterparks, where children (and parents) can ride down giant water slides, splash in water sprayparks, dump buckets of water on friends, play in a wet-sand playground or just chill in the pool. If you’re within an hour or two of the Washington-BC border, you may want to read this piece on BC Water Parks.

Ready? Let’s splash.

Water Parks in Western Washington

Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington.

Washington State’s mega-water park that draws visitors from BC and Oregon, this indoor water park offers year-round fun — as long as you spend the night. No day passes here, folks. So with your night’s stay, you’ll also get admission to the indoor water tree fort, a crazy funnel water slide, rafting slides and four story flumes, among other wet ‘n’ wild stuff. For younger kids, there are kiddie slides, water guns, a wave pool and water basketball. Overstimulating, expensive, and well, kids love it.

Wild Waves, Federal Way, Washington State.

Washington State’s other water park, in an infamously temperature-variable area. You could end up riding water slides in mid-summer rain, under overcast skies or in glorious sun — perhaps  all in the same day. That said, this water park’s prices are a good value for bigger kids who are tall enough to ride the park’s multiple giant water slides  (42″ or taller) like Zooma Falls or Konga River and Slides. For younger children there’s the pirate-themed “Pirate’s Cove” spray playground. Look for coupons and passes to cut costs.

Birch Bay Waterslides, Birch Bay, Washington.

This year is Birch Bay’s 30th year of running a low-key outdoor waterpark alternative to the Big Boys (see above). They’re adding a pizza restaurant this year, and are planning to run lots of giveaways and discounts this year to honor their anniversary. The half-dozen slides include curlicue, straight-shot and drop chute rides, along with a children’s slide and tube slide. Nothing too fancy, just a nice way to cool down in summer.

Henry Moses Aquatic Center, Renton, Washington.

A great outdoor aquatic center with zero-depth entry (like a beach) suitable for toddlers, along with a toddler area; for bigger kids, a lazy river with tubes and a wave-machine enhanced pool, a spray area, an island lagoon, two big water slides, a water play structure. At just $14 per person over age 5 ( non-resident), not bad. Sells out fast though, so line up early.

Sprayparks and Wading Pools, Seattle, Washington.

Seattle’s communities are watered in summer by the City of Seattle’s wading pools and spray playgrounds (sprayparks). None of these are quite as wonderful as the ones in Vancouver BC,  but they’re not bad, if you’re in town. The lakes and shorelines of Seattle are also popular, and many have shallow depths suitable for toddlers/preschoolers, along with lifeguards.

 

Water Parks in Eastern and Central Washington

Blaster Ride: Slidewaters Waterpark in Central Washington

Blaster Ride: Slidewaters Waterpark in Central Washington

Splash Down Family Water Park, Spokane, Washington.

Six-story slides, body slides, tube slides, dark slides, four-story-tall bowl slides for big kids, teens and adults. For younger fry — a toddler/preschool-aged area with toddler slides, splashketball, a space where you can refill your water guns, and another area where you can launch water cannonballs at other people (who will hopefully remain your friends and family). For a less-expensive water experience, head upstream to the water jets and splashpads at Discovery Playground in Spokane Valley.

Surf ‘n’ Slide Water Park, Moses Lake, Washington.

Some municipal pools just do it right. This outdoor waterpark is like a mini-amusement park, with big (200 feet) and small slides, a lazy river, zero-depth entry points and a wet-sand playground for the littles and a surf simulator. Located off of I-90 between Spokane and the Cascades, this is a nice place to stop and cool off for a few hours. Admission $8-10 pp, so a pretty good deal.

Slidewaters, Lake Chelan, Washington.

The best  sunburn of my life came from this place, in eighth grade. I earned that burn. Slidewaters continues to thrill big kids and teens with the Downhill Racer and Purple Haze slides, and dependably sunny weather. In the past year, this small park recently added a long lazy river for summer tubin’. Wear your sunscreen.

Asotin County Family Aquatic Center, Clarkston, Washington.

Southeast Washingon’s place to slip down body slides, ride tubes down a slide or around a lazy river, a wave pool with kid-friendly zero-depth entry, and an adventure spraypark. There’s a giant indoor pool as well, with fountains, zero-depth entry and sprinklers, if you just need a break from the Eastern Washington sun.

BC Water Parks and Water Slides

Boomerang Ride at Cultus Lake Water Park, BC with kids

Boomerang Ride at Cultus Lake Water Park, BC

Cultus Lake Water Park, Fraser Valley, BC.

This waterpark offers a two new rides in 2013. The Boomerang takes up to four passengers in a raft  in a double-figure-eight slide, down 60 feet before diving to the ‘boomerang’ landing canal below. The Bazooka Bowls dares the daredevil — it takes riders through a black-hole flume, into a 30-foot bowl slide where they’ll rotate before dropping into a 9-foot bowl below. Too scary? There’s a spray “Pirate’s cove” that’s very cute and suited for younger children. OK to bring in your own food, and great discounts on the Cultus Water Park’s website.

Bridal Falls Waterpark, near Chilliwack, BC.

This BC water park is pretty straightforward — heated water (up to 80F) pours through four advanced slides, two intermediate, one tube and three kiddie slides under the shadow of looming mountains, along with a giant hot tub for the grownups. OK to bring in your own food. Near Harrison Hot Springs.

Harrison Water Park, Harrison Lake, BC

A summer water park actually located in a lake, Harrison Water Park functions like a freshwater playground. Scramble, bounce and slide on the inflatable equipment in the middle of Harrison Lake. It’s for ages 6 and up only; kids need to be at least 10 years old to be here unsupervised.

Splashdown Park, Tsawwassen, BC.

Just a short drive from metro Vancouver (and near the ferry to Vancouver Island), this park serves up a ramp slide, river run, body slide, five children’s slides and a big outdoor pool to splash in — a nice collection of water slides for the BC summer.  Look for the $8 off coupon on the park’s website.

Variety Kids Water Park,  Vancouver BC.

This free Stanley Park water playground or “sprayground” brings on the sprinklers, cannons and streams to create Vancouver’s largest outdoor spray park. On Granville Island, kids can play in the Granville Island WaterPark, which offers one slide along with a “spray park” area for toddlers and big kids. There’s also an outdoor spray park at Vancouver Aquatic Centre.

Atlantis Waterslides, Vernon BC.

In the hot, sunny BC interior, this water park keeps kids cool with 10 water slides, including the bumpy “River Riot,” three fast flumes and two gentle slides suited for preschoolers or toddlers. About 45 minutes away, young kids will like the colorful municipal Kelowna waterparks. (Check out this photo of Ben Lee Waterpark).

Harrison Hot Springs with Kids: Where to Eat, Sleep & Splash

My kids and I recently went on two trips to Harrison Hot Springs, which is about 90 minutes east of Vancouver, and two hours north of Seattle. And we loved it.

Harrison Hot Springs Resort outdoor pool.

Harrison Hot Springs Resort outdoor pool.

The hot springs of the town’s name are located inside Harrison Hot Springs Resort. While there are little restaurants and hotels in the town of Harrison Hot Springs, this is a town that takes up all of about four blocks, and in order to use the hot springs, you must stay at the resort. So for that reason, check out the family deals and specials offered through the hotel’s website.

The hotel itself, although called a “resort,” is a straightforward middle-class retreat. You won’t find a lot of fancy touches (although there is free wifi) or luxe trappings. The property almost feels like it’s from the 1980s, and I mean that in a good way. The resort attracts people of all income levels, nationalities and languages. No one is here to put on airs — you’re walking around in a bathrobe, for goodness sake.

The pools at Harrison Hot Springs:

Natural hot springs come out of the ground at 150-degrees Fahrenheit; cool water is added, then the mix is fed into the resort’s five pools (which are also chlorinated for hygiene). Outside, plunge into one of three pools: the rectangular lap 87F/30C pool or the asymmetrical curved lines of the 95F/35C larger family pool or adults-only 105F/40C-degree pool. The water is warm enough to sit around in, whether it’s summer or winter, night or day. After sunset, we saw kids bringing glowsticks into the pool — and at night, you can look up and name constellations overhead without city light pollution.

Outdoor pools at Harrison Hot Springs

Rainy day at Harrison Hot Springs Resort

In summer, a spray park sits beneath surrounding towering mountain range –great for toddlers and preschoolers.

Indoors, you’ll find two more pools — another large, rectangular warm pool, and a very hot circular tub (38C/100F) below a dramatic ceiling and skylight. You can go from warm to cool to hot in a matter of steps.

Rooms at Harrison Hot Springs

Inside Harrison Hot Springs Pools

No poolside towel service exists here; you receive towels in your room, and you might not have enough of them during your stay. It seemed like our towels were constantly wet. You might bring some super-absorbent pool towels from home.

Poolside deck chairs are available, but you won’t find much shade. Pack sunscreen. Also, if you’d like a deck chair on a sold-out weekend, you may need to send a member of your party down to scout out chairs early (7 or 8 a.m., perhaps).

Rooms at Harrison Hot Springs:

Family-friendly rooms at Harrison Hot Springs

East Tower rooms at Harrison Hot Springs

Rooms come in more than 25 configurations in four different buildings: each were developed during different time periods. Choose from the East Tower, Main Hotel, West Tower and West Wing. The East Tower offers the most modern, with larger rooms. The family rooms — in the Main Hotel — are historic (so historic, they don’t have air conditioning in summer…). The East Tower and West Tower have balconies, and most rooms have two Queen beds. Views are categorized as garden, pools, lake, mountain and village.

I don’t like a lot of commotion, and rooms facing the inner pools get noisy, so I ask for a lake view room. Many young professionals and groups of friends come here to enjoy the adult-only pool late into the night (the pools are open past midnight), so you might want to figure that into your room choice considerations.

Because the rooms are smaller, you may want to pack some board games and books for the common areas, which are spacious. Lots of little nooks, two-person chairs, couches in front of the fireplace and table-side seats.

Awesome stuff: Arrive by 4 p.m. to take advantage of the daily tea service, so you can get a cuppa and a cookie. On very busy weekends, you may not be able to check in right away at 4 p.m., if your room isn’t ready, so be prepared to walk along Harrison’s lovely beachside path or go play at the town’s playground for a few minutes.

Eating at Harrison Hot Springs:

Most rooms come with a mini-fridge, which is great if you’d like to bring snacks or your own breakfast. We enjoyed the hot breakfast buffet in the resort’s Lakeside Cafe once, and it was okay (great views if you’re lucky enough to score a window). But the buffet is not something I would make a habit of, due to the price (unless you get a Harrison resort package or deal). So you might bring cereal and milk for the fridge.

Lakeside cafe kid-friendly restaurant in Harrison Hot Springs

Getting served at the Lakeside Cafe

The resort’s “Miss Margaret” cafe serves quite good (and shareable) wraps and salads, perfect for a poolside lunch. The hotel’s Copper Room is renowned for its live music, fine dining and light-up dance floor. There’s even a children’s dance floor. However, it is very expensive — sort of a special night out. I’ve never eaten there.

Dining in town is also sort of 1980s  — at 2025 prices. Harrison Pizza is decent, has great service, and offers good deals.  The Yukiya Sushi spot is also fine (despite what the Yelp reviews say), but expensive. In the sushi restaurant, there’s a cute little table-booth that feels a bit more private — as a family, I’d go for that booth. 

Muddy Waters Espresso Bar serves up gourmet sandwiches featuring local ingredients (until 2 p.m.). But mostly, this is a town with $11-12 children’s meals (yes, you read that right), so you may well want to plan for PB&Js or sandwich wraps in the room. There’s no grocery store in town, so stop at the Costco in Abbotsford, at the Abbotsford Farm & Country Market or a grocery in Chilliwack, 25 minutes away to the west.

Kids at Harrison Hot Springs:

The hotel supplies you with two adult robes, but no robes for children. Bring robes for the kids from home, and do bring them — walking between the rooms and the pools can get very chilly, especially at night. During peak travel seasons, the hotel plays kids’ movies.

Be aware that because of the high mineral content in the water, your muscles get tired (aka “relaxed”) very easily, so don’t let the kids wear themselves out on the first day. There’s a zero-entry point (like a beach) for the outdoor pool, perfect for babies and toddlers visiting Harrison Hot Springs Resort.

Bring flip-flops to make an easier (and cleaner) transition between hotel room and outdoors, and between the indoor and outdoor pools.

Kids can wear floatation devices, bring toys into the pool with them, and so on — so don’t forget those toys, either.

There are no lifeguards at these pools. You are 100% responsible for your own kids.

In the main building, kids might like the game room with some old-school arcade games. The resort’s gift shop is definitely the best one in town for families, with board games, activity books, t-shirts, and water toys. Outside, on the resort’s grounds, there’s a small garden suitable for hide-and-seek.

Family Activities in Harrison Hot Springs:

Okay, the truth is that my kids and I mostly like sitting around and playing in the hot springs. If you’d like more though, there’s a nice playground and beach (bring sand toys) lakeside, a water park (like a water playground), surrey bikes for rent and bumper boats for rent. Nearby, you can hike at Sasquatch Provincial Park, which offers picnic tables and Bigfoot (or so I hope, although I didn’t see him when I was there). A public swimming pool sits right in the town center, but it’s not really worth a visit.

***

Later this week, I’ll talk about what else your family can do around Harrison Hot Springs, if you’d like to make it a multi-day stay.

Vancouver’s Aquatic Centre at Hillcrest Park

In British Columbia, Vancouver’s winter rains can make a Stanley Park visit dreary and walking the seawall with a toddler sheer drudgery. But in East Vancouver’s Riley Park neighborhood, The Aquatic Centre at Hillcrest Park is the perfect way for a family to splash away the doldrums.

This 66,500 square foot water zone — and Olympic legacy facility — is now the largest pool in Vancouver, and includes a 70-person hot tub, separate dive and 50-meter lap swim tanks (with moveable floors), plus a lazy river and children’s area with playful fountains, showers and toys. The depth of the children’s pools is under 1 meter (a little over three feet), but there’s a zero-depth entry path, thanks to the focus on accessibility.

In fact, the entire pool is designed with accessibility in mind, so wheelchair users can roll via a gentle ramp into all sections, even the hot tub and play area. A bonus: it’s one more free thing to do with kids in Vancouver, if you’re the parent of a child under age three.

Hillcrest Aquatic Centre, Vancouver family fun with kids

Hillcrest Aquatic Centre. Photo Courtesy Vancouver Park Board.

The pool complex embraces mid-century modern design, with knotty pine walls, globe-shaped lights and dramatic floor-to-ceiling window views of the North Shore. In short, it’s gorgeous.

Hillcrest Aquatic Centre wasn’t as oppressively noisy as the traditional public pool from our childhood days — I think either the soundproofing or tall ceiling heights help. It’s also much cheaper than the typical resort waterpark.

If you time your visit right, you can combine a trip here with the Vancouver Winter Farmers Market, an interesting (and more locally focused) alternative to the Granville Farmers’ Market.

In summer, kids can enjoy the outdoor pool with sprays and bubble jets.

Prices: $5.98/adult; $4.24/youth; $2.99 children (ages 3-12); Under-3s are free; Families (1-2 adults and children under age 18) are $2.99 each.

Shortcut to Hillcrest Aquatic Centre schedule and prices.

More Vancouver Pools, Spray Parks and Beaches.

18 Tips for Visiting Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge with Kids

Great Wolf Lodge with Kids

Before heading to any big-ticket, big-adventure resort, it’s always best to ask an expert for tips. I asked three BC and Washington State moms who have repeatedly visited Great Wolf Lodge for their best tips, and added a few more tips from my own research. Of course, these are just opinions and suggestions. You may have your own spin on a Great Wolf Lodge stay.

1. Don’t break the bank for Great Wolf Lodge bunks.

The bunk-style suite rooms (Wolf Den, KidKamp and Kid Cabin) are cute and fun, “but we have found that you are not in your room long enough to make them worth the cost if you can fit in a smaller room,” says frequent Great Wolf Lodge visitor and Kelso, Wash., mom Melissa Parcel. Check Great Wolf Lodge’s website with special deals and coupon codes when booking; remember that the resort fee and taxes do add a decent amount to the final price.

2.  Sleep soundly — even at a crazy-busy water park.

For a quieter room, request a room away from the stairwells and on the opposite side of the I-5 freeway. Ask when making the reservation and upon check in. Although there’s a rule about “quiet time” in the evenings, guests do say that unaccompanied children playing MagiQuest down the hallways can be an earful.

3. Book your Great Wolf Lodge breakfast in advance.

If you think you want the on-site breakfast buffet — after considering point #9 below — book it in advance when making your hotel reservation. The total for four people is $40 when purchased in advance and includes drinks. If you buy buffet on-site, it’ll cost $13.95 per adult and $8.95 per child, and does not include drinks.

4. Make it a midweek resort stay.

To avoid crazy lines at these Washington water slides and to take advantage of great deals, head to GWL during the midweek. But ask if the hotel’s hosting a convention during your stay, suggests Korene Torney, a Victoria, British Columbia mom to two girls. Conventions can stretch the hotel’s capacity.

5. Display your cell phone smarts.

When you check in, you’ll get an information packet that offers a cell phone number to register on your phone. “I did this, and got some coupons texted to me, “ says Kirkland, Wash., mom Shannon Maher Longcore, a mom to three kids and frequent Great Wolf Lodge guest. “It saved us some money in their restaurants.”

6. Dive into two-day resort stay play.

Your pass into the GWL starts at 1 p.m. (you can access your hotel room after 4 p.m.), as long as you stop by the front desk to pick up your waterpark wrist bands. On the second day, check-out time is 11 a.m., and you can stay until closing (9 p.m.). There are changing rooms and lockers for use before check-in and after check-out. “We just put our suitcases in the car, and had a small day pack with our necessities in it. That worked out great,” says Longcore.

7. Wait on the MagiQuest wand.

The grand total for your MagiQuest game will come to about $30 total — $17 for the wand, and about $13 per “game.” If it’s your first visit, Melissa Parcel says you may want to wait to purchase the wands. “On our first trip, we caved and bought one for our son, but we spent all of our time in the water park and didn’t get any use out of the wand.” Older kids seem to love the wand game, however, and repeat visitors seem to love the game. Read more about how to extend play at #8, below.

8. Wave that MagiQuest wand.

If you leave near Great Wolf Lodge, you can visit just to play the MagiQuest game and run around the resort, which is something that Melissa Parcel has done twice. “It’s a pretty inexpensive day trip if you live a short distance away.” If you want to re-engage the wand, you’ll pay about $13 per wand on each new visit. You can also use the wands at other properties (provided you pay the “re-up” fee).

9. Host grandma or friends while staying at the resort.

Purchase additional water park wristbands (for $41.20 each) for people visiting you at the water park, even if they’re not staying overnight.

10. Skip the expensive Great Wolf Lodge resort food.

Korene Torney brought her own breakfast and snacks (cereal, yoghurt, fruit and vegetables) for the mini-fridge. Melissa Parcel brought along cereal and doughnuts for breakfast and sandwich making items for the next day’s lunch. Don’t forget to bring camping-style dining equipment (i.e. paper or tin plates, cups, bowls) for your in-room service. Korene Torney’s family also went to two Oregon-born restaurant chains in nearby Centralia: McMenamins Olympic Club and Burgerville (two thumbs up for both of those destinations from Lora!).


11. Freeze Great Wolf Lodge-related tantrums and meltdowns.

“I think limiting pool play to three hours at a time works well,” Korene Torney says. After three hours, Torney’s family lets the kids eat and relax in the room. It can also help to construct a schedule. Torney’s family wakes, eats in the room (with Starbucks from the lobby, delivered by her husband), goes on the morning “Howl Walk” at 9 a.m. (which includes a free craft), then pool time from 10-1. They rest, and eat in the room or drive to Burgerville. Then it’s back into the pool around 5-7 p.m.; out in time for evening stories.

12. Water, water everywhere…but bring a drop to drink.

“The pool room is very warm, so just remember to  drink some fresh water while there,” says Longcore. She says she saw some episodes of possible kid-dehydration; despite all that chlorinated water around, some children forget to sip drinking water.

13. Forget-it-not at home: must-bring items for Great Wolf Lodge.

Some items are spendy to replace on-site, should you forget them at home. Pack swim goggles, earplugs, flip-flops, Aqua Socks (if your bare feet don’t like all that concrete) and a swimsuit cover-up. Swimsuit cover-ups are particularly necessary, Torney says: “You want one because otherwise you’re forced to wear clothes over your suit to get between room and pool.” Men should bring t-shirts or a robe. However, you don’t need to pack a towel – they’re provided for free by Great Wolf Lodge. Life jackets in several sizes, notes Longcore, so there’s no need to bring one from home. You can also bring arm floaties and floating swimsuits, but no other floating devices. Leave the ravenous floaty shark at home.

14. Get crafty with Cub Club.

Bring your own hands-on activities and avoid expensive resort crafts ($10-20) in the Cub Club, Torney says. However, if you do plan to participate in Cub Club (which offers kids’ programs, crafts and projects about nature and the Northwest), make a reservation upon arrival to ensure your child’s spot. Adults must accompany kids under age 12 in the Cub Club; it’s not a childcare venue.

15. Stop the souvenir gimmes.

“We give our kids an allowance of $15,” Korene Torney says. With $15, the kids can enjoy a craft, buy snacks or candy, a cheap souvenir, or pool the money for one wand.  “As is usually the case with an allowance, this provided the perfect opportunity to teach them about the value of money while eliminating the perpetual ‘I wants,’” Torney says. “It worked great for us this year. They both bought ridiculous souvenirs, but enjoyed every minute of it.”

16. Snag your Great Wolf Lodge poolside spot.

“Friends of ours get down to the water area early and camp out at a table,” Longcore says. “If your kids are much older, and don’t need parents hovering, a table would be great.”

17. Entertain the teens at Great Wolf.

At gr8_space (Yes, that’s really the way it’s spelled), teens can use the Internet, listen to music, enjoy evening karaoke or play the Nintendo Wii and Xbox360. Admission runs $10 per child; you may want to bring the DS from home if that seems spendy. Most tweens and teens will be happy with just the water park slides, but you can visit the Myspace page of gr8 space here for a sample of the goings-on.

18. Avoid long checkout lines.

Use the express check-out via your room phone or TV.

You can find more answers on the Great Wolf Ask-A-Mom site (but these answers seem to be pre-vetted by a corporate PR firm). Or read a great write-up of a Great Wolf Lodge stay at PDX Family Adventures.

Do you have great tips (or a promo or coupon code!) for families headed to the Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington State? Leave your tips in the comments.

Read more about Washington Water Parks and British Columbia (BC) Water Parks and Water Slides.

Make a Splash! Water parks in Washington, Oregon and BC

Nothing says “Cascadia summer” like a line-up of shivering, dripping-wet kids. So I created a list of water parks large and small, indoor and outdoor, westside (cool) and eastside (dry, hot) to keep the kids chilled-out this summer. Do you have a favorite?

Washington Water Parks

Great Wolf Lodge, Grand Mound, Washington.

Make a splash: This indoor Washington water park resort features toddler-friendly pools and big-kid slides. The five-person circular rafts slips down the River Canyon Run, with drops from six stories high.

Splash Down Family Water Park, Spokane, Washington

Make a splash: Ride down the 400-foot Spokane Falls slide at this Eastern Washington water park.

Slidewaters: Lake Chelan Waterpark, Lake Chelan, Washington.

Make a splash: rip down 8 slides, including the 420-foot “Purple Haze” slide that envelops you in darkness at this Washington State aquatic park, located in Washington State’s inland community.

Wild WavesFederal Way, Washington State.

Make a splash: Try any one of the thrilling flumes, including the Python Banzai or Konga Banzai. One of the most popular water parks in Western Washington — plan accordingly!

Birch Bay Waterslides, Birch Bay, Washington.

Make a splash: This low-key four-slide park in North Washington (near the U.S.-Canadian border) covers all your bases, from tame to torrential.

Oregon Water Parks

North Clackamas Aquatic Park, Milwaukie, Oregon.

Make a splash: This indoor Oregon municipal park features three water slides, an 85-degree wave pool and free lifejacket rentals.

Wings and Waves Waterpark at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon.

Oregon’s newest water park is INSIDE an aviation museum — so you’ll cannonball right next to fighter planes. Go on the Sonic Boom or Nose Dive slides — or just hang out in Splashdown Harbor.

Emigrant Lake, near Ashland, Oregon.

Make a splash: Not really a water park, but a fantastic, unique way to mix fresh-water fun and a 280-foot twin flume waterslide at a campground facility.

 

Splash! At Lively Park, Springfield, Oregon.

Make a splash: This all-indoor facility offers an indoor wave pool, a 144 foot slide, and year-round water activities. Read more at Pitstops for Kids.

Jamison Square, Portland, Oregon.

Make a splash: At this municipal, downtown water spot, kids can sit on steps while fountains of water cascade down, filling the bowl below. Then, mysteriously, the jets shut off, the water drains out — and the flow start all starts over again. A free, kid-friendly Portland water park!

British Columbia Water Parks

Cultus Lake Water Park, Fraser Valley, BC.

Make a splash: You’ll find over 12 features at the Cultus Lake water park, including a spray “Pirate’s cove,” a “Valley of Fear” and a slide that shoots you at 60 km per hour (about 30 miles per hour).

Bridal Falls Waterpark, near Chilliwack, BC.

Make a splash: This BC water park offers over eight slides for the whole family, with long, straight shots down super-fast slides – including one that shoots you down a pitch-black tunnel.

Splashdown Park, Tsawwassen, BC.

Make a splash: Gentle rivers, intermediate rides and “advanced” body slides, including the with 425-foot “Oliver Twist” drop at this water park near Vancouver, BC.

Atlantis Waterslides, Vernon BC.

Make a splash: This BC water park offers 10 looping, swooping slides and flumes, many with views of beautiful Lake Okanagan. Located on the dry side of BC.

Variety Kids Water Park, Vancouver BC.

Make a splash: This free Stanley Park water playground or “sprayground” isn’t fancy — no slides — but it is efficient at cooling off kids. Cannons, sprinklers, and splashable streams galore at Vancouver’s largest outdoor spray park.

Families Travel! Great Wolf Lodge with Kids

Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound with Kids

Great Wolf Lodge with Kids

Located about 90 minutes north of Portland, Oregon and 90 minutes south of Seattle, Great Wolf Lodge (one of 12 in the Great Wolf chain) was created with families in mind, from 4,000-square-foot water pools to evening pajama storytimes.

Ryan Ellis of Vancouver, Washington, went with wife Marissa, and children (Sam, age 10, and Ben, age 7) to the waterpark resort in Grand Mound, Washington. Let’s find out what Ryan thought of Great Wolf – and what you should know before you go.

Q: What did you like about Great Wolf Lodge with kids?

I liked that there was something for every age. Kids had the Cub Paw Pool, older kids liked the MagiQuest (live-action magic-themed treasure hunt) game, teens had their own game room (Northern Lights Arcade) and adults had a couple of bars. But everyone loved the water park and arcade.

Q: What did your kids like at Great Wolf?

The top three things they liked were the wave pool, the MagiQuest game and the water slides.

Q: Which ages would enjoy Great Wolf the most, though?

Kids over age 6. I saw a lot of really small kids, but they were pretty limited on the water features they could participate in. I think the minimum height for a lot of the features was 48 inches. (Lora’s Note: Yes, that’s correct)

Q: What is the Great Wolf food like? Passable? Pretty darn good?

We packed our own food. There is a fridge and microwave in every room and I am a cheap S.O.B. We went to Trader Joes before and bought a bunch of frozen burritos, bananas, carrots, salad and mixed nuts. Oh, and wine. Lots of wine.

Q: How much per night at Great Wolf Lodge? What’s included in the price?

We went from Sunday through Monday, the least expensive of the nights, and it was $190 per night for our Family Suite before taxes, for four people AND it included admission to the water park for all four people. Friday night or Saturday night sets you back much more for the same room. The MagiQuest game is extra, $17 for the wand and $10 to play the game, but the kids loved it.

Q: Is there anything a parent should do (or not do) to have a good time at Great Wolf?

Bring lots of snacks. Playing in water makes everyone hungry and thirsty, and resort prices are outrageous. It was nearly $7 for a hot dog and about $4 for a soda.

Q: Anything during the experience that surprised you at Great Wolf Lodge?

That you can’t make it a day trip to the water park. You have to stay at the hotel to get in, and the suites have a base price for four people — same price for family of two as a family of four.

Q: Would you go back to Great Wolf with kids?

Yes, we are already planning on going back with a friend and her son probably in the winter. The smiles on the faces of the boys defined the fun we had. (This Hallmark moment brought to you by sappy fathers anonymous).

As we were packing to go home, the kids were plotting on a way to live there.

Thank you so much, Ryan! Have you stayed at Great Wolf? What did you think? Leave a comment below.

Read another trip report on Great Wolf Lodge with kids, from the DeliciousBaby.com site.

9 Amusement Parks in the Northwest and BC

We don’t have any mega-big-deal-amusement parks* here in Cascadia. But we do have several options within easy driving distance of major cities, including water parks and kid-friendly rides. The parks are all fairly inexpensive (at least when compared to airfare for four, lodging and ticket prices at mega-big-deal-amusement parks). It’s low-key fun, an easy getaway in pleasant weather.

Oaks Amusement Park

Oaks Amusement Park

1. Oaks Amusement Park. Portland, Oregon. One of the Pacific Northwest’s oldest operating amusement parks, Oaks Park pops with options: a year-round roller rink, big kid thrill rides, gentle toddler rides. I love this quaint amusement park. Free admission, pay per ride. It’s well-shaded and nestled along the banks of a river, so you can take over-excited kids for a chill-out walk before hopping back into the car. A 15-minute drive from downtown Portland in the quaint Sellwood District.

2. Wild Waves: Theme & Water Park. Federal Way, Washington. In the summer, corkscrew-style slides deliver hordes of screaming kids. It’s not all wild, as the gentle wave pool welcomes younger children. Post-swim, visit the the Enchanted Park and drive bumper cars, ride the ferris wheel or discover your scream on a kiddie coaster. Big problem though – the food here is distinctly sub-par, and you can’t bring in your own. Plan for a car picnic.

3. Great Wolf Lodge. Grand Mound, Washington. Located halfway between Portland and Seattle, this indoor waterpark offers raging river slides, family-friendly rooms (with bunk beds), a kids’ spa, and a magical wand that kids can use to play an interactive game throughout the building. Caveat: You can’t enter without staying the night – but a night’s stay allows you to come and go from the water as you please. It’s sort of like an all-inclusive, right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Playland at PNE

4. Playland at the PNE. Vancouver, BC. Like a county fair in the big city, all summer long. This amusement park is about a 15-20 minute drive from downtown Vancouver, and worth the cost with elementary-age kids or middle schoolers. But even my son (then 2) found plenty of just-ride rides among the selection of over 20 options. Cool big-kid rides: The wooden roller coaster and the “Hellevator.” Bring sunscreen or go during evening hours (like we did); buy the pass for hours of fun.

5. Enchanted Forest Theme Park. Turner, Oregon. If you find yourself driving along Oregon’s I-5 this summer, check out this campy, cheesy and amusing park. Stand in a giant’s mouth, get mildly spooked in the Haunted House, take a stroll through Storybook Lane, Western Town or English Village. It’s the sort of amusement park you’d enjoy if you like old-school Paul Bunyan statues, Roadside America and other oddities still hanging around the Northwest like old moss. I’d go; I’m not sure you would. But you should.

6. Cultus Lake Waterpark and Slides. Cultus Lake, BC. In British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, about 80 km (50 miles) east of Vancouver, the weather dries out and the lakes warm up. So Cultus Lake Waterpark is a fine place to spend the day. Tweens can tear down the maze-like Blasters and Twisters, while the more hesitant (like me!) can enjoy the milder Kiddie Slides. The unusual “Valley of Fear” slide is set up like a skater’s half-pipe; families can slip along in double or triple tubes. Bonus feature: You can bring in your own food.

7. Riverfront Park. Spokane, Washington. I lived in the Pacific Northwest for decades, ignorant to this unique – and diverse — park. In Spokane, the 100-acre Riverfront Park offers: a SkyRide past waterfalls, tour train, wide grassy areas for picnics and running, mini golf, a garbage-eating metallic goat, a ginormous red wagon, a pavilion of amusement rides, an IMAX theatre and water bumper boats. Whew. I’m tired from just listing the options. Worth a weekend’s exploration.

8. Dinotown. Bridal Falls, BC. Yes, it’s a theme park based on dinosaurs.  Three hours from Seattle and a 1 ½ hours from Vancouver, this park is basically like an outdoor Chuck-E-Cheese, but with a sorta-dino-themed train, a musical tribute to the Flintstones, dinosaur mascots, bumper cars and other quasi-dino choices. Not a must-see unless your kid really, really, really loves pink dinosaurs. Update 7/25 CLOSED.

9. Slidewaters. Lake Chelan, Washington. It’s almost always dependably sunny and hot on Washington’s eastside – so there will never be an excuse for skipping the eight slides. At Slidewaters, the new “Purle Haze” ride slips you through 420 feet of disorienting darkness. As a parent, you’ll probably prefer the hot tub and cool pool. Wear sunscreen, because the sun’s rays are a bit sneaky — I think I still have scars from my Chelan burns.

*Full disclosure: My husband works for The Mouse.

Did I miss an awesome waterpark, theme park or fabulous fun center? Let me know.