A Dad’s Guide to Water Parks

Ah, Summer. A time when a man can sweat like a man, when the stench of a good cigar can linger in your pores for days and when the A/C gets cranked on “high” for three months straight. For those of us without a pool (forget the oceans, they’re so polluted you can’t even catch and eat fish from ’em) it’s a time when we think about who we know that owns a pool, how we might get access to said pool, and potentially investing in a $20,000 hole in the ground in exchange for no one wanting to buy said investment when it’s time to sell the house. And then there’s one of Ricky Bobby’s reasons people come to America: giant water parks.

Yes, the water park is something of a misnomer: there is a lot of water but there’s not much of any sort of park nearby. It’s a place where billions of gallons of water, suntan oil, urine and other bodily fluids get pumped through a large filter (God I hope) and recycled for the enjoyment of thousands of people per day. As a Dad it’s theoretically a paradise: the wife in a bathing suit, the kids play until they’re exhausted and a wristband that lets you pay for booze. Let’s talk about some of the realities:

Bathing Suits

Yes, in theory it should be awesome: Scads of women wearing bathing suits 24/7. The reality? It’s basically a bunch of moms, most of whom outweigh you or are at least 15 years your senior, in bathing suits. Not as pretty as it sounds. Did I mention you have wear a bathing suit too? Well, there’s that. And it’s ok if you forget to shave your back or whatever routine you use to get prettied up for the park – there’ll always be another guy there hairier than you.

Tattoos

If you ever want to see a living, breathing example of why 24 hour tattoo parlors are a bad idea just head to the water park. From men with tramp stamps to women with roses up their crotch, it’s a veritable cavalcade of bad decisions. My personal favorites from this past weekend are the man that paid tribute to his deceased son by having “In loving memory of”, a pair of praying hands and his son’s name tattooed around his obese stomach – with his son’s name just above his crotch pubic hair – and a man with what had to be prison tattoos, not given by his choice, of a traced hand (think kids at school making Thanksgiving turkey cut-outs) and another with two diagonally intersecting arrows, Powerpoint style.

Urine

It’s pretty much everywhere there’s water. If it’s wet, it’s probably been peed in. As a Dad you can’t tell your kids enough times to keep their mouths shut, but there’s only so much you can do. And expect the kiddie pools to be about 5-10 degrees warmer than the other areas of the park. By day two of your trip you’ll have had more urine on you than Main Street America did after the bank bail outs. The chemistry of the pool water is so potent that MLB players might want to start bottling the water as samples and using it for their random tests. As if it’s not disgusting enough, and I shit you not, at one point I actually saw a pre-teen girl dunk a clear plastic cup into the water TO DRINK IT. Ignorant, thirsty or “watersports” porn star in the making – you be the judge.

Playing

There’s a ton to do at the water park for kids and adults of all ages, however I’d recommend leaving any kids under 2 at home. Not alone, of course, but with a sitter or family. Quite frankly it’s just not enjoyable to have to worry about a baby in any depth of water let alone at a play where hundreds of other older kids are running around splashing. The mega parks have toddler-friendly zones and pools and even have slides for the little ones. Kids over the age of 2 will have a great time and if your older ones are 42″ or taller they’ll meet the minimum height requirement to go on the larger slides/tubes. Older kids will enjoy the slides, wave pools and, if your park is attached to a hotel, arcade.

Meat Heads

Yes, it doesn’t only happen on the Jersey Shore: meat heads are attracted to water parks because of their uncanny ability to sniff out places where it’s legal to take off their shirt and show the labors of their HGH regimen. Most of them stay out of the way because there are kids around, but in case you run into one going through ‘roid rage take solace in the fact that most of these losers, who are all-upper body and have toothpick legs, will probably die of a heart attack at a young age. Plus they have tiny balls. Heh.

Food

Organic. No high fructose corn syrup. South Beach diet. Atkins. Whatever diet you’re on that does involve not being a glutton should be thrown out the window. From the powdered eggs and a “topping station” with whipped cream, chocolate chips, sprinkles and “red cherry juice” for breakfast to the fried everything for lunch and dinner, you’re in for a high caloric ¬†intake weekend. Fortunately most of these places have gyms so you can at least work off some of the garbage you’ve packed in on the side; this of course is in addition to walking up and down flights of stairs at the hotel and in the water park itself.

Cost

I’ll get to the point: Water parks aren’t cheap. ¬†When I say “they’re not cheap”, I’m saying a recent weekend with two nights at the hotel, some MagicQuest and a few meals will set you back close to four figures. Clearly it’s not cheap but I’d recommend either doing it during the week and saving a few bucks or just leaving early on a Saturday and getting one night at the hotel. This will get you all of the water park goodness you can handle for about 36 hours and hopefully you won’t walk out with a rash and hopefully with about half the cost of what we spent. Most of the mega parks also offer wrist bands that allow wearers to charge amenities back to the room, which can be great for Mom and Dad but something you’ll want to avoid for the kids.