Seven long years since Wet ’n Wild was drained, the Valley remains parched for family-oriented swimsuit fun. For nearly 20 years, the water park on the Strip appealed to tourists but primarily refreshed locals with rides such as Der Stuka, Willy Willy, the Black Hole and the Royal Flush. Nothing can replace the comfort of knowing such a playful oasis exists in your backyard, but Raging Waters in San Dimas, Calif., comes close.
Just about a 3½-hour drive away, the best water-theme park in the region is the closest. The 50-acre Raging Waters in northeast Los Angeles County boasts nearly 40 rides and attractions, including the new Dr. Von Dark’s Tunnel of Terror, featuring a 40-foot drop, back-to-back vertical banks and a pair of high-speed 360-degree spins in total darkness. Every age group is covered with Flowrider, Dragon’s Den, Thunder Rapids, the Little Dipper, Splash Island and Volcano Fantasea. $37 general admission, $23 juniors under 48 inches, children 2 and under admitted free, 909-802-2200, RagingWaters.com.
Other parks to consider, in order of distance from Las Vegas:
Knott’s Soak City at Knott’s Berry Farm. A separate admission from the second-most-famous theme park in Orange County buys all types of refreshing activities. Six multi-lane speed slides in Banzai Falls, the Gremmie Lagoon for kids and the 43-foot-high Laguna Storm Water Tower are among the highlights. $27 ages 12-61, $22 ages 3-11 and 62+, 714- 220-5200, Knotts.com/public/park/soakcity/orange_county.
Wild Rivers, Irvine, Calif. The 40 water rides and attractions, including slides, inner-tube rides, two wave pools, activity pools and lounging areas, appeal to all ages. $35 48 inches and up, 949-788-0808, WildRivers.com.
Wet ’n Wild Phoenix (formerly WaterWorld Safari). A $30 million, 35-acre water park unveils the Constrictor on May 28, propelling riders down an enclosed flume slide into a series of corkscrew turns and spirals on multi-person rafts. $35 over 42 inches, $28 under 42 inches/65 and older, free admission for children 2 and younger, 623-201-2000, WetNWildPhoenix.com.
Legoland California Water Park, Carlsbad, Calif. This modest $12 million, 5.5-acre park, which opened for the first time last summer, is about a five- hour drive from Las Vegas and designed primarily for younger kids. It requires admission to Legoland theme park (a $12 upgrade from the standard admission). The park may not be huge, but it offers plenty of attractions: a 45-foot-tall tower that immerses overheated children in the cool world of LEGO; Orange Crush, where up to four people can ride together down a 312-foot-long, 11-foot-wide half-pipe; a lazy river that inspires kids to create their own rafts; giant LEGO characters that splash or spray guests; and two sandy beach areas, perfect for wading. $81 for 13+, $71 for 3-12 and 60+, 760 918-5346, California.Legoland.com.