It hasn’t been voted the “World’s Best Waterpark” for 19 years for nothing; Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort is a fun, imaginative, aquatic entertainment center. Since its opening in 1979, the 70-acre resort in New Braunfels, Texas -– both an amusement park and a hotel with 238 rooms -– has been one of the top-attended amusement parks in the country. The name is German for ‘slippery highway’ — a good description of what it offers.
The New Braunfels location is the original and largest of the five parks (others have opened in South Padre Island, Galveston and Corpus Christi, Texas and Kansas City, Kansas). Perhaps because Schlitterbahn is a family-owned company, they pride themselves on being family-friendly, offering free parking and picnic areas so that families can swim without having to buy the park’s food.
Schlitterbahn’s Water Rides for Toddlers & Tykes
Within the original park’s 70 acres, there are more than 40 water rides. The biggest sections of the park are Blastenhoff, Surfenburg and Schlitterbahn West. The original section, Blastenhoff, has a classic wavepool and large kiddie pool. At the Wolfpack Raftslide, three-person rafts hold the entire family on a spiraling 700-foot run, a more staid option than the newer, shorter rides distinguished by special effects. Families with younger children appreciate that the older section is more shaded in the waiting areas, and lines are generally not as long.
Facilities cater to young children too, with kid-friendly water playgrounds and shallow, gently wave pools. The park’s iPhone application uses the phone’s GPS capability to allow you to track family members’ whereabouts and find the nearest locker room. Lifeguards put safety first and they’re very careful with young swimmers. The park staff will close a ride if the source water turns brown (much of the park is lake-fed so the water supply is subject to rainfall).
The enormous Tubenbach area, with a 3,600-foot-long river ride (the world’s longest), pits riders on inner tubes against whitewater rapids, waterfalls, and waves. In addition to a whirlpool ride, there is a Boogie Bay Kids’ Area stocked with pint-sized water slides, several Treehaus cabins that hang over the the riverride banks, several beaches, large family-size cabanas and the Wasserstrasse river walk along the banks of the Comal River.
Grown Up Thrills at Schlitterbahn Waterparks
Of the signature rides (many repeated at the other Schlitterbahn locations), Torrent is a very popular one that propel guests through space with powerful blasts of pressured water. Only for thrill-seeking older kids and parents, the Master Blaster Uphill Water Coaster is over 1,600 feet in length combining the thrills of a roller coaster with a waterpark slide. Dragon Blaster is another, dragon-themed inner tube ride that speeds you along a track, as if you’re in a rickety wooden roller coaster.
Teens can go straight to the Dragon’s Revenge in Surfenburg, described as “spinning tunnels, theatrical lighting, fiber optics, riveting original music, aromatic atmosphere, fog, faux fire and an encounter with an angry dragon.” Yes, it all takes place in 1 minute 45 seconds.
Another award-winner is the Congo River Expedition, a multi-sensory jungle adventure (possibly scary for your littlest ones) in which the brave cross a makeshift rope bridge, enter the Congo River Outpost, and find a camp under the glowing mouth of an erupting volcano. Special effects and animatronics kick in to keep all waterplay fans engaged in the story, until they’re tossed over the edge of a plummeting waterfall.
Schlitterbahn Waterparks in South Padre Island, Galveston & Kansas
With literally miles of tube chutes, rivers to float on, uphill water coasters, surfing, splashing and relaxing, there’s something at the original Schlitterbahn for all ages, and a little something more at all the other Schlitterbahn owned waterparks. At each one, rides and slides have evolved with the times so that the original German Tower at New Braunfels is now surrounded by a tubing river instead of slides, creating the park’s famous “transportainment” system that allows families to get around the whole park without touching dry land.
The smaller Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark offers 12 different water rides on South Padre Island and is a popular alternative to swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Galveston Island Waterpark is advertised as the “world’s first convertible, climate-controlled indoor/outdoor waterpark.” Being under cover and playing in heated pools at Wasserfest is a very different family experience than usually found at a beach resort. Galveston’s more than 30 family attractions include three interconnected rivers, two uphill water coasters and the signature Boogie Bahn surf ride, so it’s a good bet year round. Don’t miss the new Massiv, said to be the tallest watercoaster attraction in the world.
The Schlitterbahn Vacation Village Waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas is a $750 million year-round, trend-setting “retail entertainment destination” as they like to call it. We love the transportainment system that connects guests to dining, shops, more than 1,100 hotel rooms and other waterpark rides along man-made rivers. Since its inaugural season, families are already enjoying the Storm Blaster uphill water coaster, four tubing slides and chutes, two tubing rivers including the world’s longest tidal wave river, and 13 mini-slides for kids in the preschoolers’ Kinderhaven. Everyone loves the challenge of the Boogie Bahn Surf ride and, if you’re not a pro surfer already, you may want to call 913/312-3110 to arrange for private lessons. There’s also Torrent beach with man-made ocean-sized waves, three relaxing beaches, and a giant hot tub with a swim-up refreshment bar.
Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi is the newest addition to the Schlitterbahn water parks. It features the longest inter-connected river system of the parks, and includes a golf club, full bar and restaurant, and plenty of rides to choose from.
New Braunfels, Texas Family Attractions
Beyond the waterpark, New Braunfels is a fun family vacation destination located just a half-hour from San Antonio and 45 minutes from Austin, Texas. There are some signs of the town’s German heritage such as Wurstfest, (as it was founded by German settlers in 1845). Additionally, each October and November, families can join in the festival that calls itself “a ten-day salute to sausage.” The festival takes place in Landa Park, an expansive park that doubles as one of the state’s top destinations for family reunions. Year round, there is boating on two beautiful rivers and a number of affordable hotel options.
New Braunfels also has one of the top children’s museums in the region, the McKenna Children’s Museum, as well as Natural Bridge Caverns (a National Natural Landmark discovered more than 50 years ago). At the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, families can see wildlife from their car windows on a Texas Hill Country style safari. For an old-fashioned version of water fun, head to the Comal River or Guadeloupe River, where local companies rent inner tubes for a float down an authentic river.
Schlitterbahn Waterparks Trip Planning Tips
All of the Schlitterbahn Waterparks typically open in late April and continue daily till late September, then reopen for certain weekends and school holidays. One admission fee includes all the rides and fees vary by park and season. Children ages 3-11 and those over 55 years get a 20% discount. Infants 2 and younger are free.
The original Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort (830/625-2351) in New Braunfels, Texas is extremely popular. If your family has experienced the pain we have of being at a themepark all day and only going on two rides, you know why we suggest visiting Schlitterbahn on a weekday, preferably not in the heat of summer. You may also want to book a hotel nearby, so you can break your visit up over a few days.
For more info about the region, visit the New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.