Maximizing your fun at the Waterpark of America can be approached as a math puzzle. (Bear with me on this; the chlorine has probably affected my brain.)
There are four slides–body slides at the seventh and tenth floors, a family raft slide, and a tube slide. (Actually, there are a pair of body slides at the seventh floor and two tube slides, but for the purposes of our first calculation we’ll treat them as one.)
The raft slide tends to have the longest line, meaning you may have to wait ten or fifteen minutes to reach the top; the rafts themselves are spaced about thirty seconds apart in the flume; and the ride takes about fifteen seconds to reach the bottom.
The tube slide has relatively short lines, with a wait of no more than five minutes unless things are really busy. Tubes are given the green light about twenty seconds after the rider ahead of you goes down, and the ride is about twelve seconds long. You also need to factor in time to acquire a tube, though: since they’re also used on the Lazy River and wave pool, it’s hard to predict how quickly you can score one, especially during the busiest times, so I’m going to give it an actual wait time of fifteen minutes.
The tenth floor body slide has a longer line than the tubes, and because the wait between riders is 55 seconds you can easily have a ten to fifteen minute wait. The plunge itself takes about ten seconds (varying according to your height, weight, and posture; I’ll leave that calculation to you as extra credit).
And the seventh floor body slide has relatively short lines (less than five minutes of line time), a thirty second weight between riders, and takes about eight seconds (your mileage may vary) to complete.
My calculation for Fun Coefficient is F = (T/W * T/S) * 100, where F is “Fun”, W is “Wait Time”, T is “Time in the Slide”, and S is “Space between Riders”. When I plug the estimates for the rides into my formula, it’s obvious where the fun is:
|Family Raft Ride
|10th Floor Body Slide
|7th Floor Body Slide
The Family Raft Ride wins, with the 7th floor body slide coming in a close second. The 10th floor body slide, though thrilling and fast, suffers for its longer wait time.
One of the benefits of visiting the Waterpark of America as a family is that not only can you ride the raft as a group (this great multiplies the Fun Coefficient), you can also approach the body slides as a team. While one of your party holds the spot in the raft line, the others can squeeze in some body slide action. I’m quite sure this is a happiness-maximizing approach of which even Jeremy Bentham would approve.
Jack at Reid State Park, Georgetown, Maine, moments before I threw him back into the water
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck convincing the rest of the family to stay still long enough to hear my formula; I mostly had to figure it out myself (while riding the 7th floor body slide, of course) while they rode the Lazy River and bobbed in the wave pool. Indeed, the wave pool was voted the best attraction of all by two boys who, when presented with actual ocean waves, run in terror (apparently the cold, gray Atlantic waves off the coast of Maine are not nearly as inviting as the warm and gentle waves in Bloomington).
The Waterpark of America also has a great water playground for the younger set, with several small slides, pumps, water cannons, and a giant water barrel that fills up and dumps its contents on the unwary. The Waverider is pretty cool, too: a surfing simulator where, for a two glorious seconds, you can master a miniature surfboard before being hurled uphill by the rushing water.
You can visit the waterpark on a day pass–between $20 and $35 per visitor for the full day, $15 to $30 for a half day, depending on the date, with free admission for kids 11 months and younger and a discounted spectator rate for those who don’t intend to get wet. The park is attached to the Radisson at the Mall of America, and package deals are available for swimming and staying at the hotel.
If you do make an overnight visit, try the nearby IKEA for a light and affordable dinner or breakfast (if you’re a Twin Cities parent who hasn’t yet fed your child IKEA meatballs on a furniture-shopping expedition, well, it’s really time you got on the ball…). Or try local pizza favorite Fat Lorenzo’s, who make the biggest, thickest, greasiest pies in Minneapolis; the hotel is in their delivery range if you meet them at the door.