Southwest

Top 9 Water Parks in California: Where to Play & Stay

Plunge down a six-story slide or sip tropical drinks in a poolside cabana at these California water parks, then recharge at the best nearby hotels.

As someone who’s lived in California their entire life, I can confirm that the rumors are true: our summers are amazing. When the Golden State shines a little brighter, everyone heads outside, flocking to the many beach resorts and sunny destinations that dot our palm tree-filled landscape. Summer is also the best time to visit one of the many California water parks.

Whether it’s plunging down a six-story slide or relaxing with a tropical libation in a poolside cabana, you’ll find something for everyone in your group. Here are nine of the state’s best water parks, along with nearby lodging to chill out after a day in the sun.

1. Amusement and Water Park Combo Near San Francisco

1/2

Not all the fun is online in Silicon Valley. Set amidst the region’s famed tech companies, roughly forty miles south of San Francisco, South Bay Shores is a new water park that was set to debut inside California’s Great America in summer 2020. Admission is included with a ticket to California’s Great America, making it the only amusement-water park combo in the state.

Body slide buffs should head to Pacific Surge, a water slide complex with heart-pounding free falls at the six-story Shark Reef Plunge, and the winding tube slides of The Barracuda and Feeding Frenzy. Families can drop anchor at the Tide Pool, a zero-depth lagoon-like pool ringed by mini water slides and an oversized lounge and sun deck.

There’s also the golden stretch of sand at Barefoot Beach. Private cabanas are available for rent with welcome amenities including free Wi-Fi, charging stations, TVs, and dedicated food and beverage service. The park features numerous eateries including Pier 76 Cafe which serves up fresh fish tacos, sliders, and fried shrimp.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Santa Clara

550 Hotels
View Destination

Where to Stay: Hilton Santa Clara

You’ll find many places to stay nearby, yet only the Hilton Santa Clara is a short, 10-minute stroll from the water park. The 280-unit property offers a variety of guest rooms and suites with perks including free WiFi, complimentary parking, and an outdoor pool. A daytime cafe offers Starbucks and take-away breakfast basics, while the all-day La Fontana Restaurant & Lounge features Cal-Med dishes and al fresco dining.

Hilton Santa Clara

Top rated
Santa Clara
8.5 Excellent (2901 reviews)

2. Year-Round Splashes in Garden Grove

1/3

The splashes come year-round at the Great Wolf Lodge Southern California in Garden Grove where an 105,000-square-foot indoor waterpark is the centerpiece of an amenity-packed, family-friendly resort. At the all-in-one destination, you can zip down water slides, refuel at eight eateries, and wind down in a roomy overnight suite.

Attractions cover the water park requisites including the winding lazy river of Crooked Creek, a wave pool with three-foot high swells, and slides such as the family raft ride, River Canyon Run. Adrenaline junkies can experience a nearly 20-foot plummet as they shoot down a high-speed water slide, while little ones will feel more comfortable at Fort Mackenzie, a multi-level play structure that’s drenched by 1,000 gallons of water every three minutes. Indoor pools are heated to 84 degrees, but sun worshippers can soak up rays at the outdoor, resort-style pool.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Garden Grove

271 Hotels
View Destination

Where to Stay: Great Wolf Lodge Southern California

There are also dry-land diversions in the Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove such as laser tag, blacklight mini golf, and MagiQuest, a wand-wielding, live-action adventure game, perfect for when you’ve had your fill of the slides in this fine hotel with water park. Food options range from grab-and-go fare to full service dining at the Lodge Wood Fired Grill. Plus, there’s a buffet breakfast with roaming costumed characters for family photo opps.

At the end of the day, your basecamp is a leisurely stroll away. The 603-room, all-suite property offers an assortment of multi-bed room configurations including some with a themed kids cabin or wolf den outfitted with bunk beds. And while parents can relax with a cocktail, kiddos gather for a nightly storytime program followed by a dance party to wear out any remaining energy for the night.

Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove

Garden Grove
8.7 Excellent (1052 reviews)

3. Family Fun Amidst the San Diego Sun

1/3

Add an upgrade fee to your LEGOLAND California Resort ticket, and you’ll gain access to two water parks — LEGOLAND Water Park and CHIMA Water Park — that offer a fun way to cool down amidst the San Diego sun. As with LEGOLAND, the brick-themed water parks are geared toward ages 2-12, but there’s plenty for teens and adults to enjoy, too.

Everyone will love the Build-a-Raft Lazy River which sends riders on inner tubes down a gently flowing waterway with floating LEGO bricks that can be plucked from the water, and stacked atop the platform-equipped tubes. At the Joker Soaker, a colorful, castle-themed play structure stands amidst a sprawling splash pool with water cannons and a clock tower that regularly unleashes 350 gallons of water. Toddlers might feel more comfortable at a separate play area themed around the DUPLO brand.

For serious thrills, try the Orange Rush which spins groups of four on an oversized inner tube across an orange half-pipe, or Riptide Racers where competing riders dash down a hilly slide. Swimsuit-clad visitors will also want to take advantage of special access to LEGOLAND’s Pirate Reef, a flume-style boat ride that guarantees a good soaking.

Over in the mystical realm of the CHIMA Water Park, the massive, crocodile head of Cragger marks a hands-on play area with mini slides and water cannons, while the Lion Temple Wave Pool features an 18-foot high arch made from over 260,000 bricks. There are also changing stalls for those who want to dry off and head to the adjacent LEGOLAND.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Carlsbad

964 Hotels
View Destination

Where to Stay: LEGOLAND California Resort

Steps from the park entrance, the Hotel LEGOLAND California Resort promises even more fun with themed rooms, LEGO build areas, and character meet-and-greets. Families can choose from five room themes — Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure, NINJAGO, or LEGO Friends — each with a separate sleeping area for up to three children. There’s even a treasure chest that little explorers can unlock after completing an in-room treasure hunt.

Throughout the hotel, kids will also find thousands of LEGO models, build competitions, and, of course, a LEGO shop. And, don’t miss a ride in the light-pulsating disco elevator. In the morning, wake to a free buffet-style breakfast at Bricks Family Restaurant, and exclusive, early access to the LEGOLAND parks.

Hotel Legoland California Resort

Top rated
Carlsbad
8.8 Excellent (994 reviews)

4. Orange County's Largest Water Park

1/3

Originally opened as a humble berry farm in the 1920s, the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park has grown to include Orange County’s largest water park, Knott’s Soak City. The separate admission destination features 15-acres of aquatic attractions including the towering, six-story Shore Break with six unique slides, and The Wedge where giant, multi-rider inner tubes hurtle down an open air tube with surprise drops.

Milder thrills include body surfing at the 750,000-gallon Tidal Wave Bay wave pool, and floating along the one-third-mile Sunset River, the longest lazy river in the U.S. Kids will love the three-story Beach House, awash with hundreds of water blasters, or Gremmie Lagoon, a hands-on water playground for younger tykes. For a break from all the action, head to the park’s shaded seating area, or rent a semi-private cabana with an umbrella-shaded table, four inner tubes, and wait service from the newly renovated Longboard’s Grill.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Buena Park

90 Hotels
View Destination

Where to Stay: Knott's Berry Farm Hotel

A stone’s throw from the park, the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel features 320 guest rooms including Camp Snoopy-themed rooms with paw print carpets, complimentary Snoopy dolls, and a kids’ tuck-in service from the famous beagle himself. You can also catch the beloved Peanuts character at Amber Waves Restaurant, an all-day, family-friendly restaurant where you can enjoy a slice of Knott’s famed boysenberry pie. There’s also an outdoor pool with a fountain-filled children’s play area, and a cut-above fitness center for adults.

Knott's Berry Farm Hotel

Buena Park
7.8 Good (2994 reviews)

5. Refreshing Fun in Sacramento

1/2

Politics aren’t the only things that get heated in California’s capital. When Sacramento’s summer temps soar, residents head to Raging Waters Sacramento to cool down with refreshing fun. Located within the Cal Expo venue, home to the annual California State Fair, the region’s largest water park is a community landmark with 25 water attractions.

Highlights include the Shark Attack complex which features speed slides such as Great White, the fastest luge-style ride in Northern California. At Cliffhanger, friends can race each other on dueling slides that plunge six-stories to a splash-filled finish. You’ll also find the usual water park classics such as a wave pool, an 800-foot lazy river, and mini slides and play areas designed especially for tots.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Sacramento

649 Hotels
View Destination

Where to Stay: The Citizen Hotel

Five miles from the water park, and two blocks from the state capitol building, The Citizen Hotel offers a sense of place with stylish, early 20th century-inspired interiors set within a renovated 1926 high rise. The boutique property is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, and features 196 guest rooms with no two alike.

Amenities include luxe bed linens, a Keurig coffee maker, and upscale toiletries. The hotel’s buzzy eatery, Grange Restaurant & Bar, helped pioneer the city’s farm-to-fork movement, and is one of the most popular dining rooms in town.

The Citizen Hotel, Autograph Collection

Top rated
Sacramento
8.8 Excellent (1926 reviews)

6. Tropical Jungle-Themed Water Park Near Los Angeles

1/2

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor offers aquatic versions of the thrills found at its neighboring, sister park, Six Flags Magic Mountain. The 25-acre water park features over 20 slides and attractions set amidst a tropical jungle-themed landscape. Here, you’ll find heart-pounding speed slides such as Bonzai Pipelines where riders free-fall 40 miles-per-hour down a slippery chute, and the toboggan racing slides at Bamboo Racer.

The “under-54″ set will delight in the tidepool-based play area at Castaway Cove, while families will enjoy rafting the Lost Temple Rapids, and a breezy float down The River Cruise. Every Friday throughout summer, visitors can enjoy Dive-In Movies at the Forgotten Sea wave pool where family-friendly flicks such as “Finding Dory” are screened to a floating audience.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Los Angeles

30957 Hotels
View Destination

Where to Stay: Hilton Garden Inn Valencia

At the end of the day, you can catch a free shuttle ride to the Hilton Garden Inn Valencia, the closest lodging to the parks. Spacious rooms include refrigerators and microwaves. There’s also an American eatery and bar dishing up cheeseburgers, steaks, and a nightly happy hour with discounted drinks in the hotel. The lobby convenience shop stocked with snacks and travel essentials come in handy as well.

Hotel Hilton Garden Inn Valencia Six Flags

Top rated
Valencia
8.5 Excellent (1908 reviews)

7. The Largest Water Park in Northern California

1/2

As the largest water park in Northern California, Raging Waters San Jose features 23-acres of water rides set alongside the scenic Lake Cunningham. You’ll find all your favorite water park activities including wading within a 350,000-gallon wave pool, and lazily floating past waterfalls on the Endless River.

Other highlights include Sidewinder, a head-first body slide where riders race three of their pals, and Barracuda Blaster where three people barrel down a 500-foot slide on a shared raft. Pairs can team up for Dragon’s Den whose tunneled flumes include a spin around a watery cauldron. There’s plenty of pint-size thrills, too, including the bubble pool at Little Dipper, and the cargo nets and water cannons at the Pirate’s Cove play area.

For food and drink, you’ll have your choice of the usual theme parks staples— burgers, pizza, hot dogs — as well as old-fashioned milkshakes and Dole soft serve at select locales. Regulars can spring for an annual dining pass which guarantees one combo meal each visit. Private poolside cabanas offer dedicated food and drink service, and guaranteed shade.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - San Jose

1521 Hotels
View Destination

Where to Stay: Fairmont San Jose

Roughly seven miles from Raging Waters, Fairmont San Jose offers upscale lodging amidst the bustling restaurants, shops and museums of downtown San Jose. The stately property features 805 spacious rooms and suites spread across two towers, and high-touch amenities such as bell service and nightly turndown.

Families should consider a room with private patios and direct access to the Fairmont’s rooftop pool deck. Guests have their choice of numerous in-house dining options including burgers and local craft brews at The Grill on the Alley, steakhouse fare at Morton’s, and contemporary Cal cuisine at the Fountain Restaurant.

Fairmont San Jose

Top rated
San Jose
8.5 Excellent (3066 reviews)

8. Relaxing and Wet Family Vacation in Paso Robles Wine Country

1/3

The Ravine Water Park offers a relaxed water park experience in the Paso Robles wine country in Central California. While smaller in size than the other parks listed here, The Ravine offers all the water park staples including rip-roaring slides such as the 325-foot-long twisting flumes of Anaconda, the multiple drops at Thunder Run, and a five-story plunge at Kamikaze.

The aptly named Kickback Kreek meanders through greenery, while the swells surge nearly five feet at Calypso Bay Wave Pool. Little ones can splash about a 9,000 square foot wading pool diligently monitored by lifeguards, and surrounded by a sun deck for parents in need of a break.

Consider splurging for a private cabana with chaise lounges, dining tables, and a safe-equipped cooler. You’ll also score a premium parking space, inner tubes for your group, and personal wait service from Tiki Bar & Grill which dishes up reasonably priced burgers, tacos, and pizza. Kids can slurp a variety of frozen drinks and treats, while adults can enjoy beer and wine.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Paso Robles

1127 Hotels
View Destination

Where to Stay: Allegretto Vineyard Resort

Just two miles away, the Allegretto Vineyard Resort offers a scenic respite after an activity-filled day. Set amidst 20 acres of vineyards and olive trees, the lush, villa-like property is filled with Old World-inspired architecture, classical statuary, and Adirondack chairs fashioned from wine barrels.

Upscale guest rooms feature soothing tones, Dream Sleeper mattresses and plush spa robes. Cello Ristorante & Bar is a local fave with sunny, Cal-Italia cuisine — think frutti di mare and lemon cake with Limoncello Crème Anglaise — often using ingredients plucked from an adjacent chef’s garden.

Allegretto Vineyard Resort

Top rated
Paso Robles
9.0 Excellent (1093 reviews)

9. One of The Oldest and Largest Water Parks in California

1/2

Opened in 1983, Raging Waters Los Angeles is one of the largest water parks in California.. The 60-acre property boasts over 50 attractions including the state’s only hydromagnetic coaster, Aqua Rocket, which blasts sleek, four-person rafts up hills and down steep drops via magnetic fields. You’ll find more adrenaline-inducing slides such as Dr. Von Dark’s Tunnel of Terror which drops guests through a 40-foot, darkened tube, and the 10-story High Extreme which sends rides down a 600-foot flume at speeds up to thirty-five miles-per-hour.

Budding surfers can hang 10 at the surf simulator FlowRider, while those more inclined to inner tubes can float along the Amazon Adventure lazy river or a million-gallon wave pool. For kids, there’s the play area at Splash Island Adventure, and Little Dipper Lagoon with mini slides, waterfalls and wading pools.

Food options reflect the surrounding landscape with a host of familiar, fast food outlets, the most notable being an outpost of Hollywood’s celebrated hot dog stand, Pink’s. No outside food is permitted, but you can bring your own water or hydrating sports drinks. The park offers cooler and locker rental.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Los Angeles

30957 Hotels
View Destination

Where to Stay: Best Western San Dimas

Less than two miles away, Best Western San Dimas offers clean, modern digs near the water park. Rooms and suites are equipped with a microwave and mini refrigerator, making it a good option for traveling families. There’s also free WiFi, laundry facilities, and a heated outdoor pool.

Mondays through Saturdays, guests can enjoy a complimentary happy hour served in the main lobby. And, while all Best Western properties provide a free breakfast, the San Dimas locale goes a step further with a sizable morning spread that includes hot dishes cooked to order.

Best Western San Dimas Hotel & Suites

Top rated
San Dimas
8.8 Excellent (1002 reviews)