June 28, 2014 at 11:28 AM ET
You don’t have to be crazy to ride the new water slide at Schlitterbahn Kansas City, but it probably doesn’t hurt. After all, with a height of just over 168 feet and a name like Verrückt — German for “insane” — it’s not likely to attract those of a more prudent disposition.
Verrückt is just one of several new attractions debuting at the nation’s water parks this year as park operators take a page from the builders of roller coasters and other gravity-defying attractions.
“We’re seeing a lot of construction of extreme rides this year,” said Martin Palicki, editor of InPark Magazine. “There’s only so much that a standard water slide can do, so they’re looking for new ways to up the thrill factor.”
Whether you’re feeling a little adventurous or completely verrückt, the following rides should fit the bill:
Verrückt, Schlitterbahn Kansas City
The name barely scratches the surface at this hair-raising ride. At 168 feet, 7 inches high (19 inches higher than Niagara Falls), Verrückt is officially the world’s tallest water slide (certified by Guinness World Records) and most likely its scariest as riders in four-person rafts plunge down a first drop at up to 65 mph, then up and over a second, 50-foot hill. “It’s extreme in every sense,” said Palicki. “I’ll go on it but it’ll be white-knuckle.” The ride had been slated to open to the public on June 29, but glitch in the conveyor system that hauls rafts to the top of the 17-story tower has pushed back the ride's official opening for the third time, park spokeswoman Winter Prosapio confirmed on Friday. She did not have a new projected opening date.
Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, Aquatica Orlando
What’s scarier than a drop slide, in which a trap door suddenly opens beneath your feet, sending you plummeting? A trio of drop slides, eight stories high, where you face your friends but never know which one will disappear first. That’s the premise of Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, which augments the adrenaline with an 80 degree first drop and several 360 degree spins. “It’s not for the weak-hearted,” said Erik Yates, editor of BehindTheThrills.com.
Bahama Blaster, Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Another drop-style slide, Bahama Blaster ups the thrill factor at this park outside San Antonio with two straight slides, two looping slides and a first drop that’s as steep (80 degrees) as the park’s popular Iron Rattler roller coaster. For those who might need a little liquid courage, an adjacent swim-up tiki bar offers an eponymous drink that forgoes the water for something a bit stronger.
“You’ll drop about two stories before the ride actually ‘catches’ you.”
KaPau Plummet, White Water
Picture a 240-foot-long tube slide with a trap-door launch, 70-degree first drop and horizontal, 360-degree loop. Now double it and you’ve got the side-by-side plunges of KaPau Plummet, which recently opened at this tropically themed water park in Branson, Missouri. The first drop, as they say, is a doozy: “You’ll drop about two stories before the ride actually ‘catches’ you,” said Robb Alvey, creator of ThemeParkReview.com.
Taumata Racer, Aquatica San Diego
Opening for its second season, Aquatica San Diego has taken a page from its sister park in Orlando and added Taumata Racer, an eight-lane racing slide that zips riders down a 375-foot slide, whips them around a 180 degree swooping turn and shoots them in and out of tunnels before they cross the finish line — all in less time than it would take the average visitor to say the 85-letter Maori word from which the ride takes its name.
Snake Pit, Dorney Park
With six intertwined and brightly colored slides, the new Snake Pit complex at Dorney Park’s Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown, Pennsylvania, resembles one of those old 3-D Pipes screensavers. Guests can choose from six different experiences, including a 65-foot-high, 450-foot-long drop slide (Python Plummet), an enclosed chute with four 360-degree loops (Constrictor) and a raft ride featuring drops, banks and multiple slide paths (Boa Blasters).
Screaming Serpents, Schlitterbahn Galveston Island
Talk about being in the belly of the beast(s). This rattler of a ride comprises two snake-themed tubes that wind around each other like a pair of oversized twist ties. Entering through the critters’ tail ends, riders corkscrew around each other amid fog, sound and light effects before being spit out through the serpents’ mouth.
Tsunami Surge, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
Billed as the world’s first hybrid zero-gravity slide, Tsunami Surge will likely become the signature thrill ride at the all-new Hurricane Harbor water park that just opened at Six Flags Over Georgia. The dual-slide attraction sends riders down an enclosed five-story drop, whirls them around a 40-foot-wide bowl and shoots them over a gravity-defying wave wall. “It combines two great slide experiences into one extreme thrill,” said Alvey.
Surfer’s Swell/Dorsal Fin Drop, Boomerang Bay
The newest addition at Carowinds’ Boomerang Bay outside Charlotte, North Carolina, is a twofer: Sharing the same launch platform, Surfer’s Swell and Dorsal Fin Drop will offer two different thrills when they open later this month. On the former, riders squirt out of the first drop and onto an angled wall that mimics the sensation of catching an ocean wave; on the latter, they’re ejected into a large bowl and spin their way into a corkscrew exit.
Roa’s Aviary, Aquatica San Antonio
Finally, for those whose idea of aquatic adventure doesn’t include snakes, tsunamis and screaming teenagers, there’s Roa’s Aviary, a 13,500-square-foot attraction that features a pool, waterfalls and lazy river beneath an aviary with 300 birds representing more than 50 species. “It takes things a little slower,” said Yates, “and the birds are free to interact with you anytime they feel like.” Part aquatic attraction, part nature tour, it’s about as immersive as you can get.