My pal Dianna mentioned she was headed to Waterville, USA in Gulf Shores, AL for an afternoon of fun in the sun and I was thrilled when she said that she would do a guest post. We haven’t been to Waterville yet and though we intended to make it this summer, it will have to wait until next summer. I love Dianna’s tips on how to survive a day at a big waterpark! Even though school starts Monday, Waterville will be open on the weekends until the end of September (9/24). Be sure to check the calendar for dates and times before you go!
The Hayden Trio decided to take advantage of the first sunny day in weeks and embark on a journey to Gulf Shores, Alabama for our first experience at Waterville, USA. We hadn’t been to a water park in years, and decided to take the plunge with our three-year-old, Cautious C. Overall our 3 hour stay was a mixed bag of fun and less fun mostly because of some oversights, mistakes, and lack of information. To ensure that your experience is better than ours, I have compiled a list of tips in the form of do’s and don’ts for your trip to Waterville.
- Do pack water shoes. Again, I have not been to a water park in years and do not remember needing shoes. But for Waterville in July, foot protection against the hot pavers is a big plus, especially for little ones. Cautious C is sensitive, but even we bigger Haydens ended up with scalded soles at the end of our day.
- Do not pack food or drink (but you can get away with a juice box). We packed two waters and a juice in our bag for our fun day, and were promptly asked to take them back to the car when the park attendant searched our bags. Since the car was parked in the back 40, we ended up throwing away our perfectly good waters. When I pushed about bringing the juice box, they did bend on that rule.
- Don’t avoid the parks in July. Though it was a beautiful day and fairly crowded, the lines moved rapidly and there was plenty of room on the lazy river and in the wave pool.
- Do park near the arcade (right below the biggest hill of the roller coaster) and buy your wristbands there. We avoided the long lines at the entrance and waited only minutes in the air-conditioned arcade for our wristbands. Plus it gave me an opportunity to buy the tickets while the hubby entertained Cautious C by walking around the video games.
- Do use the clean restrooms in the arcade before you enter the water park. It is obvious that bathrooms in a water park are going to be wet. But if it grosses you out to put your bare feet on a wet bathroom floor, the dry arcade is your best bet.
- Do print a map from the Waterville website before you go. I know it’s a water park and you’re not going to run around with a wet map all day, but it would have really helped to have a map to get our bearings at first. There are no signs directing you to things like inner tubes and the beginning of the lazy river. It doesn’t take long to figure it out, but when you have a little one whose feet are burning, not having to backtrack at the beginning really helps.
- Don’t expect to be able to go down slides together (except for inner tube slides). After making a climb up Rainbow Falls with Cautious C, being told we could not accompany him down the slide, and then having to walk all the way down the crowded steps, it is a lesson I will not soon forget. Cautious C has gone down slides before, but needs a little help to get comfortable at the beginning. Needless to say, he never went down any of those slides.
- Do not bring a life jacket. Waterville provides all types of life jackets in good condition free of charge.
- Do nab a yellow tube anywhere you can get it. From my previous water park experiences, I thought tubes and flotation devices were organized in separate areas for each attraction. However, even the Waterville employee told us that we might have to look several places for an inner tube. There was no real pattern to the distribution and collection of inner tubes, and they seemed to simply flow without boundaries all over the park. If you intend to ride a tube ride, get on the lazy river, or float in the wave pool, get your yellow tubes wherever you see ‘em. We got ours around one of the lazy river exits and held on to it for the other tube attractions.
- Do not wear a shirt over your swimsuit and don’t feel subconscious about it. There were signs everywhere that directed slide riders not to wear shirts down the water slides. If you wear a shirt because you want to hide something, don’t. Even at the beach I have never seen the range of body types and “get-ups” that I saw at Waterville. There is no reason to wear anything more than a swimsuit. It’s July for goodness sake!
If you too have a Cautious C, It may not be best to start on the 10 and under play area beneath the huge dumping bucket. That is where we started and it was a critical mistake because Cautious C does not like surprises. It took us over an hour to rid him of his anxiety after the huge bucket dumped right on his head as he reached the slides. We should have started small.
Overall, Waterville was an interesting and entertaining experience. If you have a fearless child, then you should have no problems just diving in and having fun. The Hayden Trio spent over $100 at the park and did little more than we would have at a community pool. But most of that was due to having Cautious C and making some general mistakes. Hope that these tips can help make your Waterville trip everything you want it to be!
Dianna Hayden lives in Cantonment with her husband and 3-year-old. As a family they love to travel, but find that Pensacola and the surrounding areas are hard to beat!
Photos courtesy of nola.agent via Flickr.