A Guide to Exploring Waterworld with Kids

Water World water park in Denver, Colorado is the largest water park in America. It's designed for guests of all ages, from those who can barely walk to those with walkers. Although it's large, with thrill rides designed to scare the bejeezus out of even the most hearty soul, it's also got plenty of features for younger children and is an excellent place for parents to enjoy some time with them. Just because you have young kids isn't a reason not to visit. I regularly take my three-year-old and five-year-old to Water World and they love it. Here's what to do at Water World with young kids.

Map to Waterworld

Almost Everything You Need Begins with "S"

  • Sunscreeen
  • Snacks
  • Swim shoes
  • Swim shirts
  • Distinctive swim gear

Preparing to Go

In order to maximize our enjoyment of Water World with our kids, we do a few things each time we travel there. We usually get there a little bit earlier than the 10am opening time so we can get in and buy a locker to store our stuff.

There are a few options for lockers. There are very small lockers that cost a dollar token each time you open them. They're fine for storing a towel and not much more. If you want to bring along food and other stuff, there are bigger lockers available, but they go fast. The jumbo locker, which we usually buy, is $12 for the entire day. It holds a small, portable and collapsible cooler and two good size shopping bags. Since we usually bring in all our stuff including a change of clothing for two adults and two children, along with lunch and snacks, this locker is about right for us.

As we have a drive of about thirty-five minutes, we also get into our swim suits before we get there so that we don't have to take time changing. If possible, we put sun screen on everyone so we're ready to go. However, it usually takes some waiting time to buy the locker, so I get the locker while my wife and kids put on sun screen.

You can spend a lot of money at Water World eating, so we prefer to pack a lunch. Many people bring coolers and camp out. We find that packing a lunch works for us. At the longest, our kids can tolerate Water World for about four to five hours, so we might eat lunch at noon and stay a couple more hours.

Funhouse Express Gondola

Our first order of business on almost every trip is a ride from the top of the park on the Funhouse Express Gondola down to one of the three big children's play areas, predictably called The Fun H2Ouse. The kids enjoy riding the gondola a lot and it takes us right to one of our favorite play areas.

The Fun H2Ouse includes a fun house with a bunch of water games, though I will say that the water coming out is often rather cold and the attraction is better on a hot day. We prefer to head to the small lazy river, which is a lazy river with tubes only for kids. Adults have to walk. The water in the kid's lazy river is often warmer than other parts of the park, which is nice.

In addition to the lazy river is a pool and two slides for kids. One is a two-person slide so that mom or dad can join their little one on a tube. The other is a non-tube slide just for kids. Both are a great way to introduce young children to the fun of water slides.

Just a warning to parents about the lazy river: the current is surprisingly strong in places, so even a kid who can stand in the water can lose his or her balance and get pulled under. Also, and this has happened to me, a parent who is holding a child and isn't paying attention can lose his or her balance as well. I was leaning on an innertube while holding my youngest when this happened to me and, I can tell you, it's one of those moments that happens in slow-motion that I hope not to repeat.

Wally World Slide (by permission of Water World)
Wally World Slide (by permission of Water World)

Mile High Flyer

Mile High Flyer

The Mile High Flyer is a water roller coaster located on the southeast end of Water World. It is just a short walk from the bottom of the Fun House Express Gondola and the lower kids' area.

I highly recommend that if you want to do this ride, you get in line first thing in the morning when the park opens. Otherwise, you're likely to be waiting in line a long time.


The ride was appropriate for my five-year-old, but not my three-year-old. For one thing, it's got a 42-inch height restriction, so smaller children can't ride. For another, it's a little intense in spots, but if you're child already has experience with a regular roller coaster, it's nothing they can't handle. This is a very innovative ride as far as water parks go, simulating a roller coaster about as closely as a water ride can.

Cimarron and Thunder Rivers

Once done in the lower part of Water World, we usually head back up top to the Caribbean Family Adventure. However, we've started taking some time to ride either the Cimarron or Thunder River rides (I think one of them is called the Colorado River now). The rides are similar in nature, involving a large round raft that can seat at least four people. The ride requires the participants to haul the huge raft up to the top of the ride, which can be somewhat tedious if you have young children tagging along, but I find that rolling the raft up the hill is fairly easy. Both our kids enjoy the ride. You don't get too wet and it doesn't move too fast. The raft is big enough to hold onto your kids.

Slide at Caribbean Family Adventure (by permission of Water World)
Slide at Caribbean Family Adventure (by permission of Water World)

Caribbean Family Adventure

Calypso Cove is the name for the family play area in the northeast corner of Water World. There are several slides and a large play structure where kids and parents can enjoy themselves. One of the nice things about this area is that you can watch your kids here while one parent goes off and enjoys the other attractions nearby.

One of our favorite rides right near here is Tortuga Run, a relaxing innertube ride where the rider gently moves from one eddy pool to another. Riders frequently get stuck in the pools, but as more and more riders come down, one rider is pushed down the next rapid. It's a great ride that we enjoy every time we go to Water World.

Wally World

Wally World is a kid's area right near the entrance to Water World, but we tend to go there right before we leave. I guess our thinking is that it's easier to get a kid to walk a few feet out the exit than to get them to walk up a big hill to leave and not expect to have to carry them. The other advantage is that the lockers are right near there, so right around lunch time we go there, then break for lunch.

Wally World has a number of kid's slides, swings, fountains, and a climbing area. No part of the area is more than about a foot deep, so even toddlers can hang out there with parental supervision, of course.

Wally World isn't as good for parents as some of the other kid's areas, but the kids sure do love it.

How I Lost My Child at Water World

It's the nightmare of every parent. You're in a crowded, public space. You're trying to watch your children. You turn your back for a second and when you turn around, one of them is gone.

This happened to me at Water World. I was playing with my younger child at Calypso Cove, making sure he was okay on the stairs. I probably turned my back on my oldest child for 90 seconds. When I turned around, he was gone.

It took me a few minutes to walk up to one of the 16-year-old life guards and tell him that "I think I lost one of my kids." The first thing he asked me was this: "what was he wearing?" That's why I highly recommend your child wear something distinctive, because you never know when this will happen to you. Fortunately, my oldest had on a bright orange hat.

The folks at Water World clearly have experience dealing with such things because they quickly radioed around and although they misdirected me once, they found him fairly quickly and brought him back over to where I was. It was a tense ten minutes or so, but I'm glad he was wearing a distinctive outfit I could easily describe.

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