What's the best remedy for the South Carolina heat? A tall, icy glass of sweet tea? A shady spot under a live oak draped with moss? Both are good, but how about 20 acres of water slides, wave pools and a three-story spray ground?
If that last choice sounds like the right answer, then head to Boomerang Bay Water Park at Carowinds in Fort Mill, South Carolina.
Boomerang Bay would be an enormous water park all on its own, but the fact that it's part of Carowinds Amusement Park makes it even more remarkable. Entrance to Boomerang Bay is included with your admission ticket to Carowinds, so when you need to cool off in the middle of a long day of thrill rides, Boomerang Bay is just a few steps away.
That said, you could easily spend the entire day just in Boomerang Bay and never get bored. There are more than a dozen water slides, two wave pools, a lazy river that crosses state borders (between North and South Carolina), two special areas just for the littlest kids, and an enormously tall playground structure covered with sprinklers, water guns, water spouts, slides and a giant dumping bucket. There also are snack bars, changing rooms, lockers, shops and plenty of lounge chairs.
There are so many great rides and slides and pools at Boomerang Bay, but the one that really deserves special mention for families is Down Under Thunder. You sit in a four-person raft, all facing inward, to bounce and glide down the long, steep slide. There are lots of tight, banked turns that make the raft fly all the way up the side of the slide. There's nothing quite as joyful as sitting directly across from your children and watching their faces -- laughing, screaming, smiling -- against the sky as you hurtle down the slide.
And when it's time to dry off, forget the towel. You can just head over to one of Carowinds' 14 roller coasters to air dry.
A few tips:
1. When you first enter the water park, don't necessarily lay claim to the first open lounge chair you see. This is usually the most crowded part, and you might be able to find a shadier chair if you walk all the way toward the back of the park, where it's usually less crowded.
2. If you see a slide you know you'll want to go down and there isn't much of a line, get on it right away. Some slides can have really long lines at times and then almost no one waiting an hour later. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it, so jump on that line if you see it short. You can always hang out in the wave pool or lazy river when the slide lines get too long and then try again later.
3. You can rent a cabana. It's expensive but gives you a private, secluded "home base" with a patio table, mini fridge, locker, television, waiter service and early entry to the water park. If you're going to be spending the day with a baby or toddler, the extra cost just might be worth it.