It might seem odd to head to a water park when the ocean -- the world's largest "water park" -- is just short trip away.
But your kids will probably think differently after their first exhilarating plunge down a slide in one of the Grand Strand's three water parks.
Wild Water and Wheels in Surfside Beach along with Myrtle Waves and Family Kingdom in Myrtle Beach offer day-long fun for families with kids of all ages. We hit all three on a recent Sunday (yes, it was a full day), and our kids found something to like about each one.
Here's a quick glimpse of what you need to know before you hit the parks and what you‘ll see once you get there.
This large water park in the center of Myrtle Beach offers slides for all levels of thrill seekers. The wave pool lets you get a feel for the ocean action -- without any sand or sea creatures.
Scariest: The Turbo Twister. Climb 10 stories and then enter a completely enclosed, dark tunnel. You'll drop 50 feet per second.
Most fun: Arooba Tooba. (My kids call it the toilet bowl ride). Climb on a single or double inner tube and slide down an enclosed tunnel before entering a bright orange and yellow bowl where riders swirl around until exiting through the center and splashing down. Total fun.
Best family ride: Snake Mountain. This is a great ride for parents and youngsters (who are at least 42 inches tall) to share a double tube. The Python, Water Moccasin and King Cobra provide a winding ride down long slides before splash downs. Not too fast, but not babyish either.
Best for the young ones: Saturation Station. A combination of slides, platforms, bridges and waterfalls in a tropical theme. Don't miss the super splash when a 700-gallon bucket of empties on the crowd gathered underneath every 6 to 8 minutes. (Listen for the gongs, and watch the kids run for the best spot underneath.)
Most relaxing: The LayZee River. Float around the 1,200-foot river at 3 mph on a single or double tube. Perfect for parents. (We saw a few parents cruising along the LayZee River while their young children napped in their laps.)
Faster version: The Racin River is a peanut shaped 250-foot river that travels at 10 mph. A great place for kids to race each other and make up all sorts of games.
Other stuff to note: Lockers are available for rent. Showers and changing areas are available. You can eat at one of the restaurants in the park or bring your own food and use the picnic tables outside the park. (You can re-enter afterward). There are plenty of seating areas and lounge chairs in the park, some with shade.
Where: U.S. 17 Bypass at 10th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach
More information: www.myrtlewaves.com
This park offers 24 slides, a wave pool, lazy river and children's area along with bumper boats, miniature golf and other rides.
Scariest ride: It's a tie between the Free Fall Cliff Dive and the Dark Hole. The cliff dive is a body-only ride where you travel up to 45 mph through a tunnel that opens to a near vertical drop. The Dark Hole is an inner tube enclosed tunnel ride.
Most fun ride: Our kids loved the mat slides, especially the Wild H2O Racer, which let you line up in four lanes and plunge head first through rolls and drops. Riders compete to see who can get to the bottom the fastest.
Most relaxing: It's the Lazy River -- but this one has a few twists. The 950-foot long circle lets you travel through a rain forest, wave channel and waterfalls to keep you cool.
Best for the young ones: The Kids' Activity Pool features a tree stump with two slides, a waterfall and a cave for exploration. Just behind it is Wee Kids Water Works, perfect for the little kids.
Adults only: The Lounge Pool combines water and lounge chairs. Pull them into the pool and enjoy whirlpool-like bubbles. No kids allowed in this one.
Also: This is a large, 16-acre park with miniature golf, carnival rides, bumper boats and car racing in addition to the water park. There is a picnic area, and lockers and showers are available.
Make note: The pavement at this park was extremely hot on the June day we attended. Most people kept flip flops or other beach shoes on their feet as they walked from ride to ride. It's a smart idea; your feet will thank you.
Where: 910 U.S. 17 South, Surfside Beach
More information: www.wild-water.com
This water park is the Grand Strand's only oceanfront park, and it's part of the amusement park complex across the street.
Best part: The view, the view, the view. The water park is right on the oceanfront, so from the top of the slides you can see the ocean and beach below.
Scariest ride: None of the rides are very scary here, but the speed slides will give you a pretty fast drop.
Most fun: The winding slides with inner tubes let you catch a glimpse of the ocean as you make your way down.
Make note: This is a smaller park that offers a chance for kids to enjoy a water slide close to the beach. There also are seating areas with lounge chairs where you can see the water park and the beach. Free parking can be difficult to find, although there are nearby lots where you can pay to park. Plenty of entertainment and dining options nearby.
Where: 300 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach
More information: www.familykingdomfun.com