The year was 1969. The Boeing 747 jumbo jet made its debut, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, and over in Tempe, Arizona a man named Phil Dexter unleashed another marvel of modern science: the US’s first wave pool.
It’s been 50 years since Dexter’s invention changed the amusement park landscape and gave legions of kids in landlocked cities the opportunity to ride bonafide waves. If it feels like nearly as long since you’ve set foot in a water park, now’s the time to remedy that. Can you even remember the smell of the chlorine, the feel of the plastic admission wristband, the glorious sound of the wave-pool buzzer sending hundreds of swimmers into a celebratory frenzy?
Of course, much has changed since Dexter’s days. The food has gotten better, the lodging increasingly luxurious, and the rides more extreme. In fact, plenty of parks have grown up with us, as new rides open with a more, dare we say, sophisticated audience in mind. To guide you back into the world of aqua-amusements, we’ve rounded up the top eight water parks across the country for adult-sized fun. So pack your cooler, hightail it to a wave pool, and ask yourself, hey, what are all these kids doing here?