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Coloradans zoom down the Sunset Racer. Photo courtesy of Water World
Culture

The Best Rides at Water World, Ranked

Here, all of the can’t-miss thrills at Denver’s beloved water park to soak up before summer’s over.

If you had the pleasure of living or growing up in the Centennial State in the early aughts, the memory of Water World’s catchy commercials is likely burned into your subconscious somewhere: “America’s biggest; America’s best,” its baritone tune would sing. And while the former claim to superior size may no longer, er, hold water, any true Coloradan knows the Federal Heights water park still holds the biggest—and best—place in our hearts when it comes to water-based fun.

Water World, which opened in 1979, boasts nearly 50 rides and attractions—including two rides that debuted this summer—spanning 70 acres just a short cry north of Denver. But even beyond these draws, the Mile High mainstay is also a summer sensory experience that’s just downright good for the soul.

It’s the excited screams of hundreds of kids running into the Thunder Bay Wave Pool when the siren sounds. The obligatory post-ride Dippin’ Dots sticking to your lips on a scorching day. The sweaty, uphill tube hauls to each ride entrance to earn your thrills. The tattoo sightings, unmatched by any other amusement park. It’s these very sounds, sights, and splashes that draw thousands of Coloradans each summer to come together at Water World.

After having to forgo the water play last summer when the park remained closed for the 2020 season due to the pandemic, residents now have more reason to join the park’s mission of “bringin’ back the fun for 2021.” Whether you’re a veteran at the Mile High City’s favorite water park, or have yet to experience it for yourself, you only have a few more warm weekends to soak it up. In honor of the final stretch of summer, we’ve rounded up every must-try ride and ranked them by their ability to deliver on a good time.

Before you go: Day tickets can be purchased in advance online (general admission starts at $42.99; children for $36.99; seniors for $12.99) or same-day in person, depending on park capacity. Be sure to check the park’s website for the daily updates on ride closures, public health and safety guidelines, and other protocol to know before arrival.

9. Lost River of the Pharaohs

One of the few story-based rides at the park, this winding (albeit slow-paced) journey through the hidden riverways of the pyramids takes rafters through a mystifying temple of treasures unknown. This ride is tamer than the others, but it’s a classic of the park, and your encounters with ancient relics, mummies, and a royal tomb make this nostalgic run worthwhile.
Thrill Factor: 2/5
Splash Factor: 2/5

8. The Revolution, aka the “Toilet Bowl”

This blue and yellow behemoth isn’t the wildest ride at the park by any means, but it’s an important part of the Water World experience. The Toilet Bowl slides riders down a six-story drop into the neon rotunda before spinning you to the center “drain” and dunking you down the steep, final descent where you’re guaranteed to get soaked. And if you’re not embracing the splash at Water World, you’re doing it wrong.
Thrill Factor: 3/5
Splash Factor: 5/5

7. Thunder Bay Wave Pool

Want to cool off, dodge the lines, and catch some waves? Thunder Bay is the place to be. This nearly two-million-gallon pool at the epicenter of the park churns out constant man-made tides several times throughout each hour—and it seems to be a shared experience of Denver natives to have gotten wrecked at least once as a child by the massive waves in this lagoon. So if you’re on your A-game, venture out to the eight-foot deep end (just prepare to be pinballed by personal inflatable tubes—or splurge on a tube yourself—when the rental option becomes available again).
Thrill Factor: 3/5
Splash Factor: 5/5

6. Sunset Racer

This eight-lane downward race track is one of the park’s unsung adrenaline rushes, as you and your trusty steed (in this case, a thin, rubber mat) take off head-first into a winding race down the enclosed slides and through the topsy-turvy final stretch—and hopefully, beat your fellow riders to the finish. Who doesn’t love a little friendly competition?
Thrill Factor: 4/5
Splash Factor: 4/5

5. Screamin’ Mimi

The hike to this two-passenger ride in the park’s Calypso Cove area is humbling, but well worth it. This straight-shot manual coaster sends riders down a steep, 50-foot track—almost like an alpine slide on water—into a shallow landing pool. Like the name suggests, the swift drop can get riders rolling at nearly 30 miles per hour. So if it doesn’t steal a scream out of you, it’s probably because it stole your breath altogether. Luckily, crowds in line oftentimes cheer you on in your descent, as you skid across the water and stick your landing.
Thrill Factor: 4/5
Splash Factor: 5 /5

4. Zoomerang

Don’t look down: This massive waterslide-meets-halfpipe is for the true daredevils at heart. (Seriously. Even the Water World employee pushing you down the slide has to be harnessed into the structure.) If the thought of taking a several-story plunge in your three-passenger tube gets your blood pumping, then hit this ride first. Just be sure to tuck in your chin and be ready for your stomach to drop.
Thrill Factor: 5/5
Splash Factor: 2/5

3. Roaring Forks

New to the park this year, Roaring Forks combines the best two worlds: the zippy roller coaster effect of the park’s other popular hydromagnetic, Mile High Flyer, and the classic “toilet bowl” drop for the finale, a la Revolution. The two-lane coaster sends you flying up, over, and around bends, gives you another chance to race your friends to the finish, and culminates with the perfect amount of splash.
Thrill Factor: 4/5
Splash Factor: 4/5

2. The Storm

The old-timey tune of “Raindrops Keep Fallin On My Head” by B.J. Thomas playing overhead at the entrance of Storm does nothing to prepare you for the pitch-black, rip-roaring trip that lies ahead. You and your raftmates are at the mercy of the unexpected as you battle the elements and whir blindly through tight turns. And those raindrops atop your head are sure to greet you on your final descent out of the eye of the storm.
Thrill Factor: 4/5
Splash Factor: 5/5

1. Voyage to the Center of the Earth, aka “the Dinosaur Ride”

The pièce de résistance. Voyage’s number one rank here may have been predictable, but you and I both know anything else would have been blasphemous. This prehistoric gem has drawn the park’s largest and most eager crowds since 1993, sending you and your raft-turned-time machine on a journey back to when dinosaurs once roamed. The creaky animatronic giants have somehow stood the test of time, and this masterpiece is an obligatory pilgrimage for any newbie or Water World veteran. May its charming mix of corny adventure never go extinct.
Thrill Factor: 4/5
Splash Factor: 1/5

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