Schlitterbahn New Braunfels, located on the banks of the beautiful spring-fed Comal River, has been voted the #1 waterpark in the world for 17 consecutive years. The enormous park was also featured in this month’s Parents: Family Fun magazine as a “worth the trip” vacation destination. And lucky for us, that trip only takes Austinites an hour!
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Schlitterbahn, which means “slippery road” in German, was opened by the Henry family in 1979, with four water slides starting from a German-style tower. The tower was patterned after the Bergfried Guard Tower at Solms Castle in Braunfels, Germany – home of the original settlers of New Braunfels.
Schlitterbahn New Braunfels is adored by Central Texas families, in part because this product of the ’70s still offers big family fun, without very many rules or restrictions. For example:
- There are almost no height restrictions. Out of Schlitterbahn’s 42 slides, rides and pools, spread across two parks — East and West — only five require riders to be at least 42″ tall. That means, if you have a fearless child who is under 42″, he or she can participate in almost everything, from water slides to river rides! Schlitterbahn offers tubes with bottoms, to better accommodate smaller children, as well as complimentary life vests. This allows families with kids of all ages to enjoy rides together. (Just be advised that some tube float rides seem calm at the beginning, but have crazy rapids and small drops further down the line. It is very difficult to hold onto your child’s tube once you hit rapids, which may freak you out even more than your child. You may want to check out each ride’s “thrill level” before you go.)
- Many attractions don’t require waiting in line. Schlitterbahn offers a wide range of activity pools, a wave pool, water playscapes, lazy (and not so lazy) rivers. You can float and swim and play all day without ever waiting in line, if you don’t want to. Plus, some rides, like Raging River (a 45-minute tube float from one end of the park to the other) are so long, the wait is well worth it! And rides like Congo River Expedition and The Falls (a 3,600 foot-long whitewater river that is billed as the world’s longest tubing adventure) have multiple entry points, so you can grab a tube and hop in at different points throughout the park.
- Parking is free and you can bring your own food and drink. Schlitterbahn guests are invited to bring a picnic from home! Stock your cooler (preferably one that rolls), park it in the shade, and return all day for snacks and drinks! If you have Schlitterbahn cups from any year, bring them on back for $1.07 refills! Want to head to the other side of the park? Shuttle buses are free, too.
Fun for Little Kids
Children under age 3 get in free, but if they aren’t brave enough to ride the rapids and shoot down the chutes, what is there for them to do? Plenty! Schlitterbahn New Braunfels has nine activity pools and splash pads, designed exclusively for kids under 48″. These play areas are scattered throughout both sides of the park, so parents can easily tag team if older siblings want to ride nearby attractions. For recommendations by specific age, from newborn to age 5, read this post on the Schlitterblog about visiting with young children.
Fun for Big Kids
If you have older children who want to do it all, you might want to think strategy before leaving home. Check out the rides and the map. Plan where your home base will be at the park (i.e. where to leave the cooler) and whether or not you will get a locker (which can be a hassle if you start in one park and then move to another). I prefer “The Original Schlitterbahn,” Schlitterbahn West, but young thrill seekers often gravitate toward the newer park, Schlitterbahn East, with its exhilarating slides like Black Knight and Master Blaster. If you plan to tackle those slide lines, I recommend arriving as early as possible and trying to snag a spot in the Schiltterbahn East lot. That lot is smaller and fills by 10 a.m. See the parking options here.
One quick tip: See the people walking behind the Boogie Bahn Surfing Ride, at the top of the photo above? Those clever folks are taking the “Backsplash” entrance in to the Kristal River. This body slide entrance to the lazy river will save you a long, long walk to Schlitterbahn East’s Surfenburg attractions!
Know Before You Go
- Water shoes – Bring ’em! Schlitterbahn is huge and you will spend much of your day walking (sometimes on hot ground). If you wear flip flops instead, you can put them on your wrists when riding the attractions.
- Strollers – Schlitterbahn West is not stroller friendly (too many stairs), but I still recommend you bring a stroller along! They are wonderful for schlepping towels and snacks from one end of the park to the other, and possibly a tired child or two. Just bear in mind that it may be difficult to transport a stroller on the shuttle bus, which takes you from Schlitterbahn East to Schlitterbahn West (and vice versa).
- Lockers – There are lockers in both Schlitterbahn East and West. Locker rental is $10. You get $2 back when you return the key.
- Picnics – You can bring all your own food and drink, but no glass or alcohol. Your bags and coolers will be searched when you enter.
- Life Jackets – If the stands with complimentary life jackets are empty, visit Guest Services. You can check one out there for free, but you will have to leave your driver’s license in exchange.
- Deals – Last month, we shared 2015 deals for Schlitterbahn. You can see all current prices on the Schlitterbahn website.
And now for the fun part! Free Fun in Austin has four tickets to Schlitterbahn New Braunfels to give away! For your chance to win, simply fill out the form below. One winner will be selected at random on July 5, 2015 and contacted via email. One entry per person, please. Sweepstakes Official Rules.
If you cannot see the entry form, please visit the original post to enter.