Splish-splash, it’s time to get soaked!

Here’s our guide to water parks, pools and other wet and wild places for kids of all ages to cool off during Georgia’s hot and hazy late-spring and summer days.
Bubbly fun: A mom and son hold on while enjoying a slide at Great Wolf Lodge. 
(Courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Bubbly fun: A mom and son hold on while enjoying a slide at Great Wolf Lodge. (Courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge)

Sometimes an answer to a question is so obvious that one might (or should) feel silly asking. A question such as: “Why do people love water parks?”

“Because this is Georgia,” replied an amused Dedra Brown-Harvey, public relations and marketing manager for Six Flags Over Georgia, Hurricane Harbor and Six Flags White Water. “To beat the heat. To deal with the humidity. To get refreshed. To have a good time.”

Fair enough.

Hurricane Harbor is a water park inside Six Flags Over Georgia. 
(Courtesy of Six Flags Over Georgia)

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout

Luckily for metro Atlantans, there are plenty of opportunities to beat the heat at over-the-top water parks, public pools, splash pads/spraygrounds (spots outfitted with ground nozzles that spray H2O upward), fountains and entertainment complexes that including attractions that exist to drench.

Valerie Failla, owner of Via Failla PR & Events, is already being hounded by her daughters to go to the water park at Lake Lanier.

“Both my 14-year-old [Brook] and my 11-year-old [Elle] love the freedom of being able to experience running through water or the fast-paced feeling of a waterslide,” she said. “They will go on those rides over and over again. The best part is how long it keeps the kids busy because each time they get back on a ride, it’s a different experience. Maybe they jump off at the end of the slide or they race one another to get to the bottom,” she said.

Fins Up Water Park at Margaritaville Lanier Islands features 18 waterslides and aquatic attractions designed to offer damp thrills for all ages. 
(Courtesy of Fins Up Water Park, Margaritaville at Lanier Islands)

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

Water coasters

This year, two massive thrill-inducing slides are being introduced that closely resemble a water roller coaster.

Margaritaville at Lanier Island Water Park underwent a recent reworking and rebranding and is now Fins Up Water Park. The Buford park has four new slides, bringing the total number to 14, not counting four other aquatic attractions. The most notable is the Apocalypso slide that spans 418 feet and is roughly 60 feet tall. Riders zip through steep hills and valleys at an average speed of 30 miles per hour before a dramatic final descent into a massive wave wall.

“It’s the one ride everyone is talking about,” said Bucky Perry, vice president of Margaritaville at Lanier Islands. “It’s one of a kind.”

In addition to Apocalypso, the park added Serpentine Storm, featuring thrilling rotations combined with a downward-spiraling descent; Dreamsicle Dive, a high-intensity ride with closed and open tubes; and Mango Mania, aimed for younger thrill seekers.

At Six Flags Over Georgia, the excitement centers on the Georgia Surfer, a combination roller coaster with unique water attraction features and free-spinning seats. Riders coast back and forth along almost 590 feet of U-shaped track with speeds up to 60 miles per hour before going up to 144 feet and splashing down in a scenic splash pad. The ride produces three airtime moments of weightlessness and four different airtime spins over the structure.

The weather hot and the water is cool. It’s the perfect combination for fun. 
(Courtesy of Fins Up Water Park, Margaritaville at Lanier Islands)

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout

Some of the water parks also offer other attractions such as games and miniature golf. Meanwhile, two, Fins Up at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands and Great Wolf Lodge in LaGrange, are part of larger resorts where you can just go for the day or book an extended stay.

“We’re a one-stop shop destination with a water park, mini golf, bowling and lodging. It’s great for families,” said Allen Headley, general manager of Great Wolf Lodge. “We’re an indoors attraction, so the water park is open rain or shine. Being in the Deep South it’s a great way to cool down from the heat and humidity.”

Great Wolf’s 100,000-square-foot indoor water park is kept at 84 degrees and features rides such as Fort Mackenzie, a four-story water tree fort; World Tail, a tube of high speed hairpin turns; and Triple Thunder, boasting three thrilling, successive waterslides.

At Fins Up, “We have something for all ages, whether parents want to sit down, relax and watch their kids in the pools or get in with them,” Perry said.Families get to enjoy all the elements on the property. You can go on the lake, play golf, take a walk in the woods. It’s an atmosphere where families want to be together and have experiences in a way that allows them to be themselves.”

Six Flags White Water in Marietta recently launched its 40th season by debuting a Low Sensory Zone and a revitalized Buccaneer Bay children’s water playground with upgraded water-play features. The park boasts more than two dozen state-of-the-art waterslides and interactive children’s areas and wave pools including fan-favorites Atlanta Ocean Wave Pool and the Little Hooch Lazy River.

Summer camp photos at Bogan Park including fun on the playground and at the pool.
Bogan Park
Summer Camp 2023

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout

Municipal pools

For those seeking easy-access water fun that is less of a splurge, try municipal pools and splash ponds.

Gwinnett County has five year-round aquatic centers, two free interactive fountains and four seasonal pools. Last year, nearly a half-million people came through the doors, with nearly 14,000 taking swimming lessons.

“It’s important for caregivers and families to bring children so they cool off in the summer, maybe have a birthday party and hopefully take swim lessons,” said Lindsey Jorstad, deputy department director for Community Services for Gwinnett County. Nearly 300 lifeguards will watch over the swimmers, a job Jorstad did 17 years ago at the Bethesda Park Aquatic Center.

Last year, more than 300,000 swam in Cobb County’s four indoor aquatic and two outdoor pools. This year, the county initiated Splash Hour at specific times at three pools for those with sensory issues.

The city of Atlanta boasts four natatoriums (indoor pools), 12 outdoor pools and three “partner sites” that are jointly operated by the city and another entity (such as the Piedmont Park Conservancy and the Garden Hills Pool & Park Association).

DeKalb County features six outdoor pools and one splash pad.

Who needs the ocean when you've got all this motion at Sugar Hill's Splash Park? Splash Nights are offered every last Friday of the month through September.

Credit: Courtesy of exploregwinnett.org

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Credit: Courtesy of exploregwinnett.org

Water sprinklers

Back in the old days, parents watered their lawn with sprinklers and kids cooled off by running through them; now there are intricate plastic versions. But for those seeking communal water experiences with bells and whistles galore, such as a light show and music, try one of the many sophisticated spray pads for kids of all ages to frolic and get wet. Some, such as Splash Park Sugar Hill, are even wheelchair accessible. Many of them are free, but some charge for the spraying.

Regardless of where your kids get their water fix, it’s a perfect way to get a break from the summer heat, have family fun and create memories. There’s another bonus, Failla, the mom of daughters ages 14 and 11, pointed out.

“As a parent, it’s incredibly fun to hear my kids laughing out loud and playing around with one another — they spend the whole day smiling,” she said. Watching them let go and be free is incredibly fun. And the best part is — no cellphones! A full day of no electronics. Kids spending time outside is the best activity for them after a long school year of being indoors.”


Bethesda Park Aquatic Center
Swimming with Santa 2019

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout

SPLISH-SPLASH DETAILS

Cobb County. Hours vary based on facility. Cobb residents: $4.50 adults, $3.50 youth, $3 seniors. Nonresidents: $6.75 adults, $5.25 youth, $4.50 seniors. Seven Springs Water Park: $6 adults, $4 youth, $3 seniors. Nonresidents: $9 adults, $6 youth, $4.50 seniors. 770-528-8817, cobbcounty.org

Fins Up Water Park. Various hours. $44.99-$59.99 per person, plus $20 resort parking fee. 650 Lanier Islands Parkway, Buford. 470-323-3440, margaritavilleresorts.com

Great Wolf Lodge. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Full days start at $50 per person. 150 Tom Hall Parkway, LaGrange. 844-473-9653, greatwolf.com

Six Flags Over Georgia. Sunday-Friday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. $50 per person, limited time; after that, prices will vary. 275 Riverside Parkway, Austell. 770-739-3400, sixflags.com

Hurricane Harbor: Thursday-Sunday: noon-6 p.m. Various prices. Inside Six Flags Over Georgia. 275 Riverside Parkway, Austell. 770-739-3400, sixflags.com

Six Flags White Water. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. Various prices. 250 Cobb Parkway North, Marietta. 770-590-4067, sixflags.com/whitewater

Gwinnett County. Seasonal pools: Saturday-Tuesday, Thursday-Friday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday, 1-6 p.m. Indoor pools: Various hours. Gwinnett residents: $5.50, ages 11-49; $4.25, ages 4-10; 3 and younger, $3.25; 50 and up, $3.25. Nonresidents: $10.50, ages 11-49; $8.25, ages 4-10; 3 and younger, $6.25; 50 and up, $6.25. 770-822-8840, gwinnettcounty.com

City of Atlanta. Some pools are free; others have a fee. 12:30-7 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Some pools are closed Monday-Tuesday; others closed Wednesday-Thursday. 404-546-6788, atlantaga.gov

DeKalb County. Noon-6 p.m. weekdays; 1-6 p.m. Sunday. Some pools are closed on Monday, others on Tuesday. Pools: free to county residents. Exchange Splash Pad: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday-Saturday; noon-7 p.m. Tuesday, Sunday. $3 adults, $2 ages 3-18, free for under 3. 2771 Columbia Drive, Decatur. 770-414-2119, dekalbcountyga.gov

Splash Park. Sunup-sundown daily. Free. 5009 West Broad St., Sugar Hill (behind City Hall). 770-831-7413, cityofsugarhill.com