Splish, splash and ride your way into summer! Wild Waves Theme & Water Park is open daily and it’s the perfect place to beat the heat as temperatures soar. Our family recently made the trek from Seattle – about 25 miles south to Federal Way – and it took about an hour in traffic. Don’t let the distance scare you. When I asked my toddler if she had fun, she said it was the “best day ever.” Read on for tips and tricks to plan a trip that will make lasting memories for your family – and hopefully, mitigate the meltdowns.
Wild Waves: What’s it all about
The theme park is an all-in-one-stop destination for family fun. Wild Waves is expansive, offering 70 acres of classic amusement park rides and an outdoor water park to please every age. With a variety of unique finger foods to choose from when cravings call, sweet treats to satisfy tiny tummies, and rides to entertain both adventurous adrenaline junkies and mild flyers, you can find something for everyone.
Granted, there will be times you will have to explain the importance of patience to a toddler waiting in a queue but take it from this mom, you’ll remember the smiles on their faces and not the tantrums. Be warned: you will probably hear “waiting is boring” or “How much longer” during your visit (I have the receipts to prove it).
Wild Waves: Dress code
Dress appropriately for each side of the park. There are ample changing areas to easily change into swimwear. You have to wear shirts, shoes and pants to ride the thrill rides on the dry side, so plan to use the changing areas before you make your way to the other side of the park.
We recommend hitting the dry rides first. Since you have to wear shirts, pants and shoes to ride the rides on the dry side of the park, head to the kid zone for action-packed attractions and then let your little mermaids cool off in the wave pool or Hook’s Lagoon. This way, you won’t waste time drying off and changing before hopping lines for roller coasters and other exciting rides.
Looking for a little more privacy? Wild Waves is also home to 19 private cabanas. You can rent the cabanas online, which if you don’t mind a splurge, may be worth it. When we went, the lounge chairs were a hot commodity and hard to come by. Seeing families lounging in private cabanas lining the wave pool gave me a pang of envy. Having a ‘home base’ for a family wanting to go in every direction seemed like a good idea. It’s hard to keep track of roving little ones eager to see every inch of Wild Waves.
Living it up in a cabana
Cabana reservations are available on a first-come, first-served basis online only with 48-hour notice. Packages are $325 per cabana and accommodate four people. Have a larger group? Two additional guests can be added for $25 each if you have a bigger party. The cabanas also come with cabana menu meal deals, food and beverage wait service, a complimentary locker, a bottle of sunscreen, tube rental and water. Sit back, relax and soak in the lap of luxury.
Life jackets are also provided throughout the water park. We brought our own, but if you want to save space in your bag, you can leave your life vests at home. Please note, if you bring your own, they must be coast guard approved. Check the tag on your personal flotation device before bringing it to make sure it’s approved to use in the park.
Wild Waves offers 30 rides and slides including the 75-foot tall Timberhawk: Ride of Prey wooden coaster, which is celebrating its 20-year anniversary. The legendary wooden coaster is seven and a half stories tall and hits a breathtaking 50 mph.
For the looping, high-flying thrill rides, you’ll need to be at least 48 inches tall to ride. Kiddos under 48 inches will still find plenty to do, but many rides require an adult to accompany littler riders. A list of attractions and height requirements is on the website.
My little tikes lapped the Kiddie Coaster and Kang-A-Bounce. We couldn’t get enough of the small coaster and bouncing ride.
For bigger attractions, requiring riders to be at least 48 inches tall, check out TimberHawk: Ride of Prey, The Wild Thing, or Brain Drain. The Wild Thing was the park’s first coaster and Brain Drain is a gut-dropping 85-foot-tall tower that plunges riders straight toward the ground. Hold on, and get ready to scream with excitement!
Our favorite place in the park (and where we spent most of our time) was Hook’s Lagoon. The three-story treehouse is a water-filled playground. Climb the structure to the many water slides descending into the shallow pool below, soak bystanders with buckets of water, spray the water cannons and watch out for the pirates. Ahoy matey!
Wave pools and water slides
The Wave Pool is 500,000 gallons of wavey fun. High-energy music and videos on the big screen make it feel like a party as waves crash over you. It gets pretty packed though. It’s easy to lose sight of little swimmers. Good thing they have diligent lifeguards posted all around the park for safety.
Most of the water slides in the park require sliders to be at least 42 inches tall, with the exception of the Riptide and the Activity Pool, which is 48 inches tall.
Children under 3 years old are free; children under 48 inches tall are $34.99; single-day tickets for adults are $49.99. Seniors, 65 years old and older, are $34.99.
If you plan to go more than once, a season pass is a good way to save money and get a few extra perks. Season passes are $119.99. Save big earlier in the summer with season passes costing a little more than half the price of the regular price.
Saving time in line:
If you don’t want to fight for tubes, you can rent tubes. Tube rentals are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Go to Tube Rentals to snag a single or double tube, located in the Water Park on the right side of the Wave Pool.
We found plenty of tubes lying around, but if you want to go directly to the line without waiting, a rental can help. The prices for the tubes are: Single Tube: $12; Double Tube: $15
Can’t miss food:
If you plan to eat in the park, there are lots of delicious options. The tacos come highly recommended, and the savory hot dogs at Seoul Hotdog are so good! Most other offerings include classic American-style fare and are located around the park. The Warf and Lumberjack offer food, including chicken fingers, burgers and fries. We recommend making a visit to Sharkey’s located in the water park just past the wave pool.
Have a sweet tooth? There are so many places in the park to visit to satisfy a craving. The Candy Factory is located between the dry and wet rides by the carnival games. We love fudge, and it did not disappoint. For cold treats, check out Dippin’ Dots, Konga Ice Cream or Mix-It-Up for slushies.
Outside food and beverage are not allowed except for a few items, including baby food and formula. You can pack a lunch to eat in your vehicle. The park allows re-entry into the park, meaning you can eat in the parking lot and come back after.
Know before you go:
- Location: 36201 Enchanted Pkwy S, Federal Way, WA 98003
- Hours: Open from May 27 to Oct. 29. Wild Waves opens at 11 a.m. Closing times vary throughout the months. Check their hours of operation webpage before you hit the road.
- Parking will cost you. It’s $20 per car to park daily. Wild Waves is cashless, so leave your dollar bills at home.
- If you don’t like standing in lines, buy tickets online. Purchasing tickets online isn’t only more cost-effective, but you will beat the lines at the gates and make your way through security and straight into the park.
- As we mentioned, Wild Waves is large, so if you have a wagon, we recommend packing it. It’ll save you the hassle of lugging beach bags and tired toddlers over your shoulders between the water park and dry rides. If you want to save room in your car, they have rentals available as well.
- The two parks are split. You can make your way from the water park to the dry rides by strolling up and down a small corridor of paved sidewalks around the small manmade lake in the middle of the park.
- Accommodations in the park to stash your gear include lockers just to the right after entry (which go fast, so get one as soon as you arrive). If they are sold out, there are more lockers located by the lazy river, so don’t fret. To rent a locker, visit the self-automated locker kiosk, located just inside the main entry gate. There are three sizes available: Standard: $16; fits one large school bag; Large: $22; fits two to three school bags; Jumbo: $27; fits three to five school bags