I have been vacationing in Chelan, Washington, since my children were babies. They are now ages 4, 4 and 2, and this was our second year taking the whole crew to Slidewaters Lake Chelan Waterpark. Daunting? Yes. Worthwhile? Absolutely.
We love Slidewaters. It's perfectly sized and equipped for families with small children (older kids, too), because there are slides for all ages to enjoy. It never feels insanely crowded; there is always some space on the grass to gather for a break or for lunch, and the longest we've waited to ride a slide was about 10 minutes. The park itself is not overwhelming; you can spend a few hours there, try everything, take snack breaks, and lounge in the shade. We have left tired and happy every time, and we'll be making a trip to Slidewaters an annual tradition with our family.
Best water slides for preschoolers
Little ones riding their very first water slide should try the very basic "Bug-A-Boo" beginner slide, which is short and straight and can be conquered solo or on a parent's lap. My 2-year-old couldn't get enough. He rode over and over again, with either my husband or me catching him at the bottom.
In the more intermediate Splash Down Pool, several slides offer varying degrees of speed, dips, turns and excitement. My 4-year-olds, both this year and last year, enjoyed riding the longer, faster slides from the top of the hill and making a big splash in the pool below. Two of the slides here are safe for parents to ride with a child on their lap.
Slidewaters Lazy River, Photo: Slidewaters/Facebook
Water fun for the very young (or when big kids need a break)
Preschoolers and toddlers who might find even the beginner slides scary will still find fun things to do. There's the Lazy River and a splash park called Aqua Zoo, which all of our kids loved and were perfect places to take an adrenaline break.
Bring your own food into Slidewaters
Slidewaters is one of the few theme parks where you can bring outside food in. Our family usually packs a lunch and eats it throughout the day using our beach towels as picnic blankets. Other families order food from the Slidewaters Grill, which is the most convenient option. You'll find the usual theme park fare: burgers, hot dogs, pretzels, ice cream, plus healthier options such as Caesar salads and wraps.
Tips for waiting in line and staking out a break spot
Slidewaters opens at 10 a.m., and with a bunch of young kids in tow who all hate waiting in line, you bet we arrived at 10 o'clock sharp. Still, the wait was going to be about 15 minutes. We needed a plan. I stood in line while my husband sat in the car with our kids! As soon as we all had our tickets, we entered the park and made our first order of business to stake out a break spot on the grassy hill. Do this first so you can snag a spot in the shade. Some families bring in their own portable umbrellas to create their own shade.
A note on water safety
There are, of course, lifeguards on duty. But you'll still find most young children outfitted with some sort of floatation device. Life jackets are a no-brainer for kids who can't yet swim, but it's worth reminding you here anyway: Don't forget to pack life jackets and/or floaties!
If you go
Chelan, WA 98816
2019 Season: May 25 through September 2 (Labor Day)
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Cost: $25 general admission, $20 seniors and under 48 inches, free for children 3 and younger , $5 discount for tickets sold 3 hours prior to close.
Kirsten Downey Gabele is a Pacific Northwest native who, unlike most locals she knows, hates camping in the rain. You’ll find her soaking up every last ray of sunshine on summer vacations with her husband, 4-year-old twins and toddler.
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