we tried to stay indoors to avoid the worst of the heat but that led to antsy kids all too quickly. we finally hit on the absolute best thing to do outside, something that the entire family from mom and dad, to baby lilianna can really enjoy...
raging waves waterpark! this australian-themed water park, sitting on 40 acres, is the largest water park in illinois. it has 18 slides, a wave pool and a gigantic kiddie area. this is great, but, if you ask me, what really makes it special is the focus on providing family-oriented fun.
this is the first waterpark i've ever been too that has so many rides that let multiple people go down together: 90% of the rides are multi-person rides, some even carrying up to four people. all too often places like this means families split up and meet back together at the end of the day. at raging waves waterpark, families can spend the entire day together, riding multiple rides all together.
as we were planning our trip, i was a little nervous how the day would go with four-month lilianna and being in the sun all day. i needn't have worried. there is plenty of shade provided throughout the park: we arrived early enough to stake our claim in a shady area by the kiddie pool.
we then headed over to the kookaburra kreek, a lazy river type of ride. bill took lilianna with him in a single tube, the girls shared a double tube and tate and i were together in another. it was a perfect way to start the day. everyone could settle down and get a feel for the park, without feeling totally overwhelmed with no idea where to start.
when that was done, zoe and i set off together to try out some of the bigger slides while tessa and tate oriented themselves to the kiddie area. after awhile, bill and i switched places: he tried out a few other rides with zoe while i watched tessa and tate in the kiddie area.
we really couldn't have had a better set up for our family. lilianna was able to stand up in the kiddie area and enjoy the water while tessa spent hours going down the two slides that were just her size (and speed!). tate tried the slides too but he enjoyed just "swimming" around the pool (he walked on his hands, letting his feet float out behind him). since his previous pool experiences have involved just sitting on the side and throwing balls into the water, i was glad for him to gain so much confidence actually being in the water. i thought for sure that tessa and tate would get bored after awhile and want to do something else but that never happened. they were quite content to spend the entire day in that little area.
thankfully (for my sanity!), zoe was a lot more adventurous. together we rode almost every ride in the park. both of us were a little too nervous to try the "tasmanian twisters" and pj's plummet. those are rides that go extremely fast and for which you ride solo. instead we enjoyed the "three sisters" tube rides together. this was a great place for zoe to start because we could ride together, the "scary" part is relatively short and the lines go fast. this was probably zoe's favorite ride of the day.
my personal favorite was the cyclone and the platypus plunge. we called the cyclone the "toilet bowl" because you come out of the tube and find yourself swirling around and around a bowl that is reminiscent of a giant toilet bowl. it is a lot of fun but the line to ride it is generally pretty long. after giving it a try, we opted for the platypus plunge. this one begins on the same tower but the line to ride it is virtually nonexistent. we rode it over and over again, passing the same people waiting in line for the cyclone multiple times.
at lunch time, we left the park (getting our hands stamped first) and had a very enjoyable meal at a picnic table on the edge of the (free) parking lot. we missed having some shade there but the kids had a chance to warm up (and turn their lips back from purple to pink) and eat. the food at the park is fairly affordable, but eating food from home outside the park is also an easy option.
if money isn't a concern, private cabanas are available for rent, offering a shaded, private patio, a server, lounge chairs, and a picnic table. discount passes and packages are available including: season passes, family day passes, group passes, corporate event packages, birthday packages and more. every monday is make-a-difference day. when you bring food pantry and other household items to donate, you can get $1 per item (up to $4 a ticket) off of your ticket price. every tuesday is "triple play tuesday:" for every two day passes you buy, you receive a third one free. there are also special events with special discounts planned throughout the summer.
zoe was concerned about the amount of water she was being used throughout the park. i was able to reassure her that the water is recycled to irrigate the park's landscaping. the total water used for the season is the same amount as that used by 35 single-family homes in a year.
our final experience of the day was at the great barrier reef wave pool. the kids relaxed in the zero-entry pool, letting the waves lap against them as we prepared ourselves for the ride home. we were pleased to discover that there are a number of restaurants near the park that made a perfect end to the day and let the traffic disperse before our trip home.
we would definitely consider buying season passes to raging waves waterpark. we went to a local pool the next week and the contrast was startling. raging waves is so clean. the sidewalks are spotless. the bathrooms were just great; we showered off before we left. music plays on loudspeakers but it is not too loud and the songs are definitely family-friendly. overall, we had a very positive experience and we look forward to going again to beat the heat.
i received free passes for our family to experience raging waves waterpark. regardless, the opinions expressed here are purely my own.