Temperatures are rising, the heat is bearing down, and more and more people are turning to water to cool off and entertain themselves. Here in North Texas, we’re put in a difficult situation. On one hand, the heat of summer is here and we’re all looking for ways to cool off. On the other, we’re realizing all of our go-to water parks are closing down to prevent the spread of COVID.
Coronavirus can spread like wildfire among crowds of people, which is why masks and social distancing are so important. Still, many people are taking that risk to cool off and attend their favorite water parks.
Until such time as the state or federal regulations become stricter, many water parks are opening up for business during the heat of the summer. They were closed for a while, but many are putting new regulations and new facilities in place to try to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.
The Ongoing Risk of Disease
Before we get into listing water parks, we need to make one major and somewhat obvious disclaimer: The coronavirus is a potentially deadly illness, and many of those who survive it have residual health effects. The disease is so new, no one knows how long it will last or what may happen on down the line. You can be infected for days or weeks before showing any symptoms, and during that time, you can be actively spreading the disease.
In order to protect yourself, and to protect others if you happen to be infected without realizing it, many water parks are implementing requirements and protocols. What kind of protocols?
- Mandatory social distancing. While the current study indicates that the coronavirus is airborne, maintaining six feet or so of distance between yourself and other people helps minimize the spread, particularly in open areas.
- Sanitization requirements. Using hand sanitizer liberally, washing hands, cleaning, and disinfecting facilities; a lot of this is new training for employees, but guests at water parks should at least put in some effort to keep things clean and sanitary.
- Reservations. Many water parks are putting strict limits on the number of guests they can host at any given time, specifically to keep social distancing possible. This means you’ll need to call ahead and make a reservation for your time slot.
- Liability waivers. Most water parks are implementing a waiver that you implicitly or explicitly sign when you buy tickets or attend. If you or someone you’re with gets coronavirus while attending a water park, the water park will not be held responsible.
If all of this seems like a lot, well, it is and it isn’t. It’s a lot compared to what we normally have to deal with during flu season or the like, but it’s not a lot compared to the actions taken by some other states and other countries. Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing isn’t really something we’re prepared to discuss here today.
The State of North Texas Water Parks
So which water parks in the North Texas area are open? We’re going to give you a list, but keep in mind that this list is subject to change. If new regulations from the government close them down, or if individual parks change their availability, this list can quickly grow out of date. Make sure to actually check with the water park you want to visit before you make a trip. The links we’re adding below should generally go to COVID-related opening pages or status pages, but make sure to check for more up to date news.
Hurricane Harbor – The Six Flags water park in Dallas opened on June 22nd and has remained open since. They’ve put processes in place to keep their facilities clean and enforce both capacity limits via reservations and social distancing while in the park. You’ll need to buy tickets and reservations in advance, and slots are rapidly filling up.
Epic Waters – This indoor water park in Grand Prairie is open seven days a week. As of June 26th, they have a mandatory mask order in place for guests over the age of 10 at all times other than while swimming, showering, changing, or eating. Social distancing is required, hand washing is required, and you’re asked to use hand sanitizer periodically throughout the park. Their capacity is limited, but they do not require reservations.
Great Wolf Lodge – Over in Grapevine, the Great Wolf Lodge is open with mandatory masks for guests age 5 and older. Social distancing is mandatory, and they ask that you minimize contact with surfaces when it’s not necessary. They no longer accept cash payments, and some services, like the hot tubs, fitness centers, and ATM are temporarily closed.
Hawaiian Falls – This park franchise has five different locations, and all five of them are currently open. They’re implementing social distancing rules and whatever mask orders are required in their areas, but that’s about it.
That’s more or less it for the parks that are open as of the time of this writing. Most others are closed, though this is always subject to change. Many city facilities, such as NRH2O, are closed to limit the spread of COVID.
How to Safely Attend a Water Park
If you’re insistent on attending a water park this summer to beat the heat, we’re not going to stop you. We can, however, give you some advice.
Thankfully, at the moment, there’s no evidence to suggest that the water in a water park can be contaminated. The coronavirus can survive on surfaces, but in treated water that is already fighting other contamination through chlorination and other chemicals, it’s not going to spread. Your risk is more from other guests and from non-water surfaces you touch. Here’s our advice:
Wear a mask whenever you can. Wearing a mask does a small amount to protect you from others, but it mostly protects others from you. Remember that you can be sick without showing symptoms of the sickness. Wearing a mask may not feel good, especially in the heat, but if everyone wears masks, the disease has a much harder time spreading. You don’t have to wear a mask when you’re swimming, but try to put one on when you’re using other facilities at a water park.
Maintain social distancing as much as possible. The virus is thought to be airborne, but it still has to travel from one point to another in order to reach and infect you. In an outdoor water park, maintaining some distance between you and other people makes it harder for the virus to reach you. Indoor parks have a harder time due to enclosed and circulated air, so keep that in mind if you want to visit one.
Get a test prior to attending. Tests are widely available now, and while they can be unpleasant, taking one can help verify that you’re not sick so you feel more confident in visiting. Just remember that the test takes a few days to come back, and if you do something that could expose you between the time of the test and the time you attend a water park, you can pick up the illness in between. For that reason:
Self-quarantine for some time prior to the day you want to attend. Yes, we know it’s unpleasant, but if you make sure to isolate yourself for a few days beforehand, you’ll be less likely to pick up the disease and thus less likely to spread it.
You might notice a lot of these are aimed at trying not to be sick before you attend a park. Even if you feel fine, if you attend and the disease spreads, that might cause a spike and the park might get shut down. You don’t want to ruin it for everyone, do you?
Don’t attend a park if you’re sick. This one is a no-brainer, of course. Whether you’re sick with COVID or just the seasonal flu, you should stay home. You might be turned away anyway if you have symptoms when you show up.
If you attend and become sick, inform the relevant authorities. There are organizations that are tracking the spread of the virus, so if you end up contracting it, they’ll want to know where you visited and might have picked it up, or spread it in the time since you picked it up.
Consider an alternative. There are a lot of great things you can do to cool off that don’t involve being around hundreds of people. Which leads us to our next section:
Alternatives to Visiting a Water Park
If you don’t feel safe visiting a water park, or if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of wearing a mask when you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself, you can always explore some of the other options you may have available to you.
Watergun fights. A cheap alternative to a day at a water park is setting up a little water attraction in the safety of your own home. All you need is a hose and some waterguns, and the space to use them. It’s not quite as relaxing as a day in the pool, but it can be fun and a way to keep cool during the hottest times of the year.
Portable pool rentals. Renting a pool can get you some of the experience of a water park, without the risk of interacting with other people. You can always buy a small pool if you have the space for it, or rent a larger one to be set up for a day of swimming.
Solo pool rentals. Some pool facilities can be rented out for small groups, so you and your friends and family can attend without the risk of a bunch of people you don’t know spoiling the fun. If you’re renting a facility you might not even need to worry about masks, though it depends a lot on whether or not there are employees around that need to be considered.
Water slide rentals. We are one of a few companies that offer inflatable water slides and other water attractions for rent. You don’t need a lot to set one of these up; just some space, a water source, and a power source, and we can bring the power source ourselves with a generator if need be. Renting your own water slide – which we’ve kept clean and sterilized – lets you and your family have a day of water-based fun without the risk of the crowds and the exposure.
Kayaking. There are quite a few places around north Texas where you can go out on a lake or along a river. Kayaks are some of the most fun, but you can bring your own motorboat or rent one from a facility that offers them. Staying isolated on a boat in the middle of a lake or river is plenty safe from the spread of the virus, it’s just the entry and exit that you’ll have to worry about. That means, other than the launch, you don’t need to worry about masks or social distancing. After all, who is going to get that close when you’re in the middle of a lake?
Keep Us Informed
As we’ve mentioned a couple of times, the information in this post is subject to change as rapidly as the situation develops. If the state or the county issues new directives, or if one of the facilities around north Texas closes or opens up, you may have more (or fewer) options than what we’ve mentioned above.
If you have a suggestion or a correction, feel free to let us know. We can’t guarantee that we’re going to keep this post entirely up to date, but you can share other resources in the comments below to help each other out.