Back with a splash, many of Britain’s waterparks have reopened following lengthy coronavirus closures.
For many families, no activity is more fun than a session by the pool, with slides, water guns, obstacle courses and… yet more slides. Waterparks are relatively safe environments, too, with chlorinated water offering some protection against coronavirus.
Our recommendations below are for family waterparks that are mostly about waterslides, splash pools and the like, rather than centres that focus on whitewater activities and watersports. The list also excludes resorts like Centre Parcs, whose waterparks are for those staying on-site.
Note: Most waterparks have strict rules about health and safety, even before coronavirus considerations. Always check the park’s website for details, including safe adult-to-child ratios.
Sandcastle Waterpark (Lancashire)
This Blackpool attraction (top image) caters for all ages, with white-knuckle slides for the older children and safe paddle zones for the younger ones. The waterpark boasts the world’s longest indoor roller coaster waterslide in the terrifying shape of the Master Blaster. Less scary, but equally thrilling is HMS Thunder Splash, a ‘marooned galleon’ for younger children packed with slides, tunnels and treasure chests. Avast! Prebook for 3-hour session.
Alton Towers Waterpark (Staffordshire)
Think ‘Alton Towers’ and you probably conjure images of roller coasters and log flumes. But the attraction also boasts a top-notch waterpark. It’s connected to the resort’s Splash Landings Hotel, and can be booked separately. It has both indoor and outdoor sections, and some impressively fast waterslides. Perhaps most fun of all is the Wacky Waterworks, which feature “over 70 interactive water features. The “Little Leak” play area caters for a younger audience… even if its name does seem to be tempting a toiletry fate! Prebook for an all-day pass.
Sharing a name with one of the biggest film flops of all time doesn’t seem to have hurt Waterworld. This tropically themed waterpark in Stoke remains a popular family attraction, with plenty to offer. The range of slides caters for everyone, with fearsome white-knucklers right down to miniature slides for toddlers. You’ll also find plenty of chill-out spaces from bubble pools to a lazy river. You’re encouraged to prebook, but walk-in guests will also be accommodated if space allows. Likewise, you’re guaranteed 3 hours, but may be able to stay longer on quieter days.
Gulliver’s Splash Zones (Cheshire and Buckinghamshire)
Gulliver’s two waterparks, in Warrington and Milton Keynes, are specifically designed for younger children (2-10). They’re fun and safe environments for your kids to splash about without fear of an elbow from someone twice their size (assuming parents behave!). Each park overflows with creative play equipment, including water cannons, assault courses and even a 10-pin bowling slide where your child becomes the bowling ball. Prebook for a two-hour slot. Special tots-only sessions are available.
Splashdown (Devon and Dorset)
Another company with its feet in two ponds is Splashdown. Its coastal waterparks in Paignton and Poole both have absolutely enormous waterslides and lots of outdoor fun. Poole’s Infinity slide, for example, features a long drop in darkness, with lasers and pumping music. Prebook only, with time slot lengths varying with price.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.