Anyone who has lived in the Valley long enough to remember summers as a kid will likely say some of their fondest childhood memories are of those days spent cooling off in the water.
The water park in particular has a special place in young hearts — with slides and waves, it’s the ideal playground for when most outdoor play is no longer fun.
The East Valley hosts two major water parks: Big Surf in Tempe, which has been around since 1969, and Golfland-Sunsplash in Mesa, where youngsters can split their time between the water and a video arcade. The wave pool at
Kiwanis Park Recreation Center in Tempe is another option, and a popular one at that: It’s located indoors.
Since no food or drink is allowed into the water parks (save for bottled water at Big Surf and Sunsplash), plan on bringing extra money for lunch (Big Surf office manager Kim Nguyen said one meal will run $6 to $7 per person). Don’t forget sunscreen, either, as shade can be a hot commodity at the bigger locations.
Also, pack a camera to capture those sacred hours spent escaping the hot Valley sun — and because though these moments are not easily forgotten, it’s nice to have proof you not only survived 100-degree weather, but had fun in it.
1500 N. McClintock
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $19.99 for adults, $16.25 for children ages 3 to 11, $1 for children ages 2 and younger. Raft rentals are $5 with a $1 refundable deposit.
Discounts: After 3 p.m., the price of admission for adults and children ages 3 to 11 drops to $15.99.
Features: Wave pool, 18 water slides, volleyball courts, and two play areas for younger kids
Don’t miss: "The wave pool," said Kim Nguyen, the park’s office manager. "That’s what everyone comes here for." Believed to be the world’s first, it was built in 1969 by the Clairol company and became such a novelty that vacations to Big Surf were once given away on "The Price is Right."
What’s new: Surfing in the wave pool, which was banned in the early 1980s, returned in 2003 and will continue again this year. The next session is 7 to 9 p.m. June 10. Cost is $35 for 10 waves, which includes a surfboard but no instruction.
Information: (480) 947-7873
155 W. Hampton Ave., Mesa
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $19.99 for adults, $15.24 for children ages 3 to 11, $1 for children younger than 2. Tube rental is $4 for a single tube with a $1 refundable deposit, $8 for a double tube with a $2 refundable deposit. Lockers cost $5 per day with a $3 refundable deposit.
Discounts: After 4 p.m, the price of admission for adults and children ages 3 to 11 drops to $15.
Features: A 450,000-gallon wave pool, 800-foot long lazy river, and multiple water slides
Don’t miss/what’s new: The latest addition to the park is the Sidewinder, a five-story-tall half-pipe water slide that was built last year.
Information: (480) 834-8319 KIWANIS PARK WAVE POOL 6111 S. All-America Way, Tempe
Hours: 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. daily
Cost: $6 for adults, $3 for children ages 3 to 17. Raft rentals are $6 for a double tube, $4 for a single tube. Both have a $1 refundable deposit. Lockers cost for 25 cents for a single locker and 50 cents for a double locker. Life jacket rentals are $1.
Discounts: Admission is 50 percent off after 2:30 p.m.
Features: The Kiwanis Park wave pool features a heated pool with a slide. Though it is the most humble of the three East Valley water parks, it has advantages: Besides lower admission costs, there is year-round shade, so the deck is always cool. "It’s a sandal-less experience," said city employee Dave Booker.
Don’t miss: Fathers will receive free admission to the wave pool June 19-20 when accompanied by a child.
Information: (480) 350-5201 or www.tempe.gov/pkrec/krc