Feature Attractions - Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort,
New Braunfels - Texas
by Craig Lowery
Since our original feature appeared, Schlitterbahn has expanded with new rides and attractions.
Read our updated feature.
"If tubing, swimming, and water slides are your passion, then you won't be able to top Schlitterbahn!"
Tucked away on the 70 mile stretch of Texas' Interstate 35 between Austin and San Antonio is one of the - if not the - best water parks in the country, or so it bills itself: Schlitterbahn. The unusual name is in keeping with the theme which pervades the rest of New Braunfels, Texas - that of a small German hamlet. Whether any German town ever had this much fun to offer the water enthusiast, however, is unlikely.
With 65 major water attractions ranging from a lazy float on the Comal River to a daredevilish slide through pitch-dark chutes, Schlitterbahn delivers on its promise to provide at least a full day, if not more, of top-rated water park fun. Water rides are divided into four safety ratings: low speed/shallow water, moderate thrill level, aggressive ride action, and high thrill/deep water.
Key to enjoying the park is a complete understanding of its layout, which is dived into six areas on two disjointed properties.
The four oldest areas are Das Lagune, Slidenplatz, Kinderlund, and Wavefest. Most visitors tend to think of them together as the "original" Schlitterbahn which is built largely on one side of the Comal Valley, using the steep slope of the hill to create the settings for fantastic chute rides. The most surprising feature of this portion of the park is that the water used in all the attractions is drawn from the surprisingly-clear Comal River itself.
Some rides, such as the seemingly-endless Raging River Tube Chute actually use the river as part of the ride. In fact, the Raging River is the longest chute in the original park, traversing nearly its entire length and taking some 20 to 30 minutes to ride, which explains its immense popularity. The popularity of the original Schlitterbahn would naturally lead to expansion. Although expansion into adjacent land was not possible, property further along the Comal was available, and two additional areas -- Surfenburg and Blastenhoff -- were colocated just a few miles away.
The newer additions feature modern ride construction and chemically treated water. Both areas feature an unusual "uphill water coaster" technology in which riders are forced uphill using jets of water. The Master Blaster in Blastenhoff has been awarded the "Golden Ticket" award for best waterpark ride by Amusement Today magazine.
Another intensely popular attraction in Blastenhoff is the Torrent Wave River, which combines the concepts of wave pool and lazy river rides which can be found elsewhere.
Aside from the quality of the core water attractions, Schlitterbhan has other benefits, too, such as free parking, free tubes and floats, and the ability to bring your own food and drinks into the park.
For those wishing an extended stay, the Schlitterbahn Resort provides on-property accommodations. The entrance fee ($27 adult,$23 child - pricing subject to change) is reasonable considering all the park has to offer. Group discounts make it even more affordable.
If Schlitterbahn is lacking, however, it is in its small-town atmosphere. If you're expecting the cleanliness and perky-smiles of Walt Disney World's "Blizzard Beach" then you're better off heading to Orlando. Attendants are nice enough, but the park has the feel of a "quaint tourist attraction" in some stretches, especially in the older sections. Concessions quality is somewhat lacking. The cheeseburger we ordered for lunch could not be rated above common cafeteria fare in a typical high-school. Nevertheless, the option of bringing your own food into the park mitigates this, and most visitors apparently take advantage of it.
Although parking for Schlitterbahn is "free", it is fairly scattered. One gets the feeling that the entire town pitches in to make parking available on peak capacity days, as portable cutout signs (that are actually quite helpful) are put out to lead you through a maze of small parking areas surrounding the park. No parking area seemed further from the entrance gate than can be expected on a peak-season visit, but some designated areas are not paved. We located our parking space in a field near a train track that is most likely only used during peak.
The separation of the park into two distinct geographic locations is also a hindrance to a completely seamless Schlitterbahn experience.
Although the park provides frequent trams between the two locations, the route uses public roadways through New Braunfels, with some turns governed by a two-way stop sign in which the tram does not have the immediate right-of-way. A positive aspect of the two separate areas, both parks are a more manageable size on foot than many entertainment parks.
If wait times are taken out of the mix (as one must do at any popular theme park), then on-the-whole Schlitterbahn comes up a winner. It is family friendly, affordable, and more than delivers on good ol' fashion fun.
Schlitterbahn is open mid-May to mid-August every year.
Visit their website.
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