From movie theaters worthy of Hollywood premieres to stylish bowling allies that celebrate maximalism, thoughtful design is making its way through the places that house America’s favorite old-school activities. And now that a sweltering summer is on the horizon, water parks are getting a proper and long-overdue facelift.
Gone are the days of unsightly slides and tacky themed decor—these ameliorated water parks are, dare we say, beautiful. Plus, it’s hardly a coincidence that many of them are part of some of the world’s most extravagant beach resorts, such as Atlantis, Paradise Island in the Bahamas, and the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Disney World. Not to mention: With full-service bars and carefully curated menus that you can peruse from the comfort of your perfectly positioned chaise longue, there’s no need to stand in line for a refreshing cocktail after a dip in a wave pool.
Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World
The Four Seasons’ five-acre water park, dubbed Explorer Island, boasts a 7,590-square-foot family pool, two water slides, a lazy river, a splash zone for the littlest ones, and, of course, an adults-only pool that features underwater speakers. The water park may be at a five-star resort in north Florida, but from the top of the 242-foot-long water slides, the park looks like something out of an exotic, long-forgotten jungle with towering palms and stone ruins.
If you’d rather keep your blowout intact, head to the lazy river, a relaxing, slow-moving oasis that’s lined with billowing palms, adjustable chaises, and a few full-service private cabanas.
Overlooking 1,000 acres of the Bahamas’ white-sand Cable Beach, Baha Mar recently unveiled its $200 million Baha Bay waterpark. The luxurious beachfront water park’s design is inspired by the natural beauty of the surrounding islands. Opening July 2, Baha Bay pulled out all the stops when it came to attractions, including 24 water slides, a dueling water coaster, group raft rides, an authentic wave pool, an action river that winds through the tropical landscape, and a surf simulator.
Plus, with private cabanas, infinity pools overlooking the turquoise sea, multiple alfresco dining concepts, and an outdoor casino gaming pavilion, you’ll never complain of boredom.
Universal Orlando has three themed parks, but Volcano Bay, a tropical oasis, is perhaps the most eye-catching. The park’s centerpiece? An overwhelming 200-foot volcano dotted with waterfalls that pour into the sparkling lagoon. Surrounding the volcano is a 125-foot-long body slide, group raft rides, and water slides for the thrill-seekers. If you don’t fall into that category, take a dip in the serene lagoon or post up with a good read in one of the private cabanas.
Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas
We couldn’t discuss the world’s most beautiful water parks without mentioning Atlantis, a Bahamas resort famous for its instantly recognizable Royal Towers. The resort, inspired by the lost city of Atlantis, is the biggest open-air marine environment that houses more than 20 million gallons of water throughout the 141-acre water park. The park has high-speed water slides, a mile-long river ride (with rolling rapids and wave surges), a kids’ water-play fort, and 11 swimming pools.
That said, the highlight of Atlantis’s aquatic playground is the Leap of Faith, a 60-foot near-vertical slide that starts at the top of a Mayan-inspired tower and plunges through a clear acrylic tunnel submerged in a lagoon.
Hilton Hawaiian Village
Occupying the edge of Waikiki on the Pacific, Hilton’s Hawaiian Village is home to five sweeping pools, one of which, the two-tiered, 5,000-square-foot freshwater Paradise pool, has four long water slides, including one 77-foot lava tube slide that overlooks the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon.
Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa
In Bonita Springs, Florida, the Hyatt Regency’s Coconut Point resort boasts three acres of aquatic-themed attractions, including a lazy river, five waterslides, a tranquil adults-only pool, and a kid-friendly waterfall pool. Climb to the top of the slide hut and race a family member on the high-speed dueling slides.
Who would have guessed that the world’s largest wave pool would be in one of the coldest cities? In Alberta, Canada, World Waterpark is a marvel, complete with nine massive indoor water slides, a surf simulator, and a zipline that soars several stories over the wave pool. World Waterpark also has 11 more private reservation-only spaces that range from a six-person cabana outfitted with seating and a flat-screen television to a 700-square-foot rooftop lounge above the Piña Colada bar.
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