We know everything is bigger in the Lone Star State, including our water parks. Schlitterbahn New Braunfels, Texas' OG water park, spans over 70 acres filled with 51 attractions. And it. is. a. BLAST. Schlitterbahn has something for water park enthusiasts of all ages. Nervous about venturing out with little ones? Fear not - we did just that and have plenty of tips and tricks for a smooth ride.
Schlitterbahn and summer have always been synonymous to me. Every year my family would pack up our coolers and suits and hit the park - and hit it hard. From open til close we would race to ride all of the rides as many times as possible. And I love that I can now share those experiences (hopefully with fewer scorching sunburns) with my kids.
Riding down the Cliffhanger tube chute at Schlitterbahn West/Photo courtesy Schlitterbahn Waterpark
Breaking down the park: West and East
What makes Schlitterbahn unique is that it isn't your typical shadeless/treeless park filled with neon-colored slides. The original park, now labeled the West side, is practically smothered by shade from beautiful oak trees along the Comal, and two of the rides dump you right into the ice-cold river. Which, by the way, the river will give you hope in the world: it's absolutely beautiful with clear water and wildlife nearby.
The West park houses several tube chutes, where riders sit in black tubes that are found at certain spots throughout the park, body slides, and several children's areas. This is where we spent most of our time when we visited with our children, ages 3-years-old and 9-months-old. And trust us - it is possible to enjoy a family trip to Schlitterbahn with a baby! But more on that later.
RELATED: World's First All-Accessible Water Park Opens in Texas
We would put all of our stuff down near the Polywog Pond Kiddie Park, which has mushroom-shaped climbables, interactive water features, and slides that lead into the Tadpool Kiddie Pool. It's next to the park's arcade and heated pool with a swim-up bar. One or more of us (we went in a group of 18) would hang out in this area with the baby while everyone else rode rides.
And these rides remain some of my favorite of any water park I've ever visited (and the toddler and his cousin loved them too), including the scenic Hillside Tube Chute, which winds through colorful flowers before a fun drop into the lagoon, and Raging River Tube Chute, which is a 30-minute ride through the entire West side.
Cruising down the lazy river on top of an alligator at Schlitterbahn East/Photo by Carrie Taylor
Now, onto the East side, which is comprised of Surfenburg and Blastenhoff - Schlitterbahn's newer areas that feature faster water coasters. Surfenburg has one main ride, and it's called Dragon's Revenge. The line can take a very, very, very long time, but it's decently fun. The main appeal of this section is the multiple children's splash and play areas, including the pirate ships and submarine in Kiddie Coast, and the relaxed lazy river filled with alligators the kids can ride (see above). There is a decent amount of shade here as well.
Blastenhoff's main attraction is its massive tower where three rides take off from. There's the original water coaster Master Blaster (great fun, but not for little ones), the tube slide Black Night, and gentle, family-friendly ride Wolf Pack. The best way to tackle these is to get in line as SOON as the park opens. For resort guests, that's 9 a.m., and for other guests, it's 10 a.m. The lines can get very long and can take hours, so if your kids are young you could probably skip this part for now.
RELATED: Splash and Swim At These Water Parks In and Near Houston
There are two kid's play areas here as well if bigger kids want to wait in line: Kinderhaven, which is a pirate ship feature in a shallow pool for preschoolers, and Han's Hideout, which is a massive structure with dump buckets and body slides. And then there is the not-so-lazy river which winds around the tower and rocks riders with massive waves.
Playing on the pirate ship at Surfenburg/Photo by Sharon Macon
Resort living: Where to find accommodations
If you've never been to Schlitterbahn's New Braunfels location before, (the other Texas parks are in Galveston and Corpus Christi) then you should know a bit of the park's rich history. The Henry purchased land off the Comal River in 1966 when the property operated as Camp Landa. When the park opened in 1979, the family kept the original cabins and slowly purchased surrounding properties and buildings until the park grew to the size it is today. All this to say, the original bones of those cabins are still a part of the Schlitterbahn Resort, so many of the accommodations have an eclectic feel. We traveled with a group of 18, so rest assured there are rooms for families of all sizes.
In fact, there are 69 different room types in the entire resort. If you play to make a weekend trip, I highly recommend staying here. If you can fill up your room to max capacity, then you will easily be purchasing a better deal, because ticket prices are discounted for resort guests. You also get early access to certain rides and parts of the park as well as exclusive access to a stand-alone pool and shaded playground. We stayed at suites in the West side; our back porch overlooked the Congo Jungle tube chute as it made its way into the Comal River.
RELATED: Summer Fun Guide for Houston Kids
A new feature to the park is the ability to reserve cabanas. Because our room was so close to everything we wanted to do, we did not opt for these, but they look great - each cabana is a private, shaded area with food and drink service, barbecue grill, and mini fridge.
Our little 9-month-old enjoyed floating in the heated pools/Photo by Carrie Taylor
Tips and tricks on
surviving having a blast with little ones
- Pack lots of drinks and snacks. Because the lines can get long, bring snacks or drinks in line with you to make the waits more bearable; there are lots of trash cans everywhere (or just grab a handful of grapes!)
- If you're bringing a baby, I recommend bringing frozen fruit or just a bag of ice cubes in your cooler to put in a mesh feeder the baby can suck on.
- Bring a canvas utility wagon if you have one. This is where I changed the baby, let the baby lie down to (sometimes) nap, and how we hauled half of our stuff. You could also bring a GoPod activity seat. We attached a portable fan to the wagon to keep little guy cool, and it worked like a charm.
- Find a great place to "camp" with all of your stuff in each park. In Schlitterbahn West, we picked the tables under giant umbrellas near the Congo River tube chute and the Polywog kid area. In Schlitterbahn East, we would place our stuff at tables near the pirate ship for our toddler, but I would take the baby to the heated pool underneath the slide tower. It is completely shaded, has a swim-up bar, and there are chairs on a sloped beach entry. Win!
- Stay on the resort to get early access and to have easy access to a spot for napping. You can also go back to your room for lunch so you don't need to lug a big cooler to a table or spend money on concessions.
- For babies, bring a pool float like the one pictured above. I used it in the heated pools and shallow areas, and I brought plastic pool rings from home for him to chew on.
- Note that kids are not allowed to sit on your lap on the tube rides.
- Only four rides have height requirements (42 inches): Master Blaster, Dragon's Revenge, SkyCoaster, and the Downhill Racer. Everything else is up to your kid's comfort level!
General information to know
- Tickets are cheaper online, and definitely cheaper if purchased in a resort package. Prices range from $35.99 (general admission on "Schlitterbahn LITE Days") to $50.99 (general admission during peak season). Children and seniors are $38.99 during peak season and $26.99 on LITE days.
- From my and my family's experience, June seems to be the best month to go. There is less traffic, and it's not as hot. If you can, go during the week to avoid weekend crowds.
- Kids ages 2 and under are FREE.
- While you can bring picnics, alcohol or glass containers are not allowed.
- There are lockers around each park for $10, and we have always used one to store our valuables we don't feel comfortable leaving at a table.
- Guests who arrive after 3 p.m. every day get an awesome discount! (Gate only; not available online.)
- Schlitterbahn uses a system called Splash Cash where guests load provided cards with any dollar amount. This way you don't have to worry about lost credit cards or soggy George Washingtons.
Now, what are you waiting for? Go plan your best summer vacation yet! And for more posts like these delivered to your inbox, sign up for our FREE newsletters.
Top photo courtesy Schlitterbahn Waterparks