Surviving Splashtown

Surviving Splashtown, how do you do it? Why would you even try? I never imagined that I would be the one extolling the virtues of Splashtown San Antonio. “Water Parks are Filthy Cesspools of Despair,” Jezebel charged last summer, and I agreed. But now, here I am a card-carrying season pass convert.

Yes, Splashtown, that water park from the 1980s, is an eyesore—a dripping, tangled mess of fiberglass, steel and concrete off I-35. Yes, Clear Channel tunes blare as the sun blazes, and crowds of sopping T-shirts, swimsuits and bodies hardly constitute a good time in my book. There’s also that pesky threat of brain-eating amoebas or diarrhea-inducing germs. Of course, I’d rather head to the coast or even to Schlitterbahn, but those pricier options, as well as the extra travel time, aren’t always available to parents of small children. And seriously, the only reason I gave Splashtown a chance was precisely because I have two small kids. Otherwise, I’d think nothing of spending every weekend sauced at the beach—the sacrifices we make.

Last summer, I had a few free passes and took a chance on a weekday in September when the crowd was light. And no surprise, like most kids, mine love water slides more than pizza, ice cream and Christmas combined. Here’s the surprise: the park is actually a hell of a lot of fun. Recently, we went on a Sunday morning, and well, for better or worse, this will be the summer my kids learn the term “season pass.” So, here are some tips to help you shelve the snooty adult germaphobe grousing long enough to make out with a good time. If you sip a morning greyhound to loosen up, no one’s judging.

If you go, go early and leave early. This is key; there is no other way I’d do it. The park opens at 10:30 a.m., and it’s pretty mellow until 1 p.m. The lazy river flows free, there’s plenty of space in the wave pool, no tantrums in the Kids Kove and the line to the Serpentines, my easy favorite, is barely a wait.

The park is also at its cleanest, and make no mistake, those bathrooms can get foul by afternoon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clarifies that chlorine does not kill all germs instantly, and recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused most commonly by germs like Crypto and E. coli. To prevent RWIs, the CDC states point-blank: “Keep the poop, germs and pee out of the water.” Splashtown requires all children under the age of two to wear swim diapers, and doubling up never hurts. The CDC recommends bathroom breaks and diaper changes every 60 minutes. Yet another reason to keep your visit to two hours, three hours tops: pulling up a wet swimsuit is quite an impossible pain in the ass. Speaking of butts, keep them off the waterspouts. And for heavens sake, never, never drink that water! I wouldn’t recommend $9.99 margaritas either.

With an open mind, and a few trips down the Serpentines or the Luge, you’ll have more fun than you anticipated and a short trip may extend over lunch. Pack a picnic. While Splashtown doesn’t allow outside food, there is a covered picnic area just outside the park. (Inside, there’s a concession stand with pizza, hot dogs and nachos, but those foods don’t settle well in the heat when there’s swimming and sliding to be had. Give me a PB&J, please.)

Given a chance, Splashtown can sincerely kick off a Sunday Funday. Show up early, slather on the sunscreen, don’t drink the water, embrace the wild rides and get out of there before 2 p.m. Follow it up down the road with cheeseburgers and a well-deserved pint for you.

Splashtown San Antonio

10:30am to 6pm, 7pm, 8pm, or 9pm depending on date
Open seasonally the first weekend of May through the second weekend of Sept
3600 I-35 N
(210) 227-1400

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