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Waterpark Season!

Posted by Leif Palmer in Things to Do

It's starting to warm up out there, and with the approach of summer, one thing is certain: Waterpark season is about to crank into high gear in the Great Smoky Mountains. They're the perfect way to combine summer fun with staying cool, and fortunately for visitors to the Smokies, there are more options than ever when it comes to finding a destination where the whole family can splash and swim and slide all day (and evening) long. Continue reading for an overview of our recommendations for vacation waterpark attractions in the mountains.

Play at Splash Country next to Dollywood

Dollywood Splash Country

In 2021, USA Today ranked this Pigeon Forge attraction as one of the top 10 waterparks in the country. And for good reason; with 35 acres of water slides, play areas and other fun activities, Splash Country has been one of the area's beat-the-heat go-tos for summer fun in the Smokies for more than 20 years now.

The water slides alone are a compelling reason to spend a day there. From short and tame slides for younger tots to thrilling experiences like the 280-foot-long (and very steep) Fire Tower Falls, there's a slide for all ages and levels of bravery. There are open chute slides, enclosed tube slides and even a family raft ride that sends passengers down a twisty, curvy slide from top to bottom.

Elsewhere at Dollywood's Splash Country are attractions like Bear Mountain Fire Tower (which dumps a giant bucket of water on guests at regular intervals), Downbound Float Trip (a lazy river ride), a wave pool and areas like Little Creek Falls and The Cascades, where smaller kids can enjoy shallow water, play structures and even slides that are built just for them.

In addition to all the water-based fun, Splash Country offers other amenities like food vendors (everything from salads to wraps to sweet treats), private cabana rentals, a store where you can purchase forgotten waterpark essentials and lockers for safely storing your gear.

Splash Country is open mid-May through early September each year.

Soaky Mountain Waterpark

You'll find this relatively new waterpark in Sevierville, just off Tenn. Hwy. 66 (Winfield Dunn Pkwy.). They follow a similar operational schedule as Dollywood's Splash Country, with a season that runs from mid-May into early September.

You'll likewise find a wide array of slides, rides and more at the 50-acre site. They also have features that are geared toward guests of all ages. For example, the Lil Rattlers water slides are twin tube slides that will help younger guests get acclimated to the water-slide experience before moving up to the bigger rides. On the other end of the spectrum are slides like the appropriately named “Whoop!” After stepping into a launch capsule, you drop through the floor and then plummet to the run-out chute at the bottom.

New water ride at Soaky Mountain Waterpark in Tennessee

Soaky Mountain has experiences you won't find anywhere else in the Smokies, such as Rainbow Revenge, a translucent water slide that incorporates light and color effects into your journey to the splash-filled bottom. And look for the Avalaunch Watercoaster - the first of its kind - a two-person tube ride that takes you on a wild adventure full of hills, valleys and wide-open turns before hitting a heart-pumping wall climb and a whitewater finish. Meanwhile, Blue Mountain Mayhem is a two- to five-person raft that utilizes gravity-challenging climbs up steep walls, leaving passengers momentarily weightless before plummeting back down. There's even the Hang 10essee Flowrider, an attraction that lets you simulate surfing.

Of course, Soaky Mountain has a wave pool, lazy river and other common waterpark staples in addition to food and merch vendors.

Keep in mind that both Dollywood's Splash Country and Soaky Mountain Waterpark offer multiple tiers of season passes, which offer price breaks over their single-day tickets and usually include additional perks like parking and discounts on food and beverages.

Lodging-Based Waterparks

In addition to the two large-scale waterparks we've already profiled, there are several other smaller parks that are incorporated into Smoky Mountain-area lodging experiences.

For example, Wilderness at the Smokies Resort (also on Tenn. Hwy. 66 in Sevierville) has several waterpark options on the property. The Lake Wilderness outdoor park at the resort's River Lodge has something for everyone, including some of that section's tallest and most challenging slides as well as a wave pool and a lazy river feature. Treehouse Springs and Cabana Forest are new at Lake Wilderness. Meanwhile, Salamander Springs is another outdoor park at Wilderness at the Smokies. It has 150-foot-long body and tube slides, a multilevel play-and-spray structure, a toddler area and more.

However, the resort may be best known for its Wild Waterdome indoor waterpark, which is open year 'round. This 66,000-square-foot area has thrill rides, a wave pool, tube slides and a family thrill slide, just to name a few of the highlights. There's also the Smokies Surf Rider, a surf simulator that sends 19,000 gallons of water surging under your feet every minute as it creates a five-foot ocean-like wave for you to surf on - if you can get up on your feet. And Wild Waterdome has a five-story-tall family raft ride called Runaway Canyon, on which passengers shoot through 450 feet of water curtains, tunnels, turns, loops before reaching a 60-foot drop at the end.

Another lodging-based destination is Wild Bear Falls Water Park, a heated, indoor attraction located at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort in Gatlinburg. This year-round oasis of fun boasts a state-of-the-art retractable roof and heated indoor water. Features include a lazy river, water slides and an interactive treehouse. Private cabanas are available for rent, each equipped with an HD TV, snacks, water and a mini fridge.

Waterpark at a hotel resort in downtown Pigeon Forge, TN

A Country Cascades Waterpark Resort in Pigeon Forge, there's an outdoor waterpark featuring 80,000 gallons of water. Highlights include a 300-foot-long high-speed body slide, the River Chaser - a one- or two-passenger raft slide - the Splashaway Bay area for younger guests and a leisure pool where all ages can relax and soak in the sun.

Leif Palmer - Smokies blogger

About Leif Palmer

Leif Palmer loves residing in the Smoky Mountains. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.


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