Sure, any ol' pool will entertain them. But throw in, say, a full-size pirate ship or a 1,000-gallon dunk tank, and you've reached kiddie nirvana. Get the lowdown on these primo water parks around the U.S., perfect for family travel
The Pool: The bigger-than-a-foot-ball-field water zone at Great Wolf Lodge, Wisconsin Dells, WI; greatwolf.com/dells
Why It Rules: Fort Mackenzie: the four-story tree house with suspension bridges, swinging family-size fishing nets, and a 1,000-gallon “bucket” that—spoiler alert!—tips unexpectedly
Dry Off, Then: Check out the resort-wide MagiQuest—the enchanted objects, talking wizards, goblin battles, and magic wand will literally do the trick. Ten minutes away is Bigfoot Zipline Tours (bigfootzip.com).
The Pool: Lagoon Pool at Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn, Orlando, FL; nickhotel.com
Why It Rules: A zero-entry, heated oasis from which a four-story water tower rises, with flumes, climbing nets, water cannons, and a massive dump tank that spills water—and green slime.
Dry Off, Then: Join the audience-participation-to-the-max shows at Studio Nick. Or float at iFly (iflyorlando.com). It's like skydiving without the diving or, well, the sky: Kids 3 and up soar on a column of air.
The Pool: The eight-pool playground at Smugglers' Notch Resort, Smugglers' Notch, VT; smuggs.com
Why It Rules: Big sibs can turbo-slide down the Giant Rapid River Ride; wee ones get the Turtle Mini Water Slide. At the Little Smugglers' Lagoon, tots squeal over the lily-pad walk and mini-tubing.
Dry Off, Then: Make the 45-minute pilgrimage to the Ben & Jerry's factory (benandjerrys.com). Picnic on the grounds, home to the Flavor Graveyard (RIP: Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz), then taste till you drop.
The Pool: The pools at Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas, Maui, HI; westinkaanapali.com
Why It Rules: A pirate ship! Smack in the middle of the keiki (kids') pool. And in the unlikely event the little pillagers tire of this vessel, there's a waterfall to ride over.
Dry Off, Then: Catch a real submarine ride at Atlantis Adventures. The kiddos will gape at neon tropical fish and a sunken ship up close (atlantisadventures.com).
The Pool: The waterpark at Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, OH; kalahariresorts.com
Why It Rules: The safari-themed rides here are cooler than Africa (literally). Most impressive: the Swahili Swirl that sends you swishing down and around a ginormous bowl.
Dry Off, Then: Brave the 50 life-size animatronic reptilians at Dinosaurs Alive (cedarpoint.com), Ohio's Jurassic Park.