Last summer more than 70 million people cooled off at U.S. water parks, according to the World Waterpark Association. Here are seven standouts scattered across the United States that are generally considered to be among the nation's best (check out www.waterparks.org to find other parks). For folks who'd rather stay dry, we've included other points of interest in the area.
Blizzard Beach (Orlando)
Why it's special: It's Disney World's version of a ski resort, complete with white-capped mountain and toboggan runs -- but with water substituting for snow.
What's there: The 66-acre park is home to attractions like the 120-foot Summit Plummet (a wedgie-inducing slide that's the country's tallest), Teamboat Springs (a white-water rafting ride), the Downhill Double Dipper tube ride and Runoff Rapids. Tike's Peak and Cross Country Creek are good for the younger set.
What's nearby: The rest of Disney World, plus Universal Studios and SeaWorld . . . Tee off at 150-plus area golf courses . . . Visit the Flying Tigers Warbird Restoration Museum in Kissimmee, Fla.
Cost: $32 (age 10 and up), $26 (3-9), under 3 free.
Info: 407-939-6244, www.disneyworld.com.
Mountain Creek (Vernon, N.J.)
Why it's special: The 39-acre park is built into the surrounding mountains, integrating Mother Nature with the chlorine-and-inner-tube world.
What's there: The park uses the terrain to maximum advantage, with entry onto slides often using natural grades instead of ladders and towers. As for the rides, High Anxiety shoots tube riders down a tunnel before they enter a massive red-and-yellow funnel. Other thrills include the Tarzan Swings, body surfing in the wave pool and dropping 99-feet on the H2Oh-No! extreme body slide.
What's nearby: Located in New Jersey's northwest corner, Vernon is all about being outside. Get an adrenaline rush with downhill biking at Diablo Freeride Park . . . Follow the Appalachian Trail north to the western side of Greenwood Lake, which straddles the state border.
Cost: $27.99, $17.99 (under 48 inches), one free under-3-year-old per adult.
Info: 973-827-2000, www.mountaincreekwaterpark.com.
Noah's Ark (Wisconsin Dells, Wis.)
Why it's special: Seventy acres, 36 slides, four kiddie areas, two wave pools and two lazy rivers add up to one heck of a large water park.
What's there: About 2.5 million visitors head here each summer to take the Plunge (the only major headfirst slide in the Midwest), face a 10-story drop on the Point of No Return slide and experience a Flash Flood aboard a boat whose 50-foot drop creates a 40-foot tidal wave. Mini-golf and Noah's Incredible Adventure (a 10-minute ride tracing the whole two-by-two story) offer a chance to drip dry.
What's nearby: The Wisconsin Dells, about 50 miles north of Madison, Wis., is also home to the country's largest indoor water park, Kalahari Resort, as well as more than a dozen others . . . Hike and fish in Rocky Arbor and Mirror Lake state parks . . . Race around Mount Olympus Theme Park (the world's largest Go-Kart complex) . . . See the remains of the Ringling Bros. Circus Winter Quarters in nearby Baraboo, Wis., where the Circus World Museum just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Cost: $28.99 (3 and up), $23.20 (47 inches and under), ages 2 and under free.
Info: 608-254-6351, www.noahsarkwaterpark.com.
Raging Waters (San Dimas, Calif.)
Why it's special: California's largest water park was the setting for "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure." It's also the only Southern California park with Dragon's Den, a two-person slide with a 45-foot drop and a mist-spewing dragon.
What's there: High Extreme -- a 10-story flume that scoots riders along at up to 35 mph -- is the signature thrill among the 36 attractions at this 50-acre park. Splash Island Adventure has water cannons, tunnels and a giant bucket that tips 1,000 gallons of water. Amazon Adventure, an 18-foot-wide waterway, can hold up to 600 raft riders at a time.
What's nearby: Hiking trails lead from the San Dimas Canyon Nature Center . . . Head about 20 miles west to San Marino for art at the Huntington Library, or to Pasadena (slightly farther west) for one of the country's largest private art collections at the Norton Simon Museum . . . Another 10 miles and you're in downtown L.A.
Cost: $27.99 (over 48 inches), $16.99 (under 48 inches), under age 2 free.
Info: 909-802-2200, www.ragingwaters.com.
Splish Splash (Riverhead, N.Y.)
Why it's special: This 50-acre park offers 24 slides and several daily shows by high divers and avian athletes competing in the Bird Olympics.
What's there: Dragon's Den (see Raging Waters, above) debuted this summer, and the Giant Twister has you floating by the treetops. A Surf City wave pool, kiddie speed slides and a Pirate's Cove with water cannons and climbing ropes make this park particularly family-friendly.
What's nearby: Riverhead -- 60 miles east of New York City on Long Island -- is home to Atlantis Marine World, where you can see sharks and sting rays . . . Take the tour and wine-taste at Martha Clara Vineyards (one of many vineyards in the area) . . . Stop at one of many pick-your-own farm stands.
Cost: $27.99 (over 48 inches), $20.99 (under 48 inches), under age 3 free.
Info: 631-727-3600, www.splishsplashlongisland.com.
Water World (Denver)
Why it's special: The 64-acre park gives Noah's Ark a run for its money in terms of the number (42) and variety of attractions it offers.
What's there: Oh, just dinosaurs, sea monsters, bat caves. The park's highlights include Voyage to the Center of the Earth, a family tube ride that travels through caverns filled with prehistoric creatures. Get a bird's-eye view of the park from the gondola on the way to the FunHouse or gang up on friends with water cannons at the H2Orena.
What's nearby: Downtown Denver is 15 minutes south . . . Surround yourself with 1,200 butterflies at the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center in Westminster, Colo. . . . Tour the Coors Brewery in Golden, Colo., or stay outside and enjoy the Museum of Outdoor Arts in Englewood, Colo. . . Head northwest for performance artists on Boulder's Pearl Street pedestrian mall.
Cost: $27.95 (12 and up), $23.95 (ages 4-12), 3 and under free.
Info: 303-427-7873, www.waterworldcolorado.com.
Wet 'n Wild (Las Vegas)
Why it's special: It's one of the few kid-friendly destinations right on the Strip.
What's there: Spread across 26 acres, the park features Bomb Bay, which lets you freefall 76 feet; the Royal Flush, which combines a chute and up-to-40 mph revolutions around a bowl-like slide; the Whitewater Slideways, where you get whooshed into a pool by 1,200 gallons of water; and the Suntan Lagoon waterfall area. The super-fast Der Stuka chute lets you freefall at a 70-degree angle.
What's nearby: You don't have to get wet to be wild in Vegas, what with gambling, lounge acts, comedy shows and other adult activities just a dice throw away . . . Detox in Red Rock Canyon . . . Visit nearby Hoover Dam.
Cost: $27.99 (48 inches and taller), $20.99 (under 48 inches), ages 2 and under free.
Info: 702-765-9700, www.wetnwildlv.com.