If you’ve got summer on the brain, we’re right there with you. When it comes to water play, planning your (many) trips to Wild Waves Theme & Water Park in 2021 tops the list (psst..we’ve got what you need to know about the park’s opening day too). It’s got all you need to execute an easy day with the kids (think: food, rides, water, even movies) any day you go. Dive into the details on the area’s primo amusement and water park so you can really make a splash this summer!
When to Visit
First things first, Wild Waves will has plans to open for the 2021 season on June 18.
The least busy times at Wild Waves are school days, chilly days and wet and windy days. You would think going to the park on a rainy day would be a bummer, but our kid reviewers say the rides are just as fun and with less people, the lines are a lot shorter too. We’ve also had good luck visiting on July 4 since most families are busy at picnics and parades.
The busiest times are, as you may have guessed, long holiday weekends and summer days when school’s out. But even when the park is packed, you can still have a great time—just be sure to pack your patience. On those days, it’s best to arrive right after the park opens to give your family a jump start before the big crowds arrive.
Wild Waves hours vary from day to day. Be sure to check their current schedule online.
What to Pack for the Day
We suggest bringing a change of clothes for each member of your family. Of course, you’ll need a swimsuit for Wild Waves. Shoes are not allowed on water attractions, but they are required for the theme park rides. Easy slip on waterproof sandals work well—flip-flops are fine, but you’ll have to take them off on some rides like the Hang Glider and the Soaring Eagle or they may fly off! The park suggests that you wear dry shirts and pants (or shorts) on all attractions and we couldn’t agree more! It’s not fair to make other guests sit in a puddle that you left from your soggy swim gear. You’ll probably be a lot more comfortable too.
We suggest you bring goggles, swimsuit cover-ups, swim diapers for your little ones, beach towels, sun screen, sun hats or baseball caps and a personal floating device if your kiddo needs it. (It must be US Coast Guard approved or you can borrow one for free near the locker rentals—first come, first served.) You might also want to bring a few plastic bags to put your soggy swim gear in, a few empty water bottles (you can fill them up with water at the drinking fountains) and don’t underestimate the importance of flip flops or shoes. Those concrete pathways get hot during the summer! A stroller can be nice to have as well. If you don’t want to pack them, single stroller rentals are available for $8, double strollers for $11, wheelchairs for $12 and motorized scooters for $30.
Hint: If you forget anything, you can buy swimsuits, beach towels, sunglasses, flip-flops and sunblock at the park, but it’s going to be a bit pricey!
There’s plenty of fun-filled activities for everyone in your crew at Wild Waves’ water park. From the exhilaration of hurtling down a twisting water slide or catching the big one in the Wave Pool, to cruising down the Lazy River or relaxing in a warming tub.
Young pirates can raid Hooks Lagoon (minimum height is 36″; maximum is 54”), paddle in the shallows, squirt mom with a water cannon and play in the waterfalls. Climb up the stories of a tropical tree house and zip down no less than seven slides (minimum height for the slides is 42″). But look out below! Every ten minutes the Cap’n’s bucket dumps 200 gallons of water onto little scallywags!
Mountain Dew Triple Slide Complex
There are lots of slides to discover at the park. Some of the best are found at the Mountain Dew Triple Slide Complex—three outrageously fun twisters that will send you racing towards splashdown at high velocity (a slight exaggeration!). Try all three, vote on which one you think is the best and go back for a final run before moving on.
For an adventure the whole family will enjoy at the same time, try the larger-than-life Zooma Falls. This giant slide allows up to four riders to experience large curves and turns before cruising under a waterfall. Other slides include the four serpentine Konga Slides, each one guaranteed to twist, wind and send you flying out of the tube!
Ever wondered what it feels like to be flushed down a toilet? If so, the Riptide’s for you. After a steep drop, you’ll swirl around and around the bowl before being sucked down the drain. Other wet fun can be found on the Raging River Ride (which you can go solo or ride with a friend) and the Activity Pool (for strong swimmers only).
Konga Lazy River
After a hair-raising go on the slides, take a relaxing trip down the Konga Lazy River as it winds its way under the slides. It’s a pretty tranquil ride except for a few sprinklers popping up here and there. And you can go round and round as many times as you like (but we suggest shorter trips during the peaks times in the park.) Both our big and little kid reviewers give it two thumbs up!
Tubes are available for free at every slide, but if you want to skip the line you can choose to rent your own personal tube for $10 per single or $13 per double plus a $2 refundable deposit. We’d only recommend purchasing a tube if it’s a super busy day, as we’ve never had to wait long to get one.
Details for the 2021 line-up are still in the works, but...Friday nights are even more fun at the Wave Pool as Wild Waves presents its “Dive In” movie theater. Dive-In Movies are free for both Season Pass ticket holders and those with a daily park admission ticket. Stay after the park closes, grab a tube, and hop in the Wave Pool to kick back with a new release or fan favorite flick!
The Other "Waves" at the Park
Other "waves” can be found across the way in the theme park area in the form of roller coasters. Atop the hill, sits the Timberhawk Ride of Prey—the largest wooden roller coaster in Washington and this park’s crown jewel. The cars take a leisurely climb to the top with amazing views of the park, then whoosh you’re off, plummeting down drops, hurtling through twists and turns dare you not to duck as you go through the mine shaft.
The Wild Thing & Klondike Gold Rusher
The Wild Thing with its loop-de-loop and two corkscrews is guaranteed to raise your heart rate. And as if one trip around isn’t enough…The Wild Thing goes around twice. (Psst…when you go upside down, keep your eyes open and look straight ahead, so you don’t get dizzy.)
Over at the Klondike Gold Rusher, there are no precious metals to be found, but it’s a fun ride just the same. We have a warning though. This “mad mouse” type ride is quite jarring and quite a bit scarier than it looks, but it’s a thrill if your kids are up for it. There are sudden drops, sharp turns and your cart will seem like it’s about ready to fly off the tracks. Don’t worry though, it won’t.
A big kid fave in the park is Lumberjack Falls—a log flume ride that’ll send you plunging 50 feet into the water. “It feels like a tsunami is washing over you,” said one of our big kid reviewers. You will get wet…but so will the people standing on the bridge, if they’re not careful.
The Brain Drain is perhaps the scariest ride in the park. After getting strapped in you’ll be raised to the top of the 85-foot tall tower that drops with forces equivalent to 3 G’s! Only big kids need apply as the minimum height is 52”.
If that doesn’t scare you, maybe The Ring of Fire will. Our grownup reviewers voted it the scariest ride in the park and it receives stellar reviews from kids. It’s a 360-degree looping coaster that propels you back and forth up the sides of the track until it picks up momentum and spins you right around. Then, halfway through the ride you will reverse and go in the other direction! What’s not to love about that?
The Timber Axe is another gravity-defying stomach churner that’ll swing you back and forth before flipping you upside down.
The Disk’O Flashback & More
Hoist the Jolly Roger and board the Pirate Ship if ye dare—this galleon rocks back and forth until it’s almost vertical. According to one kid reviewer, “Each time you go up it feels like you’re touching the sky, but if you’re at the back of the ship it feels like you’re going to land on your face.”
The Disk’O Flashback won’t remind you of John Travolta or the Bee Gees, but it may make you dizzy as it spins on its half-pipe track.
The park offers two extra thrills if you are up for it or are ready to shell out a few bucks more to experience them. (Those with an Annual Pass receive special discounts on these.) The Soaring Eagle zooms you high above the ground for terrific views of the park, before zipping back down again. For the real adrenaline addicts in your fam, the attention-getting I-5 Dive Skycoaster is an exhilarating, high bungee drop that will give you a good view of the park if you dare to open your eyes.
For a more leisurely pace there’s The Hang Glider, where you can take a gentle spin in the air and cool off on a hot summer day. This one is surprisingly fun for both kids and their parents. Kids yearning to go on the Pirate Ship but won’t go because it’s “too scary” may enjoy the similar, kid-friendly Coastal Clipper which but quite a bit tamer. There’s also the mild thrills aboard the giant spinning roulette wheel known as The Gambler, the high-flying Paratrooper and the oldie-but-goodie Scrambler which are all great for breaking younger kids in for the scarier rides. And for some good old fashioned fun, hop aboard the Dodge ‘ems Bumper Cars.
Daring Rides for Brave Little Ones
Little pilots will enjoy buzzing grownups in Red Baron biplanes, while budding train drivers clatter down the tracks of the Enchanted Railway. For kids who like to bounce (and who doesn’t?) there are two star attractions: the Frog Hopper and Kang-A-Bounce. After you bounce, take your tiny thrill-seeker for a go on the Kiddie Coaster.
For the littlest members of your family, the Kiddie Combo and Ferris Wheel are a must. On the Kiddie Combo, kids can pick their mode of transportation—a fire engine, moon buggy, antique car, dune buggy or sports car. The mini Ferris Wheel offers a gentle spin and cool views from a not-too-high vantage point. There’s also Safari Jeep (watch out for giraffes and lions!), the Kiddie Boats, The Space Racer, The Wagon Train and the beautiful antique carousel.
Check the website to see how tall (or how small) you need to be to go on each ride. If you have a kiddo between 48″- 54″ tall they can go on everything —these lucky guys and gals are tall enough for the big rides, but not too tall to still enjoy the little kid rides!
What to Eat
Outside food isn’t allowed inside Wild Waves, but we’ve found that packing a few granola bars in your bag to keep everyone going is fine with staff at the entrance gate. You can bring your own non-glass water bottle (or buy an official Wild Waves cup) and refill it with ice water for free from any concession stand.
There’s lots of food choices available in the park including burgers, fries, clam chowder, tacos, ice cream, caramel apples and homemade fudge. The Dipping Dots are very popular and don’t leave the park without trying the Ultimate Elephant Ear (it’s so big, a family of four could share one). Topped with cinnamon, sugar, raspberry jam, whipped cream and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, it’s pure decadence! Find them at the Snack Shop near the main gate, along with cotton candy and other treats.
Like many theme parks, the food here is expensive and not very nutritious. You may want to pack a cooler and leave it in your car. When everyone’s hungry, just head to the car for a quick bite to eat. It’s also a great break away from the crowds. Just be sure to get your hand stamped when you exit so you can come back in!
How to Save Money
Regardless of the type of tickets you want, ordering them online is the way to go. You’ll save anywhere from $5-$21 per ticket this way. You can print the tickets at home or save them to your phone. Plus, purchasing your tickets online will significantly shorten your waiting time getting into the park.
While many families wait until the weather gets good and hot to visit Wild Waves, the cheapest time to go is during the month of June when the tickets are almost half price. However, the operating hours are all over the board with some days closing as early as 4 p.m., so be sure to check the schedule before you go.
Another cheap time to go is in the evenings between July 1 and September 7 when the park offers half-price off admissions during the “Wild Hours” between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
You’ll also save a few bucks more if you plan ahead. If you purchase tickets at least three days prior to your visit, you’ll save $14 on each adult ticket and $21 on each child ticket.
If you are a military family, the park offers discounts on single-day admission tickets. In order to purchase a discounted military admission ticket, show a valid, active military ID at any of the front gate ticket booths. There are no discounts of any kind on season passes.
Wild Waves Season Pass & Parking
If you plan on going to Wild Waves more than twice this summer, consider purchasing a season pass which is $69.99 for both adults and kids (psst... if you're luck you might be able to find it on Groupon for $59.99) You can save $5 more if you purchase your seasons pass at a participating Safeway or Albertsons store.
As a season pass member, you’ll get an EZ-Band to wear instead of a membership card. Seasons pass members also receive a bunch of extras too, including four free friend tickets, free Dive-In Movies, free admission to 2021 Fright Fest in the fall, a free souvenir bottle (with $.99 refills) and exclusive in-park discounts. This year season pass holders also have the option to buy a Dining Plan ($69.99) that allows them to pay once and eat all season long. Don't forget to check out the Premium Season Pass and Bundle too for additional perks and savings.
Parking is fairly steep ranging from $15 a day (regular) to $25 (VIP Parking). However, you can save $2 per single-day parking when purchase online and season parking passes ($49.99) are available, too.
Editor's note: Get the scoop on extending your 2020 season pass into 2021 due to COVID-19 closures here.
3-Day Advanced Summer Tickets (Valid opening day through Oct. 31, 2021.)
Adult: $34.99 (online) or $49.99 (at the gate, weekends) or $46.99 (at the gate, week days)
Child (48” or shorter) and Senior (age 60+): $24.99 (online) or $49.99 (at the gate, weekends) or $46.99 (at the gate, week days)
Summer Tickets (Valid opening day through Oct. 31, 2021.)
Adult: $42.99 (online) or $49.99 (at the gate, weekends) or $46.99 (at the gate, week days)
Child (48” or shorter) and Senior (age 60+): $26.99 (online) or $49.99 (at the gate, weekends) or $46.99 (at the gate, week days)
Season Pass (for Adults and Kids): 69.99 (online) or $64.99 (purchased at Safeway or Albertsons)
Premium & Bundled Season Pass (for Adults and Kids): $104.99-$174.98
Season Pass Dining Plan (for Adults and Kids): $69.99
Season Pass Parking: $49.99
Season Pass Locker Add-On: $49.99
Note: Kids ages 3 & under get in free. All ticket prices are plus 10% state tax, and a 5% city of Federal Way admissions tax.
Keeping Your Kids & Your Things Safe
There are two EMT-staffed First Aid stations at the park near the Kong Slides and also near the Timber Axe ride.
It’s a good idea to designate one spot where you will all meet in case you get split up. Also, tell your kiddos to check-in with a staff member if they get lost.
Renting a locker and keeping your valuables in there while playing in the water is the best way to keep cell phones, wallets and other items safe and secure. Lockers can be rented near the water slides and are available for $10 (standard), $20 (large) and $25 (jumbo).
If you plan on carrying your valuables with you while riding the attractions, you’ll be happy to know that every ride has cubbies for purses and cell phones. Just drop them off as you get on and pick them up when you get off.
Note: Cash and debit/credit cards are accepted everywhere (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, Amex), but you must have ID with you. There are four ATM machines available: outside of the front gates, the Shoe Hut, Arcade and Candy Factory. Checks are not accepted. Season pass holders can add “stored value” to their membership EZ Band that can be used anywhere inside the park.
Wild Waves Theme & Water Park
36201 Enchanted Pkwy. S.
Federal Way, WA 98003
—Jeffrey Totey & Helen Walker Green