A few weeks ago, my aunt and I planned to take my kids to Disneyland after school let out; because she works there, we can usually get in free, a definite plus (though I would gladly pay for a Disney day).
My kids were looking forward to it and talking about it and counting down the days... until my aunt called and said that she'd had to have an emergency dental surgery and would have to reschedule our outing. After a few tears were shed, I knew I had to come up with a Plan B.
And so I took the girls to Raging Waters in San Dimas, CA, on Wednesday during the first official week of summer. I thought it would be crowded and hot, but I just braced myself and decided to suck it up.
I'm so glad I did; the park wasn't crowded at all and the weather was perfect (in the 80s). Compared to Disneyland's Park Hopper prices, it was also relatively inexpensive to spend a day at Raging Waters: $36.99 for general admission and $22.99 for junior admission (48" and under; I didn't ask whether or not this is offensive to little people, but I'm assuming they mean kids).
There are two picnic areas with cooler storage at Raging Water; however, I found that even the meal we got at the burger joint right inside the park was reasonable for an amusement park, with kids' meals hovering around $7 for a cheeseburger, fries (or apples) and a drink. There were "healthy" options, too, like chicken sandwiches and a caesar salad, and a pizza place and ice cream shops on the lower level.
Perhaps due to the temperate weather, there weren't a lot of people. In fact, most rides had little or no wait. My kids (ages 8 and 9) rode the Vortex and Dark Hole several times while my 5-year-old and I tooled around the lazy river on inner tubes (called the Amazon Adventure) and floated in the Wave Cove. The only wait we had was for Thunder Rapids, which simulates a whitewater rafting journey down a twisty luge-like slide - for about 30 minutes, my kids and I stood in dripping swimsuits in a shady line. Still, that was our only wait all day, so we were fine with it (except that my 8-year-old thought it was way too short of a ride!).
The only drawbacks were the general lack of cleanliness in the bathrooms and changing areas, though I saw people cleaning these areas constantly... I suppose it's just the nature of a wet theme park to have gross bathrooms.
A HUGE plus, though, were the lifeguards. The website touted the park's 250 lifeguards and I had thought, Yeah, right! But there were lifeguard stands EVERYWHERE, probably every 10 yards at most attractions and the guards were very serious about watching guests and blowing their whistles at anyone who was outside the lines or being unruly. As a mom with three kids there, I felt very safe and secure; I knew that not only would my kids be watched (by me or a guard) but that teens wouldn't be allowed to be too rowdy near us. (God, I sound old just writing that, but you mamas know what I mean.)
In all, it was a very fun day and we left right as the park was closing. I know it will be much, much busier as the summer heats up, but if we lived closer I may have paid for season passes (2 for $99, and you could apply the cost of the day's admission, too).
The best part? As we were leaving, I got a text from my aunt saying that it was good we had rescheduled Disneyland... turns out that California Adventure had been closed several times this week due to FULL CAPACITY crowds. Thank you, Raging Waters, for saving the day!