Most Charlestonians know at this point that summer brings with it a little heat and humidity. If you are traveling to town, you probably came here hoping for warmth, so, no surprises there either. There are certain days within the summer months that the heat gives us a great excuse to go live in the water. Shoot, I'd be happy to live in the water with or without an excuse. Thankfully Charleston has some great options for that...the beach, the Intracoastal, the estuaries, and creeks.
If you are looking for some fun in the water that may be outside your normal box of thought, a Charleston waterpark is a mighty decent place to spend a day with friends or family. I recently had the opportunity to visit Whirlin' Waters with a close friend and her kids (my godchildren). During our time we lived it up in the wave pool, conquered some water sliding fears, noshed on some tasty pizza, and remembered that at any age, water slides can make you scream like a kid.
I must admit, I think I'm probably a bit of a snob when it comes to waterparks. Growing up, I belonged to an organization that hosted a private party after hours at a huge waterpark in Orlando called Wet N' Wild. Not only did we get to enjoy a massive park, but we got to do so after regular hours when there were short lines and no other patrons in the park. As if that weren't enough to jar my typical view of waterparks, I also spent some time in my college years working and training at Walt Disney World's waterparks and pools. Though I had been an oceanfront lifeguard also, I made over twice as many rescues working in pool and water park guarding as I did at the beach. The waterpark kept me on my toes in different ways than the beach did. I was also a member of Disney's competition team, so I spent more mornings than I'd like to count waking up before the sun and driving to Blizzard Beach to train with the rest of the team. If you think it's strange to be in a waterpark with a private party, try wandering around one when there are less than a dozen people in the whole place.
Those experiences gave me a great measuring tool for waterparks, and bringing my godchildren along for a day of fun was a great reason to go explore one of Charleston County Parks and Recreations' three waterparks for the first time. To be clear, I'm not trying to compare the massive nature of those Orlando waterparks to what Charleston is blessed with. The parks in Charleston were never created to serve the throngs of people the Orlando parks were. I did however gain some great perspective as to what to look for in a park experience in general. The three things that are most important to me when evaluating a waterpark like this are: 1. safety, 2. cleanliness, and 3. experience. I am happy to say Whirlin' Waters scored well with me in all three categories.
Throughout the day, I watched the lifeguards in action. It is always the responsibility of the parent or guardian accompanying the children in the park to keep an eye on them. Lifeguards are not babysitters and should not be treated as such. However, I felt like the guards on duty were taking their jobs seriously, and I would have trusted them to take action if any extra care or action were needed with my godchildren. In addition to their original Starguard lifeguard certification, guards at Whirlin' Waters also participate in continuing in-service training throughout the summer. This keeps rescue skills fresh as the guards are consistently being called on to use their knowledge and skill set through drills and rescue scenarios.
In addition to reliable guards, the slides at the thirteen-year-old park looked solid and well maintained. While we were boarding a slide, a staff member even came by tugging on the slide's structural handles, making sure that each connection was secure and in good shape. I don't know that I've ever had a park official do a maintenance check of slide equipment while I was boarding a ride, but it made me feel pretty good, as I assume checks like this are the norm.
In my opinion, nothing quite kills the appreciation of an attraction like uncleanliness. Many of us have had water experiences where we were thankful we were wearing (or wished we'd been wearing) water shoes or sandals simply because we didn't trust a place walking around in bare feet. Once I arrived at Whirlin' Waters, I had no concerns in that regard. The park was clean and well organized. I don't recall seeing any sort of trash left out or on the ground the entire time we were there, and the water in the various attractions appeared clean and clear. I was happy to leave my sandals in the locker or under or under a chair all day.
Finally, on to the experience portion of the trip! That is after all why you'd venture to a waterpark in the first place. We had a fantastic time in the park. There is an attraction for every age group from toddlers, to kids, to teens, up to adults. Our group split up several times, and the size of the park wasn't so overwhelming that it wasn't fairly easy to find one another once again. Areas for younger kids are easy to spot, and height signs mark various slides throughout the park. In the center of the park, patrons will find a wave pool which holds 550,000 gallons of water and boasts four different wave patterns. The waves turn on for ten minutes at a time, and then pause for ten minutes at a time, giving guests a choice if they have a preference for waves or not. There is a lazy river if you just feel like relaxing in a tube, a water tree house if you feel like climbing, and a couple of slides available for racing your favorite friend to the bottom.
The tallest of these slides is named Riptide Run. It stands at a towering 347 feet tall and has multiple lanes for racing. My godson just made the cut for the height requirement on this slide, and was ready to try it after logging some time on other attractions. The height was a bit daunting at first and second attempts, but everyone kept encouraging him to give it a try. Finally, his mom told him that sometimes it's just a good idea to face your fears. He listened, and, after his first trip down, he was exuberantly asking to go again. Who knew waterparks were set up for teaching moments and fun? I guess the best parents find opportunities to squeeze that in just about anywhere. Whatever the case, we all had a wonderful time enjoying the park and were sad to see our time there come to a close.
For those hoping to get a chance to enjoy Whirlin' Waters, there is still some time left. The park is open daily in the summer up until August 15th. Following the 15th, the park will open on weekends through the Labor Day Weekend (including Labor Day itself). One of the things that enhanced our trip was attending on a Wednesday as the number of people in the park was lower and there was less of a wait to enjoy the slides.
Though a less crowded park is enjoyable in many ways, some great deals can be found on other days making them just as appealing. Active duty military, retirees, and their dependents receive a special rate on Mondays with their military ID card. On "Two for Tuesdays", two guests may enter for the price of one ($19.99 at the time this was published). Finally, guests can enjoy a discounted entry price of $10.99 on Tropical Thursdays. Kids under 48" and Seniors receive discounted pricing every day. The park's most crowded days are Tuesdays and Saturdays. For full details on Whirlin' Waters hours and entry fees, click here.
Whirlin' Waters is located at 8888 University Boulevard, North Charleston, SC 29406, just down the road from Charleston Southern University. Follow the sign to Wannamaker County Park, and you're headed the right direction. The phone number is 843-572-7275.
Area Tip: If you happen to have a sweet tooth after you've enjoyed a day at the park, Bruster's Ice Cream is located just down the street on University Blvd. They are responsible for some of the best ice cream in the land, including my favorite, Cotton Candy ice cream with active Pop Rocks...don't tell me you aren't curious.
Audra Gibson is a Christian, photographer, surfer, and a lover of music and teriyaki steak bites. She doesn't like to be cold, and she's a bit of a cheese snob, but that's not her fault (she was raised in a gourmet cheese shop). Traveling Ink was her little brain child and she's very happy that you're here. She'd be oh so happy to recommend her favorite restaurant in town, take pictures of your family, or organize a night (or weekend) of fun for you.Website: www.audragibson.com