I have lived in Sacramento for four years, and never been to Raging Waters Sacramento (or any local theme park, really). There is a reason for this: I hadn’t felt up to dragging a bunch of baby children there. Since my kids are 7, almost 4, and 1, I have had some sort of baby child or pregnancy the whole time I’ve been here.
So I did what any reasonable parent would do. I ditched the baby. I figured I could manage the 4 and the 7, especially considering that there is a kids’ area.
Wish He Had Looked This Happy the Whole Time
I wound up thinking that the joke may have been on me, however, because I don’t know that the baby would have been any harder than the 4 year old was. For safety reasons, Raging Waters strongly recommends that children under 48″ wear life jackets in general, and requires that they do in the wave pool. So, the thing about my 4 year old is that he won’t even wear a coat or a button-up shirt. He seems to have sensory “issues,” and restraint and tight garments make him freak out. He started out the trip kind of panicking about the life jacket. Needless to say, that didn’t make things go uphill.
There are basically two kinds of activities at the park–those for people taller than 48″, and those for everybody. All of the larger slides are for people taller than 48″ with no exceptions (in other words, shorter folks can’t go on them anyway and just be accompanied by an adult). My daughter is an average-sized 7 year old, and she was just barely tall enough for the rides. I would say I do not recommend bringing someone who is just slightly shorter/younger than that, because he or she would wind up supremely disappointed by the activities available. If you have a preschooler, I’d say it depends by how strong his or her desire is to be like the big kids. Not so strong? Bring them. Very strong? There would be a lot of crying.
There is a children’s area called Treehouse Reef. We assumed that this would be the best place to bring Asher, still freaking out about his life jacket. He cried because he couldn’t go on the bigger slides with Selah (though I don’t know if he would have wanted to anyway). They have maybe four nice, small slides in the children’s area–they are basically playground slides but with water. However, adults cannot go on them with their children, meaning you have to either send your kid off alone to get on the slide, or let him slide down away from you into the pool below, which you can’t reach very quickly. Neither option sounded great to me or to Asher. He wanted someone to go with him, and so cried more when that was not possible. I eventually just kind of plunked him onto the slide and sent him away–and then it took forever for me to reach him at the bottom.
Even if he or she were willing, someone younger than Asher would only have been able to go on the slides with two parents there–one to put the child on the slide, and one to catch the child at the bottom. Someone Asher’s age who was bold in public chaos and who was not upset about wearing a bulky life jacket would probably have enjoyed the slides for at least a little while. A 5 or 6 year old would probably get bored pretty quickly.
The children’s area also includes three larger water slides–which you can only go on if you are 48″ tall. So it mostly seems to upset all the people who got turned away after waiting in line with their younger children. This might prove handy if you were one adult with children of varying ages, and you needed to stay close by your preschooler but wanted your taller-than-48″ child to have something more daring to do. These slides are a little more painful, however, since you don’t use rafts on them and their seems are kind of sharp. Selah did not seem to notice this–apparently it’s an “old bones” problem.
You can take young children on the Calypso Cooler Lazy River or into the wave pool. The former is fun for kids–unless they are angry about their life jackets, and then nothing on the planet would be fun for them. Selah liked jumping on and off of the inner tubes and feeling swept along by the current. The wave pool is basically a big swimming pool with occasional waves. Kids will like it who like to swim–unless they are angry about their life jackets, in which case they become angry, floating kids.
Selah and I went on the Great White, Mako, and Hammerhead water slides, and really liked all of them. Her favorite was the Great White, because it was open. The other two are almost completely dark, which is fun and also kind of disorienting. They didn’t frighten her, but she liked being out in the open and seeing where she was going. All of them were the type of water slides that you take a raft on. She seemed to like every ride and area at the park. We did not attempt the Hurricane or Cliffhanger slides at the other side of the park, since the Mako and Hammerhead seem to comfortably press her limits. She said she wanted to go on them, however, so maybe next time.
So here’s my summary and some tips:
- I had fun. I was glad we went. But I had moments of extreme irritation, and the walk back to the car in the 100-degree heat with the angry, tired 4 year old was “no walk in the park.”
- I wouldn’t say don’t bring young children there. If you want to go to the park and have young children, it’s not an inhospitable environment. If you don’t happen to like slides but you want to go play in the pool for the day or don’t mind doing that while an older child or partner goes on the larger slides, it would probably be a good fit for you. However, if your party includes just one adult, or you have too many young children, or you want to actually spend time with your adult companion(s), you may want to leave the youngest kids (under 48″ behind). And they do measure on every single ride, so don’t try to bring your 47″ child. I saw many tears of disappointment from shorter children.
- You cannot bring food into the park. I’d recommend eating as much as you can beforehand, or perhaps keeping your lunch in a cooler in the car. This is because I am a cheapskate with special dietary needs. Do bring your water bottle.
- The park is not very large, which can be nice if you have children with you. However, people who really only have fun trying new things may get bored within a couple of hours. If you can have fun going on the same slides a lot of times, you’ll love it.
- Everything can be a little confusing if you haven’t been there before. Find out height requirements before getting in line, and ask other riders where to go and if you need a raft. The park employees often can’t be reached until you have already waited in line.
- The water slides will work for your youngish elementary school child if she or he meets the height limits. Selah is not an overly bold child, and she loved them.
- Lockers are expensive. Bring the smallest amount of stuff you can (sunblock, chapstick, some cash, etc.) and then go to the cheaper lockers ($10) by the wave pool (the family lockers at the front gate are a jaw-dropping $20). There is a small refund for turning the key back in. You can carry your water and shoes around with you (or anything else you don’t think anyone would want to steal). We ended up selling our locker key for the amount of the refund to someone waiting in line for a locker.
- We got there 30 minutes before opening and there was still a bit of a line to get through security. We did snag a good parking spot, and we were able to basically just walk onto the water slides without waiting. As time went by, the lines got longer and longer, and it got more and more difficult to get a hold of an inner tube on the river ride. It also wound up being something like 110 degrees that day, but since we went early, I never felt too hot since we stayed wet and didn’t have long lines.
- Parking is $10.
- If your child is afraid of the water, it might be best to wait. If your 48″ child is a nonswimmer, it also might be best to wait.
- Wear a comfortable swim suit that won’t fall off. Put on sunscreen before you go and then reapply periodically. There is some small amount of shade, but not while you’re on the actual rides or in the pool.
- If you will go twice, buy a season pass. It is only $10-20 more, depending on the kind, and it includes entry to the California State Fair. Regular admission is $30.99 for people over 48″ and $20.99 for those under. Kids under 2 are free. But you also have to be able to talk them into wearing life jackets.
So, all in all, I had a good time. But next time, I might only bring children over 48″ tall.
So Much More Frightening than a Water Slide