Oddly, up until last weekend, I had gone to all of the water parks in The Dells except Noah's Ark, which has been in existence since 1979 and is the largest outdoor water park in America.
For people like myself who love The Dells, going to Noah's Ark is almost a rite of passage, and I'm surprised it took me so long to check it out.
First of all, I was blown away by the large size of Noah's Ark. It's 70 acres and features 51 water rides, two wave pools and two endless rivers. To me, it felt more like Six Flags Great America than a water park.
Because of the ride range of water experiences available, Noah's Ark really will appeal to people of all ages. For those still wearing Lil' Swimmers, there are multiple waterplay areas including the tadpole kiddie area, which is colorful, interactive and very shallow, and for those who seek a moderate level of water thrills, the zip lines are fun as well as many other "middle of the road" slides like the four-person Kowabunga and the classic bumper boats.
For the ultimate thrill seekers, the new Quadzilla, Black Anaconda and Scorpion's Tale are the lines to get in. We tried all of the slides, and found the Black Anaconda to be our favorite because it's very much like a water roller coaster â€“ in fact, it's called a "watercoaster" â€“ and it's 1/4-mile long.
There's also a new 4-D theater featuring a part-ride / part "eye-popping" movie experience. For some unknown reason, we did not try this one, but will certainly do so next time.
The lines definitely get long, so marketing director Amy Muller suggests coming to Noah's Ark for the whole day, but coming and going to avoid the midday peak time.
Visitors can leave the water park with a wristband, and many people choose to tailgate, which is permitted. Otherwise, food options include the usual fair-type foods: burgers, hot dogs, fries and sweets like cotton candy, funnel cakes and fudge. There's also a few outdoor bars and a new barbecue restaurant.
It's also less crowded on rainy or cooler summer days. As long as it's not storming and there's no lightning, Noah's Ark stays open during summer rains. "You'll get the run of the park," says Muller.
Also, Noah's Ark offers wetsuits for free, with a $30 deposit. They come in all different sizes and are handy for people visiting at the beginning or end of the season.
Be sure to bring a towel. Noah's Ark does not rent towels, but they are for sale for $10-$18 in the gift shop. Wear flip-flops or water shoes, too, because there's lots of walking on blacktop in between attractions. Lockers are also available.
We deeply appreciated the availability of chairs / seating inside the park. Although it was a warm, busy day, we never had a problem finding a table or chairs and usually in the shade. We also appreciated how many lifeguards were on duty. Twice, we saw a lifeguard in action and were amazed by how swiftly they brought the struggling swimmer to safety.
Ironically, however, the event that had the most impact on us had nothing to do with water. We witnessed a security guard ask a man with a large swastika tattoo on his chest to leave the park. The man did not put up a fight, but said a few strong words, put his shirt on and left.
We had a conversation with the kids about what happened, and thanked the security guard for asking the man to leave.
"Of course," he said. "That's very offensive."
Tickets to Noah's Ark cost $36.99 plus tax. Kids who are 47 inches or shorter are $28.99 plus tax and kids 2 and under are free.
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