GROWING UP IN THE NEVADA DESERT, nothing cut through the 110-degree stupor like a family outing to Wet and Wild, the local water park. Despite my debilitating fear of heights, precious few things kept me from trudging up the trillions of stairs, looking down, and immediately regretting my decision before being forcibly pushed into the tube by the burly guy regulating human pileups. It was all worth it for the rush of shooting out the bottom of the slide, flying a few feet, and performing a spectacular belly flop into the pool below.
But as I’ve grown older, the slides have seemed smaller, the ride less an epic adventure and more a soggy disappointment — so after my last sad, wet journey to some tiny water park in the middle of nowhere, I vowed to find a slide that lived up to the excitement, the fear, and the joy of my childhood.
Here are 18 of the world’s most insane, epic, and terrifying waterslides.
Scorpion’s Tail - Noah’s Ark Waterpark, Wisconsin
The Scorpion’s Tail at Noah’s Ark Waterpark is a frightening waterslide, with its huge loop and clear plastic tubing. Adding to the intimidation factor is the entrance to the slide—rather than sliding into the tube on your ass like a normal waterslide, you step into a vertical capsule and the floor drops out beneath you with no warning whatsoever. You immediately drop TEN STORIES before entering the loop at roughly 50 feet per second, and you’re done with the 400-foot-long slide in six seconds flat. Holy shit.
Master Blaster - Atlantis The Palm Resort, Dubai
These slides are actually kind of beautiful, which is pretty unusual for waterslides. Each of the four slides starts from a different level of a Mayan pyramid, and shoots riders off all over the park. The big feature of Master Blaster coasters (which seems to be more of a brand than a ride name) is their powerful streams of water that actually propel riders uphill. And as if all that wasn’t cool enough, the whole park is located on the Palm Jumierah—the man-made island formation in the shape of a date palm.
Epic Plunge - Norwegian Cruise Line
This one is double cool, because not only is it an epic waterslide, but it’s also on a boat. Yep, one of the best waterslides in the world is on a ship belonging to the Norwegian Cruise Line. The slide extends over almost half of the ship’s length before dropping riders down into a huge bowl and eventually ejecting them into a top-deck swimming pool.
King Cobra - Six Flags, New Jersey
If you lined up the pictures of every slide on this list and told me to choose “the one,” the King Cobra would be my pick every time. Though it’s only about 60 feet tall, the Cobra is a one-of-a-kind raft racer, where riders hurtle through the snake’s coils and shoot down a huge drop before flipping up into its mouth. The raft then slides back and forth in the gigantic half-pipe until finally coming to a stop at the base of the animal’s hood. The winner of the race is well-rewarded, too, because the faster you’re going, the further you’ll be able to fly into the mouth of the beast.
Bulletbowl - The Watercube, Beijing
The Beijing National Aquatics Center, constructed for the 2008 Summer Olympics, is known to the locals simply as “The Watercube,” and if you’ve ever seen it, it’s pretty obvious why. But since the Olympics, the Watercube has undergone massive renovations, and rather than a series of Olympic swimming and diving pools, it now contains a huge water park. The Bulletbowl is one of the crown jewels of the magic-themed water park, and contains one of the smallest bowls (for the fastest speeds) of any water slide in the world.
Boeing 747 - Evergreen Wings and Waves Waterpark, Oregon
Air-and-space museums were my absolute favorite when I was a kid. No number of classical Renaissance paintings could ever compare to seeing the Spirit of Saint Louis and the Lunar Lander, or walking through the inside of an actual space shuttle. But the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in Oregon has done all others one better—it’s got its own waterpark. The Boeing 747 water slide is crafted from a real retired airplane, and riders get a great view of the surrounding area as they follow the curves of the slide across the museum’s roof.
Leap of Faith - Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas
This might be my favorite waterslide on the list. Leap of Faith in the Bahamas begins at the top of a life-sized Mayan pyramid and propels riders over a 60ft freefall. The drop ends in a translucent, underwater tunnel, which travels through a one-of-a-kind shark-filled lagoon, in what has to be the single coolest aquarium experience of all time. (The company assures prospective riders that the sharks are not interested in chewing on the tunnel tube.)
Insano - Beach Park, Brazil
Insano is the tallest, fastest waterslide ever built. It stands over 130 feet high, but the ride only lasts about four or five seconds because your body is rocketing back towards the earth at a brain-melting 65mph. Firsthand accounts say that the ride is so steep, and you’re moving so fast, that your body doesn’t actually make contact with the slide until you get to the bottom—you just fall through the air.
Aquaduck - Disney Cruise Ships
Thought it’s technically classified as a water coaster and not a waterslide, the Aquaduck is one of the most awesome rides on this list. Installed on several of the Disney Cruise ships, the ‘duck covers four decks and propels raft-riders up and over hills through crystal-clear tubing (which, at one point in the ride, extends 12 feet over the side of the ship, 150 feet above the open ocean).
Head First Racer - Chimelong Waterpark, China
Eight identical side-by-side slides start 65 feet up, complete a full circle, and straighten out for a big splash-down following an arrow-straight drop. You just pick your favorite slide at the top and see if you can beat seven of your friends (or seven strangers, if none of your friends are brave enough to ride with you). As implied by the name, you ride this slide penguin-style.
Toboggan - Città del Mare, Sicily
Let’s face it—most waterslides aren’t all that pretty. More often than not, they look like a circus clown’s balloon failure, all lumpy plastic and loop-the-loops. But not the Toboggan slide at the Città del Mare resort in Italy. Located on the coast of Sicily, this slide is the same bright blue as the ocean surrounding it. It descends three tiers of sheer, rocky cliffs before dropping riders into the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean.
The Mammoth - Splashin’ Safari, Indiana
The Mammoth at Splashin’ Safari is aptly named—it is HUGE! The coaster itself covers over three acres and is the longest water ride in the world, but the raft ride is where it gets its massive reputation. First, you ride your little round boat up a seven-story ramp on a gigantic conveyor belt. Then you travel just under half a mile, over hills, through dark tunnels, and under the open sky.
Jumeirah Sceirah - Wild Wadi Waterpark, Dubai
Jumeirah Sceirah, in Wild Wadi Waterpark in Dubai, was remodeled just this year and is one of the tallest and fastest vertical-drop waterslides outside of the US. From the 105ft tower, riders drop almost straight down and travel the full 350 feet of the slide in a matter of seconds, at top speeds of over 50mph. The slide tower itself is famed for its fantastic views of some of Dubai’s best-known structures, including the Burj Al Arab.
The Cyclone - World Waterpark, Canada
World Waterpark in Canada’s West Edmonton Mall is open year round, which must be nice when outdoor temperatures dip to 40 below. The Cyclone was the first slide with a 360-degree loop built in Canada, which has made it quite a popular attraction. It drops riders into a 55ft freefall before shooting them up into the nearly-vertical loop and then dropping them into the pool.
Cliffhanger / F5 Twin Twisters - Schlitterbahn, Texas
This pair of waterslides is as different as night and day. The Cliffhanger is an open-air, nearly vertical chute that plunges riders 80 feet toward the earth at speeds of up to 35mph before depositing them in the pool. The F5 Twin Twisters (currently being remodeled as the “Screaming Serpents”), are a pair of enclosed tubes that wind around one another like DNA, hurling riders through fog and lights on their way to the serpents’ mouths.
Twister and Speedy - Sonnentherme Lutzmannsburg Thermal Spa, Austria
These slides are evenly matched, though with different strengths: Speedy has, of course, speed, while Twister has distance. Speedy starts 75 feet in the air and traverses over 460 feet of tubing, while Twister is a little more gentle but extends over 660 feet. Plus, it’s pretty fantastical how they wind around that tower like big cartoon snakes.
Tantrum Alley - Wild Wadi Waterpark, Dubai
Another ride from Wild Wadi in Dubai, Tantrum Alley was the first waterslide in the world to contain three funnels. Four-person rafts are subjected to two huge drops, and then tumbled in all directions in what the park’s website calls the “tornadoes.” As intense as that sounds, it’s not as scary as it looks, as those big striped bowls aren’t part of Tantrum Alley but instead belong to its sister slide, the Burj Surj.
Summit Tower - Calypso Park, Canada
Another slide found in Canada, Summit Tower in Calypso Park is the tallest free-standing waterslide in North America. The tower provides the base for no fewer than 10 waterslides, all of which look totally amazing. Four slides known as the “Accelerators” start all the way at the top of the tower (90 feet up) and travel straight down over bumps and drops. Four more, called the “Family Twisters,” start at a friendlier 30ft height and wind their way back to the ground for a gentler ride. And finally, two matching and intertwined “AquaLoops” start 55 feet up and shoot the most daring watersliders through 360-degree loops.
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