The Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort is the hallmark attraction in New Braunfels, Texas. It’s supposedly so great, even the locals purchase season passes and ride the slides regularly, so it’s not just a tourist trap. But is Schlitterbahn really worth the hefty price tag? I’d like to share my less-than-stellar experience at a park that is supposedly one of the best in the United States.
Drawback 1:The Price Tag
Schlitterbahn’s entry level ticket price at the door is $42.99. You can save $2 by purchasing online, but this isn’t much near as much of a savings as other parks, like Six Flags, offers. This entitles you to nothing more than water slide and kiddie ride use at Schlitterbahn’s three park sections, the Blastenhoff, Surfenburg and Schlitterbahn West.
If you’d like a little more to show for your money, you can upgrade your ticket to $60.97 per person and receive a pair of water shoes and a souvenir cup, which entitles you to free refills all day long.
Drawback 2: The Long Lines
“Schlitterbahn” is almost synonymous will “insanely long waiting lines.” This is partially due to Schlitterbahn’s policy of “hiring lifeguards in bulk and firing lifeguards in bulk,” as I’ve been told.
Schlitterbahn’s lifeguards are perhaps the worst on earth – at least the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to several waterparks. They mosey from one side of the slide to the next, slowly dumping a new raft onto the top of the slide long after the previous rider has reached the bottom of the slide. Then they finally get around to loading the next passenger – all of which could’ve been done immediately after the previous rider descended the slide.
They might blame the Texas heat for their lethargy, but it’s obviously a deeper apathy than that. Most of the lifeguards there, at least the entry level ones, just really don’t care how long you have to stand in line while they sloth around.
The Schlitterbahn lifeguards could easily shave 20-30 seconds off each rider’s wait time by working just a little more efficiently. But since they don’t, riders must wait in line for 30 minutes to two hours (yes, that’s right, two hours) for a slide that’s barely worth five minutes of wait in the first place. At the end of the season and early in the morning, I had to stand in line 30 minutes for one slide and one hour for the next. Think how bad it gets in the middle of the high season at 1:00 in the afternoon!
Drawback 3: Lame Rides
For a waterpark that receives such accolades from the likes of the Travel Channel and nationwide family magazines, I was expecting more thrilling rides. Instead, I encountered perhaps the slowest, lamest rides I’ve ever had the opportunity to ascend.
The Master Blaster, located in Blastenhoff Park, was given the nation’s highest “family fun” rating by a renowned travel organization. After waiting in line for half an hour, I finally mounted my raft and prepared myself for high speeds and steep drops.
I got nothing of the sort.
What I did receive were several dousing of chilly water on the head and a few surges of water below my seat to launch me into the next tunnel – because there wasn’t enough momentum from the ride’s painfully slow speed to launch me without a little help. I spent more time yawning than enjoying it. Master Blaster was really that bad.
Drawback 4: Expensive Locker Rentals
If you’re going to buy any food or upfront tickets at the Schlitterbahn, you’ll have to bring a credit card and ID. And if you want those two items to stay dry, guess what you’ll be renting next – a locker.
But locker rates here are incredibly expensive. You must pay $7 for a locker and $2 for the refundable deposit, which makes a $9 upfront fee. So forget about the $1 or less lockers you get at theme parks. Just make sure whatever you bring will all fit in one locker, or you’ll be forking out for two.
The Positive Side
Not everything at the Schlitterbahn was horrible. Here’s some of the better aspects of the park.
Benefit 1: Free Tram Rides
Since Schlitterbahn is spread out over several city blocks, Schlitterbahn offers free tram rides from the newer park installments, Blastenhoff and Surfenburg, to Schlitterbahn West, the original side of the park. The ride isn’t too long, and the tram runs continually, so you’re never stuck waiting more than about 10 minutes for the driver to take off.
Benefit 2: A Couple Marginal Slides
If you’re going to fork out $40 or more for tickets, you might as well ride the worthwhile rides as many times as possible. The Downhill Racer, found at the entrance of Schlitterbahn West, is the best ride in the park. Not only do the lines move quickly, the slide is more unique. Instead of riding down a tube or body slide, you lay down on your stomach atop a soft, magic carpet style mat with handles.
As soon as the gates open, you can race an opponent down one of four steep, wavy slides. If you lift up the front of the mat as you slide, you can even get airborne, which adds to the fun. The ride is very short, but since the line moves fast, you can ride again and again.
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