A water park or waterpark is an amusement park that features water play areas such as swimming pools, water slides, splash pads, water playgrounds, and lazy rivers, as well as areas for bathing, swimming, and other barefoot environments. Modern water parks may also be equipped with some type of artificial surfing or bodyboarding environment, such as a wave pool or flowrider.
Water parks have grown in popularity since their introduction in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The United States has the largest and most concentrated water park market, with over 1,000 water parks and dozens of new parks opening each year. Major organizations are the IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) and WWA (World Waterpark Association), which is the industry trade association.
Water parks which emerge from spas tend to more closely resemble mountain resorts, as they become year-round destinations. For example, Splash Universe Water Park Resort is themed to match the community in which it is located. The theme is intended to enhance the community's destination appeal. Therefore, the amusement and leisure-time industry is becoming more concentrated, as winter sports are becoming common themes in summertime water recreation.
A process of concentration can be observed in the hybrid versions of theme-, amusement-, and water parks. Some water parks are more spa-oriented. For example, SchwabenQuellen has no water slides; it has instead many saunas, steam rooms, "adventure showers", and relaxation-oriented water play areas.
The first-ever indoor water park was built in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in 1985 at the West Edmonton Mall as part of the $12.2-billion-dollar Phase III expansion. World Waterpark is the world's largest indoor water park, at over 655,550 sq ft (60,903 m2) in size. It includes the world's largest indoor wave pool, water slides of varying degrees, tube rides, bungee jumping, and hot tubs. Tropical Islands Resort (Germany), with an area of 510,000 sq ft (47,000 m2), is currently the second largest indoor water park in the world.
With five indoor water parks, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin is recognized as the "Water Park Capital of the World". It showcases several of America's largest indoor and outdoor water parks, such as Noah's Ark Water Park. Indoor water parks in Wisconsin Dells debuted in 1994 after the Polynesian Resort Hotel built the first one in the U.S.
Success in extending the tourist season and turning water park resorts into vacation destinations has resulted in tremendous industry growth. Usually, resort hotels featuring massive indoor water parks have been reserved for overnight guests. Companies like Great Wolf Resorts/Great Wolf Lodge and Kalahari Resorts have branched out from their origin in Wisconsin Dells to open new locations around the country. Mt. Olympus Theme and Water Park (formerly Family Land) is another huge water park in the Dells.
The growth of indoor water parks have encouraged leisure centres across the world to begin implementing features of waterparks into their facilities, including slides and lazy rivers.