You’ve surely heard the song. It’s practically a summer radio anthem in Central Texas. In fact, I bet it’s getting stuck in your head right now. “The hottest, coolest time in Texas, come play-ay-ay. Schlitterbahn-bahn!” I thought maybe, just maybe, by visiting the state’s most popular water park, perhaps that song would finally dislodge itself from my brain. I was mistaken, but that’s okay. My friends and I had a blast on a recent Saturday at Schlitterbahn.
For those of you who don’t listen to the radio or who have been living on another planet, there are actually two Schlitterbahn parks: the original in New Braunfels, which my friends and I visited, and the Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark in South Padre Island. The name “Schlitterbahn,” according to the extremely enthusiastic staff member stationed on our shuttle bus, is German for “slippery road.” And back in 1979, when the park first opened in New Braunfels, there were only four water slides that originated from a German-style tower modeled after the Bergfried Guard Tower at Solms Castle in Braunfels, Germany, the town where many of the original New Braunfels settlers came from. New rides were added each year until all 40 acres of the site were filled. In 1991 a second section, Schlitterbahn East, opened, increasing the size of the park to 65 acres.
On our excursion—the particular Saturday a bit chilly for hanging out in the water—we decided to act like kids the whole day and try everything. If you’ve ever been to Schlitterbahn, you know that it is nearly impossible to fit in all the rides in one day, but neither the bitter cold, nor the lack of time, could dampen our spirits. We were ready. We left our bags unattended—although there are lockers available—and hit the tube chutes, which proved consistently fun. I kept getting stuck and passed up by children after the downhill parts of the rides, but a few kicks and some help from more fortunate riders kept me going. The Cliffhanger even lets you pick two endings, a dramatic drop or a twisting tunnel to the Comal River. If it’s racing you’re into, check out the Banzai Pipeline, twin four-story tunnel slides that splash into a pool in the Schlitterbahn West section.
Schlitterbahn is billed as “America’s Number One Waterpark” by the Travel Channel for good reason. Parking is free and you can bring your own picnic and claim a spot at one of the many tables throughout the park. The best part, though, is that the rides cater to all ages and swimming levels—life jackets and children’s tubes can be rented for weaker swimmers.
After lots of field testing, we decided that our favorite rides were the Torrent, a combination of a lazy river and a wave pool, and the Master Blaster, a water coaster that blasts you every which way. Judging by the long lines, lots of people agree. A thumbs-down went to the Der Bahn Body Slides, which we likened to sliding down sandpaper.
By the end of the day we were completely exhausted, a little bit sunburned, and still humming the dreaded theme song. But, I have to admit, we did have one of the hottest, coolest times in Texas.