Surprise—there are recreational water attractions in the Arizona desert.
Among the most pulse-pounding are the elaborate water parks, of which there are three in the Phoenix area:
•At Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa, patrons can tube the Lazy River, swoosh through several vertical drops, or purposely crash motorized innertubes in the bumper boat tank.
•One of the scariest innertube rides at Tempe’s Big Surf is the Black Hole, so named because the enclosed slide doesn’t let in any natural light.
•Wet ’n’ Wild has a twin “water coaster” that shoots innertube riders uphill as well as through tunnels and hairpin turns in matching, side-by-side chutes. Bring a friend or pretend rival to race against.
Tubing down the Salt River inside Tonto National Forest is more of an undertaking than a day at a water park, but the natural scenery is sublime. For peace of mind, go only when confident in the swimming abilities of everyone in your party; rapids are rare, but you want to know that an errant flip will be funny, not scary. Wear tennies or Tevas and high SPF, tie together everyone’s rental tubes, and take advantage of Salt River Recreation’s bus dropoffs, pickups and general expertise.
For children who’ve mastered walking but not yet swimming, splash pads are the way to go. Jet-powered water shoots up from sidewalks but poses no tripping hazards, and access is free. Shopping centers with splash pads include Kierland Commons, Scottsdale Quarter, Desert Ridge Marketplace, Tempe Marketplace, and SanTan Village in Gilbert. Civic Space Park in downtown Phoenix has one, as does Riverview Park next to the new Chicago Cubs spring training stadium in Mesa. There’s even one at the Phoenix Zoo, an amenity included with admission to the grounds.