A trip to the waterslide when I was a kid was always about the pursuit of a single goal: To hit a curve with enough momentum to fly up and out and onto the grass.
Never happened, of course, not to me or anyone I knew, but we were ignorant of the laws of physics then, and so the world was rich with possibility.
These were the old-school waterslides — a concrete chute built into a hillside, with a concrete ramp to the top and a shallow little pool at the bottom. Burns Park had one, but I remember more often going to the one in Harrison, where my grandparents lived and where summer visits meant getting pretty much whatever we asked for.
Those slides are mostly gone now — Harrison’s has disappeared altogether, and Burns Park’s has been shuttered for nearly a decade because the city couldn’t afford to maintain it — but one of the state’s original slides is still in operation at Willow Springs, a water park south of Little Rock that opened almost 80 years ago. It’s a bargain by water park standards — $12 for adults, $9 for children, and you can bring your own food and drink. The park opens for weekends on May 5 and daily beginning May 19.
For the new-fangled types of waterslides — the kind that make anyone over 30 a bit weak in the knees on the climb up — North Little Rock’s Wild River Country opens for weekends only May 13, and daily beginning May 25. Tickets are $25 for adults, $18 for kids 8 and under.
Head south, and you can choose from the splurge — Crystal Falls in Hot Springs, $38 for adults and $28 for kids — or the bargain, Arkadelphia’s Aquatic Park, which has a single 150-foot waterslide but only costs $4 for adults and $3 for kids.
If you’re traveling north, Branson is home to both White Water, a huge outdoor water park ($31 and $26, opening May 26), and Splash Country, a smaller indoor/outdoor water park at the Grand Country resort ($15 admission).