It always started with the smell of sunscreen and what seemed like a never-ending journey across the blacktop. In reality, the stroll from my parents’ car to the entrance of the park probably took less than five minutes, but the wait was unbearable for any 8-year-old. Wet 'n Wild was on the other side of those front gates, and that promised a day of water slides, Dippin’ Dots and the hope that you’d rise to the occasion—in height and courage—to finally ride that damn Der Stuka.
I never did brave the beast; the park closed in September 2004 before I could. But after nine years, our city’s water-park drought will end this summer with the arrival of a whole new Wet ’n’ Wild May 25 for season pass-holders and June 3 for everyone.
I grew up during the old park’s era, so my summers were synonymous with the place. I started off splashing in the kiddie pool, tackling the Bubble Up and begging my parents to take me on the Black Hole. By my teens, I knew all of Wet ’n’ Wild’s tricks—which lines filled up fastest, when to use the Lazy River to haul ass across the park, how to maximize your time on the Raging Rapids. I had conquered almost every ride. My friends and I would purchase season passes and sometimes hit the park two, three times a week. And we weren’t alone. Back then, Wet ’n’ Wild was like day camp for kids too old for day camp.
But enough about yesteryear. There’s a whole new park now, with new rides and a new layout just waiting to be explored. The Stuka? It’s now called the Canyon Cliffs (because there are two of them). Speaking of classics, Dippin’ Dots will return in June. So you can’t get your fix opening weekend, but soon, my water-park-geek brethren.
Some rides have been preserved, with updated names. The Royal Flush is now Extreme; the Lazy River has morphed into the Colorado Cooler; the kiddie area has been renamed Splash Island. The Zipp Zapp Zoom slides sound a lot like the old park’s Whitewater and Black Hole slides, and the wave pool is now called Red Rock Bay; it’ll be your meet-up point if the new park’s layout is anything like the old one’s.
There are new thrills, too. The Rattler features descents of more than 40 feet; the Constrictor has spirals up to 18 miles an hour. As for the Hoover Half Pipe, it’s exactly what it sounds like. I’m even excited for Desert Racers, and yes, I know it looks like a collection of children’s slides.
This weekend’s grand opening has been a long time coming, and I know I’m not the only one eager to get my feet wet. Slap on the SPF, Las Vegas; it’s time to get wet and wild again.