I was 18 when I first went on a water slide. I went to Magaluff on a Twenties Holiday with my best friend from school. I hated everything about it apart from the water park, which was amazing. There’s something about the exhilarating plunge into cold water on a hot day that I loved. I went to University in Stoke-On-Trent and discovered to my delight that it was home to Britain’s biggest indoor water park.* Now that I am a grown up and have a son we sometimes take a ‘waterpark day’ We select a day when his school is closed and head to Stoke-On-Trent where there are now two waterparks. I found myself waiting with anticipation for him to be old enough to enjoy the experience.
Waterworld is the oldest (previously Britain’s biggest indoor waterpark). It was built at Festival Park as a legacy from the second of Britain’s national garden festivals. It is council owned and therefore reasonably priced (although the food and service are terrible). This is my favourite park as the slides are genuinely terrifying.
Water-roller coaster. Sit on a large inflatable tyre and be pushed uphill by water-jets before rushing down the slopes. This feels a little like an old fashioned wooden rollercoaster of the type still preserved at Blackpool Pleasure Beach but sadly banished from most theme parks.
Red chute of doom: this is a very very steep long slide; to get to it you must climb to the level of the other slides then ascend a narrow ladder. It feels like plummeting down a sheer drop. In pitch black.
Space bowl: this begins as a fairly normal slide but it ends in a bowl, you rattle around the edges before dropping into a tank of water. There is this strange moment where you have to let yourself go. It’s a little like those charity boxes where you put a coin in and then watch it spin around the edge before dropping into the hole.
Three chutes; these are all equally good. The chutes tend to blur a little in my mind, on a quiet day we race up the spiral stairs to zoom back down, on a busy day the teaming people circling up the spiral staircase remind me of the circles of hell and I briefly remember that truly we are damned before the rush of the slide empties my mind.
Racing slides four different coloured, fairly fast open slides, placed next to each other great for family races.
Other attractions: the children’s area is a little tame but has some good climbing and small slides, there is a wave machine and some rapids. The outdoor pool is heated.
Alton Towers Water Park
This is more expensive, about a third more and slightly harder to get to. It feels cleaner, it’s newer, and the food and service are noticeably better.
Water Roller Coaster (mega blaster) this is faster than the one at Waterworld, longer with more dark stretches. The cushion is more inclined to spin. My son after riding it said ‘it was brilliant but now I’m a nervous wreck.’ It is possible to ride as a pair on a double cushion, which cannot turn around and is therefore slightly less alarming. But still feels very much like riding a roller coaster.
These are relatively indistinguishable; both include some lighting effects and dark sections. Both made me feel slightly queasy; but I did go on 8 times which could explain it!
Flash Floods: these slides were absolutely amazing! The entrance is indoors but you step into a big pool of warm water outdoors and then slide down to another pool before joining a slide to the final pool. At each pool you select from a number of open or covered slides. The water is warm but the air was cold on the March day we visited. The slides are fairly gently but great fun none the less. The outdoor pool is better than Waterworld with more landscaping around the area. There is an outdoor spa type pool but we didn’t linger long
The rapids here were much slower than at Waterworld and customers were drifting around on inflatable’s to be suddenly surprised by the occasional waterfall.
The play area is much better than at Waterworld with a series of rope bridges and climbing nets, our feet and hands were sore from the scramble nets but still we chased each other up for one last descent. There are water cannons to fire at passers-by and various buckets to pour over unsuspecting heads. The best bit was a beach type area of cushioned ground where children played. Overhead a giant bucket filled with water, just before it tipped an alarm would go off and it would cascade over the children who cavorted in amazed joy (and some adults).
Which would I recommend? Both, but either will certainly make a trip to Stoke-On-Trent memorable.
*it no longer advertises this distinction