Friday, August 14, 2009

Miscellany: Schlitterbahn Galveston

The Galveston branch of the Schlitterbahn family of waterparks is sort of a simplified, sterilized version of the original that my family and I visited a couple of years ago. That is, everything that made the New Braunfels park so idiosyncratic and special - the strange bifurcated layout, the use of natural spring water in some of the rides, the relatively out-of-the-way location - has been edited out for a smoother but less interesting experience.

The Galveston Schlitterbahn is a convenient hour-long drive from Houston, and it's nestled in the middle of Galveston Island. It's actually open for most of the year (there's a heated indoor season that features a climate controlled lazy river), but we ventured into the park in the middle of a Texas summer. If you ever wondered what would happen if you combined screaming schoolkids, water slides, and 90+ degree heat (and a heat index in the triple digits), well, it ain't always pretty.

In terms of visitor friendliness, Schlitterbahn Galveston is undeniably better-equipped than its predecessor, with a more mature layout and faster lines. Even with a very crowded park, wait times seemed reasonable for just about everything but the concession stand (and I can't blame Schlitterbahn when a class of thirty kids lines up in front of me). The designers have also managed to cram a lot of rides in a rather small space - each slide tower has several slides that offer differing experiences, even if some are duds (one of the family tube chutes had a boring straight layout). The walk between attractions is short, and the lazy river can transport you almost directly to most of them.

Unfortunately, my favorite ride in the New Braunfels Schlitterbahn, the Master Blaster, did not make the leap to the Galveston location. The two small water coaster rides that were present did a poor job of replicating the one-of-a-kind experience of the true Master Blaster - a rush of giddy exhilaration and pants-soaking water immersion that remains the gold standard for water rides. There are certainly other good rides in the park (including various body slides and dizzying tube chutes) but nothing you can't find elsewhere. And that fact, more than anything else, is what makes Schlitterbahn Galveston an average waterpark.


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