My husband and I are in the enviable position of having lots of free time together with our family this summer. We decided early on to make the most of it, and to enter the ranks of staycationers who explore places around their home base whenever fancy strikes.
Well, fancy struck when we discovered a large outdoor waterpark close to home! Just an hour and a quarter away from downtown Toronto is Bingemans’ Big Splash in Kitchener-Waterloo, which boasts 11 waterslides, a Spray ‘n Play complex, and a wave pool. We knew this would be a sweet spot for our family as everyone loves to swim, and Mom and Dad just as happy to go down the slides as the kids are.
Tickets to Big Splash don’t just gain entry into the waterpark, but also include its indoor play area, arcade, rock wall and ropes course. You have to walk through the interior areas to access the waterpark, and we started our day indoors. These interior areas are noisy and a bit faded but still filled with activity. We bypassed the arcade (to the children’s protest), but made full use of the other facilities. It was a surprise how long the kids worked on the rock wall and ropes course (the latter was a first for us).
Then we were hungry! There’s a concession stand for pizza and burgers, but we opted to eat instead at the Boston Pizza restaurant within the amusement centre. We lingered here – a tactical error – as it took time away from the waterpark, which we could tell from the moment we stepped outdoors was going to be teeming with fun. We passed quickly through the dingy bathroom/changeroom area and faced a large cheerful pool with tantalizing slides nearby.
Some of our crew headed immediately to the waterslides and were rewarded with an array of big, thrilling slides. Careening down these in the bright summer sun lit up their faces completely.
Our littlest was too young to go down the big waterslides (48″ height requirement), so we hung out in the pool. Big enough to accommodate the crowds, the pool was interesting for the intermittent waves, and a couple of tunneling areas off the side. There is also the Spray ‘n Play area, with its geyser jets, smaller slides, and 1200-gallon tipping bucket – there was lots to enjoy for all ages.
The pool closed too soon for us at 7pm. Luckily we discovered we could play mini-golf until 8pm so we headed down the hill to tee up.
We played right until closing time, but still couldn’t complete the two 18 hold mini golf rounds. After all the activity of the play area and waterpark, the mini golf offered a lovely, quieter time and was a perfect way to end the day. The pretty mini golf area is also treed and shady, and would be pleasant even on very hot and sunny days.
From my family’s adventure at Big Splash, here are my 7 tips for making the most of a trip out.
1. Plan Your Day. There’s the waterpark, but remember your admission also includes the indoor play area, rock climbing, the ropes course, the arcade, and mini golf. I thought it would be wise to do the indoor stuff first, to avoid being wet/uncomfortable/tired after swimming. But next time I would do the waterpark first, because it really is the star of the show, and see what we could fit in afterward. Bring a change of clothes, so you’ll be comfortable throughout the day.
2. Get There Early. You’ll get good parking (free) and maximize the day at the park. There is a ton to do, and you’ll be glad to have as much time to explore as you can. Big Splash is open from 10am to 7pm.
3. Consider Extras and Your Budget. Extra costs could include food, bowling, and the arcade. Our kids love bowling but there was so much else to do that we bypassed this extra activity/cost. We also said no to the arcade. You can still have a full day of varied experiences for just the admission ticket prices (day passes for adults are $28, kids over 48″ tall and seniors are $18, and kids under 2 are free).
4. Bring Your Own Food. Big Splash surprised me by allowing guests to bring their own food and drinks. You can eat well at an amusement park and save a ton of money and time – score! I love saving money, but the time factor is just as important when doing a day trip staycation like we did – in retrospect I would gladly have swapped our restaurant time for more waterplay.
5. Change Outside. Expect barebones changerooms (no benches). If your kids are open to it, it’s actually easier to make a towel tent and change outside.
6. Do Mini-Golf Last. The shade means it’s good anytime during the day, but since it’s open for an hour after the waterpark, you can spend more time in the water if mini-golf comes after.
7. Bring pyjamas. Especially if you are staycationing/daytripping like we were, a full day of activity like that promised at Big Splash will leave your family good and tired at the end of it. If you have a drive ahead of you, do a quick brushing of teeth and pyjama change before getting in the car and Big Splash will not only have shown you great daytime fun but also taken care of bedtime too.
Many thanks to Bingemans, which provided Plenty with complimentary admission to Big Splash. All opinions are my own.