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The Ultimate Guide to Wild Waves Theme & Water Park

Everything parents need to know before they go, from parking to attractions

Devon Hammer
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Published on: May 15, 2024

Hook's Lagoon water slides and spray features on a sunny day at Wild Waves Theme & Water Park near Seattle
Photo:
Courtesy Wild Waves Theme & Water Park

I vividly remember the bubbling excitement that filled the car as my siblings and I caught glimpses of the towering Wild Wave slides from the freeway back in the ‘90s. Fast forward to today, and I witness that same enthusiasm (and pleas for a visit) from my kids as we approach the sprawling park. Last August, I finally gave in and we headed out for their first trip right before the season’s end. As expected, it lived up to its long-standing reputation as a thrilling summer destination for Seattle-area kids.

Wild Waves Theme & Water Park

Wild Waves Theme & Water Park is Washington’s largest combination water and theme park and is located in Federal Way, just 30 minutes from Seattle. It has remained a mainstay for summer fun in the Seattle area for decades. The theme park portion opened in 1977, while the water park addition opened in 1984. The theme park houses everything from the kiddie Frog Hopper to the huge Wild Thing roller coaster. The water park features tons of water slides, a wave pool, a lazy river and lots more. The park is open seasonally from May 18–Sept. 8.

An aerial view of Wild Waves Theme and Water Park near Seattle
An aerial view of Wild Waves Theme & Water Park. Photo: courtesy Wild Waves Theme & Water Park

Planning your visit to Wild Waves

Planning ahead for your day at Wild Waves will make it easier to enjoy the park to the fullest once you’re there.

When to arrive at the park

Our visit induced something I call “Disneyland magic,” where the kids’ spirits were so high, not a whine or complaint were heard the whole day. I headed to the park with my kids (ages 6 and 8) and their cousins (ages 8 and 11) at opening time on a cloudy, 65-degree Monday in August. If you plan to get there at opening, show up about 30 minutes before the 11 a.m. opening time. Then you won’t be waiting in a long line to get in and can score a nice close parking spot (which will come in handy for reasons I will explain later). For cars and trucks, parking at Wild Waves is $20 per day.

If you can swing it, I suggest a weekday visit. Given we went on a cloudy Monday and still ran into quite a few lines, I imagine there is a lot of waiting on a weekend.

Three kids walking into the entrance of Wild Waves Theme and Water Park near Seattle
Get to Wild Waves early to avoid lines at opening. Photo: Devon Hammer

What to bring to Wild Waves

The second we walked through the gate, my son’s shirt, shoes and socks practically evaporated off of him, he was so pumped. I was literally catching shoes and clothing items flying off of him. You will need towels, extra clothes in case stuff gets wet, sunscreen and goggles (if you have goggle-wearing kids). You can save space by skipping the life jackets, since the park has toddler to adult sizes available for use.

There are lockers for rent but they aren’t cheap. We had large bags containing all of our stuff but at a going rate of $27 (for the largest locker size), we decided to risk it and stash our bags somewhere. We found some lawn chairs near Hook’s Lagoon and used them as a home base to keep our stuff together.

I carried a fanny pack for my phone, keys and credit cards but wished I had invested in one of those waterproof phone lanyards you can find for $10 on Amazon. I am embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve wished I had one but I am still too cheap to purchase — next time.

Families walking around Wild Waves theme park
Families have fun exploring all the park has to offer. Photo: Devon Hammer

What to eat at Wild Waves

Unfortunately, outside food and beverages (aside from water, baby food, formula and milk) are not allowed inside the park. We took a mid-day break and got a bunch of chicken strips, burgers and fries from a stand near the wave pool. Don’t expect to find anything healthy or gourmet from the various carnival-style vendors, though they do provide enough nourishment to sustain more big water play. I would suggest packing a lunch and taking a quick field trip to the car to eat. This is why a close parking spot is important. Once you’ve refueled, you can come right back into the park.

Attractions at Wild Waves Theme & Water Park

Once we ditched our stuff, the kids immediately headed for Hook’s Lagoon, a large structure featuring a few big water slides and lots of spraying features set in a large wading pool. It was pleasing to all ages in our group. We went on a cool day and the water at this feature was pretty cold. They loved it, but didn’t last long.

Hook's Lagoon at Wild Waves water park has plenty of slides and large structures for kids to play
Hook’s Lagoon has water slides, spraying features and a wading pool for endless play. Photo: Devon Hammer

The highlight for everyone was the wave pool. The water is perfectly warm and I think the kids would have been happy to ride the waves all day long.

Two kids in the wave pool at Wild Waves Theme & Water Park on a cloudy day
Even on a cloudy day, the wave pool at Wild Waves is warm and inviting. Photo: Devon Hammer

We tried the lazy river, which again was a bit cold for the cloudy day we were experiencing. My 6-year-old had to go with a parent, so I shivered and endured until the first moment we could exit. (The things we do for our kids!) There is also often a long line to get in and we just didn’t find this feature worth the wait. I imagine it being much more enjoyable on a super-hot day.

My 6-year-old wasn’t big enough for some of the larger slides so my 8-year-old and his 11-year-old cousin went with my sister to catch some thrills. They tried a couple of them and came back glowing with adrenaline. The lines are long though, so they only got a couple rides in before returning to the wave pool. If you have a range of ages (and sizes), having two adults in your party is important. My 8-year-old wasn’t quite old enough to go off on his own and my 6-year-old couldn’t do some of the rides he could do. I was thankful my sister was there so we could divide and conquer.

Pacific Plunge water slides at Wild Waves water park near Seattle
Kids will get a rush of adrenaline on the big water slides at Wild Waves. Photo: courtesy Wild Waves Theme & Water Park

About an hour into our visit, there was a lightning warning and they shut everything down. I was grateful for the safety precautions, but the kids were understandably annoyed. It didn’t last long and we took the opportunity to eat lunch and check out the arcade. The boys came back frustrated that none of the games worked, though they did get their money back when they asked an attendant. I am not sure if this is the norm, but I suggest saving your quarters.

I was so impressed with the lifeguards on duty. They were stationed everywhere and you could tell they take their job very seriously. Every parent knows the extra stress felt when their kids are in or near water so this was a welcomed relief.

Something to note when planning your trip: The Activity Pool wasn’t open due to staff shortages on a weekday.

I wanted to explore the Enchanted Forest theme park section of the park but I practically had to drag the kids out of the water. Lines resulted in a 20-minute wait for the rides and the three we tried were good for some thrills and giggles. Check the Wild Waves website for all the offerings — rides are rated from mild to high thrill level with height restrictions so you can plan your visit accordingly.

People riding the Wild Thing rollercoaster at Wild Waves near Seattle
Ride the Wild Thing rollercoaster in the theme park for an extra thrill. Photo: courtesy Wild Waves Theme & Water Park

For those of us who visit once a season or less, a trip to the Enchanted Forest section is unnecessary in my opinion. The water park is plenty to fill your whole day. Closing time is at 6 p.m. and I suggest planning to be there from open to close. We had a previous engagement planned that night, so we had to cut our visit short.

The bottom line

At the going rate of around $38–$63 per person for a single-day ticket, this is certainly a splurge outing, but one that I found was worth it for the kids to experience — even just once. I think it is best suited for older elementary-aged kids and teens but there is plenty to do for the younger crowd as well (and ages 3 and younger are free). If you are a better parent than I am and are willing to take on the adventure more than once a summer, be sure to explore the season pass option. Sometimes visiting just twice in a summer can make a season pass worthwhile. Then you can explore the whole park without the pressure of fitting it all into one visit. I am certain the kids will never run out of thrills at this expansive summer wonderland.

If you go to Wild Waves Theme & Water Park...

Find it: Wild Waves Theme & Water Park is located in Federal Way, about 20 miles South of Seattle off of I-5 exit 142B.

Parking: Parking is $20 per car, truck or motorcycle. $25 for a bus or RV/oversized vehicle. 

Tickets: There are three different season ticket bundle options as well as single-day tickets. Season ticket prices vary, so check online before you go. The price for a single-day ticket ranges from $53–$63 plus tax for anyone 48 inches or taller. Tickets for a child under 48 inches tall or a senior 65 years or older are $38 plus tax. Kids age 3 and younger are free. You can purchase tickets online, save them to your phone and show them at the gate. There are discounts for group reservations.

Hours: The park is open for the season May 18 through Sept. 8, initially operating solely on weekends until June 14. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to either 6 p.m., 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. depending on the day. Check the Wild Waves calendar for details.

Rentals: Lockers are available to rent on-site. There are three sizes and they range in price from $16–$27 per day. You can opt to rent tubes for water attractions so you don’t have to wait for them to become available before getting in line ($12 for a single tube, $15 for a double). There are also strollers and wheelchairs available to rent.

Cabanas: Cabanas located near the wave pool are available to rent during your visit, offering amenities such as food, towels, tube and locker rentals, and more. The Classic Cabana rental is priced at $375, while the VIP Cabana rental costs $550. Reservations are required, and they often sell out several weeks in advance. 

Events: Take a look at the event calendar for a list of exciting planned events such as Dive-In Movies and Foam Parties.

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