Somehow, spending two full days running around outside in the 98-degree sunshine in south Texas in the middle of June, my family and I managed to not die from heat exhaustion. I bet it had something to do with all the nice, cool 72-degree water compliments of Schlitterbahn Water Park.
There are five Schlitterbahn Water Parks scattered across Texas with one in Kansas City, but the New Braunfels location is where it all started some 50 years ago when the Henry family purchased Camp Landa, a small, family campground, and began adding water features to it. That family opened Schlitterbahn in 1979 and renamed Camp Landa the Schlitterbahn Resort.
We spent a few days splashing around the New Braunfels park and discovered it is a great summer destination for the whole family.
This original Schlitterbahn, which is loosely translated as “slippery road” (although anyone fluent in German will tell you that Schlitterbahn isn’t really a word), consists of two water parks with 51 attractions spread out over 70 acres of Texas Hill Country that is nestled along the banks of the beautiful Comal River.
So, if you are looking for a fun trip for the entire family and aren’t afraid to get a little wet, look no further than the original Schlitterbahn. Here are the top five things we loved about our time there.
It is fun for the entire family.
During my time at Schlitterbahn, I was accompanied by my 9-year-old daughter and my 70-something mother-in-law. Guess what? We spent a full two days together riding rides and splashing around, and all three of us had a blast. The little one wasn’t bored, and the older one wasn’t forced to sit out half of the rides. We all rode everything together.
Full disclosure: We did collectively opt out of a few of the more thrilling rides like the Sky Coaster, where you are hoisted several hundred feet into the air over the water park and dropped like a bad habit left to swing back and forth over the park so that everyone below can see the terror in your eyes and hear the panic in your screams (and laughter, of course).
But the bulk of the rides at Schlitterbahn, although labeled as “thrilling” and marked with a red diamond, meaning the most high-thrill of all the rides, were actually perfectly suitable for all of us. Some of our favorites were the Raging River, The Boogie Bahn Surfing Ride, The Congo River Expedition, the Torrent River and my daughter’s absolute fave, the Hillside (which we rode no less than four times.)
You can bring a picnic lunch.
Schlitterbahn lets families bring picnics and coolers onto the property, which is rare among the water park scene. There are shaded picnic tables scattered across the park to relax and enjoy a snack or lunch. They don’t allow glass or alcohol to be brought in, and coolers are checked thoroughly upon entry. But we just loved that the park allows you to carry in your own food. This is a dream come true for larger families who can accommodate picky eaters, food allergies and the ol’ wallet all at the same time.
The park does offer food and beverages for purchase, but if you want to save a buck and bring it yourself, you can. There are also a few swim-up bars if you need a cold adult beverage.
The park rents premium cabanas, which are a nice luxury if you are going to be enjoying the park for a full day. They are shaded with ceiling fans, couches and chairs, TVs and small refrigerators. They make for a nice home base and provide a cool spot to regroup, eat, take a nap or just enjoy watching others enjoy the park from your lounge chair.
It’s in New Braunfels.
The area surrounding the actual park is worth taking an afternoon or a day to go see some of Texas’ quaintest small towns. Downtown New Braunfels offers some great shops, coffee houses and historic buildings. The neighboring town of Gruene is home to Texas’ oldest dance hall, Gruene Hall, which was built in 1878 and has served as a dance hall and home to live music since then.
Surrounding the dance hall are some fantastic restaurants and shops that make Gruene worth an afternoon trip from Schlitterbahn, which is just a few minutes down the road.
Also in New Braunfels are the Comal and Guadeloupe rivers, which offer wonderful floating excursions. The Comal drifts right past Schlitterbahn, so you can wave to your friends at the park as you float on by.
All of these attractions are just a 30-minute drive from the San Antonio Airport, which makes accessing Schlitterbahn and it’s fun Texas towns an easy plane trip from just about anywhere.
Lodging options are seemingly endless.
Do your kids want to stay in a treehouse? Maybe you would prefer a more upscale loft. Want something with a view of the river? Or perhaps a front seat to the action at Schlitterbahn? The on-site accommodations are as varied as the park itself.
The Treehaus Luxury Suites literally sit right above the action at the park, so you really feel like you are staying up in the trees. A friend who stayed here referred to these accommodations as “glamping” because of their high-end feel in a rustic setting. Just across the Comal River are the SchlitterStein Lofts. These two-bedroom condos are tucked into the trees and have patios that hang high above the Comal River providing fantastic views.
In the original section of the park, The Resort offers hotel rooms, cabins, suites and vacation homes. It is also home to the Henry Haus, which used to be the private residence of Schlitterbahn founders Bob and Billye Henry. The five-bedroom home has been renovated and can accommodate up to 18 guests.
So, depending on the size of your crew and the experience you want to have, there are multiple options for lodging that are right on park property.
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History is alive and well.
Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels is unique in a few ways, one of the main being its history. The other being that the original section of the water park has always – and still does – use water pulled from the Comal River’s natural springs. The water is pulled from the river, used in the water rides and is returned directly back to the river. Darren Hill, the park’s general manager, says that while other attractions across the country started as theme parks that later added water, Schlitterbahn started with the idea of the river and brought it on to the banks for families to enjoy.
“The Comal is what sets us apart from other parks across the country,” Darren shares. “It is a constantly flowing, 72-degree spring-fed river that is so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. We have a separate channel of the river that flows into our property, and many of our rides are shaded by huge oaks and 100-year-old cypress trees.
In 1966, the Henry family purchased the existing 13-acre Camp Landa, which was a family campground with about 30 cabins, a spring-fed pool and recreational facilities along the Comal River. The family later purchased additional properties and added to Camp Landa, renaming it Landa Resort. This area of Schlitterbahn is still in operation today, but known as the Schlitterbahn Resort.
To take advantage of the resort’s setting along the Comal, Henry’s first waterslide, built in 1968, emptied riders directly into the river. A longer interpretation of that first slide, named the Raging River, still sends riders into the Comal for a nice float.
The Schlitterbahn Resort area has an almost “Mayberry” feel to it with charming cottages and rooms that surround a fire pit and fishing pond where kids gather in the evenings to watch movies around a campfire. So if your summer needs a road trip, grab your sunscreen and your floaties and head to Schlitterbahn. And let me know how that Sky Coaster ride was.
To learn more about Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, TX, visit schlitterbahn.com/new-braunfels.
All photos unless otherwise noted are courtesy of Schlitterbahn Water Parks.
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