Wet and crowded

New water park is fun for kids, tolerable for adults


File this under “I’m going to have to take the kids, so let’s make it fun for me, too.” We’re referring to the new Six Flags Hurricane Harbor water park at Great America in Gurnee.

Your kids have seen this new attraction advertised—everywhere. The 15-acre water park has 25 water slides, a wave pool, wading pool, gift shop (surprisingly reasonably priced), restaurant and bar. Chances are your kids are lobbying to go.

In our constant quest to make life for parents as painless as possible, the three moms of Chicago Parent headed to Gurnee with seven kids—water park veterans all—ranging from 7 to 15 years old.

They loved it. We loved that they loved it.

Bottom line: Hurricane Harbor is slightly crowded and chaotic but great fun—a wet version of Great America. Here what we learned:

• Skip the lockers. Located near the entrance, these are too small, too expensive and too complicated. Small ones are $6; large ones are $8. Neither proved big enough. Renting one is a test in itself. The lockers are computerized (saves on the cost of replacing keys lost at the bottom of the wave pool, no doubt) and require a password and waiting in line for the computer each time you need access.

• Don’t rent the inner tubes. These blue tubes (not to be confused with free, limited supply of yellow tubes available throughout the park) cost $7 for a single and $10 for a double ($1 refund upon return). We got enough for the 10 of us, courtesy of Six Flags, and jumped right into the lazy river to wash off the sweat we had worked up getting our lockers. Our tubes allowed us to bypass the long line waiting for a yellow freebie—a blessing in the 90-degree June sun—but once we finished floating, we had to drag them around. The park ought to allow renters to check the tubes in and out or, better yet, provide free tubes for all.

• Beware of the lazy river. This not-so-lazy river is dotted with water jets that can blast a little one in the face; several were left screaming. Not quite the relaxing float we’d expected.

• Pare your possessions. Bring just a credit card (even the food stands take plastic) and lock your purse in the car. Put the towels, sunscreen and other basics in a bag, then plant your stuff on one of the park’s 3,000 chairs or loungers.

• Set a meeting place. We kept losing one another and, although this park is not huge, it was tough to find each another again.

• Be patient. Waits for the big water slide are easily 30 minutes or longer.

• Protect yourself. There is little shade, so slather on the high-octane sunscreen and bring water shoes. The cement gets hot in the midday sun.

• Bring a friend. This is especially important if you have a multi-age group. The zero-depth pool for the little ones is located on one side of the park, the big slides on the other. Plan for one adult to stay with the little ones and the other to keep track of the bigger ones.

Six Flags is midway between Chicago and Milwaukee at the Grand Avenue east exit off I-94. One-day admission is $44.99 or $29.99, depending on height and age, and includes both Great America and Hurricane Harbor. For more information, call (847) 249-INFO, or visit www.sixflags.com. Cindy Richards


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