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Orlando, FL, USA for A Brief History of America’s Favorite Summer Pastime: Water Parks

It seems as though water parks have always been a fixed feature in society, but the truth is that they’re relatively new. Having been a popular attraction for only a few decades, the history and lineage of America’s favorite summer hangout is fresh and fascinating. In case you ever wondered just how our nation got its first ever water slide, today we’re taking a brief look at the history of water parks, in honor of the upcoming National Water Park Day on July 28th.


Water Park History

The Very Beginning

It seems that the very first indication of the water fun that was to come took place in New Zealand at the 1906 International Exhibition. The exhibit features a “Wonderland” area which presented a variety of rides and entertainment, one of which was a water chute. At this time the idea of a slide with water on it was innovative and did not exist anywhere else in the world.

The Invention of the Water-Toboggan Slide

The next significant benchmark on the road to water parks was the invention of the Water-Toboggan Slide in 1923 by Herbert Sellner. It consisted of a wooden sled that the riders sat upon as they sped down an incline towards a lake.

Discover Orlando’s Newest Water Park >>

Lake Dolores, The Likely First-Ever Water Park

history of waterparks


One of the earliest known water parks, quite possibly the very first, is still relatively unknown in water park history. Lake Dolores, originally a private recreation space In the middle of nowhere between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, became the first park of its kind in 1962. Opened by Boy Byers’ and named after his wife, it was a man-made lake with a campground and a variety of water rides and attractions. Over the course of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, a variety of water slides and other water features were added, many of which resemble the main attractions found at water parks today.

The Beginning of SeaWorld

history water parks


One of the world’s most iconic water parks and marine life sanctuaries, SeaWorld, got its beginning in the 1960s as well. George Millay, Milt Shedd, Ken Norris, and David DeMott opened SeaWorld in 1964, on 21 acres along the shores of Mission Bay in San Diego, California. It was initially planned as an underwater restaurant, but the concept continued to expand into a marine zoological park.

RELATED: Look No Further; We’ve Got The Inside Scoop on The Best Kids Rides in Orlando

George Millay Introduces Water Parks to The World

history of waterparks

Source: Florida Memory

Between Lake Dolores and SeaWorld, the idea of the water park was starting to form and become expressed. Yet, it truly wasn’t until one of SeaWorld’s four founders, George Millay, opened Wet n’ Wild in Orlando, that our modern-day idea of a water park was born.

RELATED: Use These Packing and Planning Tips to Maximize Your Fun at Orlando’s Water Parks

From that point forward our modern-day water park was born. Fast-forward to today, and there are thousands of water parks around the world. Indoor and outdoor water parks, parks with themes, parks with insanely terrifying slides, parks that focus on surfing, you name it, and there is a water park with it.

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The Grove Resort & Spa Orlando’s Surfari is fun for the whole family

What better way to celebrate National Water Park Day than by visiting a water park? Orlando is easily a one-stop shop for all waterpark needs, and The Grove Resort & Spa Orlando’s Surfari will be celebrating all day with a DJ, full band in the evening, special decorations, flamingos, and drink and food specials. Treat yourself to a summer getaway to Orlando and kick back, relax, and be grateful for all of the water park pioneers that paved the way for our fun!

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