By Zoie Clift, travel writerArkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Located in the scenic foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, Magic Springs Water and Theme Park in Hot Springs is the only park of its sort in Arkansas. The attraction’s latest feature is Splash Island, a giant interactive water play structure.
“What we find is that guests really respond to the water attractions,” says Dana Whisenhunt, a spokesperson with the park. “It gets so hot here during the summertime that everyone really flocks to the water. We have had fantastic comments about Surf Island. We think it fits the park… it is very bright and colorful and the surf element gives it a beachy feel. And it looks cool with the waves coming down where the surfer is."
The structure is the fourth major attraction to be constructed in the water park since 2007. It stands more than four stories tall with 10 colorful water slides and a giant tipping bucket that dumps a thousand gallons of water every ten minutes. It also has slides, bubble jets, water wheels, water curtains, net climbs, pools and waterfalls.
“It gives the interactive element that families are looking for where everyone can be on the attraction and enjoy it their own way,” Whisenhunt says. “If you go to a playground you can sit and watch your kids play. This is the same idea… a water playground. I think mothers really love the area. We have these huge umbrellas they can sit under, relax with friends, read a book and they know that their kids are in this contained area, which makes it really great for those with small children. A wide range of ages can enjoy the attraction because some of the slides are pretty big, and then you’ve got your little slides for toddlers.”
Whisenhunt says two new family shows, part of the park admission price, have also been added to the lineup this season. Pirate Adventure features professional actors who bring Captain Anton Del Ray and his crew to life as they take over Splash Island. “This is something very new for us -- it takes place six days a week and is only dark on Tuesdays,” Whisenhunt shares. “There is lots of sword fighting, stunts… it is very theatrical.” Performances are at 12:30, 2:30 and 5:30 p.m.
The group Chill Tones is also on-park this season, serenading guests with their traveling musical act from one end of Magic Springs to the other – at 1:30, 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. each day.
The park is well known for thrill rides. Among them: the X-coaster, the first of its kind in the nation. On this ride, visitors can experience inversion without the constraint of a shoulder harness. The landmark wooden roller coaster Arkansas Twister, designed by esteemed engineer William Cobb, includes a 92-foot drop and top speeds of 50 mph. The Gauntlet includes a 110-foot drop into five inverted loops and bends. Family rides and amusements just for kids, such as the Rum Runner Pirate Ship (a pendulum-style ride), are also offered. Detailed descriptions of all rides, as well as point-of-view video, can be found at MagicSprings.com.
“Families planning an all day trip end up doing the rides first, have lunch and then change into their water park attire and do that the rest of the day,” says Whisenhunt. “They generally want to do the rides when it is cooler and the water park when it is hotter.”
The wet side of Magic Springs, known as Crystal Falls Water Park, includes a wave pool, body slides, tube slides, racing slides, and other rides like the Boogie Blast surf attraction. The design of Boogie Blast was created by surfers and designed to simulate the type of experience enjoyed by skateboarders, body boarders, wakeboarders and snowboarders. To deliver the effect, submersible propeller pumps located in the pool below the ride inject a three-inch sheet of water over the ride surface creating a surfable wave. Adjustable speed and water flow make the ride approachable to all skill levels.
Admission to Magic Springs includes all day use of the rides and attractions in both parks. A Season Pass allows for unlimited visits to the park plus free shows at the Timberwood Theater concert series. Lynyrd Skynyrd and Everclear are among the acts on the schedule. Concerts are offered every Saturday night through August 31st.
Magic Springs is open seven days a week now through August 18th, and on weekends through Labor Day. For more information, visit magicsprings.com or call 501-624-0100.