Conquering the Hottest, Coolest Time in Texas at Schlitterbahn
The New Braunfels water park is family-friendly, nostalgic, and as it turns out, a bit bougie
When I posted to my Instagram Stories that I was spending the day at Schlitterbahn, here’s what happened:
“Awww memories!” my high school friend Amy wrote me. “Schlitterbahn babysat a generation of kids in central Texas,” she said, and she was right. I remember being dropped off several times with a gaggle of preteen girls, bursting out of a mom’s mini van with no more than a sunscreen bottle, a summer-worn swimsuit and a wad of modest cash. Towel? Not necessary. You’re mostly amphibious at Schlitterbahn.
No matter your actual age, you are 11 when you are at Schlitterbahn.
Visiting Schlitterbahn as an adult, a parent no less, a few things have become immediately clear. First, nostalgia is a hell of a drug. For children who grew up in Texas in the 90s, Schlitterbahn was your mecca. Your parents’ favorite bribe. It may have also been your parents’ place of employment, as several off-duty teachers took to Schlitterbahn during summertime, slinging our tubes down spring-fed lazy rivers, catching us at the bottom of chutes, blowing their whistles when we got too rowdy. No matter your actual age, you are 11 when you are at Schlitterbahn. You may be eight, but trust me, when you’re flying down the Master Blaster, you are brave beyond your years, you are adrenaline embodied, you are different now, you are bolder, you are accomplished, you are energetically 11 years old.
Or you are 41, you are writing for a magazine, and you are ducking a fake anaconda in the Congo River Expedition — the one shooting venom (okay, water) at you, it’s a constrictor after all — and you’re floating into a dark cave, the one with spooky jungle sounds from a wall-mount speaker, and now you’re going down a 45-degree angle waterfall — now you’re shrieking, now you’re laughing, now you’re 11. Not 41 … 11. Trust me.
At Schlitterbahn, you can be a little fancy about it.
Opened in 1979, Schlitterbahn has always had a by the people, for the people vibe. This is what I appreciate about it. Daily admission tickets start at $47.99, and you can get a season pass with unlimited visits for $110. Not too bad. But what you save in dollars, you pay for in … walking. And waiting in lines. And taking things out of your locker a million times. Can I admit something? All these things are (mostly) tolerable for me. I’ll chat it up on the Soda Straws stairs. I’ll enjoy my Dippin’ Dots, traversing from Bavarian castle to Bavarian castle. But you know who all of this is not tolerable for? Children. Children do not like to wait. Who can blame them? They’re at freakin’ Schlitterbahn.
So if you’re a parent, or someone who likes to save time, or simply want to treat yo’self, here’s what you do at Schlitterbahn:
Rent a Cabana
Oh my God, I didn’t even know these existed, but they’re quite the upgrade from lockers. Ranging in price from $150 to $425, they’re a little hangout zone for you and your crew, with amenities like loungers, private parking spaces, TVs, a mini fridge and sometimes a “Cabana Host” (a waiter). The Treehaus Premium Cabanas are the bougiest of these — the Venn diagram where fancy meets campy. You’ll love it.
Buy a BlastPass
Pretty sure the secret’s out on these, but they start at $95, and they function like a smart watch. You “reserve” your place in line, and when your ride is ready, you skip up the stairs past your fellow Schlitterbahn goers, right in front. If there’s any one Schlitterbahn upgrade I would personally buy, this is the one.
Stay at the Resort
I’d always wondered what those cabins were as a kid, the ones overlooking the Comal River. Did people live there? Did employees hang out there? How did you live the kind of blessed life that allowed you access to those mysterious, special cabins? Turns out they belong to the Schlitterbahn Resort, and you can totally stay in one. Think ’70s summer camp vibes, with kid-friendly movies screening every night, and a popcorn/candy/s’mores station with a super friendly attendant. There are all kinds of places to stay on or near the Schlitterbahn grounds, but this one is nice because you can literally wake up and walk into the old park, the west park. Fun fact: it’s the OG resort, retro-feeling because it’s actually retro. P.S. This is also the best parking.
Go to a Swim-Up Bar
These exist in both of the Schlitterbahn parks: the afore-mentioned original, west park, and the east park that’s broken up into two newer, shinier spectacles. No matter which park you’re visiting, do yourself a favor: be totally silly, swim up to the bar and order the adult version of a Slushie. A frozen margarita. A piña colada. Something I had that was piña colada in flavor, but a Bomb Pop in color — a red, white, blue and highly Instagrammable drink. It’s ridiculous. Be ridiculous! You’re at Schlitterbahn, the ultimate safe space as these things go.
A few more practical tips while you’re at Schlitterbahn: No matter what, you’ll walk a lot, so wear sensible shoes. Reapply sunscreen literally all the time. Bring snacks! The food is … okay, but you can BYOS (snacks) to Schlitterbahn, and it’s totally legit. Wear one of those smartphone protector necklaces, as you will want to take a thousand pictures, or live video stream yourself going down Cliffhanger Tube Chute. Are you a water park influencer? You are now.
Have fun. Enjoy being 11 again.
You’re at Schlitterbahn, baby.