Waterparks Maintain Momentum in 2024 Amid Growth and New Opportunities

By David J. Sangree, MAI, CPA, ISHC

In 2023, waterpark owners and operators saw a more competitive market as attendance levels remained similar to 2022 while ticket pricing growth was more subdued. This occurred due to increased competition from a variety of additional attractions and entertainment venues in the post-pandemic economy. In 2023, 16 indoor waterpark openings and expansions added 480,000 square feet of indoor waterpark space while twelve new outdoor waterparks opened. New growth is forecasted for indoor and outdoor waterparks in 2024 as several large-scale projects will open that will alter the waterpark landscape. These projects will continue to encourage existing properties to innovate and update to keep market share. The planned merger of Cedar Fair and Six Flags will create the largest owner-operator of outdoor waterparks in North America.

Rounding out the water attractions market, new innovations in the surf park and lagoon segments will expand the offerings of what a waterpark may include. The developers of surf parks and lagoons are including waterpark slides and other water recreational elements within their attractions to increase the appeal to a wider range of demographics. As developers compete to be first in many markets, H&LA projects growth in the popularity and development of surf parks and lagoons across North America in the coming years.


As of February 2024, the United States and Canada had a total of 1,222 waterparks. Twenty-six of these properties opened in 2023, while five properties closed. Nearly half of these openings were in the outdoor standalone segment, with two new private facilities and ten new municipal/non-profit facilities. There were five new resorts with outdoor waterparks, six new indoor waterpark resorts, and three new standalone indoor waterparks.

The following bullets break down the numbers regionally for all waterparks in the U.S. and Canada:

  • The Midwest and South are home to the most waterparks, with 434 and 409, respectively.
  • The Midwest and the South are virtually even in total number of outdoor waterparks with just over 300 each, while Canada at 33 has fewer than any U.S. region. Outdoor waterparks in the South typically have slightly longer operating seasons than those in the Northeast and Midwest due to more favorable weather conditions.
  • The Midwest represents more than half of U.S. and Canadian indoor waterpark resorts with 83 of the segment’s 150 properties.
  • The West leads in standalone indoor waterparks with 50, primarily due to the large number of municipal/non-profit indoor aquatic facilities with waterparks in Colorado and Utah.
  • The South leads in resorts with outdoor waterparks with 62.
  • Indoor waterparks account for just over half of the Canadian market with 39 indoor resort and standalone facilities. Outdoor waterparks number 33, and the country has only 4 resorts with outdoor waterparks.
  • Of all hotels with indoor and outdoor waterparks, 48% are affiliated with national hotel franchises while 52% are independent.
  • Of all standalone indoor and outdoor waterparks, 29% are private/for-profit while 71% are municipal/non-profit.

The following chart shows the breakdown of waterpark properties by type out of the 1,222 waterparks in existence:

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Indoor Waterpark Openings: In 2023, sixteen indoor waterpark openings and expansions added 480,000 square feet of indoor waterpark space, compared to 222,500 square feet in 2022. The year not only saw more openings and expansions than 2022, but also larger-sized additions than 2022, which mostly drew on smaller private facilities. The largest new indoor waterpark resort was the 128,000-square-foot Great Wolf Lodge Baltimore/Perryville in Perryville, Maryland, followed by Showboat Resort’s new 103,000-square-foot Island Indoor Waterpark in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The number of new resort rooms in 2023 was up dramatically from 2022, driven largely by Great Wolf Lodge Baltimore/Perryville with 700 rooms. Expansions at Great Wolf Lodge Poconos in Scotrun, Pennsylvania, and Wilderness at the Smokies in Sevierville, Tennessee, also contributed to the total 953 new rooms.

Outdoor Waterpark Openings: The past year saw the debut of 12 new outdoor waterparks, most of which are municipal waterparks featuring three or four slides and a lazy river. The largest outdoor waterpark development of the year was the debut of Kalahari Resort in Round Rock, Texas, featuring 11 slides, a lazy river, pools, and swim-up bars.

Resorts with Outdoor Waterparks Openings: JW Marriott Phoenix Ridge Resort & Spa completed its AquaRidge Waterpark, and Legoland New York Resort opened their new Water Playground. Country Cascades Waterpark Resort in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, completed a $30 million expansion that included waterpark renovations. Three campground/RV resorts added waterparks. 

All U.S. Openings: The following map highlights the locations of the 2023 indoor and outdoor waterpark openings in the U.S., inclusive of resorts and standalone properties. It excludes expansions.

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Closures: All five closures in 2023 were outdoor waterparks. The largest park to close was Raging Waters in San Jose, California, followed by Candia Springs Adventure Park in Candia, New Hampshire. Smaller waterparks closed in Ohio and Oklahoma.


We are currently tracking 25 potential openings in the U.S. and three in Canada. We also anticipate the expansion of 23 existing facilities. Regionally, the West leads with nine projected openings, followed by the Midwest with eight, the South with seven, Canada with three, and the Northeast with one. The following map highlights the locations of the U.S. properties. It excludes expansions.

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Indoor Waterparks: We project 583,000 square feet of new indoor waterpark space, which will surpass 2023 openings. New indoor waterpark resorts and expansions will add 1,567 new rooms, the most significant supply increase since 2018. The following bullet describes major projects scheduled to open in 2024.

  • Great Wolf Resorts will debut two new resorts in 2024 in Naples, Florida, and Webster, Texas, near Houston. The Naples resort will have 500 rooms and a 100,000-square-foot indoor waterpark. The Webster resort will have 532 rooms, a 95,000-square-foot waterpark, and a 58,000-square-foot adventure park. Both properties will feature a ropes course, bowling alley, miniature golf, and Build-A-Bear workshop. They each have a development budget of over $200 million.

Outdoor Waterparks: Growth in the outdoor segment will continue with 14 new standalone waterparks anticipated. Many existing waterparks are investing in modest to large expansions in 2024. Highlights include the following:

  • Raging Waters Sacramento closed in 2022 and is being redeveloped under new ownership to reopen as California Dreamin’ Water Park in 2024. The park will feature a new children’s area, slides, a surfing attraction, and Chuck E. Cheese theming.
  • Story Land Theme Park in Glen, New Hampshire, is adding Moo Lagoon waterpark with interactive water features, dump bucket, and triple slide tower.

Resorts with Outdoor Waterparks: At present, there are no new resorts with outdoor waterparks planned for 2024. We are tracking one expansion planned to open in 2024:

  • Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Zion, Utah, will open its Water Zone waterpark.


Six Flags and Cedar Fair plan to merge by the summer of 2024. The merger would create a combined company that achieved total attendance in 2022 of 48.8 million visitors and could help clear debt and bring investments to the biggest parks across the country. Arlington-based Six Flags Entertainment Corp. and Sandusky, Ohio-based Cedar Fair have been working on a merger since November 2023 that will leave Cedar Fair’s shareholders with 51% ownership of the new company with the remaining 49% going to Six Flags’ shareholders. In addition to their many amusement parks, the two companies operate 30 indoor and outdoor waterparks in the U.S. Combined, they will be the largest owner and operator of standalone outdoor waterparks in North America and will have an impact on the waterpark supplier base as well as on prices that customers will pay for waterparks.

We have analyzed the usage figures for the combined company’s 28 outdoor waterparks and two indoor waterparks in the U.S. utilizing visitation data provided by Placer.ai. The visitation information excludes the amusement parks. Placer.ai uses cell phone tracking software to estimate the number of visits and provide visitor demographics for a predefined target area.

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These waterpark venues had an average visitation of approximately 366,000 in 2023. Because the overwhelming majority of these properties are outdoor waterparks, summer was their strongest period, with the indoor properties experiencing an increase around the winter holidays.


New innovations continue to be developed for the waterpark industry with new rides, attractions, resorts, and amenities. Two areas of growth include surf parks and lagoons.

Surf Parks: New man-made surfing facilities are being developed in multiple states in the United States. The leading companies in this space include Endless Wave, Wavegarden, Citywave, American Wave Machines, Surf Lakes, Murphy’s Waves, and SurfLoch/WaveLoch. We expect to see additional opportunities for consumers to enjoy surfing on artificial waves in the coming years as developers work to construct multiple projects.

Surf parks appeal to a wide range of customers in various life stages, including families with children. Surf parks are typically priced on an hourly basis in contrast to a waterpark, which is typically priced on a half-day or full-day ticket. Surf parks are expected to work to create family-friendly environments coupled with memorable experiences. This will increase the reach and scope of the sport in a way that may lead to dramatic growth in coming years.

Surf parks have strong developer interest in North America and throughout the world. The following table shows the number of surf parks proposed or under construction. These do not include projects in very preliminary stages.

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The United States could see six new surf parks open in 2024 in Arizona, California, Florida, New York, and Texas.

Lagoons: Man-made swimming lagoons have emerged as a new and innovative way to enjoy recreational water activities. These large (over one acre of water surface) and uniquely designed aquatic venues present new opportunities within the residential, resort, and attractions industry. Over the past several years, H&LA has seen the emergence of swimming lagoons in many facets of leisure development from large-scale resort settings to residential developments.

The rise in popularity of these man-made lagoons lies in their ability to create waterfront and beach-like experiences without the necessity of proximity to a lake or ocean. These lagoons are designed to replicate the natural features of lagoons, including the shoreline and water depth variations to create a unique and attractive environment that enhances the overall quality of life for residents or attracts visitors to a particular leisure area. This has opened entirely new development opportunities for residential and leisure properties to capitalize on this emerging and fast-growing trend. The lagoons can be marketed as day-use water attractions and achieve strong revenue in addition to homeowners’ association (HOA) fees from adjacent residences.

The current leader in this segment is Crystal Lagoons, but there are a number of other competitors including Cloward H20, Oasis Amenities, Fluidra, Blue Mar Basins, VVater, Aquatic Development Group, and others. As of early 2024, there are eight operational Crystal Lagoons in the United States and four of them offer access to the public through the sale of day passes. There are three planned lagoon projects due to open in 2024 in California, Oklahoma, and Texas, and over 100 lagoons proposed throughout the United States.


Growth in the waterpark industry shows no signs of slowing down. Waterparks remain one of the most family-friendly and versatile development opportunities available in the leisure industry. With the addition of surf parks and man-made swimming lagoons, the water attractions industry is poised for continued growth in 2024. Consolidation is occurring within the waterpark industry as the combined Six Flags and Cedar Fair create the largest owner-operator of privately owned outdoor waterparks in North America. In addition, Great Wolf Lodge will open two additional resort properties in 2024 and solidify their status as the largest owner-operator of indoor waterpark resorts. There are new indoor and outdoor waterpark resorts proposed and under construction throughout the United States. These include projects that are being developed by municipalities as well as by private companies.