I was a bit hung over Sunday morning, so we slept in fairly late. The plan was to go to Schlitterbahn, but knowing that I'd be less intense about having to experience absolutely every attraction at a waterpark, I was okay with sleeping in for a bit. It was raining lightly when I went out to take the cooler to the car, and Nick suggested that perhaps we should go to SeaWorld or Fiesta Texas instead. I briefly considered this, but Schlitterbahn runs on "limited operation only" during the week this time of the year, and I wasn't sure what that entailed. Besides, I think I'd rather be at a waterpark in the rain than walking around a theme park.
The drive to Schlitterbahn was fairly uneventful, until I exited the freeway to follow the signs to the park. After following them for ten miles, they somehow brought me right back to the freeway (but not the same exit). It seems as though we successfully looped around the entire city of New Braunfels without ever passing the park. It's time for somebody to fix those signs.
We turned around and headed back in the direction from which we came. A stop at Taco Bell was definitely warranted, but they forgot to put sour cream on my double decker taco supreme. Piss me right off. We had a much easier time finding the park heading this way, and I'm not sure why traffic isn't directed to the exit off the closer exit. Oh well.
We parked in front of the "Castle Entrance," which is the older part of the park. The park was obviously not very busy, and I'm sure the poor weather kept a lot people away. We spent our first fifteen minutes in the park completely lost. There are basically zero directional signs in this park, the pathways are narrow and winding, and the extremely wooded setting makes it nearly impossible to see anything. It's all very pretty, but I couldn't help growing frustrated. Everyone was walking around with black tubes which were obviously required for most of the attractions, but there were no indications where to pick up the tubes. There were no signs for lockers either, and it was kind of necessary that we stash our shoes and shirts before jumping in the water. These things weren't marked on the horribly-drawn maps either.
I finally just had to ask for directions to the lockers. I'm not the kind of guy who refuses to ask for directions, but I also didn't want to be the typical stupid theme park guest. Oh well. They directed us to the locker area, from which we spotted the tube pickup. Not being quite sure how to walk down there, we decided to slide down the Double Loop body slides, as it was clear they dumped you next to the tube pickup.
There couldn't have been more than ten people ahead of us in line for these body slides, but we still waited for about fifteen minutes. I understand the safety concerns with waterparks, but I don't know why it's necessary for the lifeguard to actually wait until the rider has completely exited the splashdown pool before sending the next rider down. The slides sucked, as they were slow and I felt every single crack where the slide pieces were bolted together. It was a slightly painful experience, but at least we found some tubes at the bottom.
Back up the hill we went, as I decided it was time to ride one of these "famous" Schlitterbahn tube slides. We started with the Whitewater. For those who aren’t familiar, the Schlitterbahn tube slides are similar to a typical lazy river with random rapids, waterfalls, and drops (some of them rather large) thrown in. There isn't a single lifeguard posted at the entrance to the slide, so it's a complete free-for-all of people jumping into the water. Kind of a unique experience, and I would think that this could be rather dangerous on a busy day. Still, I'm sure the capacity on these slides is rather amazing for a waterpark attraction.
The slide itself was tons of fun. There is an *enormous* drop early on, which scared the hell out of both of us. I loved it. These are obviously old slides, and some parts of them don't work very well, causing some massive tube jams as people struggle to inch their tubes over the edge of the next drop. I got caught in some enormous whirlpool for a good five minutes until I finally got off my tube and walked to the edge of the drop. There are lifeguards scattered here and there, but they're only able to do so much to help unclog congestion. It became easier later on as more employees showed up, but it was somewhat chaotic early on.
We decided we might as well do what we came for, which was the Raging River, billed as the "world's longest tube slide." Signs in the queue advise you that this tube slide is a "45-minute-long adventure." As we began floating through the course, I distinctly remember telling Nick that I was quite nervous about what was going to be happening over the next 45 minutes.
Truthfully, this may have been one of my least favorite attractions in the entire park. Much of it is very shaded, and while I'm sure this is great on really hot days, I was absolutely freezing by the time we reached the halfway point, and I'm a native Wisconsinite! About half the river moves very slowly, which I would also be okay if we wouldn't have been stuck behind some of the most obnoxious preteens I've ever seen in my life. I'm not generally a violent person, but I'll admit to wishing the girl in front of me would just fall off and drown at least twice. As we caught up to her the first time, she turned to me and loudly said, "If you bump into me, I'll kill you." She then proceeded to yell obscenities and homophobic remarks for the remainder of the voyage. It was apparently also great fun screaming at the top of her lungs whenever we passed through one of the looooong tunnels on the ride. I finally managed to squeeze past her to freedom. If there is a hell, I have seen it.
The Raging River is designed to dump riders into the Comal River, presumably so they can float back to the beginning of the ride. Unfortunately, we were forced to evacuate the slide just before we reached the river. The lifeguard kindly explained that they didn't have enough people to staff the river, which was fine. The problem was that our ride was ended in the middle of nowhere, with absolutely no indications of how to get back to the park. There was literally *nothing* else around us - just few cabins, the tube slide, and some large asphalt parking lots!
We once again had to ask the lifeguard how the *hell* to get out of there, and she just pointed across one of the asphalt lots. Great. As you can imagine, that was a very comfortable experience in bare feet.
I was freezing, so we sat in one of the huge hot tubs for a bit. It was moderately warm and filled with screaming children. It was raining again. Again, if there is a hell, I have seen it.
The Der Bahn speed/racing slides looked kind of fun, so we stashed our tubes and went for a ride. This thing was a blast until we reached the bottom and went skidding across some material that was obviously NOT meant for sliding on. I don't know exactly what it was, but it felt an awful lot like concrete. That's okay; I wasn't using the skin on my back for anything. If we would have run into that annoying girl from the Raging River, I know *exactly* which ride I would have recommended.
Still reeling in pain, we decided to try the Bonzai Pipeline, which is a more typical tube slide (climb some stairs, slide down a twisty slide on your tube). It was fun, if not a little forgettable. We waited in line for quite some time at the top of the slide because they again waited until the splashdown pool was clear before sending another rider. I would have hated to be here on a busy day.
There were a couple of things we hadn’t ridden on the other side of the park, so we walked over there. First up was the Hillside tube ride. I believe this is the newest tube run at Schlitterbahn, and the first half of it is perfectly designed. There are enough small drops at regular intervals to keep the tubes moving without major jams. The second half is more fun, with some big drops and rapids, but there are a few points where people get stuck. Nevertheless, this was my favorite attraction at Schlitterbahn. There are some wicked fun drops as it goes through the locker room (yes, you read that right), and it just seems to “flow” better than the others.
We jumped on the Soda Straw Body Slides for a quick ride. These things were nuts, and I mean that in a good way. I like my waterslides like I like my roller coasters: fast, raw, balls-to-the-walls-intense, and painless.
Having done most of the attractions in the older part of the park, we hopped on the bus to Schlitterbahn West. It’s slightly inconvenient that the two halves of the park are about a half mile apart, but the shuttle system is well-run. Unfortunately, the setup of Schlitterbahn West is quite stupid. It’s divided in another two parts (“Blastenhoff” and “Surfenburg”), with a large parking lot between the two. It makes little sense to me why you would force your guests to have to walk through/around the parking lot to experience the other half of the park.
Anyway, we started with Blastenhoff. This area was significantly more crowded than the older part of the park. Since Schlitterbahn is kind of known for its Master Blaster, we decided to ride this first. We waited 15-20 minutes to ride, which was the longest wait of the day. The top of the slide tower is covered in shade tents, which seems a little bizarre to me. I guess people want to stay cool, but I would have preferred to get some sun.
The ride itself was enjoyable. NBGS definitely makes the best watercoaster product, and I much prefer the water jets to the stupid conveyer belts on the Whitewater West slides. You’re much more likely to get wet on an NBGS slide, which is good. There’s also some nice airtime on some of the hills. It’s not my favorite waterpark attraction, and I think they’re painfully low capacity, but they’re decent attractions.
The line for Wolfpack (4-5 person tube slide) was crazy long, and I generally find these attractions underwhelming, so we decided to ride the Black Knight (2-person tube slide in the dark). This one was just okay. I’ve been on better (Noah’s Ark), but I’ve been on worse (Holiday World).
We crashed in the Torrent River for awhile, which ended up being one of the highlights of the day. This lazy river is crazy! Every 10-15 seconds a very LARGE amount of water comes rushing into the river, which sends a large wave careening around the course. That means that this river moves along extremely fast, and is actually quite thrilling. If I would have had a frozen pina colada or daiquiri, my life would have been nearly complete.
After four trips around the river, we left Blastenhoff for Surfenburg. Quite honestly, there wasn’t a lot to do here. The family blaster was closed, which wasn’t hugely disappointing, but I would have liked to see it. The Boogie Bahn (a flowrider) had an understandably long line due to its poor capacity. It was fun to watch for awhile, but I wasn’t going to wait a half hour to make a fool of myself. The Dragon Blaster (the world’s first uphill watercoaster) had a ridiculously long line – damn near 45 minutes – and you had to wind about in some bizarre queue underneath the ride in knee-high water. No thanks.
We jumped the shuttle back to the Castle Entrance and the old part of the park for awhile. We did the Whitewater tube chute and the Hillside tube chute again. Both were lots of fun, and my two favorite attractions. Then we floated in the lagoon pool for an hour or so, trying to tan in sporadic sunlight. We called it quits at about 4pm and headed back to the hotel.
I’m not sure what to make of Schlitterbahn. I had fun here and I’m glad we went, but I was not as impressed as I expected to be. I think the lack of signage in the old part of the park really frustrated me for much of the day. It has a very confusing layout, and it’s hard to see where anything is. It’s a very beautiful waterpark, but the layout needs some major work. At least put up some signs so your guests know where they’re going, and don’t just drop them off in the middle of some random wooded parking lot and expect them to find their way back to the park. It was not my favorite waterpark in the world. I do not think it’s deserving of the “world’s best waterpark” designation. Yes it’s a cool place, and yes it’s bizarre and quirky and (at times) wonderful. The older part was like the Knoebels of waterparks. It’s a cool place, and has some really great one-of-a-kind attractions, but it lacks some of the bigger, more common waterpark staples. “Best” is obviously a subjective term, but Schlitterbahn just wouldn’t have been my choice.
We headed back into San Antonio to experience the one thing everyone raves about – the Riverwalk. This is truly deserving of every ounce of praise it gets. Despite San Antonio feeling a bit ghetto outside of the Riverwalk, the area around the River is one of the most beautiful downtown areas I’ve ever set foot in. It’s all very European and well landscaped and just all around awesome. You could spend days trying all of the wonderful-looking restaurants and shops and still not see it all. Kudos for San Antonio for taking advantage of the river and creating a truly awesome place to visit.
We ate at Acenar, which was an amazing Tex-Mex restaurant. Nick is the pickiest eater I’ve ever met, and he said they were the best tacos he’s ever had. My chicken mole enchilada was also excellent, and the salsa was outstanding. After some horrible margaritas in Austin and Dallas, Acenar finally got that right too. We had a table outside on the huge patio overlooking the river, and I fell in love. I don’t think San Antonio is ever a place I’d want to live, but I would certainly love to visit more often.
Since the Alamo is located just off the Riverwalk, we decided to see it at night. Even at 9:30pm it was swarming with people, most of them just quietly looking at it and (I assume) absorbing the history. I’m not a history buff, nor am I the type of person to get emotional about historical sites, but it was hard not to appreciate what had happened here. It’s a beautiful building, especially at night, and it’s very cool that San Antonio has kept it preserved downtown.
Nick and I kicked around the idea of going out again, but it didn’t seem like there were many places to go on a Sunday night. We drove past one of the bars and it was dead, and we could clearly see there was nobody at Bonham. So we went back to the hotel and crashed. After three nights straight of drinking and clubbing, I think we deserved some sleep. J
Next up: More San Antonio and Six Flags Fiesta Texas!
-Nate *** Edited 6/8/2007 4:18:35 AM UTC by coasterdude318***
Bolliger/Mabillard for President in '08 NOT Dinn/Summers
And I think I would have rather spent the day at SeaWorld. :)
Agree completely about Riverwalk and the Alamo.
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