Disclaimer: The FCC requires me to tell you that I was provided free tickets and lunch at Magic Springs Theme Park. All opinions are my own and I only promote products and activities that I love. Okay, now that I have done that, let’s get to the fun part, shall we?
So. Not. My. Thing.
My husbands thing? Yes.
My kids thing? Absolutely.
Mine? No, thank you.
This was my staunch stance until last summer when we took our boys to Magic Springs Theme Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. So, why would I, a self-proclaimed theme-park hater, volunteer to spend a whole day at a park in the most brutal part of an Arkansas summer?
Love. And desperation.
Last year Wylie’s birthday fell smack in the middle of our big move and the intense crazy that moving brought with it. Feeling more than a little momma-guilt about so many things (moving on his birthday, moving him away from friends, school, church…) and a whole lot of desperation in how we could celebrate Wylie’s big day, I offered to do the unthinkable. I offered to take him and a friend to a nearby theme & water park for the whole day.
And you know what? It wasn’t awful. It was even dare I say – delightful.
This year, as little brother Miles’ birthday approached, his choice for celebration became clear. He wanted a turn to take a friend to Magic Springs. And so this is how I found myself, once again, at a theme park on a scorching hot Arkansas summer day. And just like last year – maybe even more – I had a delightful time thanks to all the lessons I learned from last year’s trip, plus a few new ones!
Here they are in no particular order:
1. Choose a Safe Park and Take Teens and Tweens
Magic Springs has a section of rides and water features for littles if you are the park/zoo/kid museum type of mom. But I was not that mom when my kids were little. But now that they are big and can work the buddy system, I am all about going to public amusement venues. Having big kids was a huge game changer for me. Magic Springs in particular is great for taking Tweens and Teens because it is on the small side, easy to navigate, and covered up with easy-to-identify staff. During our day we worked the buddy system rule like crazy with the one adage that you had to check in with an adult once an hour. Because of the parks size this was easy to do without the boys feeling as if they had trek way out of their way to reach me.
Tip 2: Find a Shady Home base (with water if possible.)
At Magic Springs my place is Splash Island. Splash Island is this giant water covered playground where, you guessed it, you can get splashed anytime you want. I discovered this gem last year and it was a no-brainer that this is where I would end up again this year. In addition to the HUGE umbrellas and the frequent splashing (whenever I got to hot I would go and stand under a fountain until I cooled down, genius!) Splash Island is in the middle of the park, separate from the water park, so it makes it extremely convenient as our meeting spot.
I did a lot of reading and a little napping right here – a much needed break for this momma.
Every theme park south of the Mason-Dixon line should have one of these beauties.
Good books, towels, water, a hat, sunblock, phone charger… Treat this trip like the beach. And if possible go during the week, not the weekend. We went on a Monday and we never had to fight for lounge chairs and the boys never complained about long lines for the rides. Last year we went on a Saturday, and while it was crazytown crowded, we all enjoyed the laid-back feel of the weekday crowd much more.
Also make sure your budget includes enough to rent a locker. You never know, you might just decide to partake in some of the less-thrilling rides…
Tip 4: Find One Ride You Like
Just one. Even if it is a kiddie ride. Even if you just ride it once. Find one thing that gets you out of your lounge chair for at least half an hour. And go by yourself if no one will ride with you. There is something extra-lovely about going solo at a theme park, a sort of childlike freedom you can’t find in day-to-day life. (This is why you need that locker.)
My favorite rides at Magic Springs are the Lazy River (pictured here) and the carousel (I always imagine I am Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins… Can’t help it.)
Tip 5: Eat Good Food – In air conditioning if possible.
Last year we made the mistake of ordering from one of the kiosk and eating outdoors. The food was decent but we were hot and sweaty and rushed. This year we went another direction and ate at Smoke on the Water, an air-conditioned restaurant on the parks premises. We chowed down on bar-b-que pork sandwiches, beef brisket (the best of all the options,) home-cut french fries, coleslaw, and garlic fries (another great hit.) Eating indoors gave everyone a chance to cool down, go slow (preventing future upset stomachs,) and our meal was a bit more balanced. Plus the birthday boy LOVES his BBQ so it was the perfect meal for us.
Tip 6: Start small and local –
Magic Springs has been around since I was a kid and while they have expanded they have never lost that small-park and local feel. Arkansas is known as the “Natural State,” and one of the most beautiful aspects of our state are our trees. Magic Springs has done a great job of using this to its benefit. Almost all the sidewalks are lined with spacious tree canopies and coverage. Even in the water park there are trees shading chairs and eating areas and parts of the Lazy River. I really love that the park is not one huge concrete jungle, but instead reflects the state that I love.
And that is how Magic Springs made me, a self-confessed theme-park party pooper, a theme-park lover. Or at the very least they made a Magic Springs lover out of me. I can’t promise anything about any of those other parks out there…
What about you – theme park hater or fan?
PS- If you are planning to go to Magic Springs make sure to nab some coupons or buy tickets online at least the day before. Trust me. We made this mistake last year. The best deal is online ahead of time. 😉