A crippling (and, as we've discussed, utterly ridiculous) fear of sharks isn't the only thing capable of keeping us away from the beaches this summer. There are plenty of reasons to avoid the ocean — like, say, hypothermia, rip tides, and troubling slicks of unidentified plant slime. (Or, if you're at Revere Beach, a minefield of spent condoms and syringes.) For those of you nodding your heads vigorously right now, we submit to you some of our favorite local water parks, which have helpfully banished any pretense of nature and its oft-grody quirks in favor of concrete lagoons and plastic tubes. Enjoy, landlubber!
Canobie Lake Park
As a New Hampshire native, I've got a special place in my heart for Canobie Lake Park. It's also the scene of one of my rudest awakenings: the sudden discovery that its log flume was not, as my mother insisted, just a gentle ride, but rather a heart-stopping plunge into icy water. In the intervening decades, my indignity has been supplanted by total affection for this tame old chestnut. In addition to the '90s-era Timber Splash water slide and the Boston Tea Party chute ride that were so new and exotic in my wolf-shirt-and-stirrup-pants days, the park now also boasts the 2005-built Castaway Island, a Swiss Family Robinson–looking maze of corkscrewing tubes and waterfalls. In return, enduring a damp car ride home is totally worth it.
— Shaula Clark
85 North Policy Street, Salem, New Hampshire | 603.893.3506 | canobie.com
When my five-year-old niece asked that I bring her to CoCo Key — the obsessively advertised indoor water park in Danvers — I imagined a vulgar and overpriced cesspool. But despite my initial resistance, inspired by memories of dank and urine-stained motel spas and outdoor Jersey shore amusement parks, it turns out CoCo Key is a chlorinated oasis. Without sanitation on my mind, I let my niece run wild on the kid slides, and even enjoyed some of the relatively tame big-boy rides myself. Tip: don't show up to CoCo Key without children. Even though there's a full bar with frozen drinks in the facility — and all sorts of polyester-sheathed suburbanite implants floating around — the place is hardly the Marina Bay Beach Club. If you plan on bringing your A-game, save it for the in-pool basketball court.
— Chris Faraone
At the Sheraton Ferncroft/Boston, 50 Ferncroft Road, Danvers, Massachusetts | 978.777.2500 | cocokeywaterresort.com
Hurricane Harbor at Six Flags New England
Personally, my favorite time to go to Six Flags is in late October, when the park is awash in gaudy Halloween trimmings and astonishingly bad amateur musical theater put on by unsupervised undergrads. (One particularly memorable experience involved a green-face-painted kid graphically thrusting his pelvis along to "Feed My Frankenstein" for an audience of preschoolers.) But if you want to immerse yourself in the almost-trashy decadence of Six Flag's Hurricane Harbor water park, you'll have to make the trek out to Agawam before September 7. Here, you'll find 13 aquatic amusements, ranging from basic kiddy pools to the black-diamond Tornado, in which riders take a seven-story plunge into a terrifying funnel-shaped water vortex designed by Satan himself. Nota bene: pants-wetting may go unnoticed here, but hurling up your $4 concession-stand pizza doesn't.