Summer hits you hardest when you step out of one of DFW's air-conditioned sanctuaries -- say Central Market, Barnes & Noble or the Rave Ridgmar -- and directly into the blast furnace we call home. With triple-digit temperatures searing and 25-mph winds blowing, the only way to keep from melting into a puddle or spontaneously combusting is to get wet. A lot.
When it's 102, any kiddie pool or front-yard sprinkler will do. But living in a landlocked area, we've gotten a bit more sophisticated about getting soaked.
With August still a long way off, and with Fort Worth's municipal pools closed because of budget cuts (we're looking to you, Mayor-elect Betsy Price, for a policy change), here are a few of our favorite ways to get wet this summer. The way things are going, you should have plenty of scorching summer days to try them all out before Labor Day.
Along the Trinity
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Rockin' the River
What it is: A twice-monthly tubing-and-music series that will run through August. Put on by the Trinity River Vision folks, it's a great excuse to cut out of work early on a Thursday and float into the weekend with good friends and an icy adult beverage. Oh, and you can listen to some great local music, too. Josh Weathers and the True+Endeavors played the first Rockin' the River, on June 9. On Thursday, it will be Bleu Edmondson. On July 14, Eleven Hundred Springs.
Who it's good for: Anyone longing for a little Austin vibe in Cowtown. You park in the old Tandy lot and hop a school bus to Panther Island Pavilion, just south of the Main Street bridge. Tubes are free to the first 600 people, the Yum Yum Food Truck is there, and we think it is the very definition of chillin'.
Don't forget to: Bring sunscreen. The Texas sun is scorching in the late afternoon. A stocked cooler helps, too. Oh, and you might want to leave any 'tude about the Trinity being unsafe behind. We dipped our precious body bits in there and survived just fine.
Details: 4-8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 14, July 28, Aug. 11 and Aug. 25; www.trinityrivervision.org/tubing
What it is: A cable wakeboarding park in the shadow of downtown Fort Worth. On a 5-acre lagoon next to the Trinity River, you'll be pulled around -- think water-skiing but with a board -- at about 20 mph. Depending on your skill level, there are obstacles and ramps. Or you can simply cruise until you get your sea legs.
Who it's good for: Owner Tommy Fambrough says it is good for beginners and pros, though if you've never wakeboarded before, you might want to try the "early bird specials" every day before noon. For $25 you get two hours of wakeboarding time, plus equipment, and the cable will be running a little slower.
Don't forget to: Check the Wakepark's Facebook page to make sure the place is open. While it already had a soft opening June 12, Fambrough was finalizing a few details with the city at press time. He'll be posting updates online. The park should be open for good very soon, he says.
Cost: $20 for an hour; $36 for an all-day pass; equipment rental $10-$25
Details: 1301 E. Northside Drive, Fort Worth (across from the UPS facility), 817-717-1384; www.cowtownwakepark.com
What it is: A tiki-themed water park with four area locations. The newest one just opened in Roanoke, but we recently splashed down at the Mansfield location, where there are big water slides, little water slides, the Kona Kooler "lazy river," the Waikiki Beach wave pool and, of course, the wedgie-inducing Torpedo slides. We also enjoyed the Pineapple Express -- the slide, silly.
Who it's good for: Families and teens. The Keiki Kove splash area is great for the little ones, but the Tiki Towers, several of which are enclosed and sorta spooky, will be enough of a thrill for teens. The slides are not as intense as those at Hurricane Harbor, but neither is the wait.
Don't forget to: Bring your dance moves; there are contests. Also, stock a cooler with lunch, drinks and snacks and snag a covered table early. Weekly dive-in movies start July 15 with Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, so mark your calendar.
Cost: $23.99 for those 48 inches and taller, $16.99 under 48 inches, free under age 2, season pass $79.99; free parking
Details: 490 Heritage Parkway S., Mansfield, 817-853-0050; also in Roanoke, Garland and The Colony; www.hfalls.com
What it is: North Richland Hills' way cool water park, which gives the Big Daddy in Arlington a run for its money. Besides the wave pool, the Green Extreme, a seven-story watercoaster, is the ride of all rides at this park, which is big enough to slide the day away but small enough that kids won't lose their parental units. Free tubes for the lazy river. And coolers packed for a picnic are welcome. There's also an arcade if you want to take a break and dry off. Happy hour in the late afternoon features half-price sodas. The Viper, a brand new ride, is slated to open this summer.
Who it's good for: Kids big and small, and teenagers wanting to show off their sculpted bods on the sand volleyball court.
Don't forget to: Bring your iPod, unless you love annoying '80s pop music. (It's piped throughout the park.)
Cost: $23.99 for those 48 inches and taller, $19.99 under 48 inches, free under age 2, season pass $84.99; free parking
Details: 9001 Boulevard 26, North Richland Hills, 817-427-6500; www.nrh2o.com
Denton Water Works
What it is: A city-operated water park with four giant slides, a children's play pool, a continuously flowing river and lots of green space to spread out and enjoy. Plenty of tables and a pavilion area for picnics and parties are available. The venue also has two indoor pools to escape the sweltering Texas sun. Inside, kids can enjoy lap pools, diving boards, a big twisty slide and water basketball. Parents can relax on the bleachers while their kiddos run wild. A food truck with snacks is available inside the park to cure your salty or sweet cravings.
Who it's good for: Families with small children and budding preteens. Fairly inexpensive, but not quite worth the hour drive unless you happen to be in the area already.
Don't forget to: Bring an energy drink and water shoes. The kiddos will keep you hopping from one pool to the next, and the concrete walkways will scorch your flippers.
Cost: $11 for those 48 inches and taller, $7 under 48 inches, free under age 2, $5 nonswimming guest, $75 individual season pass, $225 family season pass; free parking
Details: 2400 Long Road, Denton, 940-349-8810; www.dentonwaterworks.com
Try also: Bedford Splash; Wet Zone, Rowlett
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
What it is: The turbo water park you see when you drive down Interstate 30 in Arlington. With more than 20 rides, ranging from mild (Boogie Beach) to moderate (Caribbean Chaos) to max (The Tornado), Hurricane Harbor is, well, the Six Flags of water parks. It is the largest water park in North Texas, covering 47 acres.
Who it's good for: Teens, 20-somethings and thrill-seekers. Hurricane Harbor features six- and seven-story-high slides, like Geronimo, that can be fairly extreme. It also has plenty of rides aimed at the little ones, though. Expect long lines at this park on the weekend, especially for The Tornado, which is the blue and gold funnel-like ride that drops you 60 feet into 5,000 gallons of churning agua.
Don't forget to: Leave your coolers at home. Unlike Hawaiian Falls, you can't bring in food, which will add to your overall cost if you plan to stay all day. On the bright side, they do have funnel cakes and alcohol for sale.
Cost: $27.99 for those over 48 inches, $21.99 under 48 inches, free under age 2, season pass $64.99; parking $11.11. (Discounts available online.)
Details: 1800 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington, 817-265-3356; www.sixflags.com/hurricaneHarborTexas
What it is: Good old-fashioned fun in a landmark location that your granddad used to go to when he was a teenager to get wet and chase girls. The small lake is right in the middle of old 817, River Oaks, with clear spring water that is chemically maintained and filtered and a clean, sandy bottom. It features five diving boards, a 25-foot trapeze swing, three slides and muscular lifeguards leisurely cruising around on surfboards. Bring a picnic or grab some grub from the concession stand (prices are reasonable). Jumbo tube rentals are also available.
Who it's good for: Families and teenagers looking to spend an afternoon sunning on the beach and impressing their friends with cannonballs, gainers and back flips. It's a refreshing change from the chaotic vibe at most water parks.
Don't forget to: Leave the brewskies at home. Don't let the laid-back vibe fool you -- it's low-key and family-oriented.
Cost: $12 ages 7 and up, $5 under 7, free under a year; free parking
Joe Pool Lake
What it is: A reservoir in the Grand Prairie area with several state parks bordering it, plus a marina and camping areas. Swimmers will want to check out the beach area in Lynn Creek Park, which also has a sand volleyball court.
Who it's good for: Mostly boaters, jet-skiers and campers who like to fish. But there is an area to swim.
Don't forget to: Check out the Oasis, a restaurant/bar that overlooks the lake. It'll make you feel like you're on vacation.
Cost: $10 per car to enter Lynn Creek Park
Try also: Eagle Mountain Lake, Lake Grapevine, Lake Lewisville and Lake Worth. Most of these are for boating and water sports, but just being near the water seems to lower the temperature a few degrees.
Great Wolf Lodge
What it is: A mountain lodge-style hotel with an indoor water park that features nine slides, seven pools, a wave pool, a lazy river and a parent's best comeback -- a 48-foot-tall tipping bucket that douses nearly 1,000 gallons on your critters about every five minutes. On the River Canyon Run, the whole family can pile into a raft to ride the slide together. There's also an outdoor pool -- Raccoon Lagoon -- that is open during the summer.
Who it's good for: A family in need of a staycation. The toddlers will enjoy the storytelling and kiddie pool, the teens a gaming station and the three-story slides. But you must be a guest at the all-suite resort to enjoy the water park. And it ain't cheap.
Don't forget to: Maximize your water-park time by checking in early and staying late. Even though check-in is at 4 p.m., guests can arrive early and get wristbands for the park. There are changing areas and lockers inside the park. You can also stay until closing after you check out. Just keep your wristbands on.
Cost: $279.99-$659.99 per night, which includes at least four park passes for the entire stay. Discounts on stays and a dinner package online.
Details: 100 Great Wolf Drive, Grapevine, 817-488-6510; www.greatwolf.com/grapevine
What it is: Paradise Springs, a new 10-acre Western-themed pool area at the Gaylord Texan resort in Grapevine, opened Memorial Day weekend. It has a lazy river, a 27-foot-tall winding water slide, two "hot pools" and an outdoor games area with our favorite, shuffleboard.
Who it's good for: Staycationers who are looking for a less kid-centric option than Great Wolf Lodge. Plenty of places to lay out, and a poolside bar and food service.
Don't forget to: Get your freak on at the Glass Cactus, a cool music space on Lake Grapevine that features a lot of '80s music. The Spazmatics play there Saturday.
Cost: $139 a night for introductory offers; $219 for packages through July 10
Details: 1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine, 817-778-1000; www.gaylordhotels.com/gaylord-texan