Attraction: Gillian’s Island Waterpark

The Viva family recently visited my ancestral home, Atlantic City, so I’m going to share a few non-Vegas reviews with you. Atlantic City’s recently tried to establish a more family-friendly image. I read a while back that they ran a junket for mommy bloggers. Since I’m just a daddy blogger, I didn’t get invited out for the junket fun, but I thought I’d share a my thoughts on a few area attractions that are a good fit for you and your kids.¬†

Our first sortie into kid-friendly Atlantic City takes us south of the Atlantic County border to Ocean City, which is sort of the anti-Atlantic City. They don’t have gambling, they don’t have bars–you can’t even bring your own alcohol to a restaurant there. If you want to get loaded in Ocean City, you need to think ahead, or make a trip out to the Circle Liquor Store, conveniently located over the 9th Street Bridge in Somers Point, which is definitely not dry.

All of this keeps the “rowdy” element out, and makes Ocean City one of the favorite destinations for families seeking a vacation “down the shore.” Which might be why the small resort has one thing Las Vegas doesn’t–a water park, called Gillian’s Island.Gillian's

Gillian’s has a mini-Boardwalk empire in Ocean City. There’s Gillian’s Wonderland, an amusement pier that’s on dry land, Gillian’s Island, and the adjacent (to Gillian’s Island) Adventure Golf. That’s a lot of amusement. As a kid, we went to Gillian’s Wonderland at least once a year. That place has mostly traditional carnival and amusement park rides, with a small roller coaster and ferris wheel.

Since Prima and Secunda are four and one (or so) respectively, we didn’t think that they’d get too much out of Gillian’s Wonderland. They’re too young to go on most of the really neat rides, and in any event we were already planning to go to another amusement park the next day. So we said, “Hey, why not spend some time at a water park?” Both of the kids like the Activity Pool at the ¬†Henderson Multi-Gen Center, and this seemed like a logical step up. So we packed up the bathing suits, towels, and sunscreen, and headed over the Longport and 9th Street bridges to Gillian’s.

I didn’t know it, but there’s parking available on Plymouth Place that gives you convenient access to the park for $10. I parked on 8th Street (paying only $8) and had to hike up to the Boardwalk and back down Plymouth Place to get to the entrance. If you want to save yourself some hassle, park right at the park.

There are a few admission options. Most basic is a two-hour pass, which costs $21.95 for an adult and $17.95 for kids under 48″. Next up is the three-hour tour, which is $23.95 and $19.95. Finally, you can get an all-day pass, which is $25.95 and $21.95. I’d suggest pegging your purchase to the age of your kids. We got the all-day pass but only spent about 2.5 hours there. Two hours might be cutting it a little close, but three hours should give you enough time to do everything if your kids are small enough. More about that in a minute.

There are five main “slides” at Adventure Island. We only did two of them, but still had a great 2.5 hours. The Splashdown and Serpentines looked a bit too intense for Prima, let alone Secunda, and Prima didn’t like the idea of climbing to the top of the Skypond Journey, which looks almost mellow, but is pretty high in the air.

little bucs bay
Little Buc’s Bay

We started off in Little Buc’s Bay, which is basically a playground in a very shallow (6 inches or so) pool. There’s a pirate ship for kids to run around on and several slides of various heights. Prima was hesitant at first to try the biggest one there, which had a few twists and turns and qualifies, in my book, as a legit “water slide,” but ended up riding it about 5 times with a huge grin on her face. I learned (very politely) that park staff frowns on adults riding the kiddie slides.

We spent a lot of time on the Lazy River which is, well, a lazy river. You sit in an inner tube and float around the course. There are a few waterfalls, too, which makes it a little less than lazy at some parts. In addition to single-user inner tubes, they had tandem ones, which looked kind of like an “8.” If they wanted to get clever, they could market the Lazy River as an infinity pool. Some of the tandems had seats in one of openings, perfect for a toddler who lacks the core strength to keep herself in the tube for long.

The Lazy River was a ton of fun. It was a little crowded, but the little ones absolutely loved it.

At one point, I lost my sunglasses in one of the waterfalls. Even though I started looking for them immediately, I couldn’t find them and gave them up for lost. Later on, I mentioned it to someone at Guest Services, thinking that in the 10 seconds while my eyes were closed someone might have picked them up and turned them in. They told me they’d send a diver to look for them–turns out, this happens quite a bit, and they usually get sucked into someplace under the depths where regular mortals can’t see them. Very Lovecraftian. I was told to come back 20 minutes later. I did, and got my sunglasses. I really appreciate how helpful the staff was.

Alternating between the Lazy River and Little Buc’s Bay, we had a great 2.5 hours. Again, this is without even getting close to the three main slides, so if you have older kids, you’ll have a much different experience. All of those looked fun, but there was some waiting involved, whereas the tot stuff we did had no waiting at all (except for the individual water slides in Little Buc’s Bay.

As I said, we would have been fine getting the 3 hour pass, but I can see how the all-day pass could be a good buy, too, since you get re-entry privileges with it. So you arrive at about 10, spend 2 hours or so, leave fun lunch and some strolling on the Boardwalk, come back and spend a few more hours.

Everyone had a great, fun time, and left exhausted (Secunda fell asleep in the stroller on our way to lunch at the oustanding Voltaco’s). If you’re in the area, definitely check this place out.

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  1. Pingback: Vegas Gang #81 – August 17th, 2012

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