Pros: Gets better every year. Lots of varied activities.
Cons: Expensive. No deep pools. No huge pools. No kiddie slides. Quickly gets overcrowded.
This year my almost 3 year old has been simply mad about swimming. We have 2 neighborhood pools and he wants to spend some quality time with them every day, but sometimes Mom and Dad like a change of scenery. That's why we recently decided to give the local water park, Nashville Shores, a try.
About Nashville Shores:
Nashville Shores is a water park situated on the banks of Percy Priest Lake (near the dam). It sits on 385 acres of land (but seems to grow every year). Once inside the park you have access to a large number of water as well as dry-land activities.
The Water Attractions:
There are 7 water slides in total, but 3 of them are in pairs (so you could look at it as 4 water slides). The "Twin Cyclones" and "Thunder and Lightning" are twisting, winding tube slides that require floats to ride down on (the floats are provided by the park and come in 1-seat, 2-seat, and 3-seat varieties). The 2 "Tennessee Twisters" are conventional open-air slides that are also quite winding and twisty. The "Tsunami Raft Ride" is a bright yellow horseshoe-type slide (you get dropped down one side and slide from one side of the "U" to the other until you finally come to a stop at the bottom).
The "Suntan Lagoon" is the main pool. It is situated near the lake, so it looks lovely to swim in the pool while seeing the lake off to one side. It a rather large kidney-shaped pool that is 4 feet deep. There is a fountain in the middle as well as a spout off of a nearby water slide that rains water down on a large area of the pool, adding to the fun. There is a nice seating ledge that runs around the perimeter of the entire pool (which my son loved walking upon). On Saturdays and Sundays a band performs live music (usually "summertime fun" type songs) on a stage nearby.
The "Wacky Pond" is the kiddie pool. It is also quite large but is only 1 foot deep. There is a gentle incline on one side, making it like a beach (and making it easy for toddlers to get in). There are palm trees that rain water down (with coconuts that turn over to dump water every so often) as well as a seal and whale that spray water and are fun for little ones to climb upon. On one end is a large mushroom-shaped object that rains water down -- kids can run through the sheets of water to get under the protective mushroom-top. It is also large enough for parents to get under as well.
The "Lilly Pad Pool" is smaller (it might have been larger once, but now two of the water slides (or 4 depending upon how you count them) end on one side of the pool so that area is sectioned off. What makes this smaller pool fun are the large floating foam lilly pads and log that you can walk upon. A rope is attached from one end of the pool to the other, so you hang onto the rope and try to walk across on the unstable, floating foam pieces.
Right in the center of the park is another small 1-foot-deep pool. There are a few pipes that spray water in this small pool, however the main attraction is the massive bucket that sits atop a large structure near the pool. Every 2 minutes that bucket, which has been filling with water, tips over and dumps hundreds of gallons of water on the crowd below (note that it does hit a ramp that evenly disperses the water across a wider area and keeps anyone from getting hurt by the massive downpour).
Tennessee is not known for having white, sandy beaches (actually, our shorelines usually consist of mud and rock), so one thing I do love about Nashville Shores is the lovely white sandy beach. It is a bit small, however it was one of my son's favorite things. You can also ride paddle boats at no additional cost. Paddle boats come in 2-seat and 4-seat varieties, and life-vests are provided as well. Paddle-boating and swimming areas are sectioned off, both to keep you from wandering too close to the dam (which is quite close) as well as to keep you from getting out into the normal traffic on the very popular Percy Priest Lake.
The Dry Land/Dry Person Attractions:
The Nashville Shoreliner takes guests on a nice 45-minute tour of Percy Priest lake (not the whole thing, it is a huge lake). The cruises are included with the price of admission. The boat can take around 50 passengers at a time. It is a nice way to take a break and relax during a day of fun at the park.
There is a nice little miniature golf course that you can play at no additional cost. There is nothing terribly thrilling about the course, but the view is lovely and it is a nice way to take a break from the wet fun for a little while.
Ski & Stunt Show:
"Joe Daring's Extreme Water-Ski & Stunt Show" is performed on the lake at various points during the day (on the weekends). They do a variety of stunts, from water-skiing pyramids to cool jet-ski ramp jumping. We didn't watch the entire show (my toddler has a short attention span), however what we did see what quite impressive.
As mentioned above, you can build sandcastles, play volleyball, and play horseshoes on the beach without getting wet. You can also listen to the live entertainment near the "Suntan Lagoon" pool, or visit the arcade adjacent to the gift shop.
Pricing & Dates/Times:
A word on the prices -- they are quite expensive and they go up every year. Fortunately you can find $3 off coupons online and at most local McDonald's. Currently, the prices (without taxes - which are a whopping 9.25% added at time of purchase) are:
Adults (age 13 and up): $18.95
Seniors (age 55 and up): $15.95
Children (age 3-12): $15.95
Children under 3: Free
Season Passes are available (and we will probably start getting them when my son and any future children we have get a bit older). This year season passes are $69.95 for adults and $59.95 for children and seniors -- however if you buy 4 or more passes at the same time they are all $59.95. Season parking passes and season locker rentals are also available at $20 each.
Special discount rates are offered for large parties, with specialized packages for birthday parties and special events.
The normal season starts in May, with the park open weekends in mid-May and open daily by the end of May. We go back to weekends only in mid-August, with the park closing for the Winter in September. The park opens at 10:00 every day, but closing time varies with season (in the heat of Summer it is open until 7:00 on weekdays and 8:00 on weekends).
Parking is an additional $5. Locker rental is also $5 (with an additional $2 deposit that you get back when you return your key). They also give you a large-ish key carrier (a 2-piece cansiter that screws together) that you can wear around your neck.
You are given an armband when you enter the park. Your admission is good for the day, so you can leave for a nap or for lunch (so you can avoid those high concession prices) and your armband gets you back inside when you return.
There are plenty of concession stands around the park -- selling ice cream, "Dippin' Dots", and snow cones along with hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, and barbeque. "Percy's Gift Shop" is also on the premises, with an adjacent arcade.
There are facilities for birthday parties, family reunions, and even corporate gatherings.
You can also rent Jet Skis or Pontoon Boats on the premises. You can even go parasailing!
Coupons on usually available online at http://www.nashvilleshores.com (but you have to sign up on their site). Coupons are also available at most Nashville-area McDonald's. On Mondays you can get $5 off the price of admission with a Kroger Plus card.
The Park Rules state that you are not allowed to bring food (or glass containers) in the park, however there are picnic tables all around, and I've seen flyers that told families to bring picnic lunches. I'm not sure how that's supposed to work...
You are allowed to bring in your own floats, but only for use in the beach area. Floats are provided for the rides that require them, but must be left in the appropriate areas (you can't use them in the pools). Small children ARE allowed to use small floats in the pools.
Our Thoughts & Experiences:
My husband and I are both BIG water park fans, however we had never been to Nashville Shores before because they have been slowly building and adding the park over the past few years. Last year they finally had enough slides for us to really consider them a water park worth visiting, however we had a 1 year old so we didn't get out too much. We finally went this year because our little guy is so water-crazy. While I'm happy to say that we had quite a good time, we probably won't be going back until my son gets a bit older.
None of the slides are suitable for young kids. One double slide (The Twin Cyclones) has a height limit of 36 inches; all the others have a limit of 48 inches. My son is 40 inches tall and really wanted to slide, so we got a double inner-tube and figured I would ride in front while he rode on his father's lap in back on the one slide where he was well over the height limit. We got to the top after a short wait, but the lifeguard said that we could not ride 3-people on a 2-person float, even though my son is a tiny little thing. He also said our boy could NOT sit in Dad's lap, and that if he was going down he had to ride behind, not in front of, the parent (which I understand -- you want the weight in front). He really wanted to go, so he tried getting on the back of the inner tube, but it was clear that the tube was far too large and the hole far too big for him to ride on safely (he's a skinny little guy who is overly tall for his age - perhaps older, more burly kids his same height could manage a bit better). So Dad went down by himself while I carried our upset little guy back down. My husband reports that there's no way my son could have ridden in back (he would have been bounced right off), and that he could have easily ridden on Dad's lap and been fine. I'm fine with following rules and if they say no lap-riding then that's fine, but their rule of putting a 40-inch tall little kid in back was nowhere near as safe as what we were planning on doing.
While I really liked the kiddie pool and thought it was great for little ones, I've seen kiddie slides at other water parks, and really wish Nashville Shores could install some of those. My little guy was dying to go down a slide, but it was not meant to be on this trip.
My son did have fun -- his favorite thing was probably building sand castles on the beach (then jumping on them when he was done). He also got a big kick out of riding in the paddle boat -- he kept saying, "My first boat ride!"
The pools are NOT heated, which is normally fine, however that morning we went the water was VERY cold. By the time it got to mid-day and the sun was beating down I didn't have a problem with it, however. I would have preferred if the large, "Suntan Lagoon" went deeper than 4 feet, as I tend to enjoy swimming in deep pools.
There are plenty of lifeguards stationed all over the park. We found them to be quite nice -- even the guy who was telling us we couldn't go down the slide like we wanted was polite and apologetic as he told us what we could and couldn't do. The guy who helped us into the paddle boats was particularly nice, helping my little guy get situated and chatting with us as we turned the boat back in.
We arrived early on a day that started out being a bit overcast, so while there were quite a few people in the park it was nowhere near crowded. The lines moved very quickly, and there was almost no wait for slides or paddle boats that morning. Soon the sun came out and the crowds started arriving. Eventually it was hard to get around due to the massive crowd of people. We did go on a busy day (a Saturday on a holiday weekend), so I would recommend going on a weekday to avoid the crowds. If you are going on a weekend I recommend getting there when the park opens at 10:00 so you can get your sliding done before the crowds arrive.
I love the fact that there's a variety of activities. If you get tired of sliding and swimming you can do miniature golf or take a spin in a paddle boat. What I don't like is the price. $20 per person (when you add tax) is a bit much to pay in my opinion. Then add on parking, locker rental, and any food/refreshments, and you've spent quite a bit of cash. I felt the need to stay longer (and get sunburned) so I could participate in everything and feel like I was getting my money's worth. If you live close (like we do), I would probably recommend getting season passes, because it is a fun place with lots to do, but I would enjoy it more if I didn't feel the need to cram everything into one day while fighting massive crowds and getting sunburned.
I do think you can spend a whole day here, and if you're going to visit I highly recommend spending the whole day just to feel as though you've gotten your money's worth. It is not on par with water parks like those found in Florida, however for Middle Tennessee it is pretty good. We did have a lot of fun, however I was put-off by the large crowds and over-expensive price. It was a nice change-of-pace, and there were some nice pools for people of all ages, and fun slides for adults and older kids. My son and I both liked playing on the sandy beach. If only the prices were cheaper I might have given it an additional star.