Culture / Travel

Houston’s Brand New Amusement Park Is No AstroWorld — and that’s a Good and Bad Thing

BY // 06.03.16

The first thing you notice about Typhoon Texas — the Houston area’s new amusement park — is how clean everything is. Walt Disney himself would appreciate the sparkle at this park. Now the operators just need to keep it this way. Being brand new brings huge advantages.

It also brings huge crowds. OK, I lied. The first thing you notice at Typhoon Texas is how packed it is. This water wonderland is relatively small by amusement park standards — a mere 25 acres crammed in right in front of the Katy Mills Mall. By comparison, Six Flags Over Texas measures in at 212 acres and Disney’s Epcot Center takes up 300 acres. The old AstroWorld, which every amusement park in the Houston region will be compared to for eternity, carried a healthy 75-acre footprint.

Typhoon Texas’ smaller size makes its crowds — and the crowds are definitely already coming in hordes — seem even more intense.

On our Memorial Day weekend visit, the designated Typhoon Texas parking lot completely filled and cars circled the mall parking lot to find a spot and make the relatively short walk (by amusement park standards) to the front gate. The line to get tickets was long — and even worse, less than a third of the line’s length received coverage from any kind of shade (if anything, it’s even more sweltering in Katy than within the Loop). Don’t come to Typhoon Texas if you’re looking to get away from the beating sun — or people.

Patience is as important as sunscreen here. The lines for the water slides and raft rides are long. While there are technically 30 “attractions” crammed into the 25 acres, there are four or five mega rides that everyone wants to try — and the lines for those become mammoth quickly.

Thankfully, there are areas where you don’t have to wait. The wave pool (with waves that seem pretty mild compared to ones experienced at Great Wolf Lodges and Schlitterbahns), the long lazy river, the young kids’ splash pad and the elevated water fort-type attraction dubbed the Gully Washer are easily accessed and enjoyed.

The big slides and rides prove to be largely worth the line vigils, however. Texas Twister, in which six-person rafts speed down a slide and right up a wall, is unlike any other water ride I’ve experienced (and with two boys, aged 8 and 10, I’ve become something of an unlikely American water park connoisseur). Slide Boarding — a slide where one shoots at targets video game style — is another original. There are also the requisite floor-dropping-beneath-you thrill ride slides that have become such a staple of the water park world.

Typhoon Texas isn't a giant park, but every water ride it has is brand new.
Typhoon Texas isn’t a giant park, but every water ride it has is brand new.


Still, it’s the deceivingly tame-looking Lone Star Racers (you go down one of six competing tubes headfirst on a blanket-board type thing) that delivers some of the bigger unexpected thrills. There is no denying that Typhoon Texas comes through on its promise of fun. My 3-year-old would have spent six hours at the splash pads alone if we let her.

The park employees all seem happy to be here and are unfailingly polite. There are none of the morose workers that mark a bad amusement park. The barbecue cooked in smokers in the park is a nice touch. The admission prices aren’t cheap, but they’re anything but astronomical by amusement park standards — $39.99 per person weekdays, $44.99 on weekends and holidays, and $359.96 cents for the best deal, a family four-pack season pass.

Still, there are tweaks that could make this non-AstroWorld park better. More ticket sellers, a slightly better trained staff (Season Pass holders get 15 percent off all the park food, but you have to ask to find this out; it’s never volunteered), beefing up the food supply to make sure it keeps pace with the crowd (the pizza stand stopped making pies more than two hours before the 7p.m. closing time on the day of our visit) and a more efficient parking system (directing all the cars around the main entrance on Katy Fort Bend Road and having everyone weave around the back of the park by the mall makes little sense) would be good starts.

You have to hope that the Texas A&M University business grads who own the place — Keith Dalton, Terry Hlavinka, and Ray DeLaughter — are committed to improving the park’s standards. They’ve built something impressive in a region long starved for a new amusement park. They just need to make some improvements and keep it going.

One truth is undeniable: It’s already cleaner than AstroWorld ever was.

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