At ACE Adventure Resort’s Wonderland Waterpark, you can slip, slide, zip, and blob your way to a splashing good time.
A new verb has crept into Matt Bishop’s vocabulary since he and his two sons discovered ACE Adventure Resort’s Wonderland Waterpark in Oak Hill. The lake features 50 inflatable toys, but Luke, 14, and A.J., 10, have one far-and-away favorite. “We love The Blob,” Bishop says. A giant inflatable launch bag, the Blob requires the “blobbee” to crawl to the end of the red, yellow, and blue pillow. Then the “blobber” jumps on the other end, catapulting the blobbee into the air. “They will fly as high as 10 feet into the air and land in the water,” says Bishop, of Beckley. This is where the new verb comes in. “They like for me to ‘blob’ them because I’m much heavier,” he says.
Bishop and the boys were introduced to the water park in 2015—the first year it was open to guests not taking advantage of ACE’s other attractions—and then went back five or six times last summer. They have similar plans for 2017.
During previous summers, the trio got season passes to a water-themed park in North Carolina. But Luke and A.J. told their father they did not want to do that this year. “They said, ‘We want to stay here. We just want to go to ACE.’”
Water, Water Everywhere
The idea for a water park evolved over time. It became possible in 1992 when ACE moved from Glen Jean to 1,500 acres of property adjacent to the New River Gorge. The company, which started out in 1980 as river rafting outfitter American-Canadian Expeditions, began offering activities in addition to river rafting that now include ziplining, hiking, mountain biking, caving, stand-up paddleboarding, horseback riding, kayaking, and more.
Additional groundwork for a water park was laid nearly 20 years ago. In 1998, ACE co-owner Jerry Cook and his family lived on the edge of the lake that eventually would become Wonderland Waterpark. “It’s all spring fed,” Cook says. “It has springs that feed it year-round, so it always has fresh water.” Soon after the family moved in, Cook bought an inflatable water trampoline for his son Dylan, who was about 3 years old at the time. “We kept buying bigger ones and guests asked if they could jump on them, so we got a large inflatable trampoline.”
Then came Virginia white sand, imported in 2006 to create a beach where kids can build castles, parents can lounge, and swimmers can enter the water gradually. At the same time, ACE began acquiring a larger variety of inflatables. The list now includes a 25-foot-tall climbing mountain, seesaws, an obstacle course, a balance beam, a rope swing, monkey bars, inflatable logs, and giant, spinning “Saturn” balls that guests climb while keeping their balance.
In 2008, ACE built a 30-foot tower in order to install the 40-foot-tall soft, vinyl Wet Willie Waterslide. After the tower was built, Cook and co-owner Ernie Kincaid, an engineer, figured out the tower would also facilitate a zipline. Now guests can zoom 400 feet before skimming and then plunging into the water—at 30 miles an hour. “Ernie says, ‘You can start
The lake only received its official moniker—Wonderland Waterpark—last year in reference to a campground that occupied the land decades ago.
Swim and Slide
ACE plans to have even more fun ready for visitors this summer. The waterpark will introduce 20 new inflatables. ACE also will soon begin construction of a new extreme slide. The slide will be between 160 and 175 feet in length. Only guests 18 and older will be able to take the heart-pounding ride to the bottom, where ramps will launch them into the air.
The new slide may or may not be open by the end of the summer, Cook says, but in the meantime attendees can still enjoy the side-by-side fiberglass slides installed in 2016. The slides criss-cross, and one goes through a tunnel for about 20 feet. “As soon as you go in, you turn 90 degrees and the bottom drops out,” Cook says. “It’s always a thrill. You go fast at the end just as you come out and drop down fast.” Cook knows this from personal experience. “They let the old guy test everything.”
Like Bishop, Wanda McCune, who lives in nearby Fayetteville, loves to take her sons to Wonderland Waterpark. “It’s so versatile,” she says. “It’s a lot of family fun and friendly as well.” That’s important to McCune, whose three sons span ages 8 to 14.
One of them, 11-year-old Dylan, has a neurological movement disorder, but that does not keep him off most of the attractions at Wonderland Waterpark. “He loves the turtle trampoline,” as well as the new slides, which are his favorite features on the lake. “It’s one of the things we can do—one of the things I felt was safe and fun for him to do.”
The fun will only continue as Cook and his partners keep adding to the attractions at Wonderland Waterpark. ACE plans to add a wave pool and a lazy river beside the 5-acre lake within the next three years. And if you catch Cook there in testing mode, he might even assist in the fun. “I’ll be glad to blob you,” he says.