Daytripper: Last sip of summer

Take a ride on a floating shark or hippo, get soaked under a water mushroom or float along on a log raft at Coconut Cove at Oceans of Fun.

Toddlers can have fun in special areas of Schlitterbahn Kansas City Waterpark like Kinderhaven, designed just for their enjoyment.

The new Transportainment River System at Schlitterbahn Kansas City Waterpark lets guests float through the entire park, experiencing the rides without ever having to leave the water.

Wannabe surfer dudes can hone their techniques during Schlitterbahn Kansas City Waterpark’s new Boogie Bahn ride.

Almost gone are “those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.”

In Lawrence, the sound of the ice cream truck’s music playing is being replaced by the sound of school bus wheels rumbling down the road.

Gone are the summer band concerts, the fireflies twinkling their magical lights at dusk, and even public swimming days at the Outdoor Aquatic Center, 727 Ky. (although morning lap swim continues through Aug. 31).

Who doesn’t want to make summer linger longer? Personally, I’m not looking forward to seeing stark, leafless trees in a barren winter landscape again. I’m planning to squeeze out the last sun-drenched drops of summer by heading to nearby water parks!

If you haven’t been to Schlitterbahn in Kansas City, Kan., this season, then you haven’t been to Schlitterbahn.

The water park is now double the size it was last year, after a multimillion-dollar expansion. With its new Transportainment River System, you can float through the entire park without ever leaving the water. If you’ve ever wanted to go river tubing, a day at Schlitterbahn is like going on a float trip.

Schlitterbahn guests enjoy free parking and free use of inner tubes and life jackets, and are permitted to bring their own picnic baskets and coolers inside the park (no alcohol or glass containers).

My favorite area in Schlitterbahn is the Torrent River, which combines the relaxation of a “Lazy River” ride with the excitement of ocean-sized waves. Every 19 seconds, a 20,000-gallon wave surges through the entire “river.”

I love the tranquil feeling of being carried gently along on my inner tube by the current, but also enjoy being swept vigorously through the 1,800-foot waterway by pounding surf. I even relish the occasional wipe out! Even though I lost a pair of goggles last summer when engulfed by a 4-foot-high wave, I still happily ride this attraction several times in a row every time I come to Schlitterbahn.

If you’re a wannabe surfer dude stuck in the dry Midwest, I’ve got good news for you. New in 2012, the Boogie Bahn at Schlitterbahn is the only surf ride in the Kansas City region.

A rapidly moving sheet of water rushes across a wave-shaped surface as surfers maneuver to maintain control on body boards. (Beneath the sheet of water is a foam-covered surface, so novices to the sport don’t have to risk injury.) Who knows — after a few sessions, you might think about competing in Malibu.

Other new rides at Schlitterbahn this year include the King Kaw Rapids River — basically a white water rafting trip on inner tubes, letting you negotiate rapids and waterfalls on a 3,000-foot river; Twister & Cyclone, a race through banked curves and short tunnels on two head-first mat slides; Whirlwind, a plunge down a fully-enclosed slide in the dark; Mighty Mo, a fast-flow tube chute allowing you to swish and spin through rushing water; and Blitz Falls, an “Aqua Veyer” that lets you float through calm waters en route to Torrent River.

Additional unique experiences at Schlitterbahn are Storm Blaster, nirvana for thrill-seekers who crave a water slide that thinks it’s a roller coaster; Bahnzai Pipeline, Wolfpack and Black Knight, three 42-foot-tall tube slides; Raging River, a white water rapids tube chute; and Kristal River, a peaceful float through calm currents.

Toddlers can enjoy the Kinderhaven and Pirate Ship areas, with their assortment of mini-slides for smaller children. And grown-ups will appreciate Henry’s Hideout, a heated pool with bubble jets and a swim-up refreshment bar, where they can unwind at the end of a fun-filled day.

With 60 acres of water fun, Oceans of Fun in Kansas City, Mo., is a complete vacation destination for area families.

The collection of splashing and soaking attractions includes 33 water slides; giant wave pool Surf City; Caribbean Cooler, a lazy 800-foot “gentle rapids” river; a three-story interactive water fun house; two areas for little squirts; Castaway Cove, an adults-only pool with a swim-up refreshment bar; Coconut Cove, a huge activity pool with floating sharks, crabs and hippos; and Buccaneer Bay, a 5-acre lake for canoes and kayaks.

Floating on the Caribbean Cooler ride at Oceans of Fun is my idea of heaven, which is why I bought a season pass this year to the park. It’s my favorite way to celebrate my birthday every summer — better than a massage to ease tension and (quite literally) wash away the cares of the day.

Both Schlitterbahn and Oceans of Fun are open through Labor Day. Check out their websites for dates and times of operation.

So what are you waiting for? Grab the beach towels and the sunscreen. Because once the winter winds start howling, you’ll wish, as Nat King Cole once sang, “that summer would always be here.”