Wildest Water Slide: Sliding Rock
Located in: Pisgah National Forest, near Brevard, North Carolina
Why you should go: Call it the Mother Nature of all water slides. Sliding Rock, in western North Carolina, is a 50-foot sloping boulder fed by 11,000 gallons of water every minute, and it offers one major advantage over molded plastic water parks: It’s nestled in a national forest, which makes for a beautiful setting and plenty of shade. (Plus, it’s a cheap thrill: Admission is just $1 per person.) Visitors wait their turn on a wooden staircase before slip-’n-sliding (one at a time, please) down the falls, ending with a plunge into seven feet of water. The ride is mostly a smooth one, but forest officials still recommend wearing shorts–rather than a bathing suit—and water shoes. Lines can get long, so come early in the day for the best crowd-free rides. (Kids under 7 must slide with an adult. Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day to mid-August, and life jackets are the only flotation devices allowed; fs.usda.gov.)
Where to stay: The Renaissance Asheville, in Asheville, North Carolina (from $169 per night; bring your dog for an extra $75; renhotels.com).