September signifies the end of poolside barbeques and the start of changing leaves. Yet summer heat tends to linger well into the fall, leaving travelers in search of a quick and cool getaway. And what better way to enjoy a warm fall day than with a trip to a waterpark? The growing popularity of waterparks has created a need for them to remain open later, and offer refreshing options well into the colder months. Taking a trip at the end of the season has many benefits, including shorter lines, more affordable prices, and special events that you will only find in the fall.

Changing a Trend

As the start of school approaches and life is more hectic, end-of-season specials become a waterpark's sustenance. According to the marketing departments of several resorts, the attendance for many outdoor parks can decrease by around 15 to 20 percent; most guests have the common misconception that waterparks are places of the summer. 

"Attendance naturally declines," says Tara Nahrup, marketing manager of The Beach Waterpark in Mason, Ohio. "Kids are back in school, and the weather can become an issue. As much as you can, you try to push attendance numbers."

In the past couple of years, The Beach Waterpark has extended its season and has seen a dramatic increase in attendance due to its special promotions. Outdoor waterpark guests average 7,000 at The Beach; before its promotions, it used to see numbers barely in the thousands after August. Now, Labor Day weekend has become one of its biggest weekends. Guests who buy a 2007 General Season Pass for $65 can buy an additional pass for $10. The Beach also offers special events such as Christmas in September, the Labor Day Celebration, a Polynesian luau, and Dog Day -- a $12 admission on Sept. 10 that benefits the League for Animal Welfare. The park is open every day until Labor Day weekend and opens for another weekend afterwards. 

Even when the hot days end, The Beach offers a unique event known as Holiday Fest, which runs Nov. 24 through Jan. 7. During that time, The Beach becomes a winter wonderland with carriage rides, toboggans, ice-skating, and more. Water attractions are taken to a whole new level during the holiday season at The Beach, and a family of four can enjoy this winter water retreat for only $36.

Discount Destinations

If you don't want to chance the cold weather, but still want to partake in September specials, head to an indoor waterpark resort such as Great Wolf Lodge, with discounts at all nine of its locations. In the Pocono Mountains, its Howl B4U Hit the Books special caters to the back-to-school child. Price for the package ranges from $149 to $269 and includes accommodations, daily 

waterpark access for an entire stay, Cub Club arts and crafts, Great Clock Tower shows, and a "Splash into Learning Gift Pack" with Great Wolf Lodge logo school supplies. This deal saves the average consumer around $150 and is perfect for families with children returning to school.

"These packages help provide that connection time with kids even when school is going on," says Dale McFarland, general manager at Great Wolf Lodge in the Pocono Mountains. "Kids are still doing homework at the lodge. We've recently tapped into the home schooling program, too. It's a great getaway during the week or on the weekends where parents can play with their kids and feel safe to go and have their own one-on-one time since they can still see their kids."

One Last Chance

Families who get together one more time before their frantic schedules take full swing should visit hassle-free destinations to help eliminate stress. Late visits to waterparks can be a blast without making a big dent in your budget. 

"It's going to be a little more economical because of these promotions," says Nahrup. "Also, you're not going to see as big of lines, so it will be a little more enjoyable. As soon as school starts, people will be too busy with school, sports, and work. Enjoy waterparks now while there's still a good chunk of summer left."

Even when the warm weather comes to an end, indoor waterparks can be a great year-round option for those who want an entertaining water-filled vacation. Indoor resorts allow families to enjoy cheap fun no matter how cold it is outside -- because inside, it will always be 86 degrees.

When planning for your next family vacation, don't immediately eliminate waterparks. Many are accessible year round and those only open until the end of September make vacationing a lot less stressful on the wallets and minds of travelers. Vacations shouldn't fit the season, but rather, a traveler's needs. If you miss the hot days of summer, waterparks will always be open to bring back bathing suits, pools, and the perfect temperature.

Flexible Fun for Everyone

For those who want more options than the ones listed above, check out these other waterparks near you:

  • Lake Lanier Islands Resort, Lake Lanier Islands, Georgia -- Save on weekends through Sept. 10 by purchasing a season pass for only $37.99 online
  • Lodge at Cedar Creek, Rothschild, Wisconsin -- Check out many special rates and events throughout September such as Romantic Getaways and Take the Day Off specials throughout the week
  • Knott's Soak City Waterpark, San Diego -- Visit San Diego's largest waterpark throughout September for a free daytime admission with the purchase of a Go San Diego Card, which provides unlimited access to museums, tours, and excursions.