CAN’T AFFORD CABO? TRY MASSANUTTEN!

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Depending on where you live, it can seem like the kids are out of school a lot these days. You may run out of things to do with them, especially with so much time off in the dead of winter — and not even enough snow to build a respectable snowman!

You might wish you could escape to a warm climate, but that would be expensive, and you wouldn’t really have enough time. Instead, consider taking the kids to Massanutten Water Park.

At 2½ hours from the DMV, it’s a bit of a haul, but it can be done in a day if someone in your family is one of those crazy drivers who never wants to stop even to let you go to the bathroom.

Massanutten Water Park is no Great Wolf Lodge, but it’s cheaper. At Great Wolf Lodge, you must stay in the hotel to use the water park. Off-peak rates are $199-$349 per night, and it’s $100 more per night during peak times.

Massanutten is smaller. Prices range from free (for under 2 years old) to $45 for adult general peak admission, with special discounts for nighttime-only play (after 5 p.m.). This is why you want to make the most of those random school holidays, the kind when classes are off for teacher prep days.

Stay away on holidays like Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day, when rates are high and lines are long. Worst is spring break, according to one Massanutten employee, who said last year he worked a capacity crowd on Easter weekend and the lines were out the doors.

The park has several big tube slides, each a different color, so if you like (or don’t like) one, you’ll remember which one it is. One is so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Others are big enough to ride a tube in, and one accommodates a two- or three-person-tube.

It was not particularly crowded on a recent Monday during winter break. We went up the stairs and down the slides so many times, we got tired and had to float around on the Blue Ridge Rapids for a while.

The rapids — which are not particularly rapid — surround a jungle gym of sorts called Massanutten Meltdown, on which you can climb around and go down smaller, open slides that you can sit up on. At the top is a huge bucket that fills slowly and empties every so often with a huge crash onto the brave visitors waiting below. A smaller bucket empties onto rapids cruisers.

Tots have their own area, Frog Pond, with squirting pipes, a frog slide and a swing carousel. Shenandoah Cove is a walled-off area 3 feet deep where younger ones can swim safely without fear of any sliding, crashing, splashing or squirting.

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Surf simulators at water parks tend to have long lines, since they can only accommodate one person at a time. That was the case with the FlowRider ride here, and we didn’t want to wait.

There’s also a sizable hot tub, Shenandoah Hot Springs, but beware: Once you soak in here, the rest of the park feels freezing!

The water park has a sizable outdoor component open Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Massanutten takes a beating on Yelp for its food, but we read that ahead of time and didn’t eat anything there. You could probably get away with bringing snacks — no one searched us like they do at Six Flags.

The multi-level park also has an arcade, lounge, snack bar and restaurants.

Massnutten Water Park is part of Massanutten Resort, which offers all the expected resort amenities, along with seasonal skiing, fishing, boating, golfing, hiking, hunting, horseback riding and more.

If you decide to stay overnight, a plethora of cheap hotels dots the landscape, some as low as $50.

Massnutten Water Park, 1822 Resort Dr., McGaheysville, Virginia, 22840, (540) 289-9441; Rates and Hours vary daily.

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