How cool would this place be at night?
JIRKA MATOUSEK/Flickr How cool would this place be at night?

I’m an amusement park freak. That’s one of the joys of living in Southern California. I have four world-class theme parks within a 50-mile radius of my home: Universal Studios Hollywood, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Knott’s Berry Farm and, of course, Disneyland.

Two of these have waterparks: Hurricane Harbor at Six Flags and Knott’s Soak City.

Neither is open past 8 p.m.

That’s a missed opportunity.

I’d much rather splash under the stars than scorch under the sun. (I’m still peeling from my last visit to Hurricane Harbor.) Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Many waterparks are beginning to stay open late on select evenings. It’d be nice if the two nearest me would follow suit. My family would love to spend a Friday night at a waterpark, especially if the tickets were discounted past, say, 5 p.m. But to make it worth our while, they'd have to be open until at least 10 p.m. And if they could cut us a deal on a cabana, even better. But what do I know? I just write articles. I’m sure the smart people at Cedar Fair (owner of Knott’s) and Six Flags have already looked into it and determined that the profit margins don’t pencil out.

But dozens of waterparks are making it work — not only making it work, but making money. Those interviewed for this month’s feature, Glow in the Park, say operating past sundown brings in fewer budget-conscious families and more free-spending singles prone to renting cabanas and splurging on merchandise and concessions.

As I mentioned, I love theme parks. But I could see myself becoming more of a waterpark guy, especially now that I have a son approaching 2 years old. While he’s far too young for the crazy water rides, he gets a kick out of the tranquil rivers (yep, that's us below) and kid-friendly splash zones. I’d even argue that there’s more for families with not-quite-roller-coaster-ready kiddos to do at waterparks. But to fully convert me, they’ll have to stay open later. Soak City, Hurricane Harbor, I’m talking to you.

By the way, I’ve always described Magic Mountain as all thrills, no frills. It just can’t compete in the charm department with Knott’s or Disneyland. But that’s not true of its waterpark. Hurricane Harbor is meticulously themed in places, especially its lazy river where you can float under ancient Aztec ruins.

I just wish I could experience it at night.

Nate Traylor is a senior editor with Aquatics International. Follow him @n8traylor.