Beijing's Water Cube now has slides, rides, a wave pool and spa
Beijing’s famous Water Cube, or National Aquatics Center, the place where two dozen world records were set during the 2008 Summer Olympics (and where swimming sensation Michael Phelps landed eight gold medals) has been converted into a water park -- or at least half of it has.
Nearly a year in the making and with a price tag of around RMB 350 million (about US$51 million), the splash-tastic “Happy Magic Water Cube, Beijing Water Cube Water Park,” as the translated Chinese sign near the entrance says, opened its doors to the public on August 8.
Located next to the Bird’s Nest, or Olympic Stadium, the aquatics center, famous for its plasticky blue bubble-wrapped exterior, had been closed since last summer for the renovations. Its opening coincided with the second anniversary of the 2008 Olympics.
The official Xinhua news agency reported the aqueous amusement park was designed to bring renewed interest and draw more tourists to the often ghost town-like Olympic grounds.
The water park, which takes up about half of the 12,000-square-meter complex and, according to state media, is now the largest in Asia, features a wave pool, lazy river, spa area and 13 water slides and rides, including the Bullet Bowl, Speed Slide and Tornado. (Article continues after the video)
Inside the Water Cube
A couple thousand visitors arrived for opening day, forking over a hefty RMB 200 for a ticket (children can get in for RMB 160), Xinhua reports. Interest had not waned on the day CNNGo paid a visit as thousands of mostly Chinese visitors arrived toting rafts and dressed in swim attire (rafts, swimsuits, towels and goggles are all on sale for those who forgot to bring them.
Bags and clothing can be stored in lockers that are located alongside changing rooms and showers outside the water world’s entrance on the ground floor. Renting a locker costs RMB 100, with RMB 80 given back when the rubber bracelets that open the lockers are returned.
Some visitors, like Jessie Zhang and Sherry Xie from the southern province of Yunnan, traveled thousands of miles to visit the new park. The two friends say it is the first time they had ever seen such a place: “It’s exciting and amazing,” says Xie, 20, noting that she got stuck in one of the painfully tiny tubes on one of the slides on her way through (don’t worry, there are around 60 life guards on duty.)
A few foreign faces were also in the mix, including one American who, while climbing the stairs of one of the tallest slides, keeps muttering something about “wishing there were more volunteers” before disappearing behind a roped-off entrance with a sign reading “Equipment Testing. Suspended.”
And siblings Mia and Taylor Croonquist of Seattle, Washington, find themselves at the top of the Aqueloop slide, which features a 40-foot free fall drop. It was the fourth time they had ridden it. “It never gets old,” Mia Croonquist, 13, says. “It whips you around a corner and then you are doused with water. It’s awesome.”
Taylor Croonquist, 28, adds: “Back in Seattle, we used to jump off bridges. It feels like that. A dead free fall before the water hits you.”
Address: Water Cube Water Park, Olympic Park, No. 11 Tianchen Donglu, Chaoyang District 朝阳奥林匹克公园天辰东路11号水立方嬉水乐园
Taxi from Central Beijing: Around RMB 30
Subway: Line 8 to Olympic Park or Olympic Sports Center Stops
Price: Adults RMB 200, children RMB160
Opening hours: 10:00 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. daily