Go all out on fun—get your swim, bike, and run on in an amusement park.
In the past decade, family-friendly running races and cycling events have been popping up in some rather unique venues, from Las Vegas to Disney resorts. So why not family-friendly triathlons? Get ready for these theme park tri adventures—guaranteed to bring out the kid in every competitor.
Pat Griskus Tri Series
June 15, July 10
Pat Griskus was a legendary endurance athlete from Connecticut who was known for being full of positive energy and excitement.
Now in its 33rd year, the beginner-friendly Pat Griskus Sprint Triathlon (July 10) continues to celebrate his determination and zest for life. “Pat Griskus was an amazing guy and credited with paving the way for the many amputee athletes to follow,” says race director Tom Wilkas of the race’s inspirational namesake. (In 1985, Griskus became the first lower-leg amputee to complete the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. He was killed on a training ride in 1987.)
To keep his sporting spirit alive, the small, beginner-friendly sprint triathlon he helped start earlier that year at Bantam Lake in central Connecticut was renamed in his honor and was eventually relocated to the Quassy Amusement Park and Waterpark in Middlebury, 30 miles to the south.
The memorial sprint race includes a half-mile swim in spring-fed Lake Quassapaug, a gentle and at 10.5- mile bike course, and a 3.1-mile out-and-back run that finishes at the amusement park.
On June 15, the park also hosts the Pat Griskus Olympic Triathlon (1-mile swim/24-mile bike/6.2-mile run) as well as a sprint triathlon (0.5-mile swim/11.6-mile bike/3.1-mile run) and duathlon (2-mile run/24-mile bike/6.2-mile run) on similar courses. After the races, there’s plenty of time to ride the Wooden Warrior rollercoaster, take a spin in the bumper cars, and escape gravity in the Free Fall’N thrill ride.
Challenge Daytona Triathlon Festival
Although last year’s inaugural Challenge Daytona events were impacted by weather, the three-day, nine-event endurance festival was otherwise deemed a huge success. A sprint triathlon (0.5-mile swim/12.4-mile bike/3.1-mile run) and a half iron-distance race (1.2-mile swim/56-mile bike/13.1-mile run) serve as centerpieces to a one-of-a-kind endurance festival at the spectator-friendly Daytona International Speedway—which also includes aquabike and running races, plus a fun tire-changing Pitstop Challenge. The marquee half iron-distance race starts with a 1.2-mile wetsuit-legal swim in Lake Lloyd inside the confines of the speedway facility. Then it’s onto the 56-mile bike, which starts with one lap around the 2.5-mile racetrack before heading out along the coast and back along the Halifax River, then returning to the Speedway for the three-lap, 13.1- mile run inside the racetrack facility that finishes along the famed pit row.
“It’s an amazing venue, and I’ll definitely be back in 2019 to race there again,” says Darren Brown, of East Weymouth, Massachusetts, who took the age-group title last year at the weather-shortened half-iron event. He was racing in honor of his father and was happy to be able to frequently see family members along the extremely spectator-friendly course. “The course is very guarded from the wind, both at the racetrack and out on the bike course, and so it could potentially be a very fast course. I really like when events take really cool landmarks and turn them into experiential opportunities.”
More Family-Friendly Triathlons
Typhoon Texas Kids Tri
These kids-only triathlons take place at the Typhoon Texas Waterpark before the venue’s opening weekend: a junior race for competitors ages 6-10 (100-meter swim/2-mile bike/1-mile run) and a senior race for kids ages 11-15 (200-meter swim/4-mile bike/2-mile run). Both are followed by “the golden ticket”—private use of the park for the rest of the day.
Water Works Sprint Triathlon
This short-but-sweet kids-only triathlon at the Water Works Park and Denton Natatorium features a 250-yard pool swim/4-mile bike/1-mile run for kids ages 11 to 15. Ages 6-10 compete on a shorter course (150-yard pool swim/2-mile bike/0.5-mile run). The sooner the kids finish, the sooner they can join the all-day private party, carnival games, and sand volleyball games.
Thorpe Park Standard Distance Triathlon
For most of the summer, Thorpe Park Resort is one of England’s most enchanting amusement parks, with more than two dozen thrill rides—including The Detonator, Nemesis Inferno, and Colossus. But for three days out of the year, this theme park just south of London is turned into one of the most unique triathlon venues in the world. Just as with the two sprint triathlon events (750-meter swim/21K bike/5K run) on June 9 and Sept. 15, the Olympic-distance race (1.5K swim/39.5K bike/10K run) on July 14 sends competitors through sections of the park. The race offers free entry to the park for all competitors, volunteers, and spectators.
Monticello Rotary Club Sprint Triathlon/Duathlon
Held at Indiana Beach Amusement and Water Resort (Indianabeach.com) in central Indiana, this low-key event includes a sprint triathlon (400-yard swim/11-mile bike/3.1-mile run), a duathlon (3.1-mile run, 11-mile bike, 3.1-mile run), and a triathlon relay. The swim is in the calm water of Lake Shafer adjacent to the resort, while the ride and run send competitors out into the relatively flat farmland on the outskirts of Monticello. Every participant gets a free ticket to the amusement park and its dozens of rides and attractions.