What’s an indoor waterpark? Sounds like a silly question if you live in the Midwest or East Coast where they are popular, but we don’t have them in California. Imagine three football fields filled with indoor water slides, lazy rivers, wave machines, and play structures. Put a cover over it and you’ve got an indoor waterpark — at least Kalahari style.
On a recent trip to Ohio I had an opportunity to experience the largest indoor waterpark in the world at Kalahari Waterpark and Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. I visited mid-week in November and there were no lines and no waiting — we had free reign of the place.
Ropes course is great for school-age kids
There are enough slides, rides and other activities to keep all ages entertained. At 5 and 7 my kids were able to do almost everything although there were a few rides we should have skipped in retrospect. A three-story climb to ride the Swahili Swirl, which as its name implies, swirls riders around in a funnel before dropping them down the slide, was too much for my 5 year-old and my 80 year-old father-in-law (perfect for middle school-aged kids). With young kids, we migrated towards the calmer side — lazy river, wave pool, slides and water towers. The basketball area and ropes course are popular and a nice change after many runs down the slides. And for an additional charge, you can try surfing or body boarding the waves of the FlowRider.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day there’s an outdoor waterpark which includes a zip-line, pools and water play fountains. I like the idea of being able to go from inside to outside when the weather is nice, especially for the zip-line. There’s also a year-round outdoor animal park which is interesting, although the food to feed the animals is pricey — so if you don’t want to go the whining kid’s route — enjoy the view from afar.
Water safety is taken very seriously. Life vests are visible at the entrance and there are several lifeguards at each ride and they are attentive. At the wave pool, the periphery lifeguards signaled to the main lifeguard on shore to double check that our daughter, who just met the height requirements for many of the rides, was tall enough. We never encountered a lifeguard or any staff member passively doing their job. Even at the dry land activities, they make an effort to engage the kids. I don’t have tweens or teens, but I would have felt comfortable letting them go on their own given this set-up.
If only all hotels and resorts had this many family-friendly room types. It’s a parent’s dream with options ranging from basic hotel rooms to larger family rooms to condos with full kitchens. We stayed in an African Queen Suite with 2 bedrooms but a less expensive option is the Two Room Family Suite which doesn’t have separate bedrooms but does have a wall separating kids from adults and is spacious. Waterpark passes are included in the cost of the lodging and day passes when available, are $40 and spectator passes are $10. It’s definitely worth it to stay overnight and if you book in advance a family of 4 can get a basic room for the same cost as 4 waterpark passes.
At some point you may want to get out of your wet swimming suit and be dry for a few hours. For adults there is a spa and fitness center and for kids there are multiple activities including a supervised climbing and play area for smaller children, arcade and cookie decorating daily. If you are here during high season or weekends there are planned activities all day long — crafts, limbo competition, bingo, karaoke, story time — some in the waterpark area and some in the dry activity area.
Dining options range from a coffee bar, to fast food, to buffets to The Reserve, a higher-end, dinner-only restaurant. My expectations were low — amusement park food was what first came to mind, but it is better than that. Our buffet breakfast was fair but our dinner at The Reserve was excellent with a moderately priced wine list — just what we needed after a day of being swirled and shot out.
The Kalahari Resort is tailored for families so it’s easy for parents and kids love it. Best of all — the kids are so worn out by the end of the day that they happily go to bed early.
Kristi received complimentary accommodation from Kalahari Resorts. They did not ask Ciao Bambino to express any particular opinion. Photos courtesy of Kristi Marcelle