Splash-tastic Indoor water parks
Kids and water parks go together like macaroni and cheese. Check out our top picks for your next wet and wild vacation.
Ask any child what he wants to do on vacation, and you'll hear one answer more than any other: swim! So it's no wonder indoor water-park resorts have become one of the hottest new travel trends.
Great Wolf Lodge
(11 locations around the country, plus one in Niagara Falls, Canada; Greatwolf.com.) This log-cabinesque behemoth started the craze. Its range of activities (aquatic and otherwise) makes the resort a crowd-pleaser.
The draw: A four- to eight-story tree house with soakers aplenty; some locations have a funnel slide, called the Howlin' Tornado, that slings the whole crew around on a four-person tube. National Geographic Kids has sponsored a Cub Club for little landlubbers. And for too-cool tweens, there's the gr8_space computers (with Internet access on approved sites only) and Wii games, all to the sounds of a live DJ. Lisa Bain, a mom of two from Rockville Centre, NY, says her 12-year-old and friends found it "way cool."
The lowdown: The rustic, woodsy lodgings are part of the deal -- only those who stay get access to the water park. The prices include passes for every day of your stay, including the days of arrival and departure, so plan accordingly. The onsite food's not the highlight, though, so consider taking advantage of the mini-kitchen in the room.
Key Lime Cove
(Illinois; Keylimecove.com) This 65,000-square-foot island-themed indoor water park is a tropical paradise any time of year.
The draw: The Pineapple Bucket! The ginormous fruit rocks suspensefully and tips when it's full of water, drenching the giggling gaggle of kids below. It was a favorite of Catherine Holecko's then 5-year-old daughter. "I loved seeing her shriek and run away from the cascading water," says the mom of two from Neenah, WI. The Lazy River adds built-in downtime, too.
The lowdown: The park is close to Six Flags and a massive mall, so when you feel like drying out, you're covered.
(two locations: Wilderness at the Smokies in Tennessee; Wilderness at the Dells in Wisconsin; Wildernessterritory.com) These huge resorts offer fun on a (really) large scale, so you'll have more options (and more breathing room).
The draw: At Wilderness at the Dells, four -- yes, four -- indoor parks are included in the price of a room. At Wilderness at the Smokies, you'll find poolside cabanas, the area's only surf-rider, and access to an aquarium (with sharks!) nearby.
The lowdown: Check the family-focused specials on the website, like free kids' meals with adult-meal purchases.
(locations in Wisconsin and Ohio, and a new park in Virginia is under development; Kalahariresorts.com) Think of this kitschy African safari-themed adventure palace as the Vegas of indoor water parks (in a good way).
The draw: Your gang will like the Safari Adventures (see ostriches, zebras, and even a giraffe!) at the Ohio locale nearly as much as the water rides. At the Wisconsin park, a six-story indoor Ferris wheel ups the fun factor, too. Colleen Vanier, a mom of two from West Allis, WI, says the dining here is a treat.
The lowdown: We laud the smart design of the resort -- it's spread out, so it's never super loud, a boon if you're trying to get a cranky kid to take a nap.
One of the best times I had with the family was at: CoCo Keys in Florida