My kids love swimming. I mean, seriously they’d swim every day year round if they could. Problem is, the weather gets in the way. Cold temperatures or precipitation are kind of a downer when you’re looking forward to perfecting your high dive. The solution? Indoor water parks. The amount of indoor water parks within a two hour drive from Westchester is simply staggering. Where’s the best one? Pros and cons? Tips? We’ve got you covered. Grab your goggles and lets dive right in.
Great Wolf Lodge: Scotrun, Pennsylvania (and Fitchburg, Massachusetts)
Great Wolf has a very laid back, family friendly environment. The atmosphere is a mix of family-friendly and relaxation. Let’s put it this way, people walk around all day in bathing suits and gather in the lobby in pjs at night, it’s that kind of relaxed atmosphere. Thematically, it’s very well done. There are woodland touches everywhere you turn, from stuffed creatures, to bunk beds indoors with walls that look like log cabins. There are many choices of room style to fit your family no matter how large. Great Wolf has a main restaurant on location and a few other quick-service style options including a Starbucks for the much needed coffee kick in the morning.
PROS: There is so much for the kids to do, to look at, to have fun with, every step of the way. Your kids, old or young will be entertained. The arcade is large, clean, and has a wide variety of games for all kids. The water park has a variety of slides and pools. There is a space for the little ones to play while the older ones can ride waves, slides, and enjoy themselves no matter what type of thrill seeker they are. Characters walk around and greet the kids and at night they all gather in the lobby in pjs for a story hour. Parking is free and ample and there are some places around for meals or shopping outlets should you want to leave.
CONS: Great Wolf is starting to show it’s age. There is a ring of dirt on the lazy river and wallpaper in my bathroom was starting to peel. To keep up with its newer cousins, it may need some refurbishments sooner rather than later. Also, if your children are super early risers, there is nothing to do at a very early time. There is only one main restaurant too if you want to sit for your meal, and it can get very crowded – with wait times that can get up to an hour. The only other negative is that it can get loud. The corridors are long and some of them have enchanted picture frames. Kids run to them to get them to animate (with wands purchased at the gift shop). If your room is next to them, bring ear plugs.
TIPS: If you wear contacts, you may want to break out the old glasses. The chlorine in the air had my eyes stinging rather quickly. With that, bring goggles for your kids too, and cover ups – the hallways are cold.
Kalahari Resort: Pocono Manner, Pennsylvania
Kalahari is the country’s largest indoor water park so if you are looking for something specific, chances are you’ll find it at Kalahari. Kalahari is themed to perfection with hints of the African grasslands at every turn. It is a beautiful resort. Kids (and adults) of all ages will have a variety of things to do inside and out. There is a large outdoor pool and play space at Kalahari with its own food and bar area. Inside you’ll find slides (like Victoria falls which my kids still laugh at me for being scared of), a wave pool, swim up bar and much more. Kalahari has multiple restaurants, shops, activities, and a top of the line arcade.
Pros: Safety is a huge priority at all of the water parks, but I felt that Kalahari really took things seriously. I saw them come to the rescue of children more than once, at a moment’s notice. They were always on guard and it made me feel safe. The cabanas are beyond any at the other resorts. Cabanas (that you can rent for extra money) allow your family some privacy and guaranteed space to return to. Some of the cabanas even had private hot tubs! The final pro is the shear size of the place equated to choices – there really was something for everyone and by the end of the trip we still felt like there was more we could have done. (PS while I can’t call it a pro yet, the website claims they will start having virtual reality snorkeling soon. VR snorkeling! How cool is that?! I think I may have to make a new reservation to check that out!).
Cons: The size. Even though it was a pro, it also became a con. The amount of rooms available meant a ton of people, which meant lots and lots of swimmers. The pools (especially the hot tubs and basketball pool) were really crowded the whole time we were there. I can only imagine what would happen if it was very cold and the outdoor attractions were closed. The lines on slides were long as well. At one point they had to close the wave pool for awhile and it really impacted our enjoyment of the other attractions because they were simply too crowded. The other downside was the check in. The line for check in was literally wrapped around the lobby and down the hall. It was hard to hear what the people who were checking me in were saying because of all the people crowded behind me on line. People were just standing and sitting all over the lobby with luggage because check in was taking so long. If I’m paying that much to be there (because yikes! prices are high!) then I don’t want to wait an hour on a line with my bag and my screaming kid trying to get a room number. Once I did check in, I was told my room wasn’t ready (fine) and that I could leave my bags with the bell hop so that I could use the pool. Well after a twenty minute wait and a peek into the storage room where luggage was literally being thrown everywhere I brought my stuff back to the car instead.
Tips: Your room may be far. Your car may be farther. Try to get everything out of your car at once so you don’t have to go back. Also, like with Great Wolf, things may not open in the resort at the same time your child decides sleep time has concluded. You may want to bring a snack for the room or something to keep them occupied until the arcade or water park opens.
Hershey Water Works at Hershey Lodge: Hershey Pennsylvania
While traveling to the sweetest place on earth, you may happen upon the Hershey Lodge. Inside the Hershey Lodge is Hershey Water Works. After traveling to the other water parks, Hershey Water Works is not on the same level. In fact, they have changed the name and now call it an “indoor pool complex” instead of a water park. While it is smaller, it does provide an indoor water experience that is greater than just the common hotel pool. There were lots of unbelievable food choices in the hotel and some activities for kids, like a separate check in for them, craft activities and games available. There was also a very small arcade for the kids to try.
Pros: Due to the small size of the complex, you can sit in a seat and see most of the water area. Having older kids, this was a plus for me because I could get out of the water for awhile and just let them play. There was also enough seating for everyone. At the other parks people tended to leave towels on chairs all day, here this wasn’t the case. CHOCOLATE. You’re in Hershey, where everywhere you go, they give you chocolate just for showing up. That may be the only pro needed.
Cons: The size. It was very small. The arcade had less than a dozen games. There were only two slides. It definitely is not a place you could spend all day without your kids getting bored. It also is the furthest, distance wise, which didn’t bother me, but if your kids don’t do well in the car, the extra mileage isn’t really worth it.
Tips: If you go in the winter you will be cold. The hallways were freezing. The little hotel towels just won’t get the job done so make sure to bring a really warm cover up and flip flops. The lodge is HUGE and you might not even be in the same wing as the water area so you will be making a long trek.
Kartrite: Monticello, New York
Kartrite is the closest of all the water parks. It opened just this April in the middle of the Catskill Mountains. Since it just opened, there are some kinks to work out but it also has things that set it apart from the others. Parking is ample and safe. The staff were all just lovely. There are fire pits outside and fun activities like making s’mores and donut decorating. The arcade was slightly smaller than Kalahari and Great Wolf but still had enough games to entertain the kids.
Pros: Unlike the larger resorts, Kartrite seemed compact enough that the walk to the water park or other fun areas was never that long. Check in was speedy and everyone that I interacted with who worked there was friendly and helpful. The lifeguards were on top of their game. They were constantly scanning and keeping their areas safe. Since the hotel was new, all the slides, rafts, tubes, towels etc were also new which was a nice feeling.
Cons: While there were lots of slides and a huge hot tub, there was no actual pool. No wave pool either. So technically there was no place to actually swim (some kids were swimming in the hot tub, but kids under 6 aren’t allowed in there, and it’s not a super healthy choice to make anyway). To my girls, who may be half fish – half child hybrid, not having an actual place to swim was a big drawback. Another con was the food. There were limited choices – one buffet restaurant which was quite mediocre was the only breakfast choice outside of the tiny coffee shop. The final con was the changing rooms. They were horrible. There were less than 10 individual rooms for people to go in. Inside was a tiny shower and a hook. No benches, no places to put down your bag. It was incredibly difficult to help my daughter get dressed and then dress myself with no place to put our things.
Tips: The GPS system I used did not bring me to the Kartrite and the lady who helped to check me in said that many people have that problem. So use GPS to get close to the Kartrite but make sure to check their website first and follow that instead towards the end of your travel. Also, cell service was horrendous so don’t count on GPS. Make sure you have cover ups and shoes too because they do require them in all non-pool common areas (which I love.)
Conclusions and Final Thoughts
Going to an indoor water park resort can be a great family trip or a quick get away from reality no matter what time of year. There are still a few more I’d like to check out (like Aquatopia at Camelback in the Poconos and Six Flags Great Escapes in Lake George). Whether we hit up a new park or return to our favorite (Kalahari), indoor water parks are a great way to get the phones and iPads put away and make some memories with the family. So what are you waiting for, gather your goggles and life jackets and hit the road!
Want more general tips and thoughts on indoor water park trips? Check out this post, written by fellow mom blogger, Fran. Or, click here to read about the time I did a technology free experiment and left our iPads home and took a trip to the water park.