If your family get the winter blues or your kids are itching for some summer fun without the sunburn, it's time to visit an indoor waterpark, where the fun continues year round.
While we usually associate water parks and amusement parks with warm weather, there are now many exceptions to that notion. Throughout North America, Europe and Asia — sometimes in some very unexpected locations — there are a number of indoor water and amusement parks that are certain to melt winter chills away. Conversely, your family can also escape sizzling summer temperatures and simulate outdoor fun by enjoying an air-conditioned amusement park, or even skiing, year-round — indoors!
FTF Travel Tips: Entry fees for water parks are often, but not always, included in a resort's room rate; day rates are often available for non-hotel guests. Slides are marked age-appropriately so please respect the park's guidelines and safety measures. These indoor water parks and pools are open and heated year round; bring your own towel and watershoes.
Water Play in the Wisconsin Dells
The resort town of Wisconsin Dells, about 40 miles (67kms) north of Madison, is where indoor water parks had their birth nearly two decades ago. Currently boasting the largest concentration of these family-oriented sites, including several major indoor water parks located in hotels and resorts — along with many other indoor waterplay areas — "The Dells" represents the largest and most comprehensive indoor water facilities in the nation.
These parks range in size from 250,000 square feet to infant-friendly "puddles" and the variety of rides, slides and family games is truly astonishing. The major ones have pioneered many of the water play features seen elsewhere and are covered in more detail in FTF's story about Wisconsin Dells Hotels:
Some of our favorites among the other top Wisconsin Dells family resorts, and with much smaller and simpler water play areas, are:
- The Chula Vista Resort (800/388-4782)
- The Polynesian Resort Hotel & Suites (800/272-5642)
- Blizzard Bay at the Wintergreen (800/648-4765)
- Atlantis Hotel (800/800-6179) has a new Aqua Kingdom with two indoor waterparks featuring hands-on water and slide activities for lots of family fun
- Holiday Inn Express Wisconsin Dells (608/253-3000) features a Kiddie Kastle with numerous interactive water games.
- Skyline Hotel & Suites (800/759-8475) has a Serp'N' Dippity water area with three swimming pools, three kiddie pools, a serpent with two slides and a waterfall cascading from its tail
Keep in mind that the larger the resort and more impressive the facilities, the more it's likely to cost. With little ones, almost any of the small hotels have facilities that will provide great fun.
Waterparks in Wisconsin & Iowa & Ohio
The rest of Wisconsin has tried to keep up with the Dells. Here are our picks for other Wisconsin indoor water-park options:
- Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark (866/636-4502) in Lake Geneva at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa; find excellent summer savings with family packages available through the resort.
- Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites (608/826-0500) in Madison
- Tundra Lounge Resort (877/TUNDRA-L) in Green Bay has the largest waterpark north of the Dells
- Waters of Minocqua (877/992-8377) is a fun one in northern Wisconsin
- Lodge at Cedar Creek Resort and Waterpark (715/241-6300) is the big one in Rothchild
- Blue Harbor Resort & Conference Center (920/452-2900), operated by the Great Wolf company, is the family-favorite choice in Sheboygan.
Iowa also has a few choice water-parks to explore:
- Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark (563/690-4000) or (866/690-4006) in the port of Dubuque right on the Mississippi River.They offer the unsual Huck Finn II, a four-story steamboat and tree house, as well as a lazy river, waterslide, water squirting paraphernalia, and a WaterSquirts Kids Club for 3-12-year-olds.
- King's Pointe Waterpark Resort (712/213-4500) in Storm Lake gives guests access to an indoor and outdoor water park as well as lakeside fun and adventure
If you're in Ohio looking for a water-park, look no further than these top picks:
- Castaway Bay (419/627-2106) in Sandusky is Cedar Point's exclusive park hotel and 38,000-square-foot tropical-themed indoor waterpark; bundle in a stay with tickets to Cedar Point and Soak City (Their outdoor waterpark)
- Kalahari Resort Water Park (877/525-2427) is also in Sandusky and a cousin to the famous Wisconsin Dells location.
- CoCo Key Water Resort (800/788-8008) in Newark is located at the Cherry Valley Lodge, about 30 minutes from Columbus and includes a wide range of activities including a "dip-in" movie theater
East Coasters and Alaskans Want Water Park Fun, Too!
Looking for indoor water-parks on the East Coast? Be sure to check out Great Wolf Lodge for more information on its many locations, which not only include their Midwest lodges but parks in Virginia and Pennsylvania as well. For a less "chain-brand" feel, check out these winning indoor waterparks:
- Cape Codder Resort (888/297-2200) in Hyannis, Massachusetts opened an 8,200-square-foot indoor wavepool waterplay area complete with New England seascapes painted on all the walls. This small Atlantic-themed area features two spiral slides (one measuring 80 feet), a wave pool, water falls, dancing water fountains, and spouting water mushroom.
- H20asis (907/522-4420 or 888/H2OSASIS) in Anchorage for a park truly off the beaten path where its always 86°. You will find a wave pool, lazy river, children's lagoon and an uphill water coaster! Please note the new payment policy: H20asis does not accept credit cards but will instead take cash or check with ID payments for park tickets.
International Indoor Oases
As you can see, it's not just the Mid West that has a monopoly on these parks. Indoor waterparks have sprouted up in extreme climates, populous regions far from the beach, and many unexpected places. Here's a look at a few more; please send us suggestions for ones we haven't heard of!
- Forest Hill Aquaboulevard(33 (0) 1 40 60 10 00) in Paris, France is a classy and très chic water park experience with the park open until midnight on weekends.
- Also be cure to check out the 17 Center Parcs family resort hotels; most have indoor water play areas that might not be as elaborate as the waterparks described here, but do provide families with an indoor water-play area in locations across the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany.
- Delta Hotels is an urban chain that often have slides and some waterplay features as part of their indoor pools.
- Douglas Fir Resort Hotel in Banff, a very eco-friendly town, has expanded its indoor waterplay facilities in a very green way. As a result of installing a new higher efficiency boiler system in 2008, energy consumption was reduced by an average of 15% on over 100,000 litres of water and water temperatures can be more consistently maintained — so you can have fun while reducing your own carbon footprint!
- World Waterpark in the West Edmonton Mall (800/661-8890 or 780/444-5300) located in Alberta Canada boasts the largest indoor wave pool in North America. Sample all of the 20 waterslides in the new, 6,000-square-foot Caribbean Cove waterplay area. If that isn't enough to keep you entertained, check out the Tropical Typhoon, and Raging Rapids, an enclosed tube ride. There's even Blue Thunder Bungee, the world's tallest permanent indoor bungee jump. For those less daring, paddle over to Little Caribbean, a children's play area complete with an array of gentler water activities.
- Watercube Waterpark (010/843-72030) or (010/843-72001) in Beijing may be recognizable for Olympics fans. The 2008-era Beijing Watercube has been transformed into the favorite place where budding swimmers can find family-friendly thrills in this historic building.
Pool Safety Quick Tips!
Water safety is not only important during a family vacation. It can also be a matter of life and death at home, at a classmate's birthday party, or at a neighborhood pool. Read on for important safety tips:
- Learn to swim. Children (and adults) should always be comfortable with the water and swimming before a day at the waterpark, beach, or pool.
- Always follow the rules, read signs around swimming areas, and listen to lifeguards on duty. Remember that running can cause slips, falls, and injuries. For extra traction and protection, try water shoes, which are generally permitted in all waterparks.
- Ensure that there are emergency numbers, a telephone, and life preservers nearby and learn infant and child CPR.
- Adults (not other children) must supervise children in the pool at all times. Always check the pool first if a child is missing!
- Be aware that drowning often happens in silence; don't expect to hear flailing or screams.
- Prevent choking by spitting out your chewing gum and clearing food from the swimming area.
- Remove flotation devices and toys from the empty pool to avoid temptation. These are not safety devices, and a beach ball or smiling dolphin could lure a child into the pool unsupervised. If you need a flotation device, always use a life vest instead of floaties and toys.
- Since infants can drown in a few inches of water, drain wading pools when supervised play is over.
- Before diving in, check depth of pools and waterparks, including shallow play areas for toddlers.
- Always observe a waterslide, diving board, and water activities to know how everything works and what to expect before jumping in.
- If you own a pool, create multiple obstacles to children sneaking in by themselves. A fence, a pool cover, and an alarm can be an effective combination. Also, remove the ladder of an above ground pool when not in use.
- Before a day of water play, choose a meeting area such as the first aid station in the event your group becomes separated.
Educate your children about water safety — teach them that safety and family fun can go together!
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