When the weather outside is frightful, and the short-term possibility of basking in the sun is near impossible, what you need to do is grab the suits, forget the sunscreen, and head to an indoor water park in the Poconos like Great Wolf Lodge, Aquatopia or Kalahari! Yes, there will be band-aids, and yes, you will see crowds of bodies that haven’t seen the sun (or a gym, ahem) since you last went head-first down a water slide, but that’s beside the point. The point is mayhem. The point is fun. The point is SLIDES!! You can do this. The only question is which water park is the best water park for you? We dive in and break it down.
Great Wolf Lodge Poconos Vitals:
Built in: 2005
Size: 78K Square Foot Indoor Water Park
Resort: 400 rooms
Admission: Only resort guests allowed
Price: Rooms start at $300/night
Great Wolf Poconos is part of the heavily themed family of Great Wolf Resorts–15 water parks throughout the US, each with the proven formula for family fun and entertainment, with families coming back year after year (30% of guests are return visitors) to enjoy water slide favorites like Slideboarding, an interactive video-game slide akin to Guitarhero on a boogie board and Hydro Plunge, a water coaster with a 52-foot drop plus forest-themed live characters and Magiquest, an interactive role-playing game that is the resort's second biggest attraction after the water park for those who want to take a break from the water. Young ones will love the PJ Party and Forest Friends Show. Because Great Wolf doesn’t allow non-resort visitors, the park doesn’t feel overcrowded and lines are minimal–aka perfect for your impatient preschooler. Overnight options range from standard rooms to themed suites like “Kids Kamp” and “Wolfs Den” which sleep up to 6 guests or premium rooms that sleep up to 8. Eats are not the highlight here but they have enough options for everyone to find something they’ll like. Water park junkies say if you’re kids are on the younger side, they’ll never get bored at Great Wolf.
Aquatopia at Camelback Resort Vitals:
Built in: April 2015
Size: 125K Square Foot Indoor Water Park plus a Camelbeach Outdoor Water Park
Resort: 453 Suites
Admission: Allows resort guests and ski mountain guests and adventure park guests during summer months
Price: Rooms start at $209/night
Aquatopia is not only the largest of the three water parks, but it’s part of the Camelback Resort which also offers on-site skiing and tubing in the winter, plus Camelbeach outdoor water park and Adventure Park (think zip lining and an obstacle course) during the warmer months– so anytime of the year you can visit and have a uniquely different trip depending on the time of year. Indoor water park visitors love the Venus Slydetrap– a family tube ride that slides up and down the mouth of a carnivorous plant and The Lost River which is a lazy river tube ride that takes visitors through tunnels that look like an abandoned temple in the jungle (a real score for Lazy River lovers). And don’t forget to bring sunscreen! Aquatopia’s Texlon roof only blocks 20% of UV rays- so tanning can happen all year round. Crowds are kept to a minimum because of the sheer size of the park plus the fact that admission is limited to hotel guests and ski pass holders. Rooms have an upscale lodge décor and most are modern, some with fireplaces, with some 3 bedroom suites available for groups or larger families. Other activities include a video arcade, rock climbing wall, mini golf, laser tag and a kids’ spa and adults’ spa. Aquatopia is perfect if you’re planning on taking a nearby ski trip but want a full weekend of fun– it’s also great for tweens and teens.
Built in: July 2015
Size: 100K Square Foot Indoor Water Park (Phase II Coming Soon)
Resort: 457 Rooms
Admission: Open admission, not limited to resort guests
Price: $249/night or day passes for $75/day
Visitors of Kalahari gush about the sheer beauty of the resort, with its authentic African theme weaved into the décor and every activity, plus it’s majestic setting and massive resort size. Because anyone can visit the park, it’s not as exclusive as the other parks but the park is so large it can handle crowds (and with Phase II coming soon it will be the largest water park in the country). Visitors love the Splashdown Safari- a multi-level play area with a dumping bucket in the center with the lazy river running around it. And although there is no wave pool (yet!) they have a family tube slide that has three exciting banked areas called the Barreling Baboon. The hotel is touted as “beautiful” by many who stay here and dining options are where they also shine, with three full service restaurants, tons of cafés and a coffee shop serving imported coffee from Africa. 2017 will bring two new upscale options, a steak restaurant and a Sortino’s Italian Kitchen, serving red-sauce Italian faves. When the family needs a break from the water, guests can try mini-bowling, a 5-D theater, black-light miniature golf and in February 2017 they'll be unveiling a new Virtual Reality Gaming Experience. Kalahari is perfect for families who want upscale lodging and dining while at the park- it’s a real getaway or for those who just want a day of fun and don’t want to stay overnight since it’s the only park selling day passes.