If you’re looking for fun Chicago family trips just a few hours away, then you should put the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells at the top of your list. When you think of the Wisconsin Dells you immediately think of water slides…and more water slides. In fact, they are the self proclaimed “water park capital of the world”. And it is true; there are tons of water park hotels to choose from.
For some reason, we’ve sampled many of them in the 6 years that we’ve lived in Chicago. Bottom line: my kid’s favorite water park, hands down, is the Kalahari Resort. It is said, that Kalahari is the Dells’ largest indoor watermark under one roof. It is also America’s second largest indoor water park at 125,000 square feet. Regardless of the factual correctness of this statement, my kids vote it #1. Here’s why:
Best array of slides for kids of all ages: Kalahari has everything from small kiddie slides to tall body and tube slides, a flow rider, a water coaster and my favorite the lazy river. For a family with kids of multiple ages (especially the tweens and teens) this is the park you want to visit. Your little ones will love the huge state-of-the-art kid’s play zone called, Tiko’s Watering Hole. The older ones will love the grand water slides especially The Master Blaster, the huge wave pool and the Screaming Hyena where you go down a trap-door start that drops you into a near-vertical plunge at up to 25 miles per hour!
Cabanas for rent: This might be the reason why husband and I like Kalahari so much. They have a fabulous service where you can rent cabanas either for the indoor water park or the outside water park for the day. Of course you have to pay $$$ for it, but it is so worth it. It’s especially great if you have small children or if you’re traveling with another family and can share the cost. Cabanas are designated private areas that are reserved for you and your party. They come with comfortable lounge chairs, sofas, a safe (where you can lock up your phone, watch and other valuables), a mini fridge stocked with water, food service and a flat screen tv (which is actually really nice if you want your kids to take a rest after eating lunch before jumping back into the fray).
No real need to leave the property for food or entertainment: This can be a godsend depending on the ages that you’re traveling with. They have a ton of restaurant and snack bar options throughout the resort if you prefer to stay on premise. They’ve recently opened a signature steakhouse Double Cut offering a fine dining option on premise. But don’t worry, they love kids at Double Cut and even offer a kid’s menu. We do like to leave the property, even if just for a quick dinner, (I’ll tell you where we like to go further down) but it is not a necessity which is really nice.
Family friendly restaurants should you choose to leave the property: As I mentioned, husband and I do like to pack up the kids and venture offsite to a local restaurant. Two easy choices are: Ginza of Tokyo, a traditional hibachi grill and sushi bar that my kids really enjoy. And second is Famous Dave’s BBQ for you guessed it, fall off the bone ribs and other goodies. And on your way out of the Dells, you may want to stop in at the Sand Bar (which is a bar) for what is considered to be one of the best cheesesteak sandwiches outside of Philly.
Onsite theme park, arcade movie theatre and bowling alley: Why should the fun end after dinner? Well, at Kalahari it doesn’t. Your kids will love the indoor theme park and arcade. It is pacaked with everything from a ferris wheel, carousel, ropes course, elevated go karts, lazer tag, bowling, tons of arcade games and lots more.
[Note: My older kids were having a blast at lazer tag and go karts with my husband and he’s notoriously bad about taking photos which is why you really only see the images that I took when I was with our youngest].
Nearby Attractions when you just can’t face one more water slide: If you’re there in nice weather and just can’t another couple of hours at the water park there are some great attractions in the nearby area to keep the action coming. Try Bigfoot ziplining, the Wisconin Dells Army Duck tour or a round of golf.
Parents will like it: Regardless of what us parents think of the water park concept, your kids will have an absolute blast. We spent four days here last memorial day and it was a torrential rain storm for much of it and my kids still told us it was the best trip we’d ever taken! The place is well kept and clean. Your kids will think it’s the weekend of a lifetime just as ours did!
An earlier version of this article appeared on Chicago Parent where I am a contributor.