Wisconsin Water Park Review Part 2

Did you think we forgot Great Wolf and Kalahari? Ha.

Great Wolf

This park is fresh in my memory because we just stayed there last month. Great Wolf is one of the big parks you can see from the highway. You’ve probably seen the giant tornado shaped ride that juts out of the side of their park, or their dark brown log cabin inspired hotel. Great Wolf is the medium water park, not too big, not too small, but just right. Great Wolf is the biggest water park chain in the U.S., so they know what they’re doing.

The rides at Great Wolf are like most of the other parks, with body slides, tube rides, a very tiny lazy river, and a medium sized wave pool. There are two hot tubs, one for everyone and another one for just adults, which was nice. There are quite a few areas for kids to play, and many rides geared toward them.

The ride with the biggest thrill was the Howlin’ Tornado. This was almost the exact same funnel ride that Wilderness Territory has, but this one struck me as more terrifying. We rode this one four times, and the thrill was still there on the last ride. Highly recommend, but remember to hold on! It could very easily toss you out of your tube if you don’t.

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Photo from greatwolf.com

At different times, some of the rides were closed due to lifeguards rotating around the park. The wave pool area didn’t open on time the day we went. That being said, there were a ton of lifeguards who were very active.  The lifeguards are required to pace back and forth, which was bizarrely hypnotizing to watch. If I were a parent, active lifeguards would be a huge plus. Even as a general adult human being, it felt very, very safe.

We did eat inside this park, and the food was your standard fare, overpriced and extra salty. For reasons that are unexplained, we ended up buying their $13 all you can drink mug, so we made sure to fill that up as much as we could. There was a self-service station for the mug in their small convenience store, and within the park Icees were available, so after all was said and done, we might have gotten our money’s worth. For real dinner, we walked five minutes to Panera and didn’t have to pay out the nose.

Great Wolf is partners with MagiQuest, so they push that experience, but we didn’t do it. They had a medium sized arcade that we took a stroll through. Great Wolf is adjacent to outlet shopping and a larger arcade/restaurant, which we checked out and enjoyed.

A few things to note about Great Wolf…

-it wasn’t very busy when we went, which was great. We didn’t wait for any of the rides we wanted to go on, which may also explain why some rides were closed from time to time.

-middle of the road prices

-your wristband is linked to your credit card and it opens your room! Cool but maybe dangerous if you are prone to spending money.

-a large portion of the park is devoted to kids

-their cable package is missing E!. If you’re like me and don’t have cable at home, missing E! is extremely upsetting. Especially if it’s a Sunday and you want to watch the Kardashians. Note: this was not a problem (actually more of a bonus) for Kris.

I recommend this park for…families who are ready to advance from Chula Vista. There’s a lot to do for the kiddos, and enough to keep parents engaged. This felt like a very safe park in regard to lifeguards.

Kalahari

This is a huge park, second only to the Wilderness Territory (the overall park, not the indoor water park. Kalahari’s indoor waterpark is the biggest in Wisconsin, to be clear). It’s also one that you can see from the highway. You might have glimpsed their giant six-story ferris wheel through the windows as you drive by, as the resort also houses a gigantic indoor amusement park as well. Kalahari is a chain with two other resorts.

The indoor water park’s coolest ride is their Flo Rider, which simulates surfing. Kris tried it and almost lost his swim trunks, which was fun for me to watch.

Flow Rider

Photo from wisconsin-dells-fun.com

They have an indoor roller coaster ride that isn’t as jerky as Chula Vista’s, along with a medium sized lazy river and a small indoor wave pool. They offer tube rides and body slides, along with a body slide where the bottom of your platform drops out from under you, which was too scary for me to try. They also offer a toilet bowl ride, Tanzanian Twister, that swirls you around and then drops you out the center. I made the mistake of not riding this one properly and I knocked my head pretty good and had a miserable experience on this one because I wasn’t expecting to be under water (something I avoid as a contact wearer). So, be careful on that one!

The highlight of this one for me was their indoor/outdoor hot tub and swim up bar. We had a great time in the hot tub, and it was cool to be outside as snow fell into our tasty tropical drinks. We even had entertainment as a super drunk patron climbed up on the bar and was making a scene. There are also five (!) other hot tubs sprinkled throughout the waterpark. We tried them all out, but be careful…getting in and out of hot water repeatedly can make you light-headed or worse. 

Kalahari Bar

Photo from pinterest.com

There is something special about Kalahari. They pay great attention to every detail and cultivate a unique experience. They had wildlife trainers and a lion cub on display in their lobby that you could get a photo taken with, for a price. Their park had the greatest variety of rides. Their indoor arcade was insanely huge and we spent a fair amount of time playing some fun games in it, including Bejeweled, which I enjoy. For sheer variety, Kalahari wins.

A few things to note about Kalahari…

-it was medium busy on a Sunday, so this place probably gets quite crowded at times.

-the water was consistently chilly for me. I had goosebumps in their wave pool and lazy river.

-the wave pool and lazy river were subpar, especially compared to Wilderness Territory

-make some time for the arcade because it was surprisingly fun

-prices were average

I recommend this park for…just about anyone, but especially for your thrill seekers. This park gets the adrenaline pumping. Ideal for families with teens who want independence as they explore.

Final thoughts:

-All of the parks had the same amount of cleanliness. Look, you’re going to spot a used bandaid or a piece of gum if you look hard enough. So take a deep breath and remember there’s enough chlorine going around to kill almost anything.

-The food within the parks is also going to be about the same, so don’t expect amazing eats. The Dells offers plenty of good food outside of the water parks (probably for cheaper), so try and find a restaurant that suits your taste.

-Prices range from about $150-$200 for your hotel room, which includes a park pass. Kalahari and Chula Vista sell day passes if you want to stay somewhere else. All of these places offer larger accommodations (2 bedrooms or more) for the whole family.

-It’s  good to remember that not only will there be a lot of walking, but there’ll be stairs for rides and you might be hefting a huge tube up those stairs, so unless you’re going to park it in the lazy river, consider an indoor water park vacation to be on the more active side of vacations.

Richanda’s final rankings:

  1. Wilderness Territory
  2. Kalahari Resort
  3. Great Wolf Lodge
  4. Chula Vista

Kris’ final rankings:

  1. Kalahari Resort
  2. Wilderness Territory
  3. Great Wolf Lodge
  4. Chula Vista

-We only tested the indoor water parks, but we look forward to testing the outdoor parks in the future. Noah’s Ark here we come!

 

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Wisconsin Indoor Water Park Review Part 1

We’ve tried four of the biggest and best Wisconsin Dells indoor water parks and we’ve gracefully come to share our thoughts and feelings so you don’t waste your money and vacation time on a sub par experience.

Few things can rival frolicking around in your swimsuit as the temperature hovers around freezing outside. Every winter we’ve made a point to take off a Monday and spend a Sunday night at a Wisconsin Dells water park. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that Wisconsin Dells is a tourist town in southern Wisconsin (about 45 minutes from Madison) that boasts some serious natural scenery along with quite a few water parks and other attractions like magic shows, Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, and an overwhelming amount of tourists traps and shops. Let’s not forget about the Ducks or Top Secret, either. Warning: Top Secret is as fun as lighting a five dollar bill on fire.

I could go on and on about things to do in the Dells, but just know if you’ve never been that it’s a fun, completely wild and random little town. Here’s a rundown of our thoughts on four of the largest indoor water parks in Wisconsin Dells.

Wilderness Territory

This was our first adventure into indoor water parks in the winter, back in 2012. Maybe those early romantic dating days colored my view of this park, but it was my favorite. The Wilderness is one of the colossal parks tucked in Wisconsin Dells proper. You can’t see it from the highway like some of the other ones. According to Wikipedia, this is THE LARGEST water park. As in ever, as in the whole wide world. So, be prepared to walk, or figure out how their shuttle system works.

What does the Wilderness Territory have going for it other than size? My favorite times were in their immense wave pool. The wave pool has huge waves, not the puny ones that most wave pools churn out. The roof to the wave pool is glass, so if the sun is shining, you’ll get a dose of Vitamin D. I spent a good chunk of time in the wave pool enjoy peace and chaos in turns. The clear roof also helped heat the water so I wasn’t constantly fighting goosebumps.

Wilderness

Image from budgettravel.com

Their lazy river was pretty nice, although it doesn’t really stick in my memory as much as The Hurricane, which is a funnel-like ride that lifts you right up out of your tube. My heart was racing, especially that one time Kris decided not to hold on to his tube…ahem. We rode the Hurricane quite a few times, and it never got old.

Hurricane
Photo from themeparkreview.com

There were a nice variety of other rides that gave some good thrills, but what made this park stand out was the wave pool. There is nothing like it in the Dells, at least not indoors.

As for the rooms, they were about average. Honestly, there aren’t any hotel rooms here that will knock your socks off because that’s what the water parks will do. Kris and I sprang for a Jacuzzi tub, but in hindsight that was not necessary, especially after spending all day in the park.  For food, we ate off site at Monk’s, which was okay. I would highly recommend bringing at least snacks and your own booze because the food prices at all of these parks is inflated.

The Wilderness also has a big indoor video arcade that brought back memories of being a kid and desperately trying to get enough tickets to collect novelty pencil erasers. I wasn’t the only one collecting those…right? Right?

A few things to note about Wilderness Territory:

-they don’t sell day passes to people that aren’t staying overnight. This can be good or bad, depending on your wallet and vacation preference.

-one whole water park section was closed when we visited. There was so much to do I honestly didn’t notice, but that would be upsetting if you had your heart set on a certain ride or park.

-they’ve made quite a few changes since we visited in 2012, including a swim-up bar and a ropes course

-their prices are on par for the rest of the Dells.

-it was medium busy, even on a Sunday in February. I can only imagine that it would be very busy during a weekend or Friday.

I recommend this park for everyone. There was plenty to do for kids, couples, and teens.

Chula Vista

Chula Vista is nestled among a more scenic setting than the other water parks, away from the highway and most of the Dells bustle. It has the best natural scenery of all the water parks. When we were planning our wedding, Chula Vista was one place we checked out because it backs up to a beautiful expanse of the Upper Dells. Chula Vista apparently has a river walk that would be cool to check out sometime, but, alas, during our winter overnight we didn’t walk it.

This is was the smallest indoor water park we went to, but it was still pretty big at 80k square feet. The highlight of this park, for me, is tucked away from the main water park. There is a giant hot tub that backs up to the woods with a huge fireplace. I need this for our backyard! Since it was a million degrees below zero it was a shock to the senses, in a good way, to get in and out of the hot tub. This hot tub was perfect for relaxing, and it was mostly adults in the area.

OutdoorHotSprings_4

Photo from chulavistaresort.com

Chula Vista’s indoor water park also boasts a ‘water coaster’, tube rides, body slides, a lazy river, a ‘mat-racing’ slide, and a huge play area for kids. The tube rides were fun and I rode those quite a few times. That being said, the roller coaster bumped and jerked around quite a bit and it was slightly unpleasant as a normal size adult to do that ride.

The drawbacks to Chula Vista were that I found the water to be slightly chilly. I got goosebumps once or twice, but that could just be because of getting in and out of the water. Unfortunately, I think we should have done this water park first because it paled in comparison to the other parks in terms of variety of rides and general enjoyment. By the fifth time I did a tube ride, I realized it was because I didn’t really have anything else to do.

That’s not to say that this park doesn’t have its perks. This, in my opinion, would be a great park to go to if you have small kids. The smaller size of it means you can keep a close eye on the kiddos. The tamer rides would also be ideal for younger children. They also have a small arcade that would be manageable with the young’ins. There was also a sizable outdoor area that appeared to have some unique rides that was obviously closed in February. All the parks had outdoor rides, but Chula Vista and Wilderness had the largest outdoor areas that we ignored in the wintertime.

Chula Vista houses a very fancy steakhouse that we didn’t try, but it looked good. I am curious to know what $17 worth of mashed potatoes looks like. We have some food vouchers and went to their Market Fresh Buffet instead. We paid under $10 after all was said and done, but our consensus was that it would have been better to spend that $10 at McDonalds. The rooms were average. Ours had a nice deck that overlooked the woods.

A few things to note about Chula Vista:

-it was cheaper to book a room here than anywhere else. There are frequent Groupons for it.

-ask how to get to the outdoor hot tub or get a map because it is tricky to find.

-avoid the buffet.

I recommend this park for…families or parents with young children who are dipping their toes in the indoor water park pool. It’s perfect for a little taste, and may whet your appetite for a bigger and likely better experience elsewhere.

Part 2 coming soon.