Did you think we forgot Great Wolf and Kalahari? Ha.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
-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:
- Wilderness Territory
- Kalahari Resort
- Great Wolf Lodge
- Chula Vista
Kris’ final rankings:
- Kalahari Resort
- Wilderness Territory
- Great Wolf Lodge
- 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!