Over the past ten years or so, my family has been to a lot of indoor waterpark resorts.
A lot of waterpark resorts.
Did I mention a lot of waterpark resorts?
There’s a reason we’ve been to every waterpark resort within a day’s drive of our house at least once, and why they rank as the weekend vacation we’ll happily repeat over and over again. Sometimes we go with my siblings and their kids, and turn it into a big family party.
Full disclosure: As a travel writer, I have been offered complimentary lodging at several resorts, most recently the Great Wolf Lodge. But I love them so much that we’ve happily returned on our own dime!
Here are the seven reasons waterpark resorts are one of our family’s favorite getaways:
1. There’s something for everyone.
For a family with multiple-aged kids, you can’t beat water parks for inclusivity and ease. From baby pools and small “starter” slides to hot tubs to play areas to huge, scary slides, no one is left out, from toddlers to thrill-seekers and everyone in between.
It’s also fun to return year after year and watch as younger kids “graduate” to bigger and bigger attractions. Earlier this year, eight-year-old Owen was finally big enough to ride the Howlin’ Tornado, Great Wolf Lodge’s fastest and scariest slide. It took him an entire day to psych himself up enough to ride it, and when he finally did, he was so proud of himself! I admit, I was pretty proud of myself for swallowing my fear and riding it, too!
2. It’s the only place I’m comfortable in a bathing suit.
After five pregnancies, I’m decidedly not down with the idea of strutting around in a bikini. These days, I even feel a little uncomfortable on the beach in a one-piece.
But baring skin at the water park is a totally different story. Everyone there seems totally comfortable walking around with their lumps and stretch marks on display, and I never feel like anyone is looking at me at all. Something about the smell of chlorine, the din of laughter and splashing, and even the unflattering fluorescent lights seem to take all the pressure off, making us all feel like little kids again. It’s one place where I feel like I can be totally comfy in my own skin – pale, squishy and bruise-spattered as it might be.
3. I never get cold at an indoor waterpark.
It might sound weird for somebody born and raised in Michigan, but nothing ruins my good time like feeling cold. Especially when I’m wearing a wet bathing suit. But at an indoor waterpark, I’m always warm. For example, at Great Wolf Lodge they keep the waterpark temperature at a balmy, consistent 84 degrees, so I never get chilled, even when I’m sitting in three inches of water in the baby pool. (The water is also nice and warm, too.)
4. There are lifeguards everywhere.
Even though we live right next to beautiful Lake Michigan, I don’t go to the beach with the kids very often. With five of them – some still little – it’s way too stressful for me to try to keep an eye on them all in that huge expanse of water. But I never feel nervous at waterparks, in large part because of the amazing lifeguard presence. Sure, you still have to watch your kids in any body of water, but it’s nice to know that, if I take my eyes off of Clara for a few seconds to clap for Owen as he jumps across the floating lily pads, that there’s a backup set of eyes keeping close watch.
5. It’s an affordable vacation.
We love amusement parks and ski resorts, but nothing beats a waterpark resort for value when you add up what tickets to a comparable attraction, plus a hotel room would have cost. Look for resorts that offer kitchenettes if you want to save even more money on meals, and look for deals during the week or the off season.
6. Everything is all in one place.
With five kids, we like to be able to get where we’re going…and just stay there. Waterpark resorts usually have restaurants, gift shops, lodging, and the slides and pools all under one roof, so you never have to leave the building. Some even have spas and arcades.
7. This one’s obvious: it’s fun!
It’s hard to say who has a better time at the water park – me or the kids? They love getting dumped on by the huge waterfalls, shooting each other with water guns, and braving the slides (whether the baby slides or thrillers are more their speed.) The lazy river, hot tub, and medium-sized slides are my favorite, but I also have so much fun just watching the kids splashing and playing and screaming with laughter as they shoot out the end of the slide.
The waterpark is one place we can all just relax, be ourselves, and have a good time. Best of all: when it’s all over, we can just walk down the hallway to eat, play, or hit the hay. No fuss, no muss - just watery fun.