Waterpark Ratings from a Mom’s Point of View

Mega snow and mega cold means one thing: warm water (if not weather) getaway.


You know your kids will love any waterpark, but which resort has amenities to keep the grown-ups happy, too? Here’s my list of likely contenders from nearest to farthest.

Key Lime Cove, Gurnee
Less than an hour away, Key Lime scores with its “get there fast and then take it slow” slogan. Inspired by the Florida Keys, my husband and I went into faux Florida overload, but our kids couldn’t get enough. Even the standard hotel-type rooms, are happy and colorful-looking.
Margaritas: Excellent and plentiful.
Eye Candy: Not bad. Lots of hot Chicago dads.
Decibel Level: High. A lot of Jimmy Buffet.

Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark at Grand Geneva, Lake Geneva
This lodge-like waterpark is part of the huge Grand Geneva resort complex. The one- or two-bedroom suites have a full kitchen and a cozy fireplace. The waterpark is on the small side, but you can take a resort shuttle to ski, golf, or ride horses. Skip the waterpark’s average restaurants – instead, head to Popeye’s on Lake Geneva.
Margaritas: Meh. I must be getting picky.
Eye Candy: We might have been the eye candy, which is not a good sign.
Decibel Level: Nice and low. Big thumbs up.

Great Wolf Lodge, Wisconsin Dells
All three of Great Wolf’s waterpark areas are connected, making it simple to move between them. Ideal for parents of small children, our (very average) hotel room was on the same floor as the waterpark, making logistics that much easier.
Margaritas: Yummy. Almost took away the sting of our cramped and disappointing bathroom.
Eye Candy: Sorry to say, none visible the day we visited, even after a margarita.
Decibel Level: At this point, my husband started popping in earplugs, if that’s any indication of just how loud these waterparks are.

Wilderness Resort, Wisconsin Dells
This gi-normous facility is America’s largest waterpark. The amenities are fantastic. Our kids loved the huge arcade and play area, plus there’s laser tag and 3D miniature golf. Recommended for grade school kids and up – with small kids, it’s nearly impossible to take advantage of everything you’re paying for.
Margaritas: Quite good. Thumbs up.
Eye Candy: Cute dads, although by now I’m noticing that most of them are way younger than we are.
Decibel Level: We had to shout to make ourselves heard at the wave pool – but with margaritas this good, who cares?

Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells
The most upscale of the lot, Kalahari is a family-owned resort with an African theme, which was refreshing after a lot of lodge-y style lodging. Kalahari’s indoor theme park has a full-sized Ferris Wheel, go-karts, bowling and mini-golf. The indoor waterpark is the largest in Wisconsin with a FlowRider where you can stand up to surf or boogie board.
Margaritas: They looked good, but I was into Dippin’ Dots (mint chocolate, please) instead.
Eye candy: Lots of handsome daddies. Thumbs up.
Decibel level: What? I can’t hear anymore!

Update: KeyLime Cove was recently named the winner of the “Best of Aquatics” award by Aquatics International magazine for their unique lifeguard training program, impressive facilities and attention to guest hospitality.

Updated by Samantha Kiersey

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