During spring break, my family and I hopped into our car for our latest road trip adventure. Less than two hours after leaving our Manhattan home, we arrived at a wonderful oasis in the the middle of Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains: Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, a dreamy, fun-filled, action-packed, indoor getaway.
Families will want to maximize their overall experience at the recently opened Kalahari, which has America’s largest indoor water park, so here’s a few helpful water park tips and other ideas.
Tip No. 1: Stay overnight. Arrive early for the awesome water park
The indoor water park is truly the crown jewel of Kalahari Resorts in the Poconos. The tropical, 84-degree African themed paradise will give you jaw dropping glee.
The water park reminded me of something out of a fantasy world with rivers and pools of swirling, sloshing and gushing water. Visualize a room the size of a baseball stadium. A welcoming labyrinth of soaring, zigzagging water slides; a three-story safari tree house equipped with a gargantuan bucket ready to soak us to the core; a wave pool, lazy rivers, tot-play areas, water basketball pools; and more. There was something for everyone at every age to enjoy.
Even though room check-in isn’t until 4 p.m., I recommend you preregister as a hotel guest and arrive as early as 9:30 a.m. when the water park opens to get a full day in. Our primary goal was to play in the water, not relax in the room, so we arrived at the park’s opening to spend the entire day getting soaked.
Don’t forget to pack a small day bag with a change of clothes and extra bathing suits so you can keep your luggage in the car.
Tip No. 2: Let your children plan the Kalahari activities
Before our adventure, we went onto the Kalahari Resorts & Conventions website to analyze photos and descriptions of the attractions as well as view YouTube videos of their major water slides. This gave my 10-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter several ideas for our daily agenda.
They developed an action plan to go on the water rides that excited them the most first. As a parent, it’s nice to have a “just say yes” policy for a change, letting our children dictate the schedule and masterfully navigate our flow of rides for the entire day including which ones deserved a second, third, or 12th time.
For the record, Anaconda, The Smoke That Thunders, Flowrider and Barreling Baboon were all worthy of repeats from my older son. My 4-year-old daughter spent countless hours within the Splashdown Safari confines – a massive “sprayground” filled with water slides, tunnels and interactive water toys.
Our ultimate favorite was Cheetah Race – a fast-paced set of four tunnel slides that whisk you into darkness where you can race each other as you cascade into the finish line. With relatively short lines, we must have tobogganed down on our water mats at least 20 times. It was pure, edge of your seat awesomeness!
Tip No. 3: Go early AND stay late to beat the lines
The best way to avoid lines at the water park is arriving exactly when the gates open for the day. The first 90 minutes before the crowd arrives let you soak it all, so to speak, with minimal crowd hassles. Plus, you’ll be able to snag a nice table as a home base to put your belongings and towels down.
You can ride the most popular water slides several times before the queue begins to build. Hit the Anaconda, The Smoke That Thunders and Flowrider during this time because they seemed to have longest lines during the peak of the day.
Additionally, we learned the crowd thins out during the last hour before closing. Some families head to dinner, journey on the road home or need to put little ones to sleep, so take full advantage during the late evening hours to hit the attractions you’ve been drooling about all day, without the lengthy wait times.
Tip No. 4: More to Kalahari Resorts than the indoor water park
Beyond the nation’s largest (and coolest) water park, there’s so much to a complete Kalahari experience. During our entire weekend, we never had to leave the property.
Entertainment: The massive arcade, escape room, bowling, mini golf, fitness room and treetop adventure climbing course all offer unique attractions for your family.
Buyer beware: Las Vegas hotels have you meander through their casinos to get to your room. Kalahari has strategically placed their expansive arcade with flashing lights, bells and sirens so you have to pass through it to enter the indoor water park. My kids absolutely loved their time in the arcade and wide range of games similar to Dave & Busters and Chuck E. Cheese’s, but it was like a vacuum cleaner to your wallet.
Treats: Next, you’re family is faced with some interesting and sweet options: get sucked into The Last Bite candy factory offering a mouth watering assortment of caramel apples, chocolates — and our favorite — chocolate dipped Oreo Cookies with mini M&Ms. The family weekend provided ample opportunities to spoil my kids so we dabbled in their ice cream as well as slurping frozen pina coladas poolside in our refillable coconut cups.
Food: We enjoyed the bountiful breakfast buffet at Great Karoo Marketplace with quality options even for the pickiest of eaters: a top-notch spread with omelette station, crispy bacon, fresh croissants, pastries and more. With full bellies and feeling refreshed from a great night sleep in their hotel, we were ready for a second day filled with non-stop adventure.
We spent our second day at Kalahari relishing in all of the wonderful water attractions that we’d come to love inside the indoor water park. We’d hoped to replicate the joy from the first day – mission accomplished.
Things to note: To be candid, we have a few minor suggestions for Kalahari worth pointing out. First, the bathrooms are far from the action so it’s inconvenient if you’ve got a little one in tow that needs to use the potty often. We frequently paused for snack, drink and lunch breaks in the water park and would appreciate hand sanitizer dispensers around the grounds. Lastly, the wave pool was a highlight for us and was so thrilling when you heard the alarm sound that signals the waves will start up. However, my kids said that they would love to see a countdown clock on the wall to provide advanced notice for the waves.
As we journeyed back home to New York City, my children had glowing smiles across their tired faces. They said that Kalahari was even better than Disney, and rated it a 10 out of 10.
This was our maiden voyage to a Kalahari Resorts & Conventions property, and can’t wait to make plans for a return visit this summer to frolic in their outdoor water park.
**Disclosure: The folks at Kalahari Resorts provided complimentary hotel accommodations for our family for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions included in this article are our own and have not been swayed by the free stay.