Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge

As spring weather approaches, we were prompted to check out last year’s guide to indoor water park resorts. Back then, Covid concerns and safety protocols limited much of the fun. The good news is, with many mandates lifting, water parks are back. We updated this guide with all the details you need — and added a sixth water park to the list.

A weekend at an indoor water park resort includes all manner of fun and excitement for kids, plus spa treatments for grownups who could use a little extra TLC. Pack up swimsuits, flip flops and goggles to prepare for splashes and wave jumping. These crystal blue water destinations are all within a few hours’ drive.

Photo courtesy of Kalahari Resorts.

1. Kalahari Resorts Indoor Water Park

If size matters, welcome to the 173,000-square-foot, African-themed Kalahari Resorts in Sandusky, Ohio. The four Kalahari Resorts, including one in the Poconos, are aimed at families looking for adventure. Learn to surf at the Flow Rider, where there is nothing but perfect waves. Ride a raft spinning 60 degrees around the Swahili Swirl. Experience the Zimbabwe Zipper, a wild ride that allows thrill-seekers to reach speeds of up to 40 mph. Water-loving tots are not forgotten. Coral Cove and Kid’s Safari are geared for smaller paddlers.

And you won’t want to miss the cool Underwater Virtual Reality experience.

Stay dry with indoor entertainment that’s reopened this season. Perfect your putting skills on the nine-hole, blacklight Madagascar Mini Golf course. Crystal Ruins Laser Tag, a Virtual Reality session and the 7-D Motion Theater will take gaming to new heights.

Dining is up and running, too, with six spots offering everything from a steakhouse and an ice cream shop to a pizza pub and a burger café.

Swing from excitement to relaxation at Spa Kalahari & Salon. Relax with pampering treatments like HydraFacials, a strawberry body scrub and a pedicure that includes a green tea and lemongrass scrub with a hydrating masque. In the Halotherapy Room, pure Himalayan salt is vaporized into the air to help your boost immune system.

Buy a day pass or get free water park admission with your overnight stay and save with other special rates. Or consider Enhance the Fun packages with birthdays, surprise boxes and balloons.

While many Covid mandates have been lifted, Kalahari continues to keep guest safety at the forefront. Check out the resort’s complete wellness initiatives.

Photo courtesy of the Great Wolf Lodge.

2. Great Wolf Lodge

The Great Wolf Lodge resort brand has everything you (and your family) might desire in a getaway trip. Of the 18 U.S. locations, the closest lodge to Pittsburgh is in Sandusky, Ohio. The array of water features includes four stories of fast water thrills, riding a tandem tube and splashing along banked turns. Relax and float on a lazy river while the kids test their balance and dexterity hopping on lily pads with a soft water landing for silly spills. Whooping Hollow gives kids pint-sized water slide fun, while the gentle spray features at Soak’n Oak Springs will appeal to toddlers in the group.

After a day of getting drenched, change into dry clothes for alternative entertainment. Ten Paw Alley gives smaller kids a competitive edge with bowling on shorter lanes and smaller balls. They can also embark on a MagiQuest using a wand with special powers. Or they can pan for gold and gems at Oliver’s Mining Sluice. Look for free entertainment, too, like arts and craft sessions, story times, dance parties and The Great Clock Tower Show.

When hunger hits, order eats from Buckets Incredible Cravables and never leave the waterpark. Hungry as a Wolf provides family-size pizzas and pasta. At Gitchigoomie Grill, expect breakfast and dinner buffets where everyone’s appetites will be satisfied. End the day on a sugar high at Bear Claw Sweets and Eats with fudge, cupcakes and ice cream.

Specials include dining packages, the Best Rate Guarantee, along with AAA and AARP discounts. Watch for flash sales and package deals, too.

Great Wolf’s safety Paw Pledge includes requiring guests to complete a wellness questionnaire as part of the check-in process. Masks are mandatory for unvaccinated visitors ages 5 and older. Expect expanded sanitation throughout public areas, guest rooms and on high-touch items like rafts and life vests. For enhanced safety, limited daily housekeeping service will be available for multiple-night stays.

Photo courtesy of Splash Lagoon.

3. Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park

Erie is home to Splash Lagoon, an easy day trip from Pittsburgh. But with six partner hotels, an overnight stay could be even more fun. The 12-level interactive Tree House is a cool feature. Among its nine water slides are the Python Plunge, Big Kahuna and Shark Attack. Kids taller than 42 inches will love the FlowRider indoor surf machine. The Wild Waters Wave Pool lays claim as the largest in the eastern U.S. with 200,000 gallons of water and waves that rise to six feet. There are loads of flowers, palm trees and a steady 84-degree temperature to keep your tropical dreams alive.

Tree Tops Indoor Ropes Course is one of the attractions outside of the water park. Guests 36 inches and taller test their balance and bravery through 19 challenges that are three stories high. The 6,000-square-foot Treasure Island Arcade includes the XD Dark Ride and Hologate Virtual Reality.

Pop into the Laguna Grill on the lower level of the water park for burgers, pizza and chicken fingers. Other snacks can be purchased at The Surf Bar. A ton of dining options are available nearby, such as Applebee’s, Quaker Steak & Lube and Hooch & Blotto’s Sports Bar and Grill.

For overnight stays, choose from three Splash Lagoon hotels: Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Hawthorn Inn & Suites and Comfort Inn. The Tidal Wave of Fun package combines overnight stays with special deals like the Mauie Wowie, H2O Overload and the Ultimate Experience. And be sure to sign up for Fin’s Club for access to savings exclusives and advance notice on special events.

Photo courtesy of Hershey Lodge.

4. Hershey’s Water Works at Hershey Lodge

Guests at Hershey Lodge can enjoy exclusive, complimentary entry to Hershey’s Water Works, with 30,000 square feet of indoor splashy fun. Race down the Twizzlers Twists water slides and test your balance on the Reese’s Water Walk. Other features include the Sandcastle Spray Zone, Lighthouse Tipping Bucket and the zero-entry pool.

Save on select dates with the Kids Stay, Play, Splash and Eat Free package that includes a free meal, free souvenir towel and a $20 arcade card for guests ages 17 and younger. A variety of other promotions are available.

Chocolate-loving moms will love a session in the MeltSpa by Hershey, where they can enjoy treatments like a Dark Chocolate Body Scrub, a Cocoa Facial or a Dark Chocolate Body Wrap. Dads will appreciate men’s spa treatments with a deep-tissue massage, soothing facial and pedicure. MeltSpa offers Teen Spa Treatments, too.

Hershey characters will entertain younger kids through Hershey Lodge appearances. Look for more family fun playing Chocolate Bingo, roasting s’mores and hands-on crafts.

For your family’s safety, housekeeping team members will not proactively enter guest rooms. But if you need in-room amenities, extra towels or other items, they are a phone call away.

Photo courtesy of Split Rock Resort.

5. H2Oooohh! Water Park

This wet and wild indoor water park is part of the Split Rock Resort at Lake Harmony in the Poconos. Water attractions include a wave pool and five slides for body, tube and raft drops. An extreme slide allows gravity to take the most courageous down four stories to a crash splash finish. Smaller adventurers will have fun at the Jungle Play area with a dumping bucket and on the Leapin’ Lily Pads. Bring your own towel or buy one at the gift shop.

An indoor miniature golf course, a movie theater and laser tag are part of the entertainment options.

Resort dining ranges from the upscale Bistro Fusion to the Lakeside Tavern. Our pick is the cozy Thirsty Moose Lounge with comfort food the whole family loves: mac and cheese, gourmet grilled cheese and chicken quesadillas.

Photo courtesy of Splash Harbor.

6. Splash Harbor

The retractable roof at Splash Harbor welcomes sunshine on warm days and keeps out cold and rain on brisk days. The 6,000-square-foot tropical-themed atrium offers loads of wet and wild action. Let loose on a 49-foot water slide that shoots more than 600 gallons of water per minute. Spraying palm trees, shooting geysers and a giant bucket dump add to the fun of the water spray area. Challenge the kids to an in-pool game of basketball. Two hot tubs — one for grownups and another for the families — bubble away for a relaxing plunge.

Splash Harbor is located in the Comfort Inn in Bellville, Ohio, about 2.5 hours from Pittsburgh. Check out specials like the Family Fun Package which includes four waterpark passes and a large pizza with an overnight booking. Birthday packages remain unavailable due to safety protocols.

Guests are permitted to bring food and refreshments. The Comfort Inn doesn’t provide dining, but five fast-food and three sit-down restaurants near the hotel will keep hunger at bay.

Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn is a Pittsburgh-based editor and writer who writes about food, entertainment, kid stuff, pop culture, cocktails!