Indoor Water Parks
Make a splash this winter at an indoor water park.
At H2Oasis, the temperature is a comfortable 84-degrees and has a 42-foot ride called the Master Blaster.
Indoor water parks make a great wintertime family vacation. They're wild. They're wet. And they're completely climate controlled, protecting splishing and splashing revelers from the elements. Most parks offer a mix of water slides and kiddie pools - something for kids of all ages. Throw in drier diversions, like video games and quiet areas for parents who'd rather just read, and these spots make any town pool seem dull.
H2Oasis; Anchorage, Alaska
Perhaps nowhere is an indoor water park more fitting than in Anchorage, where winter temperatures rarely rise above freezing and the sun hardly peaks above the horizon until February. In this environment, the H2Oasis is a true escape - an 84-degree oasis with 350,000 gallons of fun.
The main draw at H20 is the 42-foot ride called the Master Blaster, a "water coaster" that hurtles riders on rubber inner tubes of up to 20 miles per hour through steep drops and hairpin turns. The journey ends mercifully with splash-down in a pool teeming with giggling youngsters. Other attractions include a wave pool, a Body Slide and the 575-foot meandering Never Ending River. The price: $21.95 for adults; $15.95 for kids.
Many visitors stay nearby at the Millennium Alaskan Hotel or the Hilton Garden Inn, both of which are less than 10 minutes from Ted Stevens International Airport. For dinner, check out Humpys Anchorage Ale House, a great pub with live music.
H2Oasis groupies looking to spend a day on dry land also spend time (and quarters) next door at the Castle on O'Malley, a classic miniature golf course that boasts everything from Skee-Ball to video games. On particularly warm days, another popular family-oriented activity is hiking the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which hugs Knik Arm for 11 miles from downtown to the Point Campbell Military Reservation.
Avalanche Bay; Boyne Falls, Mich.
Encompassing 80,000 square feet of wet and wacky fun, the Bavarian-themed Avalanche Bay, outside Traverse City, Mich., represents the biggest indoor water park in Michigan. The park opened its doors to record crowds on Memorial Day 2006, and has been a hot spot for vacationing families ever since.
Some of the rides beneath the facility's expansive Fiberglas roof include the Splasherhorn water roller coaster, Rip Zone surfing simulator, Vertigo Cannonball tube slide and a 900-foot lazy river. The place also features hot tubs, video arcades, a climbing wall and protected toddler areas in an environment that stays at a balmy 84 degrees all day long. The price: $19 or $25, depending on how long you want to stay.
Nearby, the Swiss-style Mountain Grand Lodge is a great place for families to relax. The hotel boasts 220 suites - perfect environments for youngsters to kick back and watch cartoons after a morning of splashing around. Mom and Dad can relax here, too, as the property's Solace Spa (it happens to be Michigan's largest) offers an entire menu of stress-eliminating treatments and massage.
Because of Avalanche Bay's proximity to the Boyne Mountain Ski Resort, many families visit as part of a larger ski vacation. Guests here can choose from nine different restaurants, including Everett's, an upscale bistro that offers an all-you-can-eat Alaskan king crab feast every Friday night.
Kalahari Waterpark Resort; Sandusky, Ohio
Sandusky might be smack in the middle of Ohio, but at the African-themed Kalahari Waterpark Resort, the surf is up year-round. The park opened in 2006 as the Buckeye State's largest; today, it boasts both indoor and outdoor pool rides for 80,000 square feet of water fun. The price: $34 per person.
Most of the main attractions are indoors. Pint-sized visitors flock to the Flowrider, a surf-simulator that spits out sets of 5-foot waves. For water lovers with less-than-perfect balance, there's also the Zip Coaster, which whisks tube-riders up speedy climbs and down gut-wrenching drops. Small children love an area called the "Wild Kingdom," which includes net crawls, water guns and a variety of tame water slides.
Who says you can't have luxury at an indoor water park? Kalahari offers private cabana rentals like many of the fancy resorts in Las Vegas, complete with private attendants and fresh linens. Most cabanas also include flat-screen televisions, comfy couches, refrigerators and iPod docking stations.
More formal accommodations are found at the conjoined 308-room Kalahari Resort. Masks and other tribal artifacts adorn these rooms, and a life-sized rhinoceros sculpture greets guests in the lobby. For dinner, check out the Kahunaville Restaurant & Bar and order the coconut shrimp, a house specialty. Kids also will love the virgin Shirley Temples, which bartenders mix with dramatic flare.
World Waterpark; Edmonton, Alberta
As if there weren't enough distractions at the cavernous West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, the facility's 5-acre World Waterpark is one of the largest water parks in the world. In all, the Canadian park boasts more than 20 water activities - ample opportunities to soak even the driest mall rats.
The park was built in 1985, but recently added the Raging Rapids ride, an enclosed slide that sends daring tube riders through strobe-lit darkness, and the Tropical Typhoon, a dizzying funnel-slide that spins thrill-seekers in circles before dropping them into a splash pool. Other new rides include bungee jumping, hot tubs and a Caribbean-themed interactive area for parents and toddlers to enjoy together. The price: $29.95.
Elsewhere in the mall, there's certainly no shortage of ways to spend the day. The mega center includes more than 800 shops, some of which are included in Europa Boulevard, designed to mimic a Parisian street. Additional kid-friendly attractions are Galaxyland, an amusement park; Sea Life Caverns, an aquarium; and Deep Sea Derby, a bumper-boat adventure on an indoor lake.
The mall also incorporates two hotels: the zany Fantasyland Hotel, which has assigned themes such as African Safari and ancient Rome to 118 of its 354 rooms; and the smaller and more intimate West Edmonton Mall Inn, where the only theme among 88 rooms is luxury.
Caribbean Cove; Indianapolis
Nearly 1,000 miles separate the Caribbean from Indianapolis, yet island culture is alive and well at the Caribbean Cove Water Park. At 50,000 square feet, the facility is the largest in the entire Hoosier State, and it is connected on two levels to the city's Holiday Inn North.
Youngsters line up to try out the Raging Rapids Super Flume tube slide, a twisting ride that drops 40 feet and empties into a giant wave pool. In addition, while most water parks have only one body slide, this one has two: the 292-foot-long Tropical Twist, and the 267-foot-long Jungle Rumble Aqua Whiz. Try saying the name of that second one five times fast.
Caribbean Cove also has tamer rides such as the Leisure River, which calmly circles the property like a meandering brook, and Kastaway Kidz Island, which offers a water bucket dumping station, a wading pool and a kiddie slide. The only downside is that visitors cannot use the park unless they're guests of the hotel. Room rates start at $179.
The hotel itself is a standard Holiday Inn - 344 clean and comfortable rooms with relatively no frills. The San Remo Grille is the best of five on-site restaurants; for a better meal, venture into Indianapolis to Dick's Bodacious BBQ, where the beef brisket and Texas hot links transport you to the Deep South.