January 2007 Issue
Cabin Fever Cures
Indoor waterparks and other attractions give families a welcome break from winter.
The winter doldrums are setting in, and we all could use a change of scenery - a trip to a tropical clime, perhaps. That kind of getaway is closer that you might expect. A brief dose of warmer temperatures is available right here in Ohio at a waterpark or an indoor horticultural haven such as the Franklin Park Conservatory. A quick trip down the highway can transport you to a family adventure.
Surf. Sand. Splash.
If these words don't seem to mesh with the phrase "winter in Ohio," then you haven't visited one of the state's numerous indoor waterparks.
The number of such facilities nationally has doubled since 2003 (from 42 to 118), according to one study that calls the movement "explosive."
Gina Kellogg, a spokesperson at the World Waterpark Association, says the day of the boring indoor pool is over, that the trend is toward bigger and better: more chutes, more slides, themed playgrounds, water-coasters and body-boarding. In addition, Kellogg observes, more and more hotels are getting into the waterpark business. "It is one area of recreation that a family can do all together."
The parks make a perfect family adventure because (A) they're all indoors, (B) they're all indoors, and (C) they're all indoors. Park the minivan, shove (or shovel) the kids out, and never endure a hint of an ice storm or a suggestion of a snowflake during your entire stay.
The following are some prime examples of parks that pack scenic waterfalls, balmy temperatures and thrilling water coasters into one appealing package for families of all ages.
We begin at Waterpark Central, in Sandusky, then travel south down I-71:
This park prides itself on a tropical Caribbean theme that treats guests to a vacation at an island paradise, all without the need for a plane ticket or passport. The five-story structure is fitted aplenty with lagoons, palms trees, even huts - not to mention 11 water slides.
"Castaway Bay really offers something for the entire family," observes Bryan Edwards, the public relations manager for parent company Cedar Point Amusement Park/Resort as well as Geauga Lake and Wildwater Kingdom. "From Club Castaway and the waterpark attractions for kids to the indoor/outdoor whirlpool tub and day spa, Castaway Bay has everything you need for the perfect family vacation."
The 100,000-gallon Castaway Bay Wave Pool generates 3-foot waves for body surfing, with a cascading waterfall nearby. Lookout Lagoon Family Funhouse boasts a 1,000-gallon tipping bucket, while Cargo Crossing features floating lily pads and a cargo net.
Rendezvous Run is a 520-foot-long water-coaster that propels riders uphill using water jets, and Creature Cove is stocked with numerous flotation devices. For the little ones, the Toddlers' Tide Pool features spraying gadgets and water pipes.
At Camp Castaway, your children can create the craft of the day or decorate cookies as well as color a souvenir T-shirt and enjoy a Peanuts character meet-and-greet. There's a nightly bedtime Peanuts movie and karaoke, too.
The 230,000-square-foot resort includes 237 rooms and family suites, with on-site restaurants, deli, spa, fitness center and gift shops as well as an adjacent marina.
2001 Cleveland Rd., Sandusky, 419/627-2106. www.castawaybay.com. Open year-round, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Room rates vary, and the resort suggests checking the Web site for the most current pricing. Day passes are available for $29 each.
Kalahari Waterpark Resort
With 80,000 square feet of fun, this facility includes a boat-load of water coasters, wade pools, restaurants and retail shops.
"What we try to do is keep everything under one roof, so no one is ever going outside," notes Kalahari's president and owner, Todd Nelson. The resort highlights African decor and artwork as a theme, Nelson adds, because of the company's respect for Africa's rich culture and distinctive wildlife.
Attractions include the Zip Coaster that sends riders on a soaking journey through 30 seconds worth of freefalls and gushing geysers. Also check out Surfari FlowRider, an indoor surfing and body-boarding experience that includes wave speeds up to 50 mph. Swahili Swirl is a twisting, 400-foot-long raft ride, while Wild Kingdom and Crocodile Cove feature water cannons and other splash activities. Victoria Falls is a raft ride for the entire family, as is the lazy Zambezi River. The small kids can also head to the Kids Activity Pool, which is loaded with geysers, slides and trees.
If you want to stay dry for a while, the complex offers four sand volleyball courts and two shuffleboard courts.
The resort currently features 596 guest rooms and family suites. Guests can also rent private bungalows that include a deck/patio area, food and beverage service, refrigerator, even iPod docks.
7000 Kalahari Dr., Sandusky, 877/525-2427. www.kalahariresort.com. Open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. Room rates start at $179. Day passes are $34 ($24 after 5 p.m.).
Splash Harbor at Quality Inn and Suites
Located between Cleveland and Columbus, Splash Harbor at Quality Inn and Suites is a 6,000-square-foot tropical adventure that is open year-round (in the summer months, the roof retracts for an outdoor experience).
"While we can't compete with the large water parks when it comes to the 'thrill factor,' we have an intimate park where the entire family can have fun together and not just go off and never see each other all day," says Splash Harbor's Steve Haring.
Park features include a large swimming pool, a 49-foot looping water slide shooting more than 600 gallons of water per minute, and a sprayground area with shooting geysers, dumping buckets and spraying palm trees. A kiddie pool area is gated off the main pool. Hot tubs, both family and adult-only, are available as well.
The Quality Inn and Suites hotel includes a video arcade and fitness center.
855 Comfort Plaza Dr., Bellville (off exit 165 of I-71 at St. Rte. 97), 419/886-7000. www.splashharbor.com. Open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. Room rates start at $84 per night and include up to four waterpark passes as well as free breakfast. Day passes are $11.95 per person. A birthday party package (up to 15 people) is $175 for two hours.
Coco Key Water Resort at Cherry Valley Lodge
CoCo Key draws its atmosphere and decor from the Key West area in its early days, capturing the relaxation of the Keys and the tropical island feel: Bright-colored cabanas, palms, hibiscus, thatched roofs, even parrots, are all found in a setting that's a constant, balmy 84 degrees.
"Cherry Valley Lodge is a wonderful indoor adventure for families, offering all things to all people," says Beth Kelly, the lodge's director of marketing. "CoCo Key, a 50,000-square-foot indoor water resort, provides entertainment perfect for all ages. From splashing around on the Parrots Perch play structure to checking out the latest in gaming technology in the Key Quest Arcade ... CoCo Key at Cherry Valley Lodge has it all."
Water slides include the 299-foot-long Shark Slam and 275-foot-long Gator Gush body slides as well as the Barracuda Blast raft ride. You can wind your way through the Coconut Grove Adventure River, explore the Coral Reef Cavern or enjoy the Dip In Theater Children's Pool, where kids can float in the shallow water while enjoying dive-in movies on the giant screen.
The 200-room complex - which lays claim as the nation's only hotel that's an officially sanctioned arboretum and botanical garden - features spas, restaurants, game rooms, fitness centers, gift shops and more.
2299 Cherry Valley Rd., Newark, 800/788-8008. www.cocokeywaterresort.com. (A Cincinnati location will open next year.) Open Mon.-Thur. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 9 a.m.-10 p.m., and Sun. 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Room rates start at $189 and include four waterpark passes. Day passes are $30 each.
Fort Rapids Indoor Waterpark
The Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites at Fort Rapids offers 60,000 square feet of wet, wild Western fun. Lifelike statues and wall murals add to the Wild West motif of the indoor waterpark.
Splash down 12 water rides or journey through an authentic-looking mine shaft. Themed rides include Shootout Racer, Rattlesnake Falls, Raging Bull, Ambush Alley, Blackout Pass Bowl Ride, Cowboy Creek Lazy River, Rascal Roundup, and Kiddie Korral. There's also a 30-person hot tub.
The hotel features 278 tower guest rooms and 60 villa family suites as well as arcades, gift shop, activities center, fitness center and restaurants.
4560 Hilton Corporate Dr., Columbus, 614/868-1380 or 877/33-SPLASH. www.fort rapids.com. Open Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Room rates vary, so it's suggested you call first. Day passes and birthday party packages are available.
Franklin Park Conservatory
Families can imagine themselves in a lush, steamy rainforest at Franklin Park Conservatory. The facility features an original Victorian glasshouse, built in 1895, and 73,000 square feet of greenhouses and classrooms in a 90-acre urban park. The unique mission of the conservatory - which houses 400 plant species and 100 butterfly species - is to combine fine arts with horticulture.
Special events at the conservatory include Family Fun Saturdays, designed for children ages 3 and up with an adult companion. The educational activities take place the second Saturday of each month, October through May, starting at 11 a.m. (free with admission).
Franklin Park Conservatory is the only botanical garden in the world to own a signature collection from famed artist Dale Chihuly. A current visiting exhibition, "Fiori," features the dazzling hand-blown glass of Chihuly (the show continues through Feb. 25), in addition to displaying the artist's works from the permanent collection.
From Jan. 13 through March 4, enjoy the delicate beauty of tropical orchids on display in "The Orchid Forest."
1777 E. Broad St., Columbus, 614/645-8733 or 800/214-PARK. www.fpconservatory.org. Tues.-Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wed. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Admission is $7.50, seniors and students $6, children 2-12 $4.