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Kalahari Resorts in the Poconos: A Giant Water Park & Much More

Kalahari Resorts in the Poconos: A Giant Water Park & Much More

Most of us in the tri-state area are ready for a trip to the tropics by February. My family got our tropical fix, and it was only a 90-minute drive from NYC. Kalahari Resorts & Conventions is a mega resort in the Poconos Mountains area of Pennsylvania. It's an African-themed hotel, named after the Kalahari Dessert, with a massive indoor water park and enough indoor activities that we never left the hotel during our entire stay.

The resort calls itself Pennsylvania's largest indoor water park. It features 100,000 square feet of slides, water roller coasters, a lazy river, hot pools, and two play areas, Tiko's Watering Hole for toddlers and Splashdown Safari for older kids. It’s been open since July 2015 and its owners are only half finished with their build-out. When they complete construction in 2017 it will be America's largest indoor water park, with 200,000 square feet of aquatic fun.

We booked our accommodations--a desert room--for one night, with plans to use the facilities both the day we arrived as well as the day we departed. Our adventure began when we entered the huge open lobby, which is well appointed with African themed art and furniture and has a large waiting area with a fireplace that overlooks the indoor water park. We arrived at 1pm on a Monday and our room was ready, so they let us check in. Since it was a Monday, the rates were only a fraction of the regular price, plus the resort felt empty and we never encountered a line, wait, or crowds.

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The Water Park at Kalahari

The water park is accessible via wristbands, which also act as your room key. The water park is free for all guests, but you can also buy a day pass for the park. Most other indoor water parks in the Poconos require an overnight stay to access their facilities, so this is a great option for those who just want to make a day visit. Passes range from $29 to $59 per person, depending on the day. There are reduced rates for evening-only access, and it's free for kids under 2. Also available are private cabanas to rent inside the water park; these are costly and start at about $199 for the day.

Inside the water park, you can rent lockers to secure your belongings for $10, $15, or $20, depending on size.  Attendants are very generous with towels, and you can help yourself to dry ones as needed. (Some parks are strict with their towels, which is a bummer for a water park.) Free life jackets are available--and they’re required for kids under 48 inches.

The water park is clean, huge, and has a wide range of activities catering to the entire family. Our 4 year old is particularly adventurous, so we were thrilled to find that Kalahari has a lot of fun, big slides for kids 42 inches and higher.

Our favorite ride was the Anaconda, which is a tube-required water rollercoaster. They even have a machine tote the tubes up, so you don't have to carry them up the stairs. The Flow Rider, a wave simulator, was also very impressive. Our daughter body-surfed it and my boyfriend stood and surfed it. (I chickened out of trying this one). I really liked the hot pool, where you can swim outdoors. It's normally reserved for adults, but since the resort was so empty they allowed kids in. It was very cool to swim in a hot pool while snow landed on our faces. And, of course, there were lots of other water slides, some requiring mats, some enclosed in tubes, some that take you outside and back in, and some that just go over a few bumps and turns and end with a splash.

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Another feature I was particularly impressed by was the toddler area, Tiko's Watering Hole. This area is huge and offers so many different things for little ones, including a 1-foot-deep lazy river. The zero-entry pool, warm water, and wide range of activities offer a great way to introduce toddlers to water in a safe, comfortable way. They even had a water splash table, complete with seating for babies. I have visited a lot of water parks and never seen an area for little kids this nice or this big.

Kalahari's Adventure Kids Club

After splashing and sliding for a couple hours, we dried off and headed to the Adventure Kids Club, located just off the arcade/cafe. Here they offer family-friendly activities throughout the day, many of which are free. We participated in free cookie decorating and a scavenger hunt. We came in second place and received a $20 game card to use in the arcade. Every family who participated received a game card, though I don't know how much was on the others’ cards. This may have been my favorite part of the trip. The scavenger hunt was so fun and silly--a lovely way to bond with my family.

The Arcade at Kalahari

The word arcade doesn't even begin to describe this area--it's more like a mega kids casino. It's filled with high-quality casino-like games geared toward kids. This 30,000-square-foot entertainment center also has mini bowling, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, and a 5-D Theater/Ride. You win tickets at the games, which can be cashed in for prizes in the prize gift shop.

Our visit to Kalahari was a pretty spectacular 24 hours. We checked in at 1:00 pm on a Monday and checked out around 1:00 pm the following day. My boyfriend and I both work from home and often multitask while playing with our daughter. On this trip we committed to paying complete attention to her and gave her the family time she deserves. We all left as winners after this spontaneous 24 hour vacation. We'll definitely be doing this again.

Tips for Visiting Kalahari Resorts:

  • Kalahari offers a lot of mid-week specials. The park likely feels very crowded on weekends, so I recommend trying to snag a mid-week getaway--or at least take the day off work and get a day pass. If you get a day pass, do so online before arriving, to ensure entry.
  • Some guests brought their own bathrobes to throw on after the water park. Consider bringing yours from home. At the very least, bring a zip-up hoodie.
  • Food and drinks were good and reasonably priced (at least from my NYC perspective).
  • The arcade was surprisingly fun, and we spent more money and time here than I expected. Consider this when making your plan and budget.
  • The walk to and from the water park is long, and the hotel is giant. Bring a stroller for any kids who might possibly need one. Plus, you can keep your belongings in it while you play in the water.
  • The water is heavily chlorinated, so much so that when we visited the water park early Tuesday morning my eyes were burning a bit just walking around. Keep this in mind for the little ones, and be sure your kids understand not to drink the water.

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