Feels like we just went to the tropics during February but we only drove 90 minutes from NYC. Kalahari Resort is a new mega resort in the Poconos, PA. It’s an African themed hotel, named after the Kalahari Dessert, with a massive indoor waterpark and enough indoor activities we actually never left the hotel.
They call themselves Pennsylvania’s largest indoor waterpark – currently with 100,000 square feet of slides, water roller coasters, a lazy river, hot pools, Splashdown Safari kid’s and Tiko’s Watering Hole toddler play areas. They’ve been open since July 2015 and are only 50% done with their build-out. When they complete construction in 2017 they will be America’s largest indoor waterpark with 200,000 square feet of aquatic fun!
We made our visit in the middle of a snow storm, so enjoying the tropical temperatures under this gigantic retractable glass dome was a much welcomed retreat from the cold. Our stir crazy four year old embraced every element of it.
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 their huge open lobby which is well appointed with African themed art and furniture and has a large waiting area with fireplace that overlooks the indoor waterpark. We arrived at 1:00pm on a Monday and our room was ready so they went ahead and let us check in. We knew right away we were going to love this place. Since we booked a room on a Monday the rates were only a fraction of the regular price, the resort felt empty and we never had a line, wait or crowds.
After checking into our room we journeyed downstairs, through the arcade of amazing looking games and to the entrance of the waterpark. This is accessible via wristbands which also act as your room key. The waterpark is free for all guests, but you can also buy a day pass for the park. Most other indoor waterparks 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 fluctuate from $29 – $59/person depending on the day. They offer reduced rates for evening only access. And it’s free for kids under 2. Also available are private cabanas to rent inside the waterpark, these are costly and start at about $199 for the day. Our room happened to cost $199/night so we didn’t try out a cabana, although they looked nice with couches, flatsceen TV’s and waiter service. Would be great if you are hosting a party or have a large family. Inside the waterpark they offer rental lockers to secure your belongings for $10, $15 & $20 depending on size. The resort was really empty so we stashed our belonging at a table and covered them with towels. I don’t necessarily recommend this, but we did it and nothing was tampered with. They are very generous with towels, you don’t need a towel card and can help yourself to dry ones as needed. This is also really nice as other parks are sticklers with their towels, which is a bummer for a waterpark. They also offer free life jackets and require them for kids under 48″.
The waterpark is clean, huge and has a wide range of activities catering to the entire family. Our four year old is particularly adventurous so we were thrilled to find out they have a lot of good and big slides for kids 42″ and up. Many resorts cater to 48″ and up with their slides, so discovering so many options available to her was really fun.
Our favorite ride was the Anaconda which is a tube required water rollercoaster. It’s awesome! 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 really cool. Our daughter body surfed it and my boyfriend stood and surfed it…I chickened out of trying this one. I really like the hot pool where you could swim outdoors. It’s normally reserved for adults but since the resort was so empty they allowed kids in. It was really cool swimming around in a hot pool while snow landed on our faces. And of course there were lots of other water sides some requiring mats, some enclosed in tubes, some take you outside and back in and some just go over a few bumps and turns and end with a splash.
Another feature I was particularly impressed by the was toddler area, Tiko’s Watering Hole. This area is huge and offers so many different things for lil ones including a 1 foot deep lazy river. The zero entry pool, warm water and nice range of offerings is a great way to introduce little kids 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 waterparks and never seen an area for wee ones this nice or this big. Huge kudos to Kalahari for dedicating such a nice space to this age group.
Adventure Kids Club
After splashing and sliding for a couple hours we dried off and headed over 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 the free cookie decorating and the scavenger hunt. Cookie decorating was pretty straight forward, but the scavenger hunt was awesome. Each family that participated was a team and we all received a sheet of paper with clues. We were instructed to take photos with our cell phones once we found the clues throughout the resort and mostly in the hotel lobby then return in 15 minutes. Whichever team gathered the most points wins. Well, it turned into the Amazing Race. All teams running throughout the resort looking for clues…without giving away too much I’ll just say one clue was to photograph as many giraffes you could find. It was a hilariously good time. We came in second place and received a $20 game card to use in the arcade. Every family who participated received a game card, I don’t know how much was on theirs. This may have been my favorite part of the trip. The scavenger hunt was so surprisingly fun and silly. Simply a lovely way to bond with my family.
The word arcade doesn’t even begin to describe this area, it’s more like a mega kids casino. It’s filled with quality casino like games all geared towards kids. We were totally mesmerized by the blinking lights and chiming game machines and ended up spending way too much time in this area. Well I’m sure it wasn’t too much for the resort…the arcade area is full of mindless fun. 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. The prize gift shop is really cute and well designed. We found the whole arcade and prize redemption arrangement at Kalahari far better than other resorts. It was a lot of fun…is there gambling anonymous for four year olds?
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.
- During the week you can find crazy good deals. I imagine the park feels pretty crowded on weekends and likely too crowded. I definitely 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.
- Waterpark pros brought their own bathrobes to throw on after the water. Some even wore them around the kid arcade. I was jealous and wished I brought mine from home. At the very least bring a zip up hoodie.
- Food and drinks were pretty good and reasonably priced (NYC perspective).
- The arcade was surprisingly fun, we spent more money and time here than expected. Consider this when making your plan and budget.
- The walk to and from the waterpark is long, the hotel is giant. Bring a stroller to help schlep the kids and all your stuff. 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 waterpark early Tuesday morning my eyes were burning a bit just walking around (they’re sensitive anyway). Keep this in mind for little ones though, all these chemicals can’t be good for a newborn. Also be sure your kids understand not to drink the water for the same reason.
- Click to see video tour of the waterpark and arcade: