My kids loved their time at the Kalahari Water Park in the Poconos, and I’m pretty sure yours will too.
I got back from a weekend at the Kalahari water park a few days ago, and my kids are already itching to go back. Now, I want to preface this post by saying I never really thought of myself as a “water park person.” I mean, I put a lot of TLC into keeping my hair the right level of frizzless, and the idea of faux palm trees has never appealed to me, but Kalahari impressed me on a variety of levels, and I would without a doubt take my kids back again. If you’re wondering, my kids are eight, four, three, and nearly five months old — and there was plenty to do for the entire spectrum of ages.
Now, just to be entirely open, there are other indoor water parks in the area — and sure, they’re good, but the Kalahari water park is almost entirely new (some parts of it have opened as recently as this month), and only Kalahari has activities for literally every age on the spectrum. If you’re a family who likes fresh, new, and clean that’s certainly something to take into consideration. Am I neurotic for wanting to be one of the first ones in? Maybe, but I make no apologies because our experience was great and I didn’t have a single issue the entire time we were there. That brings me to my next hygiene point, too. I spent my teen and college years in Florida, so I pride myself on knowing a thing or two about watersports and germs, and the fact remains that having oodles of kids a warm, moist environment can be less than ideal, but the Kalahari water park is also the only one in the area with TONS of natural light (year round!). Natural light can kill germs pretty quickly, even crazy beasts like the flu, so that’s super important to consider when you’re booking any indoor water park. In the words of the late, great Biggie, “if you don’t know, now ya know.”
Let’s move on to all the features that make Kalahari water park in the Poconos 100% worth the drive, and honestly, the drive is a pretty straight shot west on Route 80 from NYC — depending on traffic and the way you drive, it can take anywhere from 1.5-2 hours. Not bad, but remember to pack the iPad.
Oh, the entire resort has free wifi, too, because hallelujah.
It is totally baby and toddler friendly from top to bottom.
I’ve got four kids, so I feel like I know a thing or two about babies at this point. The Kalahari resort is almost fully accessible and appreciated by anyone old enough to smile. If you have a newborn you can probably bring him/her without issue — but the real fun starts at around 3 months or older when hands, feet, and smiles are discovered. Each and every section of the water park (and there are many) is outfitted with dozens and dozens of life vests of every size. I had no trouble finding life vests for my 4 month old, 3 year old, and 4 year old so they could play safely.
My two toddlers were almost overwhelmed by the amount of sensory play in the “Coral Cove” section of the water park, an area designed specifically for the littlest water park lovers. Water spouts, small slides, curved slides, jetted slides, tiny lazy rivers — you name it. Several times I had to remind my kids, “c’mon, it’s time to eat!”
I mean, toddler water slides, people. Heaven on Earth.
Let’s talk about food options, shall we?
For those with dietary restrictions (kosher, halal, gluten-free, etc), there’s a marketplace with lots of packaged options. The rooms also have small refrigerators and coffee makers in them, so if you have specific organic almond milk, yogurt, or tropical fruit salad needs, fear not — there’s a place to store your necessities and not have to 100% rely on the on-site offerings. If you’re not limited in a dietary way, there are several on-site restaurants that offer an array of family-friendly foods. Upstairs in the main hotel lobby there’s a gastropub that’s kid-friendly, as well as a small diner-type experience that offers menu items like grilled cheese, chicken fingers, and fish tacos. Down a long hallway you’ll find two, brand new restaurants aimed at a slightly more upscale diner — an Italian style restaurant, Sortino’s, that offers everything from to-order personal pizzas like you’d find near the beaches of Italy to DIY cannoli carts. Super cute.
It should be noted that all the restaurants at Kalahari are stroller-friendly, so don’t feel weird about rolling up with your travel-friendly jogger. Do it, enjoy your meal, that’s the whole point of a place like this.
There’s also one finer-dining restaurant at the resort, Double Cut Steakhouse, which offers a variety of meat and seafood options as well as an entire wall of wine. If for some reason you feel like you need to drink an entire wall of wine after a day of swimming with your children, know that option is available to you.
If you’re looking for quick, grab-and-go bites, there’s a sort of pizza and snack shack on the lower level next to the water park entrance, a snack bar (and an actual bar with a grotto) inside the park itself, and an African-themed Starbucks dupe on the first floor near the lobby (not actual Starbucks, but close enough and has images of exotic animals all over which possibly add to the effects of caffeine, tbd). There’s also a buffet restaurant and an ice cream bar. Both are wildly popular, but you will definitely not lose weight. Do not even step foot into the hallway near those restaurants if you’re trying to lose weight. If there’s one thing I know, a buffet of waffles stationed next to an ice cream bar is not the way to fit into a bikini. The other restaurants seem to have plenty of salad options though, so yay!
There’s a spa/salon at Kalahari water park, too.
If you’re totally over having chlorinated hair and skin or threw your back out trying to compete with your teenager on the indoor surfing gear (yeah, that exists!), no worries. There’s a spa with new amenities inside the resort that’ll set you back to normal pretty quickly. They’ll give you a blowout, re-do your chipped pedicure, massage your wall-of-wine hangover away, or just about anything else — just make sure you make an appointment. If you’re wondering, they carry all the major, popular product brands, too, so even if you just need a Moroccanoil shampoo refill, you can head down to the salon and pick one up. Make sure you call to make an appointment though, because it’s not a walk-in type place.
But what about older kids?
If you have bigger kids, ages 7 and up or so, there’s plenty to do. There’s a lazy river aimed at bigger humans, two incredibly scary waterslide type rides that made me (a 32 year old who isn’t afraid of rollercoasters) nervous. Simulated surfing, virtual reality (ages 13+, my husband couldn’t get enough of this), arcade games, and outdoor experiences like zip lining round out the offerings for the big ones. Nobody will complain of boredom. You’re more likely to hear whining about being tired versus whining about boredom. Phew.
Speaking of the arcade…
My kids were obsessed. All of them. Couldn’t get enough, and they were actually crying when I said “it’s time to leave, it’s getting late.” Games, physical activities, carnival-style experiences, and even mini golf were all available. This is not a small, dinky arcade. The Kalahari water park is basically Vegas for children, with an entire lower floor dedicated to flashing lights and the opportunity to win tickets that can be changed into prizes. The prize exchange room, mind you, looks like a retail toy store at a mall. My kids were basically drooling on themselves and at one point I was wondering if I needed to follow them around with a mop.
Like everything else at the Kalahari water park and resort, there are options for just about every age. I found oodles of little kid games and rides, but also lost my 40-something husband for over an hour at one point only to find him deeply committed to some war-like game with weapons and battle axes that made no sense to me. I found a group of other dads huddled around him, cheering him on. Yay for comradery?
The hotel rooms.
They’re clean, spacious, and well-appointed for any family resort. The room we stayed in had two bedrooms and two bathrooms, as well as a mini fridge. The first bedroom had a king size bed and a separate bathroom and window, and the second bedroom included two doubles and no window. If you’re wondering why no window is important, I’ll be frank — your kids will sleep later, meaning you can catch up on rest, make a new kid to bring back to the waterpark, or just quietly enjoy coffee in your bed. Whatever, no judgments, you do you. If you like your little monkeys to be up bright and early, just leave their door open to the living room area — all are bright, airy, and even have an electric fireplace for added coziness. There’s another full bathroom and super large vanity next to the second bedroom, so no worries about competing for showers and toilets. While the Kalahari water park isn’t the Four Seasons, it’s above and beyond the norm for family water parks and resorts. Even if you counted Bali as your honeymoon destination, you’ll be happy enough with these rooms. Clean, spacious, and comfy — and sleeping kids, the greatest luxury of all.
Side note: the rooms really are giant, so if you bring a grandparent or babysitter, there’s room. Don’t be shy. There’s a wall of wine waiting for you.
Overall, would we come back?
Yes, yes, yes — and if the idea of schlepping your kids onto a plane for a weekend is overwhelming but you just need to get out of dodge and do something super fun for the littles in your life, Kalahari is a great option. Just expect lots of tears when you tell them it’s time to pack up and go back home.
Looking for the best deals?
They don’t really offer coupons, per se, but I’ve occasionally seen Kalahari on Groupon, like this listing. There are other nearby hotels on Expedia, but I’ve also found it’s pretty easy to book through this specific link on Hotels.com and see other guest photos as well. You can also check the Kalahari Resort’s website, here, to see if they’re running any seasonal specials.
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