Kalahari Wisconsin Dells Indoor Water Park Hotel

It's a Jungle in There

Kalahari Indoor Waterpark Dells Picture
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Wisconsin Dells Kalahari Directions

From Chicago and Madison: I-90 W to Exit 92, Hwy 12. Right onto Hwy 12, right to Kalahari Drive.

From Milwaukee: I-94 W to exit 92, Hwy 12. Right onto Hwy 12, right to Kalahari Drive.

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Wisconsin Dells Kalahari Overview

Perched on the outskirts of Wisconsin Dells, the Kalahari lays claim as "America's largest indoor waterpark." That's saying a lot in a town where you can't move 100 feet in any direction without bumping into a water slide. While the "largest waterpark" title is a matter of some dispute (see A Lotta Water: Who Has the Biggest Water Park?), there's no denying that the indoor water park is the centerpiece of the huge resort.

Vaguely reminiscent of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World, the lovely resort looks fairly conventional from the outside. Once you step through the main entrance, however, it's immediately obvious that this isn't a conventional hotel. The giant elephant statue above the fireplace, the live baby tigers and lions on display, and the enormous map of Africa that hangs above the lobby help set the tone. But the unmistakable smell of chlorinated water wafting in the air firmly establishes the Kalahari as a wholly unique getaway.

Slip Sliding Away at the Kalahari Waterpark

Once inside, the sheer size and audacity of the park makes an indelible first impression. Reaching some 60 feet high and extending hundreds of yards, the place is alive with hoots and hollers from water slide daredevils, reverberating percussions from water cannons, and squeals from tykes as they soak each other silly. A "mountain" houses some of the slides and serves as a backdrop for the crashing waves in the wave pool (the first indoor wave pool ever built). A towering totem pole erupts with bursts of water every few minutes.

The Kalahari's indoor water park boasts virtually every attraction found at a large outdoor water park. And we're not talking scaled-down facsimiles. The Tanzanian Twister is a full-sized Pro Bowl "spin-and-flush" ride. The Animal Kingdom children's play structure is loaded with mini-slides, water guns, and a host of other interactive gizmos to get yourself and others wet. The Rippling Rhino is a two-person raft ride with plenty of twists and turns. Victoria Falls allows up to four passengers for an even taller, longer, and more thrill-packed family raft ride.

The signature attraction at the Kalahari, the Botswana Blast water coaster, is quite a sight as it snakes around the rafters and shoots riders uphill. Another standout is the FlowRider. The ingenious attraction creates a continuous wave, and riders can either grab a boogie board or a mini-surfboard to body surf or surf in the standing position, respectively.

The Kalahari also offers attractions not typically found at outdoor water parks. Its five hot tubs, for example, are wonderful places to, er, chill out. In the Current Channel, users can get quite a workout walking against the considerable resistance of the water jets. An adjacent lap pool offers more exercise opportunities.

Next page: Man (and Woman and Boy and Girl) Does not Live by Water Alone

While the indoor water park is the main draw, there are plenty of other things to do at the Kalahari. During the warmer-weather months, the outdoor water park is loaded with more slides, interactive play structures, Pro Bowls, and other features.

Like some of the other larger Wisconsin Dells water park resorts, the Kalahari is a veritable kids' paradise. Lest the waterparks become too much of a good thing, the resort offers a daily itinerary of other diversions during the summer months, weekends, and other peak periods, including karaoke, scavenger hunts, movies, cookie decorating, campfires, and animal meet and greets. These activities are complimentary for hotel guests. Additional features include a huge game room, an on-property multiplex theater, a small fitness room, some retail shops, and--a bit of paradise for adults--a day spa.

The Kalahari's hotel accommodations come in a variety of configurations and price points. The resort's original building includes mostly standard, albeit large, hotel rooms. After guests clamored for its suites, the Kalahari added a bunch of them when it expanded.

We stayed in a "Royal Two-Room Family Suite." One bedroom featured a king bed with a net canopy; the other room had two queen beds, a pullout sofa, a gas fireplace, and an outdoor patio. Each room had its own bathroom. The suite was very spacious and comfortable, if a bit noisy. Because the Kalahari caters to families, the pitter-patter of kids (or the clomp-clomp of older kids) running in the hallways and down the stairs near our room came through all too loud and clear.

BYOF at the Kalahari Water Park: Bring your own food

While it may not be of gourmet quality, the Kalahari has a lovely tradition of leaving candy on the pillow along with its nightly turndown service. We're not talking about a couple of tiny mints. We're talking a whole box of chocolates. It's touches like that that make the place magical for families. It's easy to see why the Kalahari and its Dells' counterparts have become so wildly popular--and why the indoor waterpark resort concept is spreading.

Next Page: Kalahari Waterpark Resort Tips

  • Lay claim to lounge chairs early in the day. Since the Kalahari is open to the general public, you'll want to stake out some lounge chairs before they're all gone. If you're staying at the hotel, send the person who gets up earliest to lay some towels and clothing items on a group of chairs.
  • Find the "hidden" chairs. If you find yourself chairless later in the day, check out the area above the Zulu Grille. Climb the stairs near the main entrance of the park, and you'll probably discover plenty of empty chairs in this out-of-the-way place.
  • Ride Botswana Blast and Victoria Falls early in the day. The Kalahari's most popular rides can get very crowded during peak periods. To avoid long lines, consider queuing up for a couple of runs first thing in the morning or later in the evening.
  • Bring comfortable sandals. The Kalahari is huge and you'll be doing plenty of walking. Going barefoot won't cut it, and you'll want footwear in which you'll easily be able to slip in and out.
  • Bring in your own food. The restaurants at the Kalahri are expensive and not particularly great. Take advantage of the rooms' refrigerators and microwaves. Either bring some of your own food with you, or go to a Dells grocery store for some provisions.
  • Consider a mid-week stay. During the winter, spring, and fall months, weekend prices remain fairly high. (Remember to factor in the included admission to the water parks when looking at room costs.) But the Kalahari (and other Dells waterpark resorts) often offer some great mid-week deals. If you can pull the kids out of school (or if you don't have school-age kids), you can save some big bucks and avoid big crowds.