Splish, splash—is there anything more in sync with hot-weather fun than a day at the water park? Wisconsin is a national leader in these aquatic playgrounds, anchored by a cluster of options in Wisconsin Dells that has rippled out to other cities, including Milwaukee, Madison, Lake Geneva, Sheboygan and Green Bay. Tack on an overnight stay—many water parks are connected to a resort—and you’ve got a vacation in the making that’s perfect for multi-generational groups (and keeps kids from getting restless). From the Dells to Sheboygan, here’s where to check in.
Located in Waukesha County just off I-94, and a half-hour drive from downtown Milwaukee, this is the Milwaukee area’s largest water park, clocking in at 45,000 square feet. And the best thing is that this park is indoors, so you don’t have to plan around the weather. All under one roof is a lazy river, zero-depth Waukesha Water Works (features a 600-gallon dump bucket pouring water every 10 minutes), activity pool, body slides, chutes and Geyser Games Arcade. At the hotel are 187 guest rooms, plus a saloon, snack bar and two restaurants (the saloon and snack bar are in the water-park area).
This is the only waterpark in a Wisconsin resort that hugs the Lake Michigan shoreline—perfect for beach lovers and fans of water slides. Included in the resort are a spa (offering services like a hot-stone massage), 180 suites and 64 villas, and several dining venues (including tables with Lake Michigan views at On the Rocks) make it easy to fill a weekend—and appeal to luxury-minded adults, too. But at Breaker Bay Waterpark (entirely indoors) is Molly’s Moat (float on an inner tube down a 3,600-square-foot river), four waterslides, a four-story activity center featuring water effects and a surf simulator. Did we mention the cabana rentals that have their own TV?
Playing out a theme that reminds of a more exotic climate, you’re supposed to feel like you’ve arrived in Africa, not the Dells, at Kalahari. (Kalahari parks are also in Sandusky, Ohio; and Pocono Mountains, Penn.) Attractions in the 125,000-square-foot water park include FlowRider, lazy river, wave pool, Master Blaster (an uphill roller-coaster ride involving water), the 40mph Tanzanian Twister and a 400-foot-long tube slide. Designed for families, room sizes range from a standard room to a waterfront villa. And there are 11 restaurants, ensuring nobody leaves hungry.
Right next door to the luxe Grand Geneva Resort & Spa is this more family-friendly alternative, with all-suite options ideal for families. On site are a BBQ restaurant and a food court (next door, you’ve got a steakhouse and Italian eatery). Because Timber Lodge’s waterpark (Moose Mountain Falls, clocking in at 50,000 square feet) spans both indoor and outdoor spaces, you can experience the sun or stay warm, depending on the weather outdoors. Included in the park are 36-foot-tall slides, Timber Rapids (a 30-foot-tall water chute), the Lazy River and Tiny Timbers (just for tots).
All within 200,000 square feet is a water park (both indoors and outdoors), spa, 18-hole golf course and steakhouse, perfect for a family with varying interests and ideas of fun. Lost Rios is the indoor water park with a wading pool for kids, an “action river” with a mild current, uphill water roller coaster and a racing water ride. Outdoors are a wave pool, sport pool for basketball and volleyball games, Adventure Lagoon and sandy-beach area. Private cabanas keep the family together in style. Accommodations can be in guest rooms, suites or villas—even two- or three-bedroom condos with full kitchens—depending on the size of a group traveling together. Many rooms flaunt views of the Wisconsin River.
At first glance, you might think you’ve been teleported to ancient Rome when you see the faux Colosseum, but nope, you’re still in Wisconsin. Back at Hotel Rome, the rooms are done up in Greco-Roman design and you can eat at 10 different restaurants, with choices ranging from sushi to dishes cooked on a 700-degree lava rock at Crabby’s. At the attached Medusa Water Park are a mix of indoor and outdoor attractions, including a lazy river and the Pool of Delphi outside, and water slides inside. New in 2017 is a 10-acre water park with 44 water slides and a million-gallon wave pool, reserved for resort guests only.
There’s a definite North Woods vibe going on at this resort which is not far from Lambeau Field (home field for the Green Bay Packers). At the three-story, 30,000-square-foot waterpark are attractions like the Alaskan Pipeline (no oil involved here, just a fast-paced water ride!) and Elk Island River (a lazy river). Come summer, the outdoor splash pad opens up. In each of the 162 suites is that same log-cabin décor that makes you feel like you’re in a mountain lodge. Also on site is Caribou Restaurant (offers a buffet plus an a-la-carte menu), pub, candy store and bar/grill.