Kalahari Resort: Winter on the Outside, Summer on the Inside

If you grew up in the Midwest, you probably know that Wisconsin Dells and waterparks go together like Top the Tater  and Old Dutch ripple chips; fried cheese curds and the Minnesota State Fair; Rocky and Bullwinkle.

When I was younger, I was all about Wisconsin Dells and the giant outdoor waterpark Noah’s Ark. I went there a total of three times, either with my family or with my friend’s family during the humid days of summer.  I loved every soaking wet minute.

Now that I’m older—with kids of my own—I’m more interested in finding creative ways to escape the cold, even if it involves a four-hour car ride. I mean, outdoor waterparks are fun and all, but you lose some of that “looking California and feeling Minnesota” effect when you go to a waterpark on a sunny summer day.

I’m confident that I found the perfect close-to-home, family-friendly winter escape at the Kalahari Resort.

I had heard a little about this famous indoor waterpark through friends (did you know there’s even a spa?!), but didn’t realize just how much kids loved this place until I visited my friends Holly and Kevin in Green Bay last winter. With four kids (now 9, 8, 6, and 4), a trip to the 125,000-square-foot indoor Kalahari waterpark was in their near future, and they were psyched. The youngest ones marched around the house singing the Wisconsin Dells Kalahari theme song: “We don’t have to wait for the summer, winter or fall is ok, I don’t care when we go, just as long as I know, that I’ll be on my way … I can’t think of any place, I would rather be, when it comes to having fun just one place comes to me. I want to go to the Kal-a-hari, I wanna play at the Kalahari, I wanna stay at the Kalahari, Mommy and Daddy pretty please?” (Catchy tune, isn’t it?) Their oldest daughter wanted to show us photos of the Kalahari from the last time they went, and their second-oldest daughter wanted to show us the new swimsuit she was going to pack. All four of them wanted us to watch the Kalahari video.

“In their mind, a trip to the Kalahari is even better than a trip to Disneyland,” Holly told me. “They start counting down months in advance.”

What is it about going to a waterpark when there’s a thick layer of ice on our windshields, snow on the ground, and clunky winter boots on our feet? It’s the freedom of shedding multiple layers and putting on a swimsuit when it’s freezing cold outside. It’s the fun of breaking from routine. It’s the thrill of zipping down a waterslide. It’s the anticipation of a family adventure.

We couldn’t join our friends at the Kalahari last year, but are planning on going this year, and I’m almost as excited as a kid!

Kalahari surfer

Photo courtesy of Kalahari

I’ve heard that there’s plenty to do—even for babies and toddlers (just for the record, I have a 19-month-old and a four-year-old). Lifejackets are provided free of charge for those who aren’t the strongest of swimmers. I like that the waterpark has a variety of fun water features and play areas, easy waterslides for the little ones, a wave pool, and a lazy river; and that older kids and adults can shoot down the speed slides and try boogie-boarding or surfing in the stand-up FlowRider. There’s also an indoor theme park with a carousel, go-karts, laser tag, a rock climbing wall, a large padded play area for the little ones, and a ferris wheel, on-site restaurants, scheduled activities for kids (cookie decorating, coloring contest, candy bingo, etc.), a bowling alley, and an AMC Theater. There’s really no reason to leave the massive resort, although I might be tempted to check out the outlet mall across the street.

I know a waterpark can be cheesy, but it sounds like the Kalahari is the exception to the rule. I’ve only heard positive reviews about how beautiful and clean the rooms are. Beauty is good. Clean is good. Fun is good.

I can’t wait for my family to experience this magic, right when we’re suffering from cabin fever. Pretty soon I’ll be singing: “We don’t have to wait for the summer, winter or fall is ok, I don’t care when we go, just as long as I know, that I’ll be on my way …”


  • If you book with a group, a group rate is available. The Kalahari can be expensive unless you are mindful of when you go (for example, it’s more expensive when demand is high, like during spring break. The rates can fluctuate by hundreds of dollars depending on the popularity of the date). Getting a room with a full kitchen makes it much easier to save money. Specials are regularly listed on the website.
  • The Kalahari offers a gluten-free menu of hamburgers, chicken, and pizza, a nice added benefit if you or your little ones have dietary restrictions.