Massanutten WaterPark is always heated to 84° Fahrenheit, and includes a triple-jet FlowRider Endless Wave where you can learn to surf or bodyboard. Courtesy of Massanutten WaterPark
Looking for a surefire kid-pleasing getaway that lets you join in on the fun? Think indoor waterparks for weatherproof wild thrills the whole family can enjoy together. Extra bonus: Some spots include spas and cocktails for us moms.
1. Great Wolf Lodge, Multiple Locations
The largest group of waterparks in the country not only has an outdoors theme but also hosts dance parties and storytimes for the little ones. Courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf comprises the largest group of waterpark resorts in the country, with 17 properties across the U.S. The newest, in Scottsdale, Arizona, will open in September; the largest waterpark in the group, in Anaheim, California, is right down the road from Disneyland. These never-have-to-leave destinations feature a hotel and indoor waterpark wrapped up in one. The resorts have an outdoorsy theme along with a wolf mascot who hosts dance parties and storytimes with other furry animal friends. (If this sounds like a fit for young families, it is; Great Wolf says their target age group is 2 to 12.) Expect lazy rivers, mild-to-slightly-wild waterslides and lots of wet playground fun for toddlers and younger kids. You have to be a hotel guest to use the waterpark, which limits crowds—plus, we’re big fans of suites-only lodging that often includes kid-winning extras such as mini log cabins and bunk beds. Dry activities center on family togetherness; some locations have indoor mini golf and/or 10-pin bowling. Bonus: Modern menus include nut-free kitchens and organic options.
2. The Kartrite Resort
This brand new waterpark is home to a lazy river, multi-person raft waterslides, and a whole lot more. Courtesy of Kartrite Resort
The Kartrite opened in April 2019 in New York state’s verdant Catskill Mountains, offering a luxury hotel with 324 suites, a state-of-the-art indoor waterpark, a ropes course, multiple dining options, a luxury spa and an entertainment arcade all under one roof. The indoor water oasis includes massive multi-person raft waterslides, the Krakken and Nor’Easter, a FlowRider surf simulator, a lazy river, a kids activity pool and a multi-level play structure with slides. The new resort was created by the same designers as Aquatopia below.
3. Kalahari Resorts, Wisconsin Dells, WI, Sandusky, OH, Pocono Mountains, PA,
Kalahari primarily caters to families with teens and tweens, but also has adults-only bars, hot tubs and deluxe spas. Courtesy of Kalahari Resorts
Lions and elephants and slides—oh my! These resorts, which boast America’s largest indoor waterparks, combine an African theme with aqua thrills to create indoor water safaris just right for families with teens and tweens. Massive slides, aqua coasters, wave riders with simulated surfing—even the country’s first underwater virtual reality experience, DiVR, at their Poconos location—these are offerings for older kids who want bigger thrills when they dive into a waterpark. There are also lazy rivers and spots for smaller kids, but the theme here is safari. In fact, the owners actually travel to Africa to source everything from the wall art to the excellent coffee. In addition, the resorts offer outdoor entertainment, including waterslides, pools, mini golf and zoos. To please adult tastes, Kalahari Resorts offer great dry-land dining options and bars, adults-only hot tubs and deluxe spas. The properties also have convention centers attached, in case your company wants to combine work and family play. Yay! (Keep an eye out for the newest location, Round Rock, Texas, just outside of Austin, opening in 2020.)
4. Massanutten WaterPark, Massanutten, VA
The three-story indoor waterpark allows visitors a bird's-eye view of all the fun below.
Located in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, the waterpark here is part of a bigger resort where working parents can take a real vacation with their kids, including spending time at a destination spa for some relaxation. At the waterpark, which is always heated to 84° Fahrenheit, there’s plenty for adventurous families to do together, including a triple-jet FlowRider Endless Wave, where you can learn to surf or bodyboard. There are also slippery slides, a water fortress, inflatable adventures, pools, lazy river floats and hot tubs. Three stories of eateries and gift shops overlook the indoor/outdoor water complex, providing a bird’s-eye view of the action below. In the summer months, you can challenge your family to race head-first down the Rockingham Racer waterslide or face off during a game of water-hoops at the Splash-a-Nutten Splash Zone. The resort’s White Caps Wave Pool provides endless fun for the whole family, as three-foot waves keep guests cool all day long.
5. Wilderness Resort, Wisconsin Dells, WI
Boasting eight waterparks—four indoor and four outdoor—the 600-acre Wilderness Resort claims to have the largest indoor waterpark in the world. Courtesy of Wilderness Resort
Covering 600 acres of indoor and outdoor attractions and lodging, Wilderness Resort is home to four indoor and four outdoor waterparks, and claims to have the largest indoor waterpark in the world (although you’ll be walking quite a bit to see it all). Highlights include the Fantastic Voyage raft ride, a wave pool, a lazy river, play areas for small kids and, of course, loads of waterslides. Kids will likely make a beeline to the new Claim Jumper Challenge, which combines slide boarding and video game technology. (In fact, we’re not sure how you’ll get them to leave this bit of hybrid ingenuity.) The waterpark is for resort guests only and lodging choices include regular rooms, condos, villas and cabins. Dry indoor fun includes go-karts, laser tag, a ropes course and 3D mini golf (extra fees apply).
6. Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark, Camelback Lodge, Tannersville, PA
Only four years old, this impressive waterpark has 125,000 square feet of watery fun. Courtesy of Camelback Resort
Named the No. 1 indoor waterpark in the United States by USA Today three times since it opened in 2015, this waterpark at the Camelback ski area in the Poconos features 125,000 square feet of watery fun, including seven pools, 13 slides, a lazy river and a Flow Rider for simulated surfing. To keep ahead of the pack, they pride themselves on innovation, with cool new attractions like the Venus Slyde Trap, the only combination family raft ride of its kind in the world and Storm Chaser, North America’s longest indoor uphill water coaster, Flow Rider simulated surfing and more. Want to really chill out? When you stay at Camelback, not only will you be able to visit Aquatopia, you’ll also get complimentary snowtubing tickets so you can enjoy the snow (then hurry back in the always-84-degree temps inside).
7. Wild Waterdrome Indoor Waterpark
With a glass roof, this Smoky Mountain waterpark will give you a great tan even inside. Courtesy of Wilderness at the Smokies
Near the vacation hubs of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, the Wild Waterdrome Indoor Waterpark at this all-season resort offers an immense 66,000 square foot indoor waterpark, the largest in the Smoky Mountains, with a glass roof that allows you to tan in the sun year-round so it always feels like you’re on a sunny vacay (remember to pack some sunscreen). There’s a five-story raft ride that fits a family of four, an immense funnel ride known as Thrill Chaser, a surf ride, a massive wave pool, multiple waterslides, and the kid-magnet Washout Mountain, a multi-level water play area. In the summer months, there are two outdoor waterparks, plus an adventure forest with activities to explore as well as two 18-hole championship golf courses and expansive conference space, so you can squeeze in some adult pursuits too.
8. Avalanche Bay, Boyne Mountain Resort, MI
This snow-themed waterpark is fun year-round. Oh yeah, and it claims to have the biggest drop water ride in the country. Courtesy of Avalanche Bay
With an icy winter theme, Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark makes it feel like you’re on the snow-covered slopes of the adjacent ski resort, even in the summer. Slides here go from mild in the Kitz Pool, to wild with a trip down the Big Couloir, which boasts the steepest drop in the industry. There’s also lots of great après ski relaxation with a dip in the Glacier Hot Springs. Out of the water there is arts and crafts fun at Fritz’s Snow Fort, a game-packed arcade, and snacks and more at the pub.
9. Wings and Waves Waterpark
This museum-waterpark hybrid is the perfect combination of fun and education for the little ones. Courtesy of Wings and Waves Waterpark
When is a waterpark not just a waterpark? When it’s also a learning adventure! This indoor pool park lets kids soar and slide their way through the elements of wind and water. Your young ones can take on the role of pilot in this aeronautical-themed waterpark that has waterslides that shoot out of a 747 and a 91,000-gallon wave pool set in between two mock Apollo rockets (how cool is that?). In addition to the regular roundup of slides and pools, there’s also an attached Aviation and Space Museum, so you can learn all about velocity before launching into the water.
10. Sahara Sam’s Oasis, West Berlin, NJ
A multi-person raft ride, water obstacle course, and construction-themed park—need we say more? Courtesy of Sahara Sam's Oasis
An easy day trip from the New York City or Philadelphia areas, Sahara Sam’s is a good fit for a first trip to an indoor waterpark. Because it’s a stand-alone attraction you don’t need to commit to an overnight stay to enjoy the watery fun. Highlights include the Congo Bongo lazy river, New Jersey’s only Flow Rider surf simulator, Crocodile Flats water obstacle course, and a multi-person family raft river ride. Summers bring outdoor pool and water fun too. And Sam’s encourages families with special needs to enjoy all the pool action with Special Evenings at Sam’s (SEAS). These events are safe, judgment-free opportunities to splash and enjoy the facilities with modifications made to the park’s operations, including transfer lifts and altered lighting and sound. Extra bonus for truck and building fanatics: It’s attached to Diggerland, a construction-themed park.