Although navigating through the most scenic bike trails across America and spending the day outdoors at the best national parks in the US are perfectly exciting activities, most Americans seek some sheltered fun during the winter months. Enter the best indoor water parks in America—each offering fun rides, slides and lazy rivers that will help you pretend it’s still summer. Looking for an out-of-the-ordinary trip that seeks to stray clear from the usual best winter vacations to take in America? We’ve got you covered.
Best indoor water parks in America
Wilderness Resort, Wisconsin Dells, WI
For people who adore the water, there is no better place in America than the country’s biggest water park resort. Located in Wisconsin Dells, the water park capital of the world, this resort has four large indoor water parks to frolic in year-round and another four outdoor parks available in the summer included in the price of your room. Here, the possibilities are seemingly endless: Seeking thrills? Stop by the 65,000 square foot Klondike Kavern for tube rides, slides and a lazy river. Craving some R&R? The 70,000 square foot Wild WaterDome allows for year-round tanning surrounded by tropical plants under the glass roof and offers an adults-only (21 years and older) swim-up Margarita Bar. Looking to tire out the rambunctious kids? The Wild West’s 70,000 square feet includes thrill slides, a family raft ride and the much-trumpeted Ransack Ridge play area. Last, but certainly not least, is Cubby’s Cove. The smallest (35,000 square feet) of the indoor facilities has an activities pool for water basketball, a zero-depth spray feature for itty-bitty visitors and an indoor-outdoor hot spa overlooking Lake Dalton. Bonus activities include water bumper boats, mini golf, pottery painting and three arcades. Good luck convincing your family to leave. Rooms start at $129.99 and price includes access to the water parks. No day passes for non-resort guests.
Camelback Lodge & Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark, Tannersville, PA
The largest indoor waterpark in the North East is nestled in the Poconos, just 90 minutes away from New York City. Seven pools and 13 slides are just the start of your adventure in the 125,000 square foot facility, which is also home to the Storm Chaser, America’s longest indoor water coaster. Parents with kids of all ages will appreciate Kartrite’s Quest, a massive aquatic play structure with over 1,000 different interactive gadgets to play with and five different play zones designated for different age groups. During the summer months, the fun continues in the Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark, Pennsylvania's biggest waterpark. During the winter, your stay includes four passes to either the massive snow-tubing Park or the ski lift. Rooms start at $249 and the price includes access to the waterpark. No day passes for non-resort guests.
Wilderness at the Smokies, Sevierville, TN
After exploring the great outdoors in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, relax and play all year round at this resort. The 66,000 square-foot WaterDome indoor facilities feature a five-story raft ride, tube slides and even a body surfing wave simulator. If rides aren’t your thing, then lay out and tan—the glass roof lets those UV rays in no matter how cold it is outside—and forget your worries in the 1,000-square-foot hot tub. During the warmer months, the resort’s outdoor water parks offer plenty of additional rides and slides. Rooms start at $99 and the price includes access to the WaterDome. No day passes for non-resort guests.
Waterpark of America, Bloomington, MN
If all that shopping at The Mall of America has got you feeling stressed, unwind at the Waterpark of America. The tallest water park in the country, this is the ideal destination for folks who can’t get enough of sliding. Test your fear of heights as you speed down five-story tube tunnels or, for the very brave, body slides that are seven and 10 stories tall. Sure, you might be hundreds of miles away from the ocean, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to surf with private and public lessons on the Flowrider wave simulator. Day passes range from $33.95 to $44.95 and vary by half- or full-day admission. Two days of admission are included with your stay at the Radisson Hotel Bloomington.
Great Wolf Lodge, Concord, NC
With 15 locations across America and in Niagara Falls, Canada, Great Wolf Lodge is a favorite among splash-loving families in nearly every region of the country. While every park has its virtues, the 80,000 square foot beauty in North Carolina, located just a short drive from Charlotte, is a favorite in the area. Kids will love the massive intricate tree house with interactive water features while the high-thrill rides—including a trip down a 6-story funnel in a raft with you and your friends and racing slides—are sure to excite parents and children alike. Large broods, rejoice! The family suites can accommodate up to 6 people at once. Suites starts at $199, admission to the water park included.
Kalahari Waterpark, Sandusky, OH
Though there are a few Kalahari Resorts and Convention Centers around the country, the Sandusky location’s indoor water park, at a whooping 173,000 square feet, is America’s biggest. Whether in town for a corporate retreat or simply looking to spend a fun day in the area, you’ll love the African motif throughout the premise. When you’re not sliding down the Cheetah Racer, rafting along the Rippling Rhino or tubing along the Wild Wildebeest, consider renting an indoor cabana that includes chaise lounges and a big flat screen TV for a moment of tranquility. Rooms start at $199 with various special all-inclusive packages and offers available throughout the year. Day passes vary between $35 and $50 depending on height of visitors and time of year.Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Ebenezer S.
Avalanche Bay, Boyne Falls, MI
While most people staying at the Boyne Mountain Resort are probably hoping to hit the slopes, Avalanche Bay is the perfect place to warm up and then cool down again. Within this Alpine-themed water park there are 88,0000 square feet dedicated to pools, slides and water activities. Looking for extreme-sliders (over 48 inches tall)? Check out The Big Couloir, which shoots visitors down an incline at just a 10-degree angle. Looking to unleash some extra energy? Hit up the Activity pool for a game of water basketball or try to keep your balance as you cross floating icebergs under a rope ladder. Of course, that is only if you can pull the kids away from the Splashehorn, a multi-level play structure that becomes the hit zone for an avalanche of 800 gallons of water. Single day passes range from $21-$45 depending on time of year with half and full day options, packages that include stay at the Boyne Mountain Resort start at $169.
Key Lime Cove, Gurnee, IL
Escape the frigid winters and sweltering summers of Chicago at this resort, just an hour north of the Windy City. You may be in the Midwest, but you’ll feel like you’re in the Florida Keys as you float down the lazy river within the 65,000-square-foot indoor water park. Kids and thrill-seekers will want to enjoy the rides and 12 water slides —or maybe take a day trip to the neighboring Six Flags—while adults looking to forget those worries can head to the relaxing Key Lime Grotto whirlpool spa. Rooms start at $119 and the price includes access to the waterpark. No day passes for non-resort guests.
Splash Lagoon, Erie, PA
Parents beware: bring your kids here and they might be begging you to come back more often than you’ll ever have time for. With the biggest wave pool in the Eastern United States, a giant tiki tree house and a pool for younger children, this spot is 80,000 square feet of pure family fun. After checking out the various rides and slides, including one that plunges you through total darkness until you come out into the pool, rise high toward the roof with the ropes course or try your luck at laser tag and arcade games. Day passes run from $30 to $46, depending on height of visitor and time of year. Laser tag, arcade and ropes course cost additional money.
Cascades Indoor Waterpark at Hope Lake Lodge, Cortland, NY
When visiting upstate New York’s gorgeous finger lakes, you’ll be tempted to spend your days frolicking outdoors. But, if inclement weather rolls through, Hope Lake Lodge’s 41,000-square-foot Cascades Indoor Water Park will lead you to guaranteed fun times. Speed down three story tall tube slides, yell “whee” on the water slides and splash the day away in the indoor/outdoor hot tub and heated pool. Guests of the lodge should also take advantage of the readily available mountain bike rentals in the warmer months or kick sleds during the snowy season. Day passes range from $22 to $34, Hope Lake Lodge guests receive free access to the pool and hot tub only.
Sahara Sam’s, West Berlin, NJ
Just outside Philadelphia’s New Jersey suburbs lies the state’s biggest indoor water park. The recently expanded facilities include 80,000 square feet of tube and body racing slides, family-style raft rides, a lazy river and a children’s obstacle course. While your family’s youngest members hang out in the toddler-friendly lizard lagoon with a grown-up, the older kids can shoot hoops in the water basketball area or go body-surfing on the Flow Rider. During the summer, Sahara Sam also boasts a two-acre outdoor beach club, which should be enough to convince nearby residents to invest in an annual pass. Passes range from $24.95 to $36.95 depending on height, time of year, and full or half day prices. Annual passes are 64.95.Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Sahara Sam’s Oasis
Massanutten Indoor WaterPark, McGaheysville, VA
Always heated to a comfortable 84 degrees Fahrenheit, this 44,500-square-foot indoor water park—which boasts a bigger, 88,000-square-foot outdoor counterpart come summer—is a great choice for folks with younger kids. The body slides, inflatable adventure rides and water cannons provide hours of high-energy fun for older children as well. If the wave pool isn’t the only thing rumbling, grab some food at one of the park’s eateries—just wait 30 minutes before diving back in! Day passes range from $38 to $45 depending on the day; children under 42” and twilight passes after 5pm range from $28 to $33.