Few things bring a smile to a kid’s face faster than splashing around in warm water—especially when it’s still chilly outside.
Luckily for parents, Chicago area hotels are starting to compete with their better-known bretheren in the Wisconsin Dells by building waterparks that offer wet and fun getaways close to home.
As guests of each respective hotel and waterpark, the Chicago Parent staff and their families traded their coats and boots for towels and bathing suits and headed to area waterparks with a list of questions to help you decide if they are right for you.
Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Lodge
Resort & Indoor Waterpark
2643 N. Illinois Route 178, Utica
The yellow kid’s slide and wave pool were the biggest hits for the 5-year-old with me. Although she was scared of the bigger slides and of the fairly fast lazy river, she never tired of going down the yellow slide. The large body slide was a bit scary. The lighted tube slide was more fun than frightening and you could even choose the music that played while you went down.
Bathrooms: Separate locker rooms for men and women with restrooms. Very clean. No outdoor shoes allowed.
Easy view of the entire park: Limited seating in the best viewing area for both sides of the park.
Food: Snack shop in the waterpark, hotel restaurant, coffee and ice cream shop and convenience store in the hotel
Seating: Tables and chairs in three areas, though seating could be tight during peak times on a busy day.
Cleanliness: Very clean
Lifeguards: They didn’t appear to be extremely attentive
Flotation devices: Life jackets must be Coast Guard-approved and are available with deposit; small inflatables and swim toys only allowed in the children’s area.
Features: Two four-story slides (one body slide, one tube slide), lazy river, wave pool, children’s area, whirlpool and two smaller kids’ slides
Age/height requirements: 48 inches for big slides
Kiddie area: Treehouse-theme with water sprayers, small slides and things to climb on. Small log slide on other side of the park was popular.
Cost: Overnight stay required, family suite starts at $179 and includes microwave and refrigerator.
Hotel rooms: Comfortable log cabin-themed rooms
Baby requirements: Must wear swim diapers, available for purchase at the convenience store
Towels: Available in the locker rooms. You also can bring your own towels.
Hours: 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday. 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Sunday.
—Tested by a 5-year-old girl
and two adults
Indoor Waterpark by Holiday Inn Chicago-Elmhurst
624 North York Road, Elmhurst
(630) 279-1100 or 1-877-H20-4FUN
This park is spacious and perfect for families with kids of many ages. It’s easy for parents to stay with the little ones in the kiddie area and still be able to see the older kids. My kids had a good time and that was proven to me when they asked to stay longer than check out time. I wish the room rate was a little lower. At $159, we may as well pay a little more and do the drive to the Dells where there are bigger and better slides.
Bathrooms: In the locker room but did not include a shower
Easy viewing of the entire park: Easy to see older kids from the kiddie area
Food: Snack bar, kids 12 and under eat free at the hotel restaurant
Seating: Not enough tables
Lifeguards: Plenty and friendly
Features: Basketball pool, lazy river, two big slides and a game room
Age/height requirement: 42 inches for the big slides
Kiddie area: Water sprayers, things to climb on and a bucket that dumps water, all enclosed with a fence
Cost: Must be a hotel guest. Two double bed, non-smoking room with a view of the waterpark with waterpark passes was $159 (prices listed on Web site do not include waterpark passes)
Hotel rooms: Typical Holiday Inn rooms
Requirements for babies: Swim diapers required, available on site
Hours: 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday. 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday and holidays.
—Tested by six kids, ages 9,
12-year-old twins, 14 and 16,
Water Resort at Sheraton Chicago Northwest Hotel
3400 W. Euclid Ave., Arlington Heights
My younger kids loved this waterpark. The big waterslides were exciting enough for them to feel very adventurous, and they also enjoyed exploring the water cannons and lazy river. My 13-year-old son, however, was bored after a couple hours of riding the bigger slides. After the slides and a few trips down the lazy river, he found there wasn’t much else that appealed to him. This is definitely a waterpark geared towards younger kids. We also loved that every staff member we met was polite and good with kids, never acting inconvienced by any questions or request.
Bathrooms: Locker and restroom facilities were spacious and clean
Easy view of the entire park: Whole park visible from seating areas. Many areas gated to prevent young children from wandering off.
Food: Pizza Hut, sandwich shop and smoothies available
Seating: A little cramped and seats filled up fast
Lifeguards: Lots of guards who were attentive and strict about the rules
Flotation devices: No outside devices allowed, but life jackets available on site. Goggles and masks allowed.
Features: Four slides, lazy river, kids’ movie theater, area for young children and interactive play structure for all ages. Carrying the rafts to the top of the slides is a lot of work. Hot tub prohibits kids under 6.
Age/height requirements: 48 inches for big slides
Kiddie area: Gated area with slides and a zero depth pool
Cost: Day passes are $30 Monday-Thursday and $40 Friday-Sunday. Private cabanas can be rented for $125.
Hotel rooms: Standard rooms, not required to use the park. Double room suite with four water resort passes starts at $359.
Baby requirements: Swim diapers are required, available on site. Diaper changing facilities available in the family locker room.
Towels: Available in park, but can’t be taken back to rooms so bring extra towels or coverups.
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and holidays.
—Tested by three kids, ages 8,
10 and 13, one mom
Water Resort at the Clock Tower Resort
7801 E. State St., Rockford
We liked how attentive and friendly the lifeguards were, giving us a sense of comfort when we took our eyes off the kids. The park didn’t feel crowded even though it was pretty busy when we visited. The gates provide comfort to parents knowing their little ones can’t just wander out of the waterpark, but the latches were difficult to use at first. The kids found plenty to keep them busy and didn’t want to leave. The park staff was attentive and frequently asked kids if they were having a good time and genuinely seemed to care what the kids said.
Bathrooms: Large private and group showers in locker rooms, benches and lockers, extra large toilet stalls and swimsuit dryer. Diaper changing area out of main traffic area in the bathroom. Family restroom also available.
Easy viewing of the entire park: It’s hard to see big kids from the little kids’ seating area. You can see interactive play area from kids’ area.
Food: Pizza Hut and drink area; skip the hotel restaurant.
Seating: Ample seating even on a very busy day; cabanas can be rented for $39 weekends/$29 week days. Lockers available for rent.
Lifeguards: Many guards (17 during our visit with most areas with two guards each), very attentive, helpful and strict about the rules, particularly the no-running rule. Even during an emergency at the slides where guards responded en mass, the other areas continued to be well guarded.
Flotation devices: Not allowed. Masks allowed, but cannot cover nose.
Features: Two body slides and a raft slide, interactive play area with multiple slides, water cannons and 300-gallon bucket dump, obstacle course, basketball pool, indoor/outdoor spa with flat-screen TV. Spa limited to kids 5 and older.
Age/height requirement: 48 inches for bigger slides
Kiddie area: Large movie screen showing kids’ movies, two slides, kid-height basketball with small balls and water sprays. Closest to the bathrooms for those "I’ve got to go" panic moments.
Cost: Passes start at $29 Monday-Thursday and $39 Friday-Sunday. On a busy day, guest passes were still available by mid-day.
Rooms: Comfortable. No kid-friendly TV channels.
Baby requirements: Must wear swim diapers.
Towels: Handed out upon entry to each guest, but can’t be taken back to rooms.
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
—Tested by kids ages 4,
7 and 11, two adults