When planning my trips to the Wisconsin Dells, visiting indoor water parks were a ‘must do’ on our list. Travelling as just adults with no kids, it was important for us to find a water park with enough thrill slides to keep us entertained. We didn’t want to have little kid slides, we wanted big ones that get the adrenaline going! On our first trip, we went to The Wilderness and on our most recent one, the Kalahari! Here’s what I thought of the 2 parks: The Kalahari vs The Wilderness!
Best Indoor Water Parks in Wisconsin Dells
Kalahari vs Wilderness
Something that I learnt quickly about the Wisconsin Dells is that you can easily spend a lot of money very quickly. A huge plus of the Kalahari is that they offer day passes to the water park. The cost is still pretty steep – $39.99, but compared to the $200+ a night room rate (which includes water park passes for up to 4 people), when travelling as just a couple, you can save a bit of money by just buying a day pass and staying at a cheaper nearby hotel.
Tip: Watch out for resort taxes on hotels. Some have a huge resort tax, the nightly rate may look reasonable but it can easily double once you reach the checkout. There are a few hotel that have a lower tax, you just have to look for them!
The Kalahari is an Africa/safari themed hotel and resort. Even though the Kalahari’s indoor water park is just in one building, we felt that the amount and variations of thrill slides on offer knocked socks off the ones at the Wilderness! If your looking for things to do in Wisconsin Dells for adults, the Kalahari should definitely be on your radar.
3 raft slides including a water coaster (meaning the rafts can go UP hill as well as the typical gravity slide)
1 tube slide (double or single riders)
5 body slides (1 regular body slide, a ‘toilet bowl’ slide with a drop into a 9ft deep pool and 3 vertical drop slides with disappearing floors!)
I loved the drop slides! Honestly I think the person that invented them may have been a bit crazy, but they definitely add a little extra kick of adrenaline! The tube ones were more ‘comfortable’ than the open vertical slide that gives you a giant wedgie and sends a tidal wave of water up your nose!
I also really enjoyed the ‘toilet bowl’ slide (I have no idea how else to explain it!), you go down a normal tube slide and then enter into a section that looks exactly like a toilet bowl with a hole in the middle. After doing a few laps of the bowl, you drop through a hole into a splash pool…if you can fall through the hole feet first, that’s the best way to go!
On top of these, there are also a couple of smaller ‘play’ structures that have a few more body slides, a lazy river and a water pool. The Kalahari’s wave pool isn’t as big as the one at the Wilderness, however tubes are allowed in it. It’s not very powerful though, the biggest waves are only in one corner and as you can imagine, this is where everyone gathers.
The Kalahari has a couple of ‘pay to play’ type attractions too. From a Flowrider surf simulator, a VR ‘snorkelling’ and a mermaid experience to a swim up bar in a hot tub (regular sized cocktails are $11).
For us, a day pass was plenty of time. Visiting in winter, the indoor water park is open to hotel guests from 10am – 10pm. Day pass guests are permitted from 12pm, a total of 10 hours!
There are large changing rooms, lockers available for rental and free use of pool towels. I was amazed by the swimsuit extractor, which squeezes all of the water out of your swimming costume, so you don’t have to pack it while it’s still dripping wet!
Once you’ve finished at the water park, you are able to use the other facilities at the Kalahari! We did the 30 minute escape room and went on the indoor go kart track. Again, if you had kids, you could spend a fortune as there’s the Tom Foolery’s indoor theme park with an arcade, rides, a climbing course, mini golf and bowling lanes, which all cost more.
The Wilderness is an old Wild West come log cabin/woodland theme and is said to be the biggest indoor water park in the Wisconsin Dells. It’s actually 4 separate water parks within the resort, which are all connected by indoor sky bridges and walkways.
Unfortunately, there are no day passes available for the Wilderness. All hotel facilities, other than the outdoor zip line course, are for hotel guests only (even the ones that cost extra apparently!). However the room rate is slightly less than the Kalahari and they sometimes run discounted stays, which is what we took advantage of during our visit.
Guests are given a towel card which can be exchanged in the parks for 1 towel. You are free to take the towels between the water parks, you can also switch a wet towel for a dry one, but at the end of the stay you HAVE to leave either all the towel cards in the room or the correct amount of towels, if you didn’t exchange it back for the card.
We only visited 3 out of the 4 Wilderness water parks, the 4th was smaller and aimed at kids.
Personally I thought the ‘Wild West’ was the best indoor waterpark for adults at the Wilderness as it had the most extreme slides. My favourite was ‘The Black Hole’ which was so FAST and what I like to call, a toilet bowl slide! This park does seem to be closed during the week more than the others. There’s also a small indoor/outdoor hot tub.
The Black Hole from the outside!
The Klondike Kavern lacked seating, but it has the Hurricane raft ride, another major thrill water slide that looks like a giant sideways funnel. It also has the Claim Jumper Challenge which is a cross between a water slide and a video game.
In all honesty, I was useless at it. The tube had coloured buttons on the handle and when you passed under a light in the tunnel (at speed), you had to then hit the matching coloured button. It could also be ridden with a 2-person tube, minus the buttons and just enjoyed as a slide, which I thought was much better as it went faster with 2 people.
The Wild WaterDome is mainly just a giant wave pool (the largest indoor wave pool in the USA!) and two 4-person raft slides. This is the best park if you just want to relax, it’s the only one with sun loungers.
Some of the body slides and tube slides felt a bit same-y after a while, there are only really 2 unique ones. We found that by staying at a resort, we didn’t really leave the resort, which to some people is exactly what they want (no worry of driving anywhere etc, there’s a reason they sell giant refillable cocktails) and of course exactly what the resort wants you to do, so you just spend even more money on their other attractions and food outlets…the 3D mini glow golf at the Wilderness is fun, as is the paint your own pottery. Staying outside of a resort (in a cheaper hotel), gave us an excuse to explore more of the Wisconsin Dells and other attractions it has to offer!
Other Wisconsin Dells Indoor Water Parks
Mount Olympus is a giant resort in the Wisconsin Dells, consisting of many different buildings spread out across the whole of the Dells. During the summer, there’s an outdoor water park and theme park with loads of go kart tracks, but they too also have an indoor water park open year round! As you’ve seen in this Kalahari vs Wilderness comparison, both parks have between 9 and 12 thrill slides, whereas Mount Olympus only has 4.
Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge have day passes available for the same price as the Kalahari, but like Mount Olympus, there are only 4 major thrill slides. If you have children, not having many thrill slides may not be a problem, but as adults, it’s something worth considering to see what will give you the best value for money!