The tropics have come to Chicago! Well, kinda. If you’re looking for humid temperatures, palm trees, beach chairs and water play, head to one of the region’s indoor waterparks. There are great options located a short drive from the city and many offer day passes. Read on to see which ones you should visit when you need an escape.
The Water Works - Schaumburg
Main Attraction: An aquatic playground in every sense of the word, Water Works is a great pit stop for families that don't want to trek out further for the big waterpark resorts. You can get a piece of everything here, from a kiddie area with tube slides and water chutes, to a diving pool and a rapid water channel.
Thrill Factor: Climb to the top of a castle, where a red slide sends you on a plunge-tastic drop into the blue. It's steep -- but nothing a strong swimmer can't handle.
Family Appeal: The water playground is shallow, bubbly fun. Little ones won't be able to tear themselves away from the fountains that form a gurgling ridge on one side. Parents especially love the beach-like gradual entry to the pool.
505 N. Springinsguth Rd.
Admission: $5/resident youth, $7/non-resident youth, $7/resident adult, $9/non-resident adult
Grizzly Jack's Resort Grand Bear Falls Waterpark - Utica
Main Attraction: This Yukon-themed waterpark is a bit smaller in scale but still big on fun. The Ranger Station is just right for kids who can’t yet swim but still love to splash and play in the water and the wave pool is always a blast for swimming kids. The not-so-fast family slide means your whole crew can hop on a giant tube and enjoy the ride together.
Thrill Factor: 3 out of 5. The water attractions here are just thrilling enough for the kiddie set, but across from the waterpark you’ll find the Enchanted Forest, an exciting indoor amusement park with nine full-sized rides that will appeal to bigger kids.
Family Appeal: If you plan on staying the night, opt for one of the resort’s vacation villas, which have all the conveniences of home, including sleeping accommodations for up to nine, kitchen and dining areas, and even a cozy fireplace and whirlpool tub.
2643 Illinois 17
Admission: Day passes are available for Thursday and Sunday only (excluding holidays and black out days) for $24.95 for each person over 48" and $17.95 for each person under 48".
Pelican Harbor Aquatic Park - Bolingbrook
Main Attraction: Parkie the Pelican is a toddler slide to remember (tots glide right out of his mouth!). But that's not the only thing that makes this waterpark cool. Ideal for all ages -- and great for day trips -- it has two water slides, a zero-depth entry pool and tumble buckets. The indoor park is half the fun; in summer, the outdoor park opens up and has a beach-like vibe.
Thrill Factor: 3 out of 5. You can enjoy mellow adventures in the shallow pool, or go zipping down the curvy tube slide.
Family Appeal: Big without being overwhelming, this is a great waterpark for grade-schoolers. And if you enjoy Parkie, the pelican-shaped water slide, you'll flip out when the real Parkie character walks around the park (he's known to make impromptu appearances).
200 S. Lindsey Ln.
Admission: $8/non-resident, $6 with Bolingbrook resident ID, free for ages 2 & under
Arctic Splash - Wheeling
Main Attraction: What's that lounging aside the pool? It's Petie the Polar Bear, the mascot of this Wheeling Park District oasis. Toddlers can slide down Petie and land in a zero-depth leisure pool. The four-lane lap pool is great for swimming lessons or burning off energy.
Thrill Factor: 1 out of 5. This is a smaller waterpark, meant for an afternoon of relaxed family play. Along with the toddler slide, there is a lazy river. The absence of big slides, water jets and dump buckets means activity here is always at a reasonable level of calm.
Family Appeal: As a quickie escape, Arctic Splash is a hit. The five-and-under crowd loves padding around the walking pool, from which a rainbow structure rises. There is also a deck observation area for parents that prefer to look on. Oh, and they have a family locker room, which is always a bonus when traveling with tots.
333 W. Dundee Rd.
Admission: $6.50/adults; $5.50/ages 3-9; free for ages 2 & under
Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark - Lake Geneva
Main Attraction Climb, swim or slide down Moose Mountain Falls, the main attraction at this spot, located just across the border in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, less than two hours from Chicago. Perhaps the biggest draw here is the Tiny Timbers area, which is ideal for kids ages 3-6 due to its swings, slides, spouts and mushroom waterfall. The main activity pool has a rope climb and a water basketball court. A lazy river snakes around the entire waterpark.
Thrill Factor: 2 out of 5. This park is designed with kids ages 10 and under in mind. There are two single and double tube slides, which are just right for kids of any age with swim skills.
Family Appeal: The adjacent Timber Ridge Lodge is designed for families: One- and two-bedroom suites are available, so parents can relax and watch a movie in the living room area while the kids are nestled in bed. Plus the waterpark and lodge are located within the Grand Geneva resort complex, and you can not only enjoy splashing around the waterpark but also skiing, skating, sledding and horseback riding in the winter, golf in the summer, and spa time year 'round.
7020 Grand Geneva Way
Admission: Book at least a one-night stay and waterpark admission is included. On weekends and holidays, the waterpark is reserved for resort guests only. All other days, groups may purchase admission by contacting 262-249-3499.
Last year, we shared with you that Key Lime Cove in Gurnee was a great option to take a dive while the weather outside is frightful. Bad news is they closed this past Spring. Good news is Great Wolf Lodge, famous around these parts for their Wisconsin Dells location, took over the space and will be announcing their opening in 2018. So, keep your eyes glued to their website for updates.
What is YOUR favorite indoor waterpark? Shout about it in the Comments!
— Maria Chambers and Amy Bizzari