Despite what you tell your little ones when they reach for the bigger cookie, the fatter slice of cake, or the tallest ice cream cone, bigger sometimes is better—at least when it comes to the Kalahari water park resort in the Poconos. Now billed as “America’s largest indoor water park,” Kalahari doubled to 220,000 square feet of slippery wet fun and good food in March. We headed north to check it out; here’s our report!

photo: Kalahari

New Waves and Splashdowns
The $174 million expansion brought eight new water slides of varying configurations and thrills, as well as the Dungeons of Hout Bay Wave Pool, a mini-ocean that alternates between calm and wave-filled periods. Another addition is a new kids’ play area dubbed Coral Cove, that is filled with mini slides, a really lazy little river and activities for younger children.

photo: Kalahari

Slides for All Kinds
Among the added slides, there is something for everyone. The Wild Wildebeest features four-person tubes and a half-pipe wall that—hold on tight!—can make you feel like you’re floating on air and not just water.

As the name suggests, the Cheetah Race features a digital timekeeper to clock who can descend a slope the fastest on a water mat, and the Screaming Hyena will make you do just that—scream!—when a trap door opens beneath your feet, sending you down a nearly vertical body slide before slowing you down at a splash-filled horizontal finish.

At 250-feet in length, the somewhat gentler Sahara Sidewinder offers a number of swoops and turns across a longer ride, and the Elephant’s Trunk and Zig-Zag Zebra both take you through some twists, dips, and loops outside the park before depositing you in the expanded lazy river, which now features a conveyor belt hill that connects the old and new parts.

Kenya Korkscrew and Victoria Falls also live up to their names—turning you around through gushing tubes and plunging you down to the waters below.

For summer fun, there is also an indoor/outdoor family whirlpool and a huge outdoor pool and sun deck that you can dip in and out of from the indoor park.

Expanded Eats and Treats
In addition to kicking the water park up a notch, Kalahari expanded its eating and shopping options. Marrakesh Market, named for the famed Moroccan market that seems to have literally everything, offers up quick eats and a good selection of African and Kalahari-themed souvenirs.

The Double Cut Charcoal Grill is a new signature dining experience that features steaks, seafood, chicken and chops, and Sortino’s Italian Kitchen is a casual restaurant and bar that serves old school Italian cuisine adapted to the modern palate. While new to Kalahari, Sortino’s enjoys a long legacy in Sandusky, Ohio, where Giorgio and Giacomo Sortino opened the original Sortino’s Little Italy restaurant more than 60 years ago.

by Vinny U. via Yelp

All That and a Spa
Ten other pubs, restaurants, and food vendors—including several in the water park itself—give you plenty of dining options to choose from and make for intimate dining experiences, even on peak weekends.

But the list of special treats wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the fitness center and the new Spa Kalahari & Salon that provides treatments and services using nature’s organic ingredients. The retreat features a dry redwood sauna, an herbal-infused steam room, a relaxation sanctuary that serves hot and cold beverages and snacks, a multi-sensory experiential shower and a whirlpool with hydro jets. An outdoor patio provides a quite place to read, rest, or snooze, very much apart from the thrills of the water park itself. There are deals for couples and special salon services for children ages three to nine, including manicures, pedicures, facials, and simple make-up applications.

photo by Emmanuel and Gloria Yeboah via Facebook

Don’t Take the Art for Granted
We happen to know a thing or two about African art and would be remiss if we neglected to mention Kalahari’s most unique feature: the wide-ranging collection African art that decorates the place.

Todd Nelson, who founded, owns, and operates the Kalahari empire, is an Afrophile through and through. He first visited the continent more than two decades ago and fell in love with its incredible and diverse history, cultures and landscapes. He and his family have traveled back numerous times, collecting artifacts and ideas for their resorts in the Poconos, Ohio, Wisconsin, and soon, Texas.

On our recent visit to Kalahari, unique silk mosaics by the Ghanaian artists Emmanuel and Gloria Yeboah were on display. The pieces are individually handcrafted by bonding strands of fine silk to a wood substrate, one color at a time. The result is shimmering imagery of West African scenery and iconography.

The Nelson Mandela Poster Project
The Nelsons also provided foundational support for the internationally acclaimed Nelson Mandela Poster Project that made its United States debut last July. Launched in 2013 to celebrate the life and humanitarian legacy of South Africa’s former president, artists from some 70 countries created nearly 700 posters that were curated into a special exhibit of 95 exceptional works of art. Subsets of this collection now circulate throughout the Kalahari resorts, as well as to museums and universities around the United States.

photo: via Art Fuse

Kalahari Resorts
250 Kalahari Blvd.
Pocono Manor, Pa
570-580-6000
Online: kalahariresorts.com

Have you visited the new Kalahari Resort in the Poconos? Tell us about your visit in the comments!

— Cheryl deJong-Lambert