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When summer (or winter) vacation seems to be dragging on a bit, or there’s a whole lotta school holidays coming up, a jaunt to an indoor water park can be just the change of pace everybody needs. Whether the family is in need of a one-day fun day or a longer escape, there are plenty of indoor water parks (with accommodations, if you want to stay a night or two) within driving distance of NYC. (And we’re keeping an eye on American Dream in New Jersey, where a new Dreamworks Water Park will have 40 slides and 15 attractions.)  We’ve rounded up the best right here. Read on to find out where to chill out and splash down!

photo: Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark

New York

The Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark
Located about two hours away in The Catskills’ Monticello, Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark is now the state’s largest. The 80,000-square-foot space opened in April, and features 11 water attractions, from mild (lazy river) to thrill-inducing. Constructed with a transparent, energy-efficient Texlon roof, the space is column-free, includes a living plant wall, and kept a pleasant 84 degrees year-round. If you’re too pooped to leave after riding the waves and slides, you can crash in one of the resort’s many lodging options. Also, FYI, Resorts World Casino is next door, and there’s a spa on site (which also offers kid’s treatments).

Good to know: If you do stay a while, there’s plenty else to do besides splish and spalsh. The resort is home to eight dining options, from grab-and-go to sit down, with many serving food made with ingredients from local suppliers. Diversions for kids include an arcade, mini bowling alley, LED-lit climbing wall, laser tag, and a VR experience. Also nearby is Holiday Mountain (10 minutes away) which has skiing and tubing in the winter and go karts and mini golf in the summer, and Bethel Woods, home to Woodstock Music Fest in 1969 and concert series and events today.  And in 2020, LEGOLAND New York will be a 30-minute drive away.

The Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark
555 Resort World Dr.
Monticello, NY
Online: thekartrite.com

photo: Six Flags Great Escape

Great Escape Lodge
Located right by Lake George, Great Escape Lodge in the Adirondacks attracts tourists and locals alike; especially because it’s part of the well-known and established Six Flags family of theme parks. Not only do fun characters like Scooby-Doo, a moose, and a fox come visit kids in the Lodge’s lobby, the indoor water park is literally just off the lodging area — so you can walk from your hotel room right into the water park in your flip-flops without ever going outside.

The water park is 38,000 square feet, maintained at  a warm 82 degrees, and splashy attractions include the Tall Timbers Treehouse (great for pre-school aged kids) which features water jets, steering wheels and a gigantic water bucket above that can soak you down below at any time. Older kids can float down the “lazy river” on inflatable tubes;  splash in the lagoon, where cascading jets of water douse guests below, enjoy “Avalanche” tubing on a large raft that seats four, and twist their way down slippery slides. If you’re traveling with a toddler, bring them to the mini pool area, which features very shallow water, baby swings, a baby slide, and wildlife-themed fountains. Johnny Rocket’s is on site serving up burgers, and kids can blow off even more steam at the hotel’s arcade.

Good to know: When booking your reservation, you can request that costumed character bring your kids some cookies before bedtime. For the parents, there’s an adults-only heated spa dubbed “Soakum Spring” and if you love massages and facials, there’s a day spa on-premises.

Six Flags Great Escape Lodge
9 Six Flags Dr.
Queensbury, NY
Online: sixflagsgreatescapelodge.com

Palm Island Indoor Water Park
Probably a bit far from NYC (about five hours) to merit a trip on its own, but Palm Island is a nice stop if you’re upstate visiting family or passing through en route somewhere. Located inside the Clarion Hotel Batavia, this cute and clean indoor water park draws local kids and tourists alike. The 12,000-square-foot water park is home to two large body slides that loop around the outside of the hotel and drop sliders back inside the park; a waterfall with a basketball hoop; a kiddie pool and play section, and an underwater-lighted pool. (Plus: a hot tub for adults.)

Good to know: You must bring your own towels. Hotel guests get first dibs on the use of the water park; day passes are available if the room capacity at the Clarion Hotel isn’t sold out.

Palm Island Indoor Water Park
at Clarion Hotel Batavia
250 Park Rd.
Batavia, NY
Online: palmislandindoorwaterpark.com


photo: Rocking Horse Ranch

Rocking Horse Ranch
Generations of families have visited Rocking Horse Ranch, an all-inclusive resort known for its year-round outdoor horseback riding (yes, even in the middle of winter). Guests like the personalized attention they receive here, and although the Ranch’s indoor water park isn’t as grandiose as others, it’s the perfect place to visit and enjoy in one afternoon, without the large crowds. Big Splash Indoor Water Park is kept at a comfortable 85 degrees, features a 250-foot flume for kids who can’t get enough of water slides, water geysers, aqua stations with mini-slides, fountains, large dumping buckets, and more.

Good to know: They also have other winter fun like skiing and snowtubing, and the ranch is home to outdoor water slides, bungee jumping and rock climbing, should you want to make a trip in warmer months. The 2020 summer season will bring a new “Outdoor Aquatic Adventure” area, with water slides, Eldorado hot springs and a zero-depth entry pool.

Rocking Horse Ranch
600 State Route 44/55
Highland, NY
Online: rockinghorseranch.com

photo: courtesy Great Wolf Lodge


Great Wolf Lodge
Located in the Pocono Mountains, Great Wolf Lodge offers 80,000-square-feet of space to splish and splash, and it’s wrapping up a $12 million upgrade to its facilities and hotel rooms. (We recently stayed in a new-and-improved room—it had a modern, woodsy-chic vibe, and ours, a suite on the top floor, had a sky-high ceiling making it feel extra roomy. Comfy beds, a small balcony, and a separate area for a couch and TV upped the cozy factor.) Younger kids will enjoy the indoor mini-pool with spray-and-play features as well as well as a tree house to play in. Older kids gravitate towards The Big Foot Pass, where they “walk” from one end of the pool to another by hanging on to a rope and a signature water slide using a large raft called “River Canyon Run.” Great Wolf is also home to twin, three-story slides that provide an escape route out of the wet Fort Mackenzie tree house, tons of slide drops, and a one-of-kind water slide/roller coaster dubbed the “Hydro Plunge.” There’s also two hot whirlpools (one just for adults) and “Slideboarding”, in which you use thumb controls to hit LED targets and get a score after your final plunge.

Good to know: Great Wolf is super family-friendly, especially if you stay a night. (The main lobby, with its huge antler chandeliers and large fireplace, is very welcoming, and many guests—kids and adults alike—make it home, hanging out enjoying juice and jammies and vino and loungewear, respectively.) Aside from the waterpark, this space acts as “fun HQ”, with everything from face-painting and balloon twisting, to storytime, shows, movie screenings, and a killer pajama dance party right before bed. (Seriously, it’s great.) Great Wolf is home to lots of other ways to keep the kids entertained and busy, including a “MagiQuest” adventure that takes them on hunts using a magic wand; a buzzing arcade, kid-friendly bowling, a “Creation Station” where they can pick a stuffie to be filled; Glow Golf, and more. Great Wolf also has outdoor water play spots and a rope course, so it’s also a good choice for escapes in any season.

Great Wolf Lodge
1 Great Wolf Dr.
Scotrun, PA
Online: greatwolf.com


Camelback Lodge and Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark is unique in that it offers visitors places to slip and slide both inside and out. For wet and wild fun, there’s Aquatopia, a 125,000-square-foot, multi-level indoor waterpark where it’s always a pleasant 84-degrees. The balmy bubble features seven pools and 13 slides — including the Venus SlydeTrap, the first Aqua-Sphere-Manta slide of its kind in the world, and a wave pool. It’s also home to the Storm Chaser, the longest indoor watercoaster in the U.S.

Good to know: Camelback also offers plenty of opportunity to have fun in the snow, with a full ski resort and the largest snowtubing park in the country.

Camelback Resort Lodge and Aquatopia Indoor Water Park
301 Resort Dr.
Tannersville, PA
Online: camelbackresort.com

For an Indoor/Outdoor Experience: Kalahari Resorts

photo: Kalahari Resorts

The Kalahari Resort
Also located in the Poconos, The Kalahari Resort is a 220,000-square-foot indoor waterpark inspired by the spirit of Africa. You’ll find twisting waterslides, a lazy river, indoor/outdoor family whirlpool, spots for little ones to play and body-board and stand-up surfing opportunities for bigger kids (and adults). Poolside cabanas are available for rent here and it’s got a retractable roof for when the temps rise.

Good to know: You’ll also find multiple dining options on site, a spa (with kid options), additional entertainment ranging from an arcade and Virtual Reality experiences. to mini golf, mini bowling, an escape room and more.

Kalahari Resorts
250 Kalahari Blvd.
Pocono Manor, PA
Online: kalahariresorts.com


photo: via Sahara Sam’s Oasis Facebook page

New Jersey

Sahara Sam’s
This large 60,000-square-foot park provides plenty of fun for people of all ages. For families with small children, the park’s Lizard Lagoon is a feature dedicated entirely to young children and infants (it’s a play area with small slides) little kids will also enjoy TimBukTu (scheduled to reopen this year the week of March 12), a play area outfitted with numerous interactive water features. The indoor water park has a retractable roof (it opens in the summer), and private cabanas for rent, adding to the tropical feel of the park regardless of the season. Cool water rides for those who love to surf, slide, soak, or be sprayed include The Flow Ride indoor surf simulator, The Congo Bongo (a leisurely float around the park in a tube), tube slides, the Crocodile Flats obstacle course, and more. Recent additions to the park include Tut’s Twisters, head-first, side-by-side racing slides with a five-story-high drop, and indoor leisure pool Cleopatra’s Cove. If the whole family’s ready for an adventure, check out Mount Kilimanjaro, a towering, massive water slide on which up to four people ride a raft into a large pool.

Good to know: Kids under two get in free, and the park holds special events for kids on weekends, such as cookie decorating, games and giveaways with a DJ, or even visit from a large dump truck.   Also, be sure to check the park’s events calendar for events for kids with special needs.

Sahara Sam’s
535 North Route 73
West Berlin, NJ
Online: saharasams.com


photo: via CoCo Key Water Resort Facebook page 

CoCo Key Water Resort
This indoor water park and hotel offers day and overnight passes to guests who want to make a splash on their vacation or staycation. You’ll find a mini wading pool that’s great for toddlers, a lily pad cargo net adventure, an aquatic jungle gym, and a 300-foot lazy river ride with little surprise splashes along the way. The resort is also home to a plethora of slides with various heights, speeds, and twists such as the Parrot’s Perch, which is three slides of different heights in an interactive play area, and the Barracuda Blast, a dark voyage down the loops and turns of over 350 feet of tube slide fun. (The resort’s slides measure an impressive 1,000  in total!) Adults, meanwhile, will appreciate the park’s giant whirlpools.

Good to know: Additional features include an on-site arcade with skee-ball, Guitar Hero, and more, plus dining areas, and special movie nights. Coco Key is typically open only on weekends, although it does have special hours for holiday weekends and during school breaks. You can check the schedule here. 

CoCo Key Water Resort
915 NJ-73
Mt. Laurel, NJ
Online: mtlaurelcocokey.com

main image: Kartrite Resort and Water Park

 —Rachel Sokol


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