Kalahari with Little Kids


Over the last few years, my little family has been to four waterpark hotels, and we’ve really enjoyed it. The first three trips all happened when my son was one or two years old, and he had a great time at each of the hotel parks: Splash Universe in Dundee, Maui Sands in Sandusky, and Zehnder’s (pre-renovation). While we had an awesome time at each of those places, it’s going to be REALLY hard to convince me to take my kids anywhere but Kalahari after our great experience last month!

octopus bballOctopus basketball – a big hit!

While anyone who is friends with me on social media knows that my one year old daughter was definitely NOT feeling it, I’d still highly recommend Kalahari, whether you have tiny kids or big ones. I’d heard many people suggest “Save Kalahari until they’re older,” I actually thought they were a perfect place for little kids! Here’s why:

1. Perfect pools for preschoolers and toddlers: Most other parks we’ve been to center around the big “treehouse” style structure with the dumping bucket, and a tiny toddler area with some kind of spray feature and slide. Kalahari is different because it has the big treehouse structure, but also two spacious toddler pools with tons of small slides, tunnels, spray features, preschool height water basketball, and more. There were tons of little kids in the pools, but on the weekday we went, it never felt too crowded. My son loved waiting for a “friend” on the slides so they could slide down together, and had a total blast in each of the two the preschool/toddler sized pools! He also loved the wave pool and lazy river.

coral coveWe all loved “Coral Cove,” one of the two toddler/preschool pools

2. Tons to do beyond the pool: Kalahari has tons to do and see – simply walking around the lobby or arcade areas could occupy tiny kiddos for a while! They also have daily activities that include craft time, cookie decorating, and live animal viewings, with proceeds going towards conservation efforts. Since we were only there for about 24 hours, the pool kept us busy almost the entire time, but I could imagine staying for a couple nights down the road, and taking more advantage of these options!

3. Awesome look and feel: More than any other water park I’ve been to, Kalahari really has a resort-like feel. The hotel rooms, restaurants, and much of the pool area were all decorated as if you were on an African safari, with huge replica animals, funky furniture, and even bell hops dressed as safari guides. Even for adults, this added to the fun and for kids it was totally enthralling!


This giant elephant and other animal statues (or whatever you’d call them!) greeted us in the lobby!

{My Tips for Toddlers and Preschoolers}

Of course, not every moment of vacation is magical with little kids. Sleeping away from home is a pain with my kids, and my daughter was up bright and early so my saint of a husband took her out to roam the halls, since the pool was still closed. The biggest bummer was that my daughter really didn’t dig the pool at all. I saw that many other kiddos about her age seemed to enjoy it, but it just wasn’t her thing. That said, I definitely plan to try again after she gets another summer of swim time under her belt. Now that I’ve been before, I can plan better, and also have a few tips for other parents with little kids (and some tips that apply to anyone!):

  • Bellhops are awesome, take advantage of them! The second you pull up to Kalahari, you’re met by a “safari guide” bellhop, and given the option to valet. With a stadium sized parking lot and huge resort, we took the valet option, and had the bellhop show us to our room. I’m SO glad we had his help because the hotel is huge and I could’ve easily gotten lost. He did a great job explaining our dining options, what he would recommend at the waterpark, how to get around the facility without getting lost, and just got our trip off to a great start. It was well worth it to tip him and learn as much as we did right away!
  • Pack meals, in addition to snacks. Even with a $50 meal credit that was part of our package, we spent close to $100 in meals, drinks, and other snacks. I appreciated their variety of food options in comparison to other places we’ve been, but even packing one round of sandwiches would’ve saved us at LEAST $35.
  • Consider bringing your own life vests if you have them. Kids under a certain age or height are required to wear life vests. You’d want to check out the specific requirements, but one reason I think the pool was a miss for my daughter is because she’s really tiny, and the Kalahari issued life vests were bulky and already wet when she put hers on. We did think to pack my son’s puddle jumper, which he loves, and it was nice that he could use something he already felt comfortable in.
  • Pack extra bathing suits. I was smart enough to remember two suits for the kids, but my husband and I forgot, and I won’t make that mistake again!
  • Take breaks. Even if just for a few minutes, force breaks for bathroom stops and snacks before things get ugly!
  • Do something YOU enjoy. For me, this was testing my body boarding skills on the FlowRider – a simulated ocean wave that you “ride” on a body board while following an instructor’s commands. I was really nervous that I’d make a fool of myself, but once I got on the board I didn’t care and had a blast. I actually surprised myself and stayed on a lot longer than I anticipated! I love thrills like this, and would’ve gone down some slides, too, but most that were open were for double-riders only which was impossible with two kids. My husband and kids had a snack and had fun watching mom do something a little crazy!

I hope this is helpful whether you have little kids or big! I’m already looking forward to our next trip to Kalahari, and would love to hear if you’ve been!

slidesOne of the other little kid pools, with lots of slides and tunnels!




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