Zehnder’s Splash Village: Surviving a Waterpark with a Toddler


Earlier this month my husband, son, and I packed up and took a quick trip north to Frankenmuth to stay at Zehnder’s Splash Village hotel and water park. We’d been to other water park hotels, but it was fun to see what Oliver liked now that he was a bit older than he was on past trips.


Erin Frankenmuth son

Oliver taking a quick snack break from the pool


An important note before we get too far: Zehnder’s is currently VERY near the end of a major renovation that has not affected the existing pools at all. The area they have right now is mostly geared toward younger kids, though it does have two large water slides (that Nick described as “a little bit scary,” hah!). Within the month, they will be opening an entirely new area that is aimed at older kids and adults, and looks awesome! So keep in mind that there will be even more options down the road.



The Zehnder’s hotel (separate, short ride down the street from the restaurant) itself was quite nice. We initially planned on the “Dragonfly” (the, ahem, CHEAP) room, but Nick was sold on an upgrade for a significantly larger room with a living area for $25 extra upon arrival. Our thought was that we could hang out in the living area without keeping Oliver up once he went to bed. Of course, the joke was on us – he took a million years to fall asleep and we konked out about 15 minutes later, but it was still nice to have a little extra room. We left paying just over $200, which included dinner at Zehnder’s restaurant, and breakfast in the hotel at the Elf Hollow Cafe, but rates seem to vary drastically dependent on season/day of week.


erin frankenmuth room

Sleeping area, with living room area on other side of wall



This is the third water park hotel we’ve been to with Oliver (Splash Universe in Dundee, and Maui Sands in Sandusky were the others), and the food is definitely something that sets Zehnder’s apart. I might be the only one in the world who isn’t a huge fan of the chicken itself, but our meals came with about a dozen other sides ranging from squash to cranberry relish to a tasty stuffing, so there was plenty for everyone, and I’d have to imagine that even a picky eater would find something they’d like.

I was expecting a standard continental style setup for the breakfast included in our stay. We were pleasantly surprised that the Elf Hollow (in hotel) breakfast buffet was a lot more elaborate than I imagined – fresh squeezed orange juice, plenty of fruit, sausage and bacon, waffles, breads, and more.

The restaurant has a window out to the pool where you can order things like hot dogs, pizza, fries, etc – basically what you’d expect from a snack bar. They also have some drink options (this pregnant lady was dreaming about a nice cold beer). We tried to pack some healthy snacks and eat before we went down to swim, but I can’t resist the occasional onion ring so we managed to sneak out with only paying for one snack!


{Water Park}

I saved this section for last so you’ll know I’m not super whiny (well, not all the time), because even though I loved the water park overall, it was the only place where I really had any gripes. As I mentioned, the facility itself was really nice. It was very clean, and the staff was really attentive. The pools and hotel lobby both have a cute, woodland theme with huge flowers, mushrooms, and dragonflies. It definitely appeals to the “toddler sensibilities” without being too obnoxious, and Oliver was excited to be there the second we walked in the door.

I’ll get my two complaints out of the way, then move on to the nicer stuff. My first beef – the water was pretty chilly. YES, I KNOW, I should expect water to be cold…or should I (picture my head cocked to the side, with raised eyebrows)? With all of the awesome features and money on upgrades, heating the pool a bit more would go a long way in making this wimp happy. This is one area where the two other hotel waterparks (Maui Sands and Splash Universe) we’ve been to have Zehnder’s beat. FULL DISCLAIMER: A girlriend visited two weeks after me and said she didn’t notice the water being too bad. This either A) Confirms I’m a wimp or B) Confirms Zehnder’s adjusted the temperature. Option A is probably more likely.

My other complaint is also a wimpy one, but after talking to other moms, I know I’m not alone here. I hate those blasted “dumping buckets” that gush water all over the spray scape. Call me a party pooper, but I just don’t get the appeal for kids OR adults, and I think it makes a lot of the spray scape structure less accessible for toddlers (maybe that’s intentional?). This feature is a staple of all water parks now, so they’re not going anywhere, and I think most kids like this, but I hated that the bucket at Splash Village also gushed some water into part of the toddler area.

Naturally, I assumed Oliver would be drawn to the toddler pool, but I was totally wrong. I think this is largely because on each side of the pool he was trying to avoid getting blasted with either some small buckets of water that dumped over one side of the pool, or the huge gush of water that came from )what I called) the Bucket of Doom, that sprayed over the other side of the toddler pool.


erin frankenmuth splash

The Sprayscape with the Bucket of Doom


Instead, he really loved the basketball area, which was a total surprise to me! He had a blast throwing the ball, or just watching mom and dad try to make a shot. I think he would’ve spent the entire time there if we didn’t encourage him to try anything else. It took some convincing to get him over there, but he also really liked the sprayscape area once we figured out a “Safe Zone” that didn’t get soaked when the bucket dumped. He loved controlling the squirting features and even joined his dad down a nice sized slide once toward the very end of our visit. Previously, he’d really liked other lazy rivers (as do I – I like anything that encourages laziness!), but much to my dismay he wasn’t feeling it this time. I think there were just more fun options for him to explore than chilling in a tube.


erin frankenmuth lazy river

Lazy River


I’m not sure how long this will last, but the water park was also almost totally dead. There was one hour where we had the entire pool to ourselves. I have to imagine this is a mix of going on a Wednesday in October, and many people holding out until the remodeling is done, but it was really nice!

I definitely think that, chilly gushing water bucket aside, this was the most “toddler friendly” water park hotel we’ve been to, but it will continue to appeal to kids as they get older. Kids up to about 10 years old will like the pool as it currently exists, and within the month, they’ll have many more options at Zehnder’s for older kids.


{Will We Be Back?}

I’m sure we will be back again down the road. If the water were just a bit warmer, it would be enough for me to say that we wouldn’t plan on going anywhere else, at least for a while. But, we’ll probably continue to explore a few other options like Great Wolf and Kalahari (especially in later years) that are also within driving distance to see what works best for us overall.

If you’re a bit less wimpy on the water temperature, you’ll really like Zehnder’s for younger kids, and soon be able to take advantage of all the new features if you have preteens or teens. I highly recommend the “Eat and Sleep” packages, for both the value and quality of food. I’ll be interested to hear if anyone else has thoughts on favorite places to stay and swim with their kiddos in the comments!


erin frankenmuth kids area

Cute Toddler Area



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