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When you think of “Ohio” and “winter,” you think “relaxing by the pool,” right? Nice, warm, sunny days? No? Well I didn’t either until last year.
My dad runs an extremely busy outdoor-centered business, so one of the best times of the year for him to travel is in January. I had been pushing him to take time off and travel with his only grandchild, so we settled on a weekend trip in January. He wanted to go “someplace warm but within 3 hours of Ohio.” In January. The average temperature in Ohio in January is in the 20’s Fahrenheit. We had a day in January, a few years ago, that was ‑16 F. My car wouldn’t start. So my initial reaction was “Sure Dad. Let me wave a magic wand and create a magical place for you.” But I’m a travel agent, right? I’m a professional. So, I did some digging and found a little tropical paradise, right in Sandusky, Ohio, and booked us a weekend at the Kalahari Resort, which had all the requirements. You could easily set up shop at the resort and never set foot outside once you’re checked in. We invited my parents, my sister, and my in-laws to join us for a weekend of fake sun.
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The indoor waterpark is huge! They have a wave pool, a lazy river, several water slides, a surf machine, and most importantly an indoor/outdoor hot tub. There are actually 2 indoor/outdoor hot tubs, one that is 21+ only and one that is family-friendly. The 21+ only hot tub has a bar, my friends. It’s heaven. If you’re like my dad, you’re thinking “Emily, it’s like 20 degrees. You want me to sit in a hot tub outside, have you lost your marbles?” But don’t worry, it’s actually pretty comfortable and you don’t need to leave the water.
One of the water slides in the indoor park has a video game element, you hit buttons on the handles of your tube that correspond with the color of the lights on the slide. It was very popular with my husband and the teenage set. Speaking of popular with my husband and the teenage set, Kalahari offers underwater VR! Essentially you snorkel with a VR headset on. If you have an aspiring mermaid or merman in your family, you can book a mermaid lesson.
There is also a seasonal outdoor waterpark, which given Ohio’s cold winter weather, is only open from June-August.
The game room at Kalahari is huge too! They have video games, skee ball, and just about any arcade game you can think of. They also have mini bowling, escape rooms, a motion simulator, laser tag, a seasonal animal park, and mini-golf. I’m not kidding when I say there is plenty to do.
Don’t Miss! Splashing Around At the Great Wolf Lodge
Need to escape the kids? Kalahari has a spa on-site where you can get a massage or mani/pedi. The spa offers lots of different packages to choose from for adults, and even a few packages for kids and teens. I was surprised to learn they offer packages for kids as young as 3!
Ohio’s winters are notoriously brutal, which makes Kalahari the perfect place for a weekend of fun and fake sun!
Kalahari has a huge convention center on-site, if you need to host a large event. There are also some smaller rooms available to rent. They host everything from Colossalcon to Weddings.
Kalahari has a buffet, pizza place, coffee shop, bar, an Italian restaurant, and a candy shop on site. The candy in the candy shop is really good, especially if you’re a chocolate fan! I’m going to be honest with you my friends, the food at Kalahari is overpriced for the quality. Every time we go there, my husband insists we order pizza. Kalahari pizza is nostalgic for him because his parents always got it when they went when he was a kid. But, since I don’t share those memories, I will tell you that it’s just ok. You can order delivery from a local pizza place and save a few bucks. Chet and Matt’s pizza comes highly recommended by my friends in Sandusky.
Where to Stay
Kalahari has plenty of places on site to stay, everything from standard 2 queen rooms to a 10 bedroom villa. I highly recommend staying on-site so you can really enjoy the indoor water park experience, however, they do sell day passes if you don’t have a night to spare. We opted for a 2 room, 2 bathroom suite which we split with my in-laws, and my parents got a standard double queen room with my sister. We got a “beat the clock” deal on the 2 room suite, which made the room much cheaper than if we got 2 regular rooms and meant we gained a living room for hanging out. Before we had kids, my husband and I stayed in a King bed whirlpool suite, and it was super nice! I would absolutely stay there again. During the week you can expect to pay around $150–199 for a standard room, or $200–300 a night on the weekend, which includes water park passes and parking.
When you go
The best way to get to Kalahari is to fly into Cleveland and rent a car or take an Uber. It will take you about 45 minutes to drive to Kalahari from the airport. Kalahari is about 2 hours from Detroit. Toledo, Ohio also has a very small airport, which is serviced by only 2 airlines, Allegiant and American Airlines, and it’s about an hour from there to Kalahari. You’ll likely find Cleveland to be cheaper to fly into and since Cleveland is a larger airport you’ll have more options for non-stop flights.
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