Ohio thrill-seekers undoubtedly are familiar with the state’s world-famous amusement parks, Cedar Point and Kings Island. But near those parks are also a number of other thrilling attractions that are fun, family-friendly destinations, especially if you don’t mind getting your thrills while wet.
Here are some of the biggest water parks to be found near or at Ohio’s two big theme parks.
Kalahari Resorts and Conventions Water Park
The resort claims, at 173,000 square feet, to be the largest indoor waterpark in Ohio. It’s certainly one of the very few places in the Buckeye State where surfers or body-boarders can enjoy thrills in the middle of winter — and every other day of the year — at a water-park comfortable 84 degrees.
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And with warmer weather, the resort’s outdoor Zambezi Water Park also opens for a zip or a dip or just sunbathing.
Kalahari also features a Safari Outdoor Adventure Park with zip line, rope course, climbing wall, and animal park. And visitors will find a variety of on-resort restaurant options.
The resort’s lodgings range from single rooms to three-bedroom suites to five-bedroom “entertainment houses” — book two and you can bring along 43 of your closest friends.
The water park is free to hotel guests, but those not staying the night can also purchase day passes to the resort and its activities.
Castaway Bay Indoor Waterpark and Hotel
The newly renovated Castaway Bay Indoor Waterpark and Hotel in Sandusky (2001 Cleveland Road, www.castawaybay.com) features refurbished guest rooms offering a variety of accommodations, including family suites complete with bunk beds for the kids.
The indoor water park is restricted to guests of the 237-room hotel. A five-story vaulted ceiling covers the Caribbean-themed water park, with palm trees, huts and “lagoons” adding to the tropical feel. The park’s water features offer fun for every age and level of thrill-seeking. And a new crew of mascots, headed up by Gordy the sea turtle, are on hand to make sure the fun never ends.
Non-watery activities include mini bowling and a variety of dining options.
Cedar Point Shores Waterpark
The outdoor Cedar Point Shores Waterpark (1 Cedar Point Drive, www.cedarpoint.com/cedar-point-shores) covers 18 acres adjacent to Cedar Point amusement park. Youngsters can enjoy Lakeslide Landing with minnow-sized slides and fountains, while older visitors get their thrills at Point Plummet, which releases riders on a nearly vertical drop onto a waterslide that circles down from a height of six stories.
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After that, facing a sea monster (lake monster?) seems easy, especially when it’s the park’s own costumed — and friendly! — version of Lake Erie’s mythical cryptid, Lemmy, who haunts Lemmy’s Lagoon for the enjoyment of visitors.
Guests can also lounge in one of the park’s newly redesigned cabanas — pleasantly private places for a snack or meal or for resting between watery plunges.
Admission to Cedar Point Shores is separate from Cedar Point.
Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge offers resort lodges with indoor water parks near both large theme parks.
The Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky (4600 Milan Road, www.greatwolf.com/sandusky) and the lodge in Mason (2501 Great Wolf Drive, www.greatwolf.com/mason) both offer a variety of suites, including whirlpool, family fireplace and cabin-themed suites for all size families.
Guests have use of the large attached indoor water park at each location. Day passes are also available for those not spending the night.
Both water parks feature similar attractions, such as a four-story interactive water fort/tree house, although the name of the features sometimes differs — Sandusky’s “lazy river” is Caribou Creek, while the one in Mason is Crooked Creek. (Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a caribou in Mason.)
Kings Islands’ own outdoor water park, Soak City (6300 Kings Islands Drive, Kings Mills, www.visitkingsisland.com/soak-city), features a 650,000-gallon wave pool — surf’s up! — plus 30 water slides, tropical lagoons and the circular Splash River, with a Coconut Cove Bar conveniently located nearby. Tadpoles can have safe, non-threatening water fun at Castaway Cove, while big brother or sister (or Mom or Dad) get some bigger thrills at Mondo Monsoon, a two- to four-person raft ride that drops from an enclosed flume down 60 feet into an open tunnel.
Admission to Soak City is included with admission to Kings Island and is not available separately.
Many indoor water parks and resorts are open year-round while the outdoor parks often open on Memorial Day weekend. Be sure to call ahead or check the destination’s website for the latest info before your trip.
Steve Stephens is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Email him at [email protected]