There are lots of indoor water parks in the Wisconsin Dells, just 3 to 4 hours from Chicago. But we decided to stick closer to home for our family vacation and visit CoCo Key Water Resort, which bills itself as Illinois’ largest indoor water park.
The water park is attached to the Sheraton Chicago Northwest in Arlington Heights, less than 30 miles from downtown Chicago. By staying overnight, we were able to request early check-in, and overnighters are allowed to visit the water park starting with the time you check in until the water park closes. Then the next day, you get to visit again from open to close (at no extra charge), so we got two days of water park fun.
With in-and-out privileges, we were able to take an afternoon break to let the kids eat lunch and take a nap. After nap time we played in the arcade and then hit the water park again. On the first day of our family vacation we went to the water park three times. The kids wanted to visit Parrot’s Perch — an interactive area with slides and a huge bucket that dumps hundreds of gallons of water every few minutes — one more time before bed. This was great because we didn’t have to worry about whining, fussy kids protesting to leave to go home — we just went upstairs to our room.
The next day at the crack of dawn, the kids were up and ready for breakfast. The hotel offers breakfast, and booths are equipped with TVs. After breakfast we hit the water park. Since we arrived at 2 p.m. the day before, going in at 10 a.m. was an added bonus. We were the first to arrive. I must say that comparingthe 2 p.m. arrival to the 10 a.m. arrival was about the same in terms of cleanliness and maintenance. Everything was clean and shiny, and the staff was great. I wasn’t worried about the safety of the kids in the water. I fell into the water while trying to get into my inner tube, and I was immediately surrounded by four lifeguards. (The kids thought that was extra funny.)
Also, by arriving at 10 a.m., we were able to get a cabana. It had room for up to six people and included tables, chairs, a TV, phone, wireless Internet and a safe — ours for the entire day at the water resort. This is a great perk to have on the day that you check out. It's the perfect place to relax when the kids get a little tired or take a break for a quick meal. Prices for the cabana range from $50 to $200, depending on the day of the visit.
After sliding down tubes — and being soaked by the huge bucket of water — you can grab a bite right there in the water resort: Hot dogs, fries, pizza, root beer floats, ice cream, tropical beverages, and snacks all are available.
The best part is that we didn’t have to wait for summer to feel warm weather. The temperature inside CoCo Key is never below 80 degrees.
If you can take more excitement on your family vacation, the new LegoLand Discovery Center is just a short drive away in Schaumburg, so you can make your close-to-home getaway a splash and build a staycation that the kids will love.
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Dannelle Sibley, a member of the Orbitz Parent Panel, is a full-time working mother and wife. With an 8-year-old daughter and6-year-old son, she likes to plan travel vacations that are fun and educational.