Water, water, everywhere
The Dells were first, but now indoor water parks are popping up all over.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Wisconsin Dells must be very, very flattered.
Indoor water parks are everywhere now. Since many people don't have money or time for a spring-break trip to Florida or Mexico, they're very popular.
Water-park hotels are busiest in spring, when people are tired of cold weather, and room rates reflect that. Look for specials on-line and travel midweek if you can; weekday rates stay low until late March, when school breaks start.
Some resorts are better than others; the quality of the water features and design of the park matter more than square footage. If you're wondering about a certain place, check on-line reviews.
The Wisconsin Dells still have the biggest and flashiest indoor parks. For a comparison of the big water-park hotels there, see Making waves.
But now, there's likely to be one closer to you. Below are some to consider. And if you live nearby or don't want to stay overnight, many sell day passes.
In the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha , the Country Springs Hotel includes the Springs Water Park.
There are three indoor water parks in Brainerd/Baxter. The Arrowwood Lodge at Brainerd Lakes includes the 30,000-square-foot Paul Bunyan Water Park, Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites includes the Three Bear Waterpark and Rapid River Lodge, a Comfort Suites hotel, has a large park. All three sell day passes.
The Water Park of America next to the Radisson Hotel Bloomington (and the Mall of America) in the southern Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington has a 70,000-square-foot park. It sells day passes and often offers deals.
In Owatonna , less than an hour south of the Twin Cities, the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites has a 14,000-square-foot water park called Great Serengeti.
It sells day passes. Cabela's and the Medford Outlet Mall are nearby.
Just south of Thief River Falls in northwest Minnesota, Seven Clans Casino has a pleasant 40,000-square-foot water park.
On the shore of the Mississippi in Dubuque, the Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark is attractive and well-run, with a 25,000-square-foot indoor water park and fun activities for kids. It sells day passes.
In Des Moines , the Ramada Tropics Resort includes Buccaneer Bay, an 18,000-square-foot water park with a pirate schooner.
In the northern Chicago suburb of Gurnee , KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort includes the 65,000-square-foot Lost Paradise Waterpark.
in Rockford , near the Wisconsin border , there's a 65,000-square-foot Co-Co Key Water Resort at the Clock Tower Resort.
At Boyne Mountain ski resort in Boyne Falls , near Charlevoix, the 88,000-square foot Avalanche Bay is Michigan's largest.
In Rothbur y , near Muskegon, the Double JJ Resort has a 60,000-square-foot indoor water park.