Kalahari is a good value and in a good area for those that want to get away from the water park for a bit. The hotel room is not the best quality and most of the rooms are a bit of a distance from the water park, but it's clean and sufficient. The hotel offers children's activities like arts and crafts and cookie making/eating as well as many food vendors and stores. If the baby tiger is there I highly recommend you get a picture taken with young animal as your family will certainly always remember that moment. The food offered by some of the vendors is good, such as the buffet breakfast and the fare offered at Candy Hut and Java Manjaro. Don't expect to see good prices in the stores for Kalahari swag, especially in the swim wear store. The staff are very helpful and didn't once present a problem for us - they were more than accomodating - so don't hesitate to ask them for anything. This resort was a great family experience and we will more than likely return in the near future. More detailed review below.
For the price we found Kalahari to be a great value. When you consider that for two days at a water park the admission alone would be approximately $80 each and you can get a one night stay plus water park admission for both days starting at $150 then you can see how great a deal this is for a family! The hotel is clean but don't have high expectations for quality. The water park is big, offers lots of different activities/attractions, and will definitely be a fun family experience! However, during peak season I can imagine the volume of people would make the experience quite maddening.
We visited on Sunday December 18, 2011 and checked-out on Monday December 19, 2011. We took advantage of the Super Sunday offer which gets you a desert/hut room (two queens - although they were probably actually doubles), water park admission for both days (Sunday to Monday), 4 passes to mini-golf (not worth it), and breakfast entres (which we exchanged for the buffet).
Kalahari is just down the road from lots of restaurants and shopping on Milan. In terms of family restaurants there's Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Chili's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Bob Evans, Perkins, Cracker Barrell, and Applebys. In terms of fast food there's McDonalds, Subway, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendys, Sonic Burger, Steak and Shake. Sandusky Mall is nothing special but offers your typical mall fare aside from a food court. There's a Walmart and a Meijer as well. Great Wolf Lodge is also in the area and Cedar Point is just a bit further up the road.
It was a good thing that we didn't have high expectations for the hotel - it was just a convenience for us so that we could have a place to crash after spending the day at the water park. I didn't confirm whether our room was classified as a "hut" or "desert" room, but basically it had two beds which were smaller than the queen bed we had at home so they couldn't have been a queen despite the website's proclamation. The toilet/tub is in a separate room from the vanity/sink, there was ample closet space with a free-to-use safe (very handy), a fridge/freezer (just a tiny ice box in the fridge), microwave, small table and two chairs, and room for a small sofa but there wasn't one in our room. There was also a small balcony with a chair and table but the view of a parking lot left a lot to be desired - but then again, we didn't book this room for the view anyways. The beds weren't terrible but they weren't comfortable either; same goes for the pillows. The TV didn't respond to the remote at all which was very frustrating but again we weren't there for that and we didn't spend much time in the room for the TV to be necessary. The selection of channels was fair though along with several different themed Kalahari channels (clearly Disney inspired), there's also on-demand movies and interenet TV (which was free for checking the weather and some news headlines - I didn't play with it too much). The bathroom perhaps yields the biggest complaint... the facet for the tub was so loose it was nearly falling off the wall, the shower pressure wasn't great, and the toilet had the weirdest flusher I have ever seen - it was on the side of the toilet and you had to hold down the lever towards the back... and I mean, you had to HOLD it down in order for it to flush completely. The second biggest complaint was the lights. First, the set up was odd - too many switches controlling the same lights that had to activated in order for the lights to work. Second, some lights never worked, such as the bedside lamps. We gave up trying to figure it out. Lastly, we also noticed the bedding was ripped/frayed towards the bottom. A minor gripe but all of this paints a picture of a hotel room in a poor state of repair. It is after all a value resort room. All in all the room was a decent size, clean, and met our needs but would have been a disappointment if we were expecting some quality.
Our room was in the North Sands building so it was a good little walk to the water park and main lobby. We were luckily on the fifth floor so we spared the constant hallway travellers that you would find on the first or second floor - seriously, if you're on the first or second floor ask to be relocated! The walls are paper thin and we could easily hear our neighbours let alone the hallway traffic that continued well in to the night - I can only imagine it would be worse on the first or second floors. The walk to the water park/main lobby wasn't THAT bad either but it could be if you make frequent trips. Luckily we were right at the elevators where the two wings met so it wasn't as long a walk as others had to make.
Check-in was simple. You drive up to the main entrance/lobby, an attendant approaches your car and asks your name before directing you to where you will check-in. Since we were in the Sands we had to drive all the way around the complex to the back for our check-in entrance. They will ask if you want your room key to act as a proxy for your credit card. We declined. I imagine this is how some people rack up an unexpected bill before departure - especially if you give your kids a key card. But the option could be convenient for some. It was also a bit of a walk from the hotel entrance/parking to our room which was kind of inconvenient as we went out for all of our meals but one. Check-out was also simple - sign the form they drop in front of your door on your day of departure and drop off the form in one of the mailboxes.
I expected something more grandoise but instead the main lobby is a confusing labrinyth of stores and food vendors. There's a conceirge's desk, three Kalahari stores, the Candy Hut (which features some great quality decadent treats and ice cream), Java Manjaro (coffee, donuts, muffins, etc), The Reserve (fancier cuisine), the Great Karoo Marketplace (buffet and simple entrees), the main desk, a lounge, and a (at least for now) a baby tiger that you can have your picture taken with (for a fee, but worth it considering that you get to pet a 5 week old baby tiger AND have a good family photo). If you head down the stairs you end up in the Big Game Room - an arcade with ticket redemption games, video games, a little cafeteria, a place to paint pottery, a build-a-bear inspired store, a swim wear store, glow in the dark mini golf, a mini bowling alley, and the Tree Top play area. The pottery room is a nice distraction and the prices are reasonable. The video game selection is poor but there's enough there; the ticket redemption games are numerous and the redemption prizes are not much better than a Chuckee Cheese. The bowling alley is actually really good - it features small bowling balls and pins that are on strings. You can raise a bumper for the younger ones and then lower it when its the adults' turn. The games and bowling work off of a game card you purchase in the arcade. The exchange for game credits is fair and the bowling is only $3 each. The mini-golf was disappointing and not worth paying for. It's 9 holes and is over before you know it. The Tree Top play area looked like a better version of a McDonalds playland and is only for kids under 48 inches. There's seating around the play area for the parents.
There are many on-site options for food but I can't say any of them are worth the price of the food. The only time that we ate at Kalahari was breakfast at the Great Karoo Marketplace. We had the buffet and the selection and quality was good and came with free OJ/milk/chocolate milk self-refills. I would say it's worth the price if you're hungry enough. We have the Super Sunday coupon for free entrees and they allowed us to convert that to the buffet. The entree menu had some good selections as well so I would recommend this location for breakfast, but don't forget there is a Perkins and Cracker Barrell nearby and their breakfast is outstanding... but you may not want to leave the resort that early in the morning.
The water park is huge and offers lots of activities/attractions. Firstly, the change rooms are a good size and offer lots of lockers within the change room (and more lockers can be located outside the changerooms in the water park) (for a small fee and deposit). As soon as you walk in you can grab your towels. They are a bit small so grab extras; they never seemed to run out even during the peak period of the day. There's plenty of places to sit but if you want a lounge chair you next to the wave pool or kids playground you had better get there early. There are also plenty of tables and chairs that no one seems to sit at. If worse comes to worse you may end up on this second level that overlooks the wave pool. If you want a spot with little to no traffic there's this path that goes behind the kids playground, close to the Ivory Coast Lounge (bar) and ends at the inner-tube slides the Wildebeast. I guarantee no one will walk in front of you if you can get one of those lounge chairs as the main path is actually behind you but raised a little bit. If you want a seat where you can talk to someone be cognizant of the speakers - they are a lot louder in some areas, like the front of the kids playground, then in other areas, like by the indoor-outdoor hot tubs. The variety of attractions is great but some are redundant and leave you wondering why they didn't offer something more unique in the space (they have two flowrider pools, three indoor-outdoor hot tubs, two basketball pools). The indoor-outdoor hot tubs are good and surprisingly you will find yourself outside even in the winter temperatures. However, the fact that the outdoors is separated from the indoors by some plastic sleeves means that in the winter the area around the indoor-outdoor hot tubs can get cold (as is also the case anywhere that there is an emergency exit glass door). The only negative about the indoor-outdoor hot tubs is that they put the smoking area right between two of them so if you don't like cigarette smoke you will have to watch for when there is no smokers. The wave pool is large enough but it can be crowded in the spots with the really good waves. I never did figure out the schedule for when the waves were on. Most of the water slides were disappointing, in my opinion. We waited in line for a long time for Victoria Falls and Swahali Swirl but in general the lines move fast; the zip coaster line moves quick so don't be discouraged by the line length. For the shortest lines you definitely need to go early or stay late. Perhaps it was because it was dark outside, but it seemed many of the slides were in pitch darkness which both adds to the excitement and detracts from it. There really wasn't anything that I found to be exciting or interesting aside from the Zip Coaster. If you're going to go on any water slide you have to go on the Zip Coaster. The Wild Wildebeast - the one person inner tube slides - often runs out of inner tubes... if you're desparate, grab an inner tube from the lazy river pile they always have far more than necessary. Which was a bit obvious by how crowded the lazy river got. It's hard to enjoy the lazy river experience when you're packed in tight or have kids racing/splashing around you. They really should limit the number of people in the lazy river and try to space them out. The lazy river has a variety of water effects including some waterfalls that you can go underneath. One of our favourite attractions was the basketball pool. It never got crowded enough that it became a concern as those basketball hurt a little bit if you get hit and the splash they make is annoying if you're too close. The water in the pool though is really warm and the depth allows you and your family to have some fun together. The kids playground, Leopard's Lair, was fairly large, had a variety of water effects, and the depth of the surrounding water was perfect for smaller children. There's also an area for toddlers next to the wave pool as well as a pool with a slide that was closed when we visited. Keep in mind that they may shut down or rotate which attractions are active during non-peak periods. This wasn't an issue when we visited but it may be if you're there Tuesday-Thursday.
The food and drinks within the water park are excessively expensive and they don't appear to be good quality, so I would recommend not attending the water park while you're hungry. There are water fountains by the entrance/exit. I will say though that the two bars (one is in an indoor-outdoor hot tub) seem serve really large drinks but they're about $20 each. Needless to say it didn't appear that the bartenders were very busy.
We didn't get to experience the outdoor waterpark, zoo, or zipline/ropes course but none of it looked that interesting.
In conclusion, the hotel is a good value and in a good area for those that want to get away from the water park for a bit. The hotel room is not the best quality and most of the rooms are a bit of a distance from the water park, but it's clean and sufficient. The hotel offers children's activities like arts and crafts and cookie making/eating as well as many food vendors and stores. If the baby tiger is there I highly recommend you get a picture taken with young animal as your family will certainly always remember that moment. The food offered by some of the vendors is good, such as the buffet breakfast and the fare offered at Candy Hut and Java Manjaro. Don't expect to see good prices in the stores for Kalahari swag, especially in the swim wear store. The staff are very helpful and didn't once present a problem for us - they were more than accomodating - so don't hesitate to ask them for anything. This resort was a great family experience and we will more than likely return in the near future.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.