We stayed at this hotel right after Christmas to celebrate our son's 6th birthday. We are a family of 5 and the grandparents came too! Due to staying during the Smokey Mountain's most busy weekend, the rate was very high and therefor our expectations were set even higher. Reading some of the reviews made me a bit uneasy, but we went with great expectations. We have traveled extensively to various all-inclusive properties, 5 star hotels, cruises, etc. Even our little darlings have had the bar set high. Our expectations were met and we had a WONDERFUL time. Our children are 7, 6, and 1. Each one of them had a total blast! Even the grandparents enjoyed it.
We stayed in the main lodge that is connected to the indoor waterpark. I HIGHLY recommend staying in this building. This building is large as is, and traveling from one of the other buildings would be very inconvenient, in my opinion. Also, the indoor waterpark is very warm, so I feel like this is a great spot for Fall/Winter travel. It might feel a bit too steamy in warm weather. I am sure that they adjust the temp. for the season, but still...something about an indoor water park in the summer doesn't sound appealing to me. This property does have an outdoor watermark. We did not look at it; no need to in December. For the price of this place, I really like the novelty of visiting a waterpark in the Winter, so I feel that chose the right season. The room was scrupulously clean and simply adorable. We loved the wilderness decor. The room has a mini fridge that was VERY cold (we turned it all the way and it kept the baby's milk frozen as desired!). It also has a microwave and stove-top burner. The beds were not comfortable, at all, but seriously, who cares? That is a minor inconvenience to me.
The waterpark has a wave pool that is plenty sizable, but obviously not as large as the one you would find at an outdoor, large waterpark. There is a small little kiddie area w/ swings where the baby's feet dangle in the water, and there are a few sprinklers in this area as well. Very cute for children under 4! There is a surf simulator that was a big hit w/ the big boys (great for ages 5 to adult), and one of those water playgrounds w/ the splash bucket on top. This area has a child size water slide. This area is best suited for children ages 2-10, in my opinion. The big features of the waterpark include 4 tube slides. 2 of the slides require you to carry a 1 or 2 seater tube up a couple flights of stairs (no biggie) and the 2 "family" style slides have a nifty conveyor that brings up the big, round rafts for you. The one family slide as the same height requirement as the 2 tube slides, but there is a thrill ride that has a height requirement of 48 inches. Both our boys were just a pinch too short for it. The waterpark also a swimming pool w/ activities like basketball and volleyball that is in a heated, enclosed porch area. There is also a large hot tub that is partially outside, which was a fun experience! The hot tub allows kids, so our children really enjoyed this.
Despite the fact that the hotel was very busy during our stay, we never felt as though the waterpark was too crowded. We did have to look closely for chairs, but always found some, no matter the time of day. Plus, who needs a chair for your whole family? 1 or 2 will do! The lines were too long on the "thrill" slides, and there were plenty of floats for the wave pool.
The indoor arcade area is fun too. It adds something extra to do after you are finished swimming. The arcade was larger than any other hotel arcade that we have seen and had lots of interested, unique games. There was an indoor play structure (similar to what you would see at a nice McDonalds) that was free to use. For a small fee, there was laser tag, a laser maze, a few bowling lanes, and an elevated ropes course. We felt that the prices were OK.
We at at the Thirsty Miner once for dinner and once for breakfast. We did so purely out of convenience and since the kids were free. We wanted to eat dinner and head back to the water park. The buffet was bleh, but the kids liked it (fries, chicken nuggets, cheap pizza, corn, typical kid food). Likewise, we returned for breakfast again out of convenience and the breakfast buffet was so-so. There was an omlette station, make-it-youself-waffles, cereal...the typical hotel breakfast. I would have less of a complaint if the prices were lower, but again the kids were free so it balanced out.
There was another little eatery that had a wide selection of ice cream, gourmet candies, and snack-like foods. I noticed that they also made sub sandwiches. We did not try it, but this might have been a better option than the dinner buffet at the Thirsty Miner. We also tried the food at the snack restaurant inside the indoor waterpark. It was your typical over-priced "bowling alley" style junk, but our we came for the waterpark, not the food so it wasn't a disappointment. On the upside, there is a bar inside the waterpark! :-)
The only complaint that we have, and this the reason for the "very good" rating rather than "excellent," was the service. It was just "eh.." No one was rude or provided poor service, but the staff was not exactly friendly or helpful. We noticed this at check-in, from the room cleaning staff, and in the restaurants. Again, no one was rude, but no one stood out as really caring about providing a memorable level of service either.
Lastly, an observation that we noted (as did the grandparents) was that the fellow tourists were quite lovely. All of the children that we encountered throughout the property were positively delightful. Never have we seen so many lovely families with well-mannered children in one place.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.