We just returned from a trip (6/30/08) to the Kalahari resort (Wisconsin Dells). Our review of the resort is very positive. We had stayed at the Wilderness resort the last couple of years (also positive experience), and just thought we would try something new. Looking at the Kalahari website, and reading reviews, we thought Kalahari would be fun for our kids (age 14 and 10). For us, staying over one night (i.e., two days of waterpark) is plenty.
Upon arriving (around 2 pm), the check-in was very smooth. Our room was not ready at the time (check-in is listed as 4:00), but we were able to get our waterpark passes (we were able to get into our room by 3:00). One of the things that attracted us to Kalahari is the resort type atmosphere. When you walk in the lobby, you first notice the whole "safari" type theme with jungle animal statues, pictures, etc.. As we came in, they had an exhibit with 3 baby tigers (1 white tiger, 2 regular). It was a little outrageous that they wanted to charge $32 for a picture with a tiger cub, but there was no cost to look through the window cage at the cubs. The lobby also had things like the "Sweet Hut," a coffee/danish type shop, a gift shop, a glass blower making animal figurines, and a restaurant (there are additional shops farther in the resort).
We were lucky to get a room very close to the lobby/waterpark. We had a "Hut" room (2 beds). The room was just fine. Clean, plenty of room, everything worked fine. Flushing the toilet is loud like an airplane toilet, but that didn't really bother us. When we called the front desk for more pillows, someone brought some up right away.
• Indoor waterpark:
We started in the indoor waterpark. We were pleased that the lines were not very long (i.e., we purposely plan our travel during off-peak days to avoid crowds). We especially liked the "Master-Blaster" (i.e., kind of a water coaster). It was fast and fun. Second favorite was the toilet bowl type slide. Some of the other slides are more mild. The FlowRider (waterboarding/surfing type ride) takes a couple times to learn to master, and the line/wait is usually a little longer, but it is a fun/unique experience. The wave pool is much more mild than the one at Wilderness, but this actually turned out to relieve some fears for my wife about our 10 year old getting hurt, and our 10 year old really enjoyed it (just ok for our 14 year old). The lazy river was just fine (like most lazy rivers), and it was nice that they had 5 indoor hot tubs. One thing I would note is that the floor in the indoor park can be slippery. My son slipped (while walking, not running) as we were heading back into the locker room and cut his knee, and I slipped and almost fell a couple of times. You would think that a waterpark would design a floor that is less slippery, especially when wet.
• Tommy Bartlett Show:
Kalahari is currently giving free Tommy Bartlett Show tickets to all guests. For those of you who haven't heard, the flooding in early June broke the damn and Lake Delton is completely drained. We did not know this until we walked down to our seats at the show and just saw a muddy lake bottom. Anyway, they did a real nice job of putting together a lot of good acts (acrobats, comedians, jugglers) to create a good show in the absence of the water show. The finale was a little lack-luster, but it certainly was a bonus for us to get these tickets included with our Kalahari room. We also admire Kalahari for supporting the Tommy Bartlett show after the floods/draining of the lake.
• Kalahari Outdoor waterpark:
On our second day, we were smart to get to the waterparks when they opened at 9 am (i.e., the waterparks open for Kalahari guests at 9 am and then open for the general public at 10 am). We were able to get on a lot of favorite rides with no lines. When we went outside, we found some fast, fun slides, along with some mild slides. One thing we didn't do but that I noticed outside was a real nice spash and play area for little kids (i.e., I didn't notice quite as much for the little kids at the indoor park). They also have some nice regular pools for swimming, water volleyball, basketball, etc..
• Life guards:
Compared to some places where I have seen many lifeguards, it seemed like Kalahari had areas covered, but with the minimum number of guards needed. For example, they would have one or two guards at the tops of the slides guiding people into multiple slides. There were often times when we didn't know when it was safe to go ahead down a slide (after someone else). Once you learned the system, it wasn't really a problem, but there is a potential for accidents. I also noticed in the outdoor "toilet bowl" type ride that another person/tube came flying into the bowl before I slid out. Again, not necessarily a problem, but could be a problem with larger crowds (i.e. I'm guessing they have more guards on busy days). I should mention that the life guards were friendly and helpful, especially the guard helping all the kids learn how to ride the boards on the FlowRider.
One of the things included in our package was a 14" pizza and four drinks. I think you have options between the different Kalahari restaurants where you get this pizza. We had ours in the "Great Karoo" restaurant which has a view of the indoor waterpark. The pizza was very good, and our waitress was very friendly and attentive.
We purposely bring a cooler with food and drinks to cut down on the cost of food at the resort. All of the resorts overcharge for food, gifts, etc., and often times the waterpark fast food (hamburgers, etc.) doesn't taste very good (i.e., that was our experience at the Wilderness resort). By bringing a water bottle and a couple of candybars into the waterpark (even though they say no food allowed) we saved quite a bit.
For breakfast on our second day, we just bought some Krispy Kreme donuts (down in the lobby store - Expensive: $18 for a dozen donuts and a cup of coffee). The donuts along with our coffee and juice that we brought was just fine for our needs as we wanted a quick light breakfast so we could get to waterparks when they opened.
Our big meal of our stay was at Field's Premier Steakhouse (over by the Wilderness Resort). This is a first class restaurant. It is very expensive, but the food is incredible, and the service is superb.
Our afternoon before we left included arcade for son/dad and shopping for daughter/mom. That worked out just great. For $20, our son had plenty of arcade fun. Mom/daughter enjoyed the shops. Our daughter bought a nice glass figurine from the artist as a souvenir, and she got an airbrush tattoo (which lasts about 5 days).
• Overall service:
We were generally pleased with the service. Staff members were friendly and helpful. My wife said she received a dirty look from the coffee shop girl when she didn't add a tip when buying donuts, but we general tip for service, not for someone just taking our money. Otherwise, no complaints.
• Overall value:
Our package, which I found through travelzoo.com, included one room (two double bed Hut room) for one night, four waterpark passes for two days, four tickets to the Tommy Bartlett Show, and a 14" pizza (I think one topping) and four drinks, for a total cost of $186 (that's including tax). I would say that is a pretty good deal, especially during peak season. Many of the extras (i.e., Sweet Hut, coffee shop, souvenirs, etc.) are overpriced, but that is to be expected at most resorts and can be minimized by smart travelers.
• Comparison to Wilderness Resort:
We had a great time at both resorts. I think each resort has something to offer. Wilderness had several different waterpark areas which required you to walk quite a distance to get to. It also had things like a laser tag area and a play area with little plastic balls. If you traveled during the colder months, I'm guessing that Wilderness has more little kid areas. Kalahari has more resort atmosphere in the lobby with the different restaurants and shops. Our kids rated the Master Blaster (Kalahari) as their favorite ride, but the Hurricane (Wilderness) came in a close second. In general, it seemed like Kalahari had more rides for older kids, but that could be debated. It was nice for us having just the two waterpark areas right next to each other, although, the Wilderness parks separated could possibly be helpful during crowed times. The rooms were pretty similar except the Kalahari room was slightly bigger. For our family, at this point, the preference for next year is to go back to Kalahari.
- I hope this review is helpful to others. I certainly appreciate the reviews I have read before making our travel plans.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.