The holiday season is the perfect time of year to plan a water park getaway. These seven escapes are close to Chicago and offer festive holiday happenings, sure to create some magical winter memories.
Don’t miss: Christmas in the Country and Avalanche Falls slide
Lake Geneva is only an hour and a half from Chicago, yet its peaceful winter setting is like the gorgeous, hushed world inside a snow globe. As you enter the waterpark resort–shared with sister property Grand Geneva Resort & Spa–you’ll see more than two million lights twinkling for the Christmas in the Country festivities. And these aren’t just standard icicle lights either. Displays include jumping reindeer, a golfing Santa, trains and so much more.
Peel off your layers in the water park and relax in the hot tub. Families with kids age six and over can swim to the outside section of the tub and enjoy snow falling on their heads as steam envelops them in warmth. My daughter loves the ropes course–the perfect challenge for kids who enjoy monkey bars. And my son couldn’t get enough of Bruce the Moose, Timber Ridge’s resident mascot, who comes around for high fives and hugs.
You also won’t want to miss the new Avalanche Falls tube slide. The second of its kind in the country, it provides a colorful, musical experience. Sliders can select song themes, such as Pop Paradise and Rockin’ Rapids, and swoosh through the colorful lights that brighten the way down to the pool.
When you’re worn out from the park, take a free trolley to the Grand Geneva for countless holiday activities. Choose from Breakfast with Santa, holiday tea, holiday story time and even elf mail runs. The resort is decked out with sleighs, bears and other photo opp-worthy spots. You can vote for your favorite gingerbread house in a contest and even catch sight of Santa himself.
Don’t miss: Ice Castle
As if skiing, snowboarding and the indoor water and theme park weren’t enough to bring you to Mt. Olympus in Wisconsin Dells, they are also building an Ice Castle Wonderland. From Dec. 26 through February (weather permitting), a small glacier-sized building will be erected out of ice crystals. It will be lit up for a magical evening spectacle. Visitors can explore the castle pathways and glide down ice slides.
If you prefer a visit earlier in December, complimentary milk and cookies with Santa will be available on select days.
Don’t miss: Luma Tubes and Raging Rapids
Take a short drive to Gurnee for tons of indoor fun (maybe after some outlet mall shopping?). Lost Paradise Indoor Waterpark is always 84 degrees, no matter what Mother Nature is doing outside. New features are making it an even more colorful, bubbly experience.
Luma tubes allow guests to select the color of their inner tube–either a solid color or multi-color fading effect. And new Raging Rapids is adding some excitement to the ever-popular Lazy River. As you gently float along the Lazy River, watch out for the 40-foot patch of raging waters, sure to shake things up. When you’re ready to dry off, try the new 9-hole blacklight mini golf course, Dude’s Tropi-Golf.
Don’t miss: Snowland and Life-Sized Gingerbread House
Snowland takes over this Wisconsin Dells resort in late November until Jan. 1, turning it into a winter wonderland with falling snowflakes and twinkling lights. Up to six guests can dine in a life-sized gingerbread house. What kid wouldn’t love that?! Santa and Mrs. Claus visit for carols and requests from the kids. Festive foods, storytime with Rowdy the Reindeer, and the Great Clock Tower Show add to the ambiance.
Don’t miss: Elf deliveries
Let the warm sun over the Wild WaterDome relax you while you splash around. Then make your holiday visit even more memorable with a special delivery from Santa’s elves. Small gifts and treats can be delivered to good girls and boys, when booked for $20 each up to 48 hours in advance.
On select days, decorate cookies or ornaments and pose for pictures with Santa. If you stay through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, enjoy buffets while you take a break from cooking.
Don’t miss: Hanukkah Crafts and New Year’s Eve Kids’ Carnival
Sing-alongs, storytime, movies, cookie and candy creations, secret gift making, scavenger hunts and wagon rides keep the holiday fun coming all day long at Santa’s Winter Wonderland Workshop. Hanukkah crafts are available, too!
New Year’s Eve is also special with a kids’ carnival that starts at 7:30 p.m. Games, crafts, food and drinks allow for plenty of fun before the balloons drop at 11 p.m.
Don’t miss: Catch a panorama of Lake Michigan at sunrise.
A visit to this beautiful, Sheboygan, Wis. resort is sure to relax the whole family. Located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, the picturesque views are enough to settle any frazzled, holiday nerves, but festive lights make it especially cozy during this time of year.
The 84-degree water park and indoor mini golf course will keep the kids entertained. New Toddler Tides is a play structure perfect for little ones; the Riptide double surf simulator is a challenge that even my 5-year-old daughter could joyfully take on. Parents will appreciate the spa and exceptional dining close by. Look for the $99 Santa Special, available on select days.