Make a Splash at Chicagoland’s Coolest Indoor Water Parks

Chicagoland families can drive to these indoor water parks in four hours or less.

Water parks aren’t just for the summer. In fact, since the cold weather months far outnumber the warm ones here in Chicagoland, we think these all-season water parks are a dream come true.

Whether you’re looking for a nearby winter water playground or want to take a family vacation to an indoor water park, we’ve found a great selection of water parks for families. Stick to a budget and keep it local with smaller water parks in Chicagoland, or book a winter getaway at a thrilling indoor water park that is sure to be worth the drive. 

This article was recently updated on March 21, 2024 by Chicago Parent’s Assistant Editor, Nikki Roberts. The update included her research and fact-checking expertise to provide the latest information on indoor water parks for Chicagoland families, aligning with Chicago Parent’s mission to provide the top parenting resources for local families. Questions? Please reach out to nikki@chicagoparent.com.

Indoor Water Parks in Chicagoland

Indoor Water Parks Chicagoland - The Water Works
Photo credit: Schaumburg Park District

Great Wolf Lodge Illinois

Looking for an easy drive from Chicago? The two-family raft rides, a four-story tandem tube ride and a funnel water ride will satiate your thirst for adventure.

Families can literally roll with the waves at the tide pool. If you’d rather relax, you can float around in the lazy river or challenge each other to a game of water basketball. Little kiddies can splash around in either a padded splash pad, the slides or the water playground with the ever-so-popular tipping bucket.

Pro tip: Make your stay at the Great Wolf Lodge Illinois even wilder by booking the Wolf Den Suite. The family suite is furnished bunk beds for the kiddos and private, spacious accommodations for adults. 

Pelican Harbor Aquatic Park

If you live in the west and south portions of Chicagoland, this option works great for your family. There are two water slides and a Parkie the Pelican tot slide, tumble buckets and a 10-person hot tub (for when parents need a break). Pelican Harbor is operated by the park district and it’s smaller than other indoor water parks.

The Water Works

It’s close, it’s cheap and it’s an easy way to do an indoor water park without making a huge commitment. The many shallow areas make it great for tiny tots, but the slides guarantee that your slightly older child (under 10 is probably best) also will enjoy their day here.

Indoor Water Parks Worth the Drive From Chicagoland

water parks near chicagoland
Photo credit: TravelWisconsin.com

Breakers Bay Waterpark at Blue Harbor Resort

Hang 10 at the water park and try surfing indoors. If you don’t know where to start, you can take a private lesson. Toddlers can splash away in an area made just for them with slides and splash zones, while all kids will have a fun time exploring the four-story activity center. Thrill-seekers can slide down from any of the three-story slides. Even if the weather isn’t great, take time to head outside and take in the lakefront views.

Grand Bear Falls Indoor Waterpark

This 24,000-square-foot indoor waterpark is open year-round and offers day passes for guests, non-guests and even locals. It features a wave pool, water slides, lazy river and a kiddie pool for the younger visitors. Take a break and grab a bite to eat at the Wave Café.

Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark

If you’re looking for a weekend getaway, Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark is great for younger kids. The highlight is the water playground with tipping bucket and water features. You’ll find water sprinklers, slides and shallow waters. Once you’ve dried off, head to the arcade, which offers plenty of fun and of course, prizes.

Kalahari Resorts

They’ve got everything you’ll need for a great staycation, so you’ll park your car and won’t return to it until it’s time to go home. We’re obsessed with the really crazy slides that drop you, free-fall style into the water and the baby area, which will entertain even the tiniest babies. When you’re tired of the water activities, let your kids blow off the rest of their energy at the 10,000-square-foot indoor theme park. Go to the bowling alley or conquer the climbing wall.

Pirate’s Cay Indoor Waterpark

Bring out your inner pirate at this indoor waterpark in LaSalle County. It’s only a little over an hour away from Chicago, making it an easy trip to make with little ones. Families can race down the winding tubes and float down the lazy river. There is even a spot just for the littles, which includes a pirate ship play place, shooting water guns and dump buckets. Need a break from the water? Test your skills at the arcade or enjoy a flick at the onsite movie theater.

Springs Waterpark at Ingleside Hotel 

Springs Waterpark is a kiddie haven with a zero-entry pool water playground, dump buckets and tame slides. Chill out on the lazy river. Daredevils have three slides to choose for thrills: a 362-foot-long boat slide, a 317-foot-long tube slide or a 206-foot-long body slide that twists and turns all the way to the bottom. The indoor and outdoor hot tub will surely be a family favorite. Be sure to check out the interactive arcade and grab a bite to eat at the snack bar.

Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark at Grand Geneva

Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark is perfect for children ages 0-10. They’ve got a wading pool, slides and a mushroom fountain — plus a pool that maxes out at less than 4 feet. Your older children can entertain themselves by playing water basketball, going down a massive water slide or checking out the lazy river. A food court and a barbecue restaurant are available as well as an arcade and outdoor mini golf course.

Wilderness Resort 

It’s one of the largest water parks in the Midwest and it’s spread out into four separate water parks, so there is a lot to do. They’ve got great water slides for the swimmers and tons of shallow areas for the tots. They have other attractions like golf, arcades, spa and plenty of onsite dining. Due to the sheer size of the water park, expect to do lots of walking, so bring a stroller if necessary.

Tips for Families When Visiting a Water Park

Timber Ridge Waterpark
Photo credit: Timber Ridge Waterpark/Cheryl Eugenio

Before you grab your swimsuit, read up on water safety for children and get some helpful tips for visiting a waterpark as a family. 

  • Get early access. Many water parks offer their guests early access to the park. If you’re staying overnight, find out if you get any special perks with your stay that can help you beat the crowds and make the most of your trip. 
  • Bring swim diapers. Most parks require swim diapers for children who are not toilet trained. 
  • Wear the right swimsuit. Make sure your swimwear is appropriate for a family setting. Swimwear with zippers, buckles and other sharp materials is usually not allowed in the water park for safety reasons. Blue swimwear is not recommended for children because it can make them difficult to spot underwater. 
  • Obey the lifeguards. This one may seem obvious, but the lifeguards are in charge while you’re at the water park. Listening to their instructions will not only ensure you have the best experience, it can also prevent any accidents and keep your family safe. 
  • Take a swim lesson before you go. If your child is not a strong swimmer, they likely won’t feel comfortable when a ride sends them under the water. Know your child’s limitations and consider signing them up for a swim lesson to improve their skills and confidence in the water. 
  • Know your child’s height. Many water rides have a height and/or age requirement. Keeping your child away from attractions they aren’t tall enough to ride can help prevent meltdowns when they are turned away after waiting in line. 
  • Bring towels. Towel service can be limited on busy days. Be sure to bring your own towels, just in case.
  • Pack a change of clothes. You don’t want to leave the water park in a swimsuit! In addition to a change of clothes, bring any toiletries you would normally use to get ready — deodorant, a comb, hair products, wipes, etc., can all be useful and avoid an unnecessary trip back to your car or the hotel room. 

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Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts is the assistant editor on the Chicago Parent team. She is always on the lookout for the coolest and trendiest new attractions, restaurants and events for Chicagoland families. Her newsletters, online family guides and exciting digital content keep families informed on all the latest happenings around town.
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