Water parks aren’t just for the summer. In fact, since we live in Chicago, where the cold weather months far outnumber the warm ones, we think these all-season water parks are a wish come true. And here in Chicagoland, we’ve got a handful of indoor water parks that are within four hours from home. The hardest part: Choosing which one to enjoy!
Drive time from Chicago: 1 hour, Gurnee
Reason to go: Looking for an easy drive from Chicago? One of the newer waterparks to hit the area is all about family fun. 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.
Restaurants: You’ll never go hungry with plenty of options including a farm to table restaurant, a “taco truck,” and, of course, any family favorite — pizza. Sweet options include Ben & Jerry’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and a candy shop.
Need to know: You’ll have as much fun out of the water as you will in the water. The 40,000 sq. foot adventure park awaits with a ropes course, MagiQuest, a climbing wall, bowling, mini golf, arcade and more.
Drive time from Chicago: 3 1/2 hours; Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
Reason to go: It’s one of the largest water parks in the Midwest and it’s spread out into three 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. For climbing enthusiasts, they’ve added three more rock climbing walls ranging in difficulty to their Timberland Playhouse area.
Restaurants: Everything from burgers to pasta to sandwiches to please even the pickiest eaters. You also could rent a condo, which comes with a small kitchen if you want to BYO meals.
Need to know: During the off-season, they usually close one of their water parks. Also, due to the sheer size of the water park, expect to do lots of walking, so bring a stroller if necessary.
Drive time from Chicago: 3 1/2 hours; Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
Reason to go: 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.
Restaurants: We love their cheesy options — cheese curds made onsite or pizza are the way to go here.
Need to know: When you’re tired of the water activities, let your kids blow off the rest of their energy at the revamped 10,000 square foot indoor theme park. Go bowling alley or conquer the climbing wall. Hire a sitter, and relax at their movie theater after the kids go to bed. Feel free to bring your own food, since each room has a microwave and a refrigerator.
Drive time from Chicago: 40 minutes, Schaumburg
Reason to go: It’s close, it’s cheap and it’s an easy way to do a 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.
Restaurants: Leave the water park to go to all the chain restaurants nearby (Woodfield Mall is only 15 minutes away).
Need to know: This is a bare bones park. It’s operated by the park district, so there’s no hotel or other amenities.
Drive time from Chicago: 2 hours; Lake Geneva, Wis.
Reason to go: It’s 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.
Restaurants: A food court and a barbecue restaurant are available. You also can drive five minutes to dozens of restaurants in the Lake Geneva area.
Need to know: When you’re done with the water park, check out the arcade, the movies, crafts and pajama story time. If you plan on bringing your own food, you can request a suite with a full kitchen.
Drive time from Chicago: 45 minutes, Bolingbrook
Reason to go: 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 (when parents need a break).
Restaurants: Leave the water park to go to all the chain restaurants on Weber Road.
Need to know: This is operated by the park district and it’s smaller than other indoor water parks.
Drive time from Chicago: 2 hours and 20 minutes; Pewaukee, Wis.
Reason to go: It’s a kiddie haven with a zero entry pool water playground, dump buckets and tame slides. Chill out on the lazy river. Daredevils have 3 slides to choose for thrills: a 362-foot long boat slide, a 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.
Restaurants: A snack bar is available on-site when hunger strikes. Food ranges from pizza to sandwiches to ice cream. Another tasty (and easy) option is getting food at the hotel’s restaurant, Didi’s Supper Club. Their pizza was a big hit with the kids.
Need to know: Day passes are available if wanting to enjoy the water park only. When you’re done with the water park, check out the arcade.
Drive time from Chicago: 3 hours; Dubuque, Iowa
Reason to go: It’s 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.
Restaurants: Tony Roma’s is connected to the hotel with plenty of food options such as salads, sandwiches, burgers and more. Venture outside the water park to downtown Dubuque no more than 5 minutes away to find plenty of other options.
Need to know: Once you’ve dried off, head to the arcade which offers plenty of fun and of course prizes.
Drive time from Chicago: 2 1/2 hours; Sheboygan, Wis.
Reason to go: Hang ten 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 4-story activity center. Thrill-seekers can slide down from any of the three-story slides.
Restaurants: A snack shop is located in the water park. At the hotel, you can dine at any of the restaurants serving pizza, sandwiches, salads, cheese curds and more.
Need to know: Even if the weather isn’t great, take time to head outside and take in the lakefront views.
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This article was originally published on Jan. 23, 2019. It has been updated with the most recent information.