Splash into Amish country

If you go

Room rates at Splash Universe start at $149.99 for two queen beds and $229.99 for the Kids’ Bunkhouse Suites, which feature a king and four bunks. The rooms are very clean and well-appointed and include admission to the water park, but do not include breakfast. Visit wanawaves.splashuniverse.com or call (877) 752-7482 for information and reservations.

Kid-tested travel

Looking for a novel spring break destination this year? Consider taking a three-hour drive from Chicago to the new Splash Universe Water Park Resort in Shipshewana, Ind.

At 25,000 square feet, the Splash Universe water park is relatively small as water parks go, compared to the 125,000 square feet boasted by the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells. But the advantage, from a parent’s perspective, is that you can quickly scan to see that all of your kids have heartbeats without leaving the comfort of your deck chair.

In spite of the manageable number of stairs up, the big slides do not disappoint. There are plenty of twists and turns to please the thrill seeker in you and your kids. When it’s time to chill out, parents can hit the hot tub or join their kids on the lazy river. Wee ones will delight in the just-right-for-them zero-entry pool and splash zone. Older kids will appreciate the medium-sized slides and the anticipation of waiting for a huge barrel of water to empty onto their heads in a dramatic deluge.

Waterlogged? Duck into the adjacent arcade. I could have played"Deal-Or-No-Deal” for days.

Time for the fish to feed? If the poolside café won’t do (complete with fast food and snacks), Splash Universe’s on-site restaurant, Clear Spring, is a buffet-style, family- and budget-friendly option that more than satisfies. For breakfast, the omelet station and home fries are winners, and the fried chicken available at lunch and dinner? Well, let’s just say I know my fried chicken, and this crispy, succulent entree did not disappoint. My husband, who was raised on the real thing, was even impressed. Clear Spring’s meatloaf is a homerun, too. The baked goods, fresh from the ovens at the nearby Blue Gate Restaurant (run by a Mennonite family which also owns and operates Clear Spring), are blue-ribbon quality.

This particular water park will appeal most to families with younger kids, as far as the water attractions go. Teenagers will certainly enjoy the big slides at Splash Universe, but might prefer the environments afforded by the bigger parks. The genuinely friendly and courteous staff is among Splash Universe’s biggest assets.

Aside from the handy locker rooms’ need for more prompt tidying-up, this new vacation destination in the heart of Indiana’s Amish country is a terrific spring break choice. The kids will enjoy taking a break from swimming one afternoon to count the Amish buggies passing by or even take a ride in one. Carriage rides are available at the nearby Blue Gate Restaurant and Theater, which also features a marketplace of Amish crafts. Families planning visits from May through October will get to take in the legendary Shipshewana Flea Market, too. A huge bargain-hunter, I know I’ll return then.

Open year-round right next door to Splash Universe is the Hostetler’s Hudsons Auto Museum, housed in the Shipshewana Town Center. The museum holds the world’s largest collection of antique Hudson automobiles, donated by inventor Eldon Hostetler. One man’s passion for cars grew into a collection that now includes 52 cars and trucks. Each of these vehicles has a fascinating history, and my kids delighted in reading and reporting about how much they sold for back in the day, how many were built and who owned them. Holly loves the 1925 Essex Roadster, which reminds her of the car in the film"Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang,” while Noah’s favorite is the 1956 Hudson Hornet Sedan. Admission to the museum is free to kids under 6, $6 for older kids and $8 for adults and kids over 13.

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