By: Joanne Colella
It’s March, that month of the year that often comes in like a lion and, hopefully, goes out like a lamb. For the winter-weary among us, it is the time when spring fever starts to set in as we longingly await the warmer months. It is far too soon to enjoy any local beaches or pools, and tropical travels are not always doable. What is one to do, then, to scratch that summertime itch while the March winds continue to howl, yet still stay within an easy driving distance from home – as well as within your budget? Welcome to the world of indoor waterparks!
In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, there are a number of wet wonders from which to choose, offering the perfect weather-proof getaway for the whole family. Some are located within or adjacent to hotels; others are independent facilities. All offer a variety of day trip or overnight packages, and the chance to enjoy amusements such as slippery slides, exciting arcades, games, play areas, adult retreats, and of course, lots of fun and relaxing pools.
Sahara Sam’s Oasis Indoor and Outdoor Water Park, located at 535 North Route 73 in West Berlin, NJ, opened its doors in March 2009, bills itself as New Jersey’s first free-standing indoor waterpark and entertainment complex, and is open year-round. Guests enjoy a perpetual 84-degree, low humidity paradise just minutes from Philadelphia, in South Jersey. Last November, they broke ground on a $4 million, 10,000-square-foot expansion to the indoor year-round section of the complex. It’s the facility’s second major growth project in two years and the expansion area is expected to open in May. The new section of Sahara Sam’s will be connected to the existing 70,000 square feet of wet indoor fun, with two additional 300-foot-long, four-story high speed Twister water slides (the first of their kind in New Jersey) and a family leisure pool to accompany the existing super-fast 350-foot body slide, New Jersey’s only indoor surfing simulator, tube slides, a meandering river, a cargo obstacle course, a toddler lagoon, and an underwater basketball court. While the kids play, there’s also a lounge and a soothing warming tub for adults to relax. From May through September, Sahara Sam’s also offers outdoor attractions, including a 12,000-square-foot wave pool, a kiddie splash adventure area, leisure pool, tiki bar, cabanas, and volleyball court. The phone number for Sahara Sam’s is (856) 767-7580, or visit their website at www.saharasams.com.
Also in southern New Jersey is the Key West-themed CoCo Key Water Resort, located at 915 Route 73 in Mount Laurel, on the premises of The Hotel ML. With over 55,000 square feet of water resort adventures, thrilling slides, and 84 degrees of ready-made sunshine, kids can have a blast while parents unwind in this unique resort atmosphere. Signature attractions include a wading pool with slides for little swimmers, special events featuring movies and shows displayed on a large “sail screen,” three body- and raft-waterslides, giant whirlpools, zero-depth pool entry areas for younger children, water cannons, a huge bucket that dumps hundreds of gallons of water every few minutes, a fast-paced tube ride through a water island, and an activity pool with lily pads, water basketball, and an animated coral reef backdrop. CoCo Key also has an arcade and various dining facilities. For info, call (866) 754-6964 or visit www.mtlaurelcocokey.com.
For those traveling across the state line into Pennsylvania, there is the 54,000-square-foot H2OOOhh! Indoor Waterpark, found adjacent to the Galleria at Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony, PA. Guests can surf the endless waves of Pennsylvania’s first indoor flow rider, plunge four stories down two exciting slides, blast through total darkness on a twisting, turning, and dipping family tube ride, surf all day on breaking waves up to six feet high, or climb a three-story tree house that boasts firing cannons, spouting geysers, squirting water toys, and gallon-dumping buckets. There is also a toddler play area, hot tubs, a food court, a tiki bar, lockers, and much more. To learn more about H2OOOhh!, call (800) 255-7625 or visit www.splitrockresort.com.
Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, there is the 79,000-square-foot indoor water park at Great Wolf Lodge in the Pocono Mountains, featuring 19 huge slides, six pools (including a wave pool), a giant water fort, a lazy river, and more. Another thrilling attraction boasts a six-story drop into a huge vortex, where brave souls will be thrust up and down each side of the funnel, followed by a 450-degree hairpin turn that shoots into a second vortex before splashdown. And, once the warmer months actually do arrive, Great Wolf Lodge also offers an outdoor waterpark. To find out more, visit their website at www.greatwolf.com/poconos/waterpark or call (800) 768-9653.
Summer may not be here quite yet, but there are still ways to pretend. As the classic television commercial used to say, it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. But boy, is it fun!