My family and I recently went to the Kalahari Sandusky Ohio. We came to Sandusky to check out all the water parks in the area. Sandusky is known as one of the best areas in the midwest for its theme park and it has plenty of options for water park lovers.
It’s also home to the headquarters for both Cedar Fair (one of the biggest theme park operators in the country) and Kalahari Resorts (the leading mega-resort water park company in America).
We chose to stay at the Kalahari because it’s so huge! We’ve been to Great Wolf Lodge before, but wanted to experience something a little different. Kalahari is definitely different than Great Wolf Lodge and although it caters to an older audience, it was still a great time for our two year old son.
I’ve tried to outline everything below that will help you make a decision on whether or not it’s something your family would be interested in.. or if you’ve already booked your trip, hopefully this is helpful preparing you for your upcoming trip!
Kalahari Sandusky Fun Facts
Before I get into the details of our trips, I thought it’d be helpful to tell you more about the resort. Here are some fun facts about the Kalahari in Sandusky, Ohio:
- The resort opened in 2005 and was the second Kalahari Resort to open after their Wisconsin Dells location.
- The resort is HUGE at over 1,300,000 square feet – that’s bigger than 22 football fields!
- It can vary throughout the year but the resort employs about 1,000 people.
- There are 46 water slides, 9 pools and whirlpools, 18 indoor attractions and cabanas, a spa, food options and even an indoor/outdoor adult swim up bar.
- The resort has 890 guest rooms – that’s enough to be the second largest hotel in all of Ohio.
Our Check In – It’s Fully Digital!
I really enjoyed the check in process at the Kalahari Sandusky. We arrived at 3PM to a long line of cars arriving at the same time. I was worried that I would have to wait in a huge line to check in, but that wasn’t the case! They have self check in kiosks which are really efficient.
I walked right up to a machine – even though the front desk had a line up, there were a few check in machines available. I provided my ID and credit card and after a few taps on the screen, the machine spat out my wristbands a receipt with my room number on it.
The whole check in process took under 5 minutes and was one of the best check in experiences I’ve had at a hotel.
The Guest Rooms
At check in, I received a receipt with directions on how to find my room. This was much appreciated as the Kalahari is a bit overwhelming for a first time guest. Our room was in the Condo section of the resort which is at the very back. It was a long walk, but thankfully the instructions on the receipt included driving instructions.
We drove around the resort and parked closer to the door and were able to unload at an entrance closer to our room.
The rooms are nothing fancy. Since the resort is so large, they have a huge selection of different types and sizes of rooms. Some are accommodate huge groups, but the majority of the rooms are standard hotel rooms.
Our room had two queen beds, a small seating area and a patio. The patio is always a nice touch when travelling with kids and included two chairs overlooking the outdoor water park. That’d be fantastic in the summer to watch your kids from a distance if they’re old enough to go on their own.
Similar to most rooms at water park hotels, this one was nothing fancy but it was clean and did the job. We didn’t spend much time in the room anyway as there is so much else to do.
The Water Park – WOW!
The reason most people go to Kalarahi Sandusky is for the water park. It’s one of the biggest indoor water parks in the world and is a great place to spend some time in the colder winter months.
Being so large, there are many great elements but my favorite was the wave pool. That may sound odd because most water parks have wave pools, but on a cold winter day, the skylights in the roof allow so much sun in that you can lay on a beach chair and feel the warmth.
While you’re laying in the sun wearing your swimsuit, it almost makes you forget you’re in Ohio and it’s freezing cold outside!
Because the water park is so large, it has something for everyone. There are two separate smaller kid areas – one focused more on babies and really young kids (Coral Cove) and one for more mobile toddlers (Kid’s Safari).
If your kids are a bit older, the water playground (Leopard’s Lair) is a pretty big and will do a great job of getting you soaking wet as you climb through it… especially if you get caught until the giant tipping bucket.
For the teenagers in the group, there is a wide variety of slides. Kalahari Sandusky has body slides, mat racing slides and tube slides with a few different sized tubes. If you have a big enough group, the mat racing slides are always fun and can get your competitive juices flowing.
There are so many great slides here, but I think the Tanzanian Twister is probably one of the signature rides. While you can find this at other Kalahari resorts, it’s not something you’ll see at your average water park.
This water park also has two FlowRider wave simulators where you can learn to surf. When we were there, one of them was closed the whole time we were there and the other had a consistent line up. It’s clearly one of the more popular attractions at the Kalahari Sandusky.
If you’re looking for something a little slower paced, they have a lazy river or indoor/outdoor hot tubs available.
There is even an indoor/outdoor spa with a swim up bar for the adults (Mud Hut). One part that I especially like about this bar is that it’s on the front of the building which is peaceful and on the opposite side of the outdoor water park. That means you can enjoy your drink in peace and quiet.
If you’re an overnight guest, you’ll also have access to the free towel rental. Just make sure to return them otherwise you’ll be charged.
There are also plenty of life jackets available throughout the water park which is good as they’re vigilant about ensuring kids under 48” wear them.
We went in the winter, but if you are there in the summer months, the outdoor water park is also huge and jammed with fun things for kids of all ages.
“Big Game Room” – The Arcade
Outside of the water park, the next most impressive attraction at Kalahari is the arcade. Simply put, it’s huge! Walking through the arcade feels a lot like walking through a Las Vegas casino with all the sounds and energy. It’s just missing the booze and gambling!
Like with most water park resorts, the arcade is located right next to the water park and you have to walk through the arcade to get to the water park.
The Kalahari Sandusky has a bunch of other fun activities like mini golf (indoor glow in the dark and outdoor, seasonally), escape rooms, a VR experience and more.
Food and Dining Options
Considering how big the resort is and how many rooms there are, I would have expected more food options. There are only two full service restaurants open for dinner – Sortino’s Italian Kitchen (the Italian option) and B-Lux Grill & Bar (the upscale pub option). If you’re not in the mood for Italian or a burger, you’ll probably want to head into Sandusky to find something else.
Although the options are limited, I was impressed with how nice the restaurants were. They looks like they’ve been recently updated as they would be a nice place to spend some time.
For breakfast, there is the Great Karoo Marketplace. Some days it’s a buffet while others it’s a restaurant seating. On the day that we went it was a buffet. The food was what you’d expect and the selection was pretty good. They even had a made to order omelette station.
My final comment on the food options here was that they probably need a better system for serving ice cream. I don’t think the resort was full when we were there, but my pregnant wife had to wait for 45 minutes for ice cream. I was shocked to see she actually stuck with it for that long.. but apparently she REALLY wanted ice cream.
There are some other food outlets in the waterpark and room service pizza, but overall the food selection at the Kalahari Sandusky wasn’t anything special.
One key way that Kalahari differentiates itself from Great Wolf Lodge and some other water parks is that they embrace the conference center. The conference center is a key component of the resort and it’s quite expansive. There are many options for small and medium sized rooms as well as one giant room which can be separated into smaller rooms if needed.
They advertise the fact that they host weddings there which would be an interesting place to get married – but at least your guests wouldn’t get bored!
Personally, I think it’d be a bit weird if my employer told me our annual sales conference was going to be at the Kalahari and I’d probably be running into my coworkers in their swimsuits.. but I guess some companies do it?
When we were at the Kalahari Sandusky, there was a cheerleading competition and this seems like a great fit. I can imagine a whole bunch of dance competitions and other large scale kids activities working really well here.
Final Thoughts on the Kalahari Sandusky Ohio
The Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio is a one-stop destination for fun and adventure. The indoor water park is truly world class and in the warmer months, the addition of a huge outdoor water park brings it to the next level. There are also plenty of dry land activities to keep the whole family busy.
The biggest miss for me was the selection of food, but of the food we did eat, it was pretty good.
Our family had a great time and we’ll absolutely be back in the warmer months to check out the outdoor water park.