Complaints of room cleanliness and maintenance issues
Some rooms are a trek to the water park facilities
Zambezi Outdoor Waterpark open only from Memorial Day through Labor Day
For families (and, oddly, business travelers) looking for the best Wisconsin Dells mega-resorts, the mid-range Kalahari Resorts & Conventions is a strong contender. With 756 guest rooms, indoor and outdoor water parks, an indoor theme park with a bowling alley and mini-golf, nine restaurants and bars, a full-service spa, family activities like cookie decorating, and free passes to the Tommy Bartlett's Thrill Show, the Kalahari offers a complete vacation. African safari is the theme and the hotel brings in lion and tiger cubs on weekends for photo ops. The downsides here are the usual suspects of long lines, maintenance issues in the rooms, a resort fee, and hordes of overstimulated kids. The nearby Chula Vista Resort is a bit more refined and includes an outdoor river walk and hot springs swimming pool.
Though the resort is located in America's Dairyland, the theme is African safari. The massive lobby includes a huge map of African painted on the wall, a compass decorated with elephant figures on the floor, and bamboo pillars. Statues of elephants are sprinkled throughout the property and tribal masks and prints make up the hallways and public areas. Faux tropical foliage and expansive lawns line up against brightly colored buildings embossed with images of giraffes, elephants, and lions. Lines are a common occurrence, as is noise from excited kids. Overall, the look and feel is a bit like a shopping mall or food court with an Africa fetish. Groups, families, and business travelers using the convention center make up the bulk of the guests. Couples looking for quiet and romance should look elsewhere.
There are 756 rooms on four floors, and some of them are a long walk from the parks and restaurants. An indoor skywalk is a perk in the winter season.
Kalahari Resorts & Conventions is located in Wisconsin Dells, near most of the area's attractions. The Dells as a whole aren't quite pedestrian-friendly, so a car is required for getting around. Parking at the resort is free.
Four-minute drive to Outlets at The Dells
Seven-minute drive to Tommy Bartlett's Thrill Show
Eight-minute drive to Wild Rock Golf Course Club House
Nine-minute drive to Original Wisconsin Ducks
10-minute drive to Noah's Ark water park
10-minute drive to Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty
50-minute drive to Dane County Regional Airport in Madison
Two hour-drive to General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee
Range of rooms and suites all with an African theme
The African theme ties all of the 756 rooms and suites together, but the decor is more understated than what's found in the public areas of the hotel. Walls are painted white and the furniture and bed runners are done in earth tones. African prints and framed paintings of elephants add a little oomph to the otherwise basic rooms. Hut and Desert Rooms are the most affordable options, and the farthest from the theme parks. These come with two queen beds, and the Hut has a furnished balcony while the Desert has a sleeper sofa. An upgrade to the Nomad Room brings a sleeper sofa, private balcony, and a fireplace. All rooms come standard with a mini-fridge, microwave, coffeemaker, flat-screen TV, and free Wi-Fi. Simple bathrooms usually consist of a shower-tub combo covered with a tribal print cloth curtain. A counter with a single sink holds the coffeemaker and a bar of soap. Past guests have complained about spotty housekeeping and maintenance problems like backed up drains and loud air conditioner units.
All rooms are priced for four people, so there's an additional charge to have a fifth person or child use the sleeper sofa. Adjoining rooms are available, and called the Village Room when booked together. Suites provide more square footage and better amenities. The Hospitality Suite has a full wet bar and a deck that overlooks the water park.
Off-site, the Kalahari rents full homes and chalets on Lake Delton, which is three miles away. They can sleep up to 20 people and include full kitchens, porches with lake views, laundry facilities, and fireplaces.
Some of the fun freebies that guests get at the Kalahari are free cookie decorating, the opportunity to take pictures with lion and tiger cubs on weekends, and free passes in the summer to Tommy Bartlett's Thrill Show and the Timbovati Exotic Animal Zoo.
The resort is geared towards families, but parents can enjoy a large fitness center with cardio and weight machines and the full-service spa and salon which provides nail treatments with O.P.I. polish, facials, and massages. There's a huge gift shop that sells everything from novelty candy to souvenirs and t-shirts.
Indoor water park, indoor theme park, and a seasonal outdoor water park
Let's be real. Other than the business travelers, every single guest at Kalahari is here for the water and theme parks. It's too bad that the indoor theme parks costs extra and all of the areas are mobbed in the summer as the hotel also sells entrance to the public.
Kalahari's Zambezi Outdoor Waterpark (included with the room price) is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It's fun for little kids and older kids, with interactive splash pads and thrilling 400-foot long racer slides. Splashdown Safari has safari Jeeps and interactive African animal fountains. There's also a lazy river and a 50-person whirlpool spa. Luxury cabanas are available for rent, for those who want shade, drinks service, and a flat-screen TV in the park.
Inside, there's a year-round water park that's even more massive than the outdoor one. The highlight here is the Flowrider Surf Simulator, where riders can catch a wave on a surfboard. Additional facilities include the Zig-Zag Zebra, a wave pool, indoor and outdoor hot tub, and a swim-up bar. Apart from the surf simulator, the indoor park is more suited to little ones than teens.
The indoor theme park costs extra to access, but is worth the price of admission. This is where you'll find a 24-hour bowling alley, go-carts, mini-golf, laser tag, and enormous arcade. There's a sports bar for parents to hang out in while their kids run wild.
Kalahari Resorts & Conventions has nine restaurants and bars scattered throughout their property. Breakfast isn't included, though there are packages for an additional cost. There are several additional restaurants inside the water parks.
Double Cut Grill is the fanciest dining option, but it's still laidback. They serve grilled steaks and meat, cocktails, and a huge wine selection.
Wisconsin Brew Pub is a family-friendly option that serves local Wisconsin beers and pub fare.
The Great Karoo has an African theme (no surprise there) and serves buffet-style meals.
Soon to be a 230,000-square-foot convention center
Because of the water parks and families, it may seem strange to think of the Kalahari as a business hotel, but it has some of the best business facilities in the state of Wisconsin. Currently there's over 100,000 square feet of African-inspired convention and meeting space, with a variety of meeting rooms that can hold up to several thousand guests. The resort is also expanding its facilities to include an additional 130,000-square-feet, set to be completed in September 2019. A dedicated staff takes care of everything from catering to equipment rental to organizing retreats. Guests can access the business center, which has a personal computer and a copy machine. Wi-Fi is free throughout the resort.
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