10 Wildly Fun Hotel Pools Kids Won’t Want to Leave
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When the first heat wave of summer hits, there is nothing — nothing! — like a waterpark. I honestly can’t get enough pool time with my 15-month-old son, whose megawatt smile stretches from ear to ear as soon as he sees his toddler life vest emerge from storage. He knows just where we’re going.
No surprise I’m fantasizing about the day when we can hit the road to stay in a mermaid, merman, and mer-kid mecca: the waterpark hotel. Essentially water parks with full resorts attached, these places are among the family-friendliest hotels you’ll ever stay in, with truly jaw-dropping pool perks, like multiple kid-ready dining options right on the premises and nearby adventures for all ages. The best part? When your wee ones tire of the water (it happens!) you can all take a nap in your room upstairs before coming back for more. You’ll find crowds and prices plummet during the school year for obvious reasons, but there’s nothing like a splashy summer trip.
I’m not the only one who loves these vacays-made-easy. “When my family thinks about summer, four words come to mind: Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek,” says Ana de Oliveira from Annapolis, Maryland, who has booked a stay there with her husband Gabriel and 6-year-old son annually since 2016. “We dream about the lazy river the whole year.”
Here, a few of the best hotel pools I’m adding to my bucket (hat) list. BYO water wings.
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Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort in Maui, Hawaii
Leave it to Maui to kick things up a notch. Tweens adore this seafront stay for its NINE pool options, all connected by a “river” complete with whitewater rapids. Even cooler than that? The Tarzan pool with a rope swing, caves, six rushing waterfalls, and even a three-story lava slide that will have you whooshing down the shoot at 22 miles an hour. Bonus: a baby beach and adults-only, mosaic-lined Hibiscus Pool.
Nearby Family Must-See: Surfing Goat Dairy in the lush foothills of the Haleakala volcano, where you can even milk a goat.
Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, California
When they call their on-site waterpark Splashtopia, they’re not lying. The place has it all, including a 425-foot-long lazy river, two curvy 100-foot water slides that appear to be free-flowing from a rock cliff, and a sandy beach complete with sprinklers for littles. We love that the adjacent Splash Grill offers dishes like plant-based “chicken” tenders for wee ones and cocktails like the Mango Creamsicle for you.
Nearby Family Must-See: Joshua Tree National Park, with its otherworldly landscape straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, will leave them besotted with nature for life.
Arizona Grand Resort in Phoenix, Arizona
Set on seven acres, this place has a distinct Disney magic-goes-to-the-desert vibe. If you’re 48” tall, you can chute down eight stories of “thrill slides.” Littles will love Wild Cat Springs, a gentle, shallower pool area designed just for them. Did we mention the ginormous 25-person hot tub and the side-by-side active river, just raring for you to float in? The word “Whee!” comes to mind.
Nearby Family Must-See: The much-ballyhooed Arizona Science Center, where current exhibits include Pop: The Science of Bubbles.
Camelback Lodge, Poconos in Aquatopia, Pennsylvania
The Poconos aren’t just for honeymooners and heart-shaped pools, as Camelback Resort will attest. Their Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark is a year-round destination for good reason, including a surfing simulator that lets you practice shredding the gnar on 40,000 gallons of rushing water a minute; a free-fall body slide with a 60-foot vertical drop (48” height minimum); and an arctic-themed adventure lagoon for little ones with zero-depth entry called Penguin Play Bay.
Nearby Family Must-See: Bushkill Falls, where eight rushing waterfalls deep in a lush forest have earned the moniker “The Niagara of Pennsylvania.”
The Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia
Some 23 U.S. Presidents have stayed at this iconic resort, presumably to hit the pool (even President Thomas Jefferson soaked in the natural mineral waters on-site in 1818). The Allegheny Springs water bubbles up from the earth to feed their two-acre water park, where you’ll find a sandy beach, circa 1904 indoor pool, and a water play zone for wee ones. Oh, did we mention they host rubber duckie races on the 400-foot-long lazy river twice a day? President Jefferson missed out.
Nearby Family Must-See: Hike the Appalachian mountains in the nearly 2 million acre wonderland of George Washington National Forest.
Cape Codder Resort & Spa in Hyannis, Massachusetts
This place is a total Cape Cod throwback, in a good way. On the premises: an 8,200 square foot wave pool with two foot swells; a littles-ready spray pool called Pirate Bay complete with arrrrr-some water cannons and a dumping bucket; and a 300-foot-long “stormy river” where you’ll wend past a humpback whale and even waterfalls. Bonus: they recently installed an ultraviolet light pool disinfection system.
Nearby Family Must-See: Speaking of pirates. Some of the most jaw-dropping putt putt courses are at Pirate’s Cove, which has 24 locations across the country because it’s that fun to navigate your ball around rushing waterfalls and dank caves.
Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek in Orlando, Florida
It takes a lot to wow kids in a town like Orlando, where family-friendly exploits are at every turn. But this place will drop their jaws, thanks to free loaner inner tubes for floating the lagoon; a zero-entry area for toddlers; and private poolside cabana rentals outfitted with everything from a snack basket to HD flatscreen. Feeling peckish? Their poolside restaurant, Beech, serves up blackened tuna tacos with avocado relish and ice cream sandwiches with fresh-baked cookies.
Nearby Family Must-See: Head to the 70,000-square-foot Crayola Experience to watch how crayons get made and even name and wrap your very own personalized Crayola crayon.
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa in San Antonio, Texas
Everything’s bigger in Texas — even the hotel waterparks. This one is five whopping acres, and includes a Texas-shaped pool (because of course it does), a FlowRider wave machine for surfing, and a 950-foot-long black bottomed river that flows around the dappled sunlight below live oak trees. Oh, did we mention SeaWorld is just three miles away?
Nearby Family Must-See: The San Antonio Aquarium, where you can snorkel with stingrays or pet ring-tailed lemurs.
The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado
The grande dame of Colorado’s resorts maintains an 11,000-square-foot outdoor infinity pool edging Cheyenne Lake, plus a children’s pool and waterslides inspired by mountain waterfalls. (Bonus: a glam indoor pool and a spa complete with mani-pedi’s for tots six years and up, available year-round).
Nearby Family Must-See: Hop on the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad for a whirl through the mountains on a steam engine that departs an 1894 depot.
Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
The largest water park resort in the nation at 600 acres, Wilderness Resort is nothing short of legendary. Four indoor waterparks? Check. Another four outdoor water parks? Check. Don’t miss the Wild Waterdome, an atrium-covered 70,000-square-foot waterpark with the largest indoor wave pool in the country, plus Cubby’s Cove, where little ones can frolic in a zero-depth spray pool.
Nearby Family Must-See: Ride horses or peruse the petting zoo — with ponies, goats, llamas and more — at Woodside Ranch