13 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 water park. I honestly can’t get enough pool time with my toddler son, whose megawatt smile stretches from ear to ear as soon as he sees his 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 water park 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 son annually since 2016. “We dream about the lazy river the whole year.”
Here are a few of the best hotel pools I’m adding to my bucket (hat) list. BYO water wings. (Note: Disney resorts are famous for their family-friendly pools, so this list includes non-Disney options you might not be as familiar with.)
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 chute at 22 miles an hour. Bonus: There’s 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 water park 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 slide 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? Whee!
Nearby family must-see: The much-ballyhooed Arizona Science Center, with exhibits like Get Charged Up (a science-focused section) and an immersion theater.
Tenaya at Yosemite in Fish Camp, California
Relax after a nature-filled day at one of Tenaya’s four pools (three outdoor and one indoor) that include a wading pool and luxury cabanas. Younger kids will love the splash pool and mushroom water features, and the whole family can enjoy a two-for-one experience at the nightly dive-in movie in the indoor pool.
Nearby family must-see: Enjoy an old-time train ride aboard the Jenny Car railroad excursion, which is meant to have you experience how loggers used to travel.
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 ducky 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 there’s 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, and 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: There’s a glam indoor pool and a spa complete with mani-pedis for tots 6 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.
Silver Mountain Resort in Kellogg, Idaho
Variety is the name of the game at Idaho’s largest indoor water park. From a surf simulator and a basketball hoop lagoon to a lazy river and shallow pool (with kiddie slides) for small children, there’s always something to keep the kids entertained. The whole family can relax in the Warm Springs, which is not as hot as a standard hot tub. For an amenity-filled day, you can also rent several different types of cabanas, which include phone chargers, towels, and a TV.
Nearby family must-see: Put on your prospector hat to explore a real gold mine and pan for gems at Crystal Gold Mine.
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
Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark in Geneva, Illinois
Located on the grounds of the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, you can visit this water wonderland when you buy the Waterpark Package at the Grand or when you stay as a guest at Timber Ridge. Moose Mountain Falls is an indoor/outdoor water park (with outdoor pools open seasonally). It features covered water slides that wind outside before landing you in the indoor pool, a lazy river, an activity pool for older kids, and a special “Tiny Timbers” section for smaller children.
Nearby family must-see: Get adventurous when you go on a drive-thru safari with Safari Lake Geneva. Interact with zebras, camels, and giraffes from the comfort of your car.