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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, July 28, 2014

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In Travel & Visitors Guide

KeyLime Cove is a 45-minute drive from Milwaukee.

In Travel & Visitors Guide

The Hurrican Vortex: KeyLime Cove's wildest ride.

KeyLime Cove corners market on convenience


Initially, the most notable aspect of KeyLime Cove is that, despite the name, a "key" isn't part of the experience. Instead, the required-to-wear wristband doubles as an electronic device to open the room. It's accommodating details like this that make the year-old water park in Gurnee, Ill., a very easy place to spend time with the family.

Because KeyLime Cove is relatively new -- it opened in February 2008 -- the designers were able to critique already-existing water parks and copy or improve on the them. Hence, the smart layout and attentiveness of staff members make navigation a breeze.

"KeyLime Cove is laid out based on the history of other water parks," says general manager Dale McFarland. "We wanted to make it the best of the best."

McFarland says the room colors were chosen by a panel of moms and that the building plans didn't skimp on construction to ensure minimal-to-no neighbor noise.

The common area of the hotel is designed as (Key West's) "Duval Street," complete with shops, eateries, faux street vendors and performers. There's also an arcade.

Although it's easy for money to pour out of the wallet, KeyLime Cove offers a variety of free activities from hula lessons to cupcake decorating to offset entertainment costs.

Like all water parks, the lack of truly healthy food is disappointing. For the most part, KeyLime Cove sells typical hotdogs-and-pizza fare, so consider packing food to supplement the treats. KeyLime's healthiest option is the Crazy Toucan Margarita Grill which is similar to an Applebee's. Also, the RainForest Cafe is located less than five minutes way at the Gurnee Mills outlet mall.

One of the biggest advantages to KeyLime Cove for Milwaukeeans is the short distance. KeyLime Cove is less than an hour from Milwaukee -- about 45 miles -- which makes a quick weekend getaway very possible as opposed to the two-hour drive to The Dells.

Aside from KeyLime Cove, Gurnee is home to Six Flags Great America and the afore-mentioned Gurnee Mills outlet mall. Keep in mind, however, KeyLime Cove does not have an outdoor water park -- at this point, anyway -- so summer visitors will want to take this into account and weigh it against further-away water parks.

"We do have plans for expansion," says McFarland. "We're looking into a lot of different options right now."

KeyLime Cove offers slides and rides for all ages, from the mellow lazy river to the wild Hurricane Vortex. The Vortex is a rush, but not as large as similar swirling whirlpool rides in the Dells. The wave pool and slide selection is plentiful and the family-friendly hot tub is appreciated by parents who need a few minutes of warmth and relaxation.

KeyLime Cove houses the Paradise Mist Spa with services for adults and teens such as lava shell massages, cocoa mango body scrubs, facials, manicures and pedicures.

KeyLime Cove is 65,000 sq. ft. and offers either rooms or full suites. Prices vary and numerous specials are usually offered, so check the Web site for up-to-the-minute rates. KeyLime Cove is the official resort of Six Flags Great America and offers overnight package deals that include Six Flags' tickets.

Check in at KeyLime Cove is 4 p.m., but guests are invited to access the water park as early as 1 p.m. Rooms are often available before 4 p.m. but not guaranteed. Check-out is 11 a.m.

"We're always open to suggestions. Our goal is to make this the No. 1 water park for Milwaukee," says McFarland.


Talkbacks

stephchin | June 30, 2009 at 10:04 a.m. (report)

Suggestion: have packages for scout troops without rooms. They refused our business on this. They only want overnight business.

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PepperGuy | June 29, 2009 at 3:20 p.m. (report)

We took the kids there last year and had a great experience. Eveything was still fairly new and very clean. There's even a hint of lime smell throughout the resort.

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viewfromnyave | June 29, 2009 at 1:07 p.m. (report)

Every time I see that annoying commercial on tv I hope that Disney sues them for copyright infringement on their Pirates of the Caribbean characters. Also, are The Beach Boys getting their cut from the commercial jingle?

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