Relying on Wisconsin weather is always a gamble, especially when planning a getaway. All too many camp-outs have resulted in soggy bags of marshmallows and quick escapes to nearby motels. But to avoid the stress of nervous cloud watching, indoor water parks offer all-weather fun for everyone in the family. (Well, OK, maybe not Spot or Mittens.)
Winter, of course, minimizes physical activity for lots of families, making water parks even more desirable during this time of year.
"Because they offer a variety of age-appropriate activities, water parks are one of those rare getaways the entire family can agree on," says Jeannine Sherman, public relations manager at VISIT Milwaukee.
Sure, the Wisconsin Dells area has awesome water parks -- and Great Wolf Lodge, Wilderness Resort and Kalahari to name a few -- but there are a few splash-tacular options in and around Milwaukee that offer a quicker escape.
Paradise Landing is inside the Downtown Hilton City Center; Waukesha's Country Springs Hotel houses The Springs water park, and the newest one is Breaker Bay, inside the Blue Harbor Hotel in Sheboygan.
But with all that slipping and sliding, are water parks safe? Milwaukee's Jennifer Lucas and her family have tried a few different water parks, and feel that they are, as long as ground rules are in place.
"I treat a water park the same way I would treat a day at the beach or the park. I stay with my kids and don't leave them unsupervised. When my youngest was little, we made her wear a life vest when she was there, just in case," says Lucas.
Younger children are at greater risk, and must be assisted in all areas of the water park. Life jackets, preservers and blow-up "wings" are recommended for all kids, but especially wee ones. Trying to avoid high-traffic times is also a good idea.
"We found that the parks with more 'little kid' stuff' are less busy than the ones with monster-sized slides," says Whitefish Bay's Lori Ahrenhoerster.
For some budgets, the water park experience might be too expensive, especially on weekends and during holidays, which is the only time many families are able to break away. In such cases, the day pass might make more sense, or -- although reliant on the weather -- the Milwaukee County Parks offer two outdoor water parks, Cool Waters in Greenfield Park and Kosciuszko Park's Pelican Cove.
Indoor Water Parks
Blue Harbor, Sheboygan, (920) 452-2900
Rates: Call ahead; rates vary immensely depending on date and availability. Day passes: Weekdays (Monday-Friday) $15 per person; weekends $20. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Friday open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. and $15 per person, Saturdays and Sundays $20. Tax added to all admissions. Prices good until March 1.
Breaker Bay features 43,000 square feet of water park with seven water slides, 12 levels of fountains, spray guns, valves and hoses, and a "tipping ship" dumping 1,000 gallons of cascading water (Careful, don't lose your bathing shorts!).
17oo Nations Dr., Gurnee, Ill., (877)-360-0403
The KeyLime Cove water park is not open to guests, but is included in the cost of a hotel room. Prices range greatly depending on time of year and type of accommodations. Call or visit the Web site for more information.
Country Springs Hotel
2810 Golf Rd., Waukesha, (800) 247-6640
Rates: Weekends range from $99 to $339 per night; weekdays from $99 to $169.
Day passes: $15 weekdays (Monday-Thursday); weekends $25 per person (Friday-Sunday). Children under 2 are free.
The Springs is 45,000 square feet and includes a three-person boat ride with high-speed curves, water slides, enclosed tube rides, interactive play structure ride, lazy river, indoor/outdoor whirlpool, indoor water basketball and more.
Hilton City Center
509 W. Wisconsin Ave., (414) 271-7250
Rates: Call ahead; rates vary immensely depending on date and availability. Day passes Friday, Saturday and Sunday available for $18. Will be open during spring break, April 5-9, from 9 a.m to 10 p.m. The cost per person is $13.
Paradise Landing features a three-story Jamaican Village with four water slides, lagoon, hydro-therapy spa, kiddie pool with beached boat slide, "Turtle Squirt" and mushroom rain drop fountain. Ideal for younger children.
Puddle Jumper Lagoon Indoor Water Playground
Holiday Inn Express
1400 W. Zellman Ct., (414) 563-4000
This hotel is 100 percent non-smoking and caters to young children. The water playground features water basketball, slides, fountains and indoor whirlpool. Kid suites and whirlpool suites are available. Day passes are available Sunday-Thursday, $7.50 for kids and $15 adults (kids 3 and under are free). Special rate during spring break allows adults to get in for $7.50. Rooms vary depending on time of year, but start at $109 and include the water playground and a continental breakfast.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.