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We just returned from an amazing trip to the Kalahari Wisconsin Dells Resort, and we wanted to share our experience with all of you! This resort is planning for perfection, and it definitely delivers. From the moment we arrived until we left, we were absolutely blown away by everything this resort has to offer.
With 760 guest rooms and suites, 22 luxury lakefront villas, 16 5-bedroom entertainment villas, and an on-demand shuttle to get you back and forth to the main area, this family-owned facility certainly has accommodations for all family sizes and needs.
As we were guests of the property because of the book I am currently working on, we didn’t choose our room but were given one in the main building close to all the action. We simply jumped on an elevator close to the main lobby and went up a few floors to our room.
Once our reservation was made for us, we were on the email list. Every week or so we would get information dripped out to us that pertained to our upcoming visit. We were kept updated about gifts we could pre-purchase if there was a special event in our group, if we wanted to rent a private cabana, and even if we wanted to get Kalahari amusement park tickets at a discounted rate.
I am glad we got them, but more on that later.
Kalahari Check In Time
While the official check-in time is 4:00 pm, you can check in up to six hours earlier and get access to the Kalahari water park. You can leave the majority of your luggage in your car, don your swim gear, and get soaked. You could even spend some time at the Kalahari amusement park instead.
Our check-in went seamlessly with the new wristbands tied to your credit card. This made purchasing any water park food on snacks beyond easy as you didn’t have to worry about your purse or wallet being possibly unattended at the water park family table or set of chairs.
I remember joking with the young man who checked us in. He knew I was a travel writer and thought it was funny that only I got the wristband of the blue (credit card linked) while the teens all got the white (non-linked) ones. I thoroughly trust them with food purchases but was curious as to how many stuffed animals we would have brought home from the gift shop without that limit.
Keeping an eye on the weather
The day was June 15, 2022 and we had no idea that 17 tornadoes would race across Wisconsin later that night as we usually only see an average of 23 a year. It would set a record as the 3rd busiest tornado day in Wisconsin for a long time.
Being the traveling mom I am, I had been keeping an eye on the weather leading up to our visit. I knew that on the 15th, we would see severe thunderstorms and called ahead to ask what their policy was. They assured me that for everyone’s safety they would close their 77,000 square-foot outdoor water park but that they would drive them to the 125,000 square-foot indoor water park for everyone’s safety.
That is the beauty of being Wisconsin’s largest indoor water park – it means that the Kalahari is a safer environment during times of severe weather and doesn’t have to close shop and send everyone home like some of the outdoor only water parks have to do. It means you can stay and have fun, no matter what the weather is.
What does Kalahari mean?
It is the Swahili word for “great stretch of dry land” and as soon as you see this beautiful, expansive resort, you will understand why they chose that name. With over a million square feet of indoor entertainment, there is truly something for everyone at the Kalahari Wisconsin Dells Resort.
There are about 1,304,000 gallons of water fun between the indoor and outdoor water parks. Add in the amusement park and 16 dining options – with 2 of them being signature restaurants, and it is easy to see why it was voted as World’s Coolest Indoor Waterpark by Condé Nast Traveler.
We went right to that indoor water park, and as the kids hit the slides, I got a fruit tray, veggie tray, and a few bottles of water to chillax at a table and read a bit of my book.
The weather turns
We fully expected the outdoor water park to close on June 15th, the sky was getting that strange green-tinted hue, and the lightning had started.
We didn’t expect to hear the announcement at the indoor water park an hour later that was telling us to evacuate. It was difficult to understand the voice over the sound system, but water slides were shut down, and lifeguards were slowly herding people out of the park.
We quickly learned that closing the park was the least of the problems we would face. Every five feet was another Kalahari uniform-clad person pointing out the path for us to take, and we would quickly learn that we were being herded to the basement. We hadn’t heard the Tornado warnings go off from the National Weather Service, but the resort did and was taking precautions.
We were all ushered down the stairs and into Kalahari service hallways. Those 760 guest rooms and suites, 22 luxury lakefront villas, and 16 5-bedroom entertainment villas? They were at 95 percent occupancy, and we were in a crowd with a lot of people.
The staff kept them calm, cool and moving until we were all safely downstairs. That isn’t where they stopped, though. Soon they were passing out towels and blankets as many people were wet and trying to sit on the cold concrete floors. I could hear the staff talking about making sure the kids were comfortable.
Then I heard employees talking about getting a few chairs as the seniors were not going to be able to stand much longer and that they certainly wouldn’t be comfortable sitting on the cold concrete floors.
Soon a round of chimes went through all of our phones as the National Weather Service extended the tornado warning. That led to the Kalahari staff passing out cases of bottled water to everyone.
I had the kids finish off the fruit and veggie tray I had gotten at the water park.
They paid attention to special needs
One of the kids in our party deals with Autism. When the warning was extended and news that a tornado touched down not far from our location, the staff tried to move people farther into the tunnels to make sure that everyone was off the stairways.
We said we would stay put as one of the kids was having an issue with the people, the noise, and the general situation. They pulled us out into a private office off the hallway. They got blankets for the kids and even granola bars so they could process it all.
We looked up on our phones where to eat when we got the “all clear” and picked a restaurant based on the menu. Cheese curds with smoked ketchup? French Onion Soup? Giant Pub Pretzel? The choices got better and better and I focused the kids on what they might like to order.
Eventually, we got the all-clear to leave the basement and the staff let us know after the majority of the crowd had been moved along. The kids had all calmed down and were ready to go back to our room and get out of the wet clothes.
Dinner at the Wisconsin Brew Pub
Near the far end of the Resort Side Wing, just before you enter Tom Foolery’s Adventure Park is where you will find this place. It was delicious, and I was glad we had the chance to try it. The kids loved the food, and we all enjoyed the experience.
We KNEW the place would be slammed as soon as everyone had regrouped after the basement experience and had to stay a little ahead of the group. I think the kids changed in record time, I had called down to learn that there were no reservations taken, and we flew to the restaurant.
We are used to a bit of a wait – thanks to Covid and labor shortages everywhere, so we were pleasantly surprised to get a table right away and then have a server take our order. We knew exactly what we wanted as we had had time to study the menu and ordered it all.
Cheese curds with smoked ketchup, the pub pretzel, French Onion Soup, Beer Cheese Soup, Pulled Pig Mac n Cheese, Avocado BLT, and the Wisconsin Supper Club.
We were tempted by the monster Signature Shakes, but the kids were still a little chilled from being in cold wet suits for over two hours. Next time though? I think they will be all over it and I personally see myself ripping into a “Saturday Morning”.
The smoked ketchup was beyond delicious and kicked up the cheese curds, but the show’s main stars were the soups. We could go back for just bowls of the soup!
We would later learn that everything is homemade and that the employees’ voices were listened to when creating the culinary offerings.
Tom Foolery’s Adventure Park
After dinner, the kids went to the adventure park instead of getting back into the water. I went to the room, and they returned when they were ready. They hit about nine of the dozen or so activities covered by our pre-visit purchased passes and were just “done” for the day after all of the things they had gone through.
The Next Day
We started at the Great Karoo Marketplace Buffet so I could have my coffee and eggs while everyone else had their waffles, pancakes, french toast, bacon, sausage, etc. That is the wonderful thing about buffets – you can get what you want and not have to wait for someone to make it…and there is something for everyone.
I also had a chance to watch people as I sat there with my coffee. There were a lot of families, some small and some large. There were grandparents with kids and grandkids – which made me smile.
After breakfast, we went back to the room so everyone could get changed and we could hit the water again. We stowed our gear in the car and spent a little time in the indoor park until the outdoor park opened.
The outdoor water park
I found a few lounge chairs and then hit the taco truck to get snacks and drinks. It was a perfect Wisconsin summer day, and the heat was climbing. The kids returned to grab a swig of water, bite or two of fresh fruit, and then move on to the next water slide.
We had a lot of fun on our second day. I think they hit every one of the 30 water slides and were in all 20 pools and whirlpools. I know they hit the lazy river as they passed me on it. (Little brats splashed me!)
Overall, we had a great time at the Kalahari Wisconsin Dells Resort – even with the unexpected weather! The staff was amazing and made sure that everyone was safe and comfortable.
I was simply amazed at the seamless perfection of the severe weather experience, they moved a giant herd of people to safety, kept them all calm, provided for their comfort, and looked past the usual to target those who might have special comfort issues.
Talk about planning for perfection – well done, Kalahari, well done.
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