If you’re looking for a fun place to stay while vacationing near Sandusky, look no further than Kalahari Resorts. Kalahari Resorts and conventions, America’s largest indoor water parks, resorts & convention centers, is a great place for family-friendly fun, a holiday party, a birthday bash, or a business meeting. Kalahari offers an indoor water park, outdoor water park, almost 900 hotel rooms, a convention center so big that it took me almost 6 months of working in it that I didn’t get lost just walking through it, an arcade with activities including mini bowling, laser tag, & more, a serene spa, and all sorts of restaurant, bar, and retail options. Considering I have worked at Kalahari, I may be a little biased; however, I also know lots of tips and secrets and would recommend coming to Kalahari for a vacation to anyone I know!
Kalahari is booming right now and they are constantly growing. Currently, as of February 2018, they’re only three Kalahari locations; however, there are plans for a fourth one being built in Texas. The three current Kalahari’s are located in Wisconsin Dells, WI, Sandusky, OH, and the Poconos in Pennsylvania. The first Kalahari that was built was in Wisconsin Dells, the 2nd was the Sandusky location, and the 3rd and most recent was in the Poconos Mountains in PA. Every time the owners build a new resort, they make the indoor water park bigger than their last resorts. Therefore, currently, the Kalahari located in the Poconos has the largest indoor water park in America. Pretty cool, right? What is even cooler than this, though, is that Kalahari is constantly growing, changing, and renovating.
I have worked at Sandusky Kalahari for two years now; however, I have been vacationing at Kalahari for over 10 years. When I was in my teens, my parents would drop me and some friends off at Kalahari and we would get day passes for the indoor water park. It’s unbelievable how much has changed since then. They have upgraded their restaurants, changed menus, added new retail shops, bars, & restaurants, and have added so many more activities. I’ll go into more detail about all the activities below, but I really want to get across to my audience that this is a growing company that is constantly trying to outdo themselves and make Kalahari the best possible option for their guests. The company’s vision/goal is to go above and beyond expectations. Let me tell you, they absolutely try to achieve this every day, as do all of the staff working for them.
As you can see, Kalahari has a lot to offer, is a growing and changing company, and keeps customer service as their top priority. There are just a few more cool things I wanted to add before I delve into, what I believe, are some of the coolest things about Kalahari. One of the things I wanted to mention is that Kalahari is African themed. All around the resort, you’ll find African art, wild safari animals, and African themed hotel style. You might not think much of this, but I think it’s really cool. The family who owns Kalahari goes to Africa every year, hand picks art pieces, sends them back to the U.S., and puts all of this beautiful artwork throughout the resorts. It really makes you feel like you’re on a vacation. You’re not walking through that typical, cheesy hotel. Again, I have to say, they really outdo themselves to make the resorts look awesome and fully African themed. Now that you all know some Kalahari basics, I’m going to get to the good stuff!
What to do while on vacation at Kalahari Resorts:
When to come to Kalahari: Kalahari is open 365 days a year. Even though it is located in Ohio, Kalahari provides more than enough for guests to enjoy no matter what month or season you come. This is why the indoor water park is such a genius idea for the Sandusky area. A lot of people struggle with things to do during the winter and Kalahari is the perfect spot to come and refresh during the harsh winter months. Although you can come all year round, there may be times that are more preferable to others. The Sandusky Kalahari is very ‘seasonally’ busy. There are a few factors including school schedules, winter breaks, spring breaks, holidays, weather, etc. that can change how busy Kalahari gets on a month to month basis. I know this because I have worked at Kalahari so the staff is always prepared for busy season vs. slow season. I can’t speak for the other Kalahari locations, but if you’re headed to Sandusky Kalahari, this is what you can expect to experience:
A basic run down is that January, September, and October are our slowest months. You can get basic rooms as cheap as $89 (which comes with 4 water park passes) and everything is going to be so much more accessible. When it’s busy, basic rooms will cost between $250-$350 and the nicer rooms will cost $400-$500, you might wait 20-30 minutes in line for rides, 30-40 minute waits on food, 10 minute waits to get your cocktail, and 30 minutes in line waiting to check in to stay at your hotel room. However, if you come in Jan., Sept., or Oct., almost everything is a walk on, there will be practically no wait on food & drinks, and the check in process is far easier. As a tipped bartender, I want it to be busy because that’s more money in my pocket, but as a guest, why wouldn’t you want to make things go a little smoother on your vacation? It’s more affordable, you’ll get better service, and it’s all around 100% more relaxing to come during slow season! Moving on, the end of February, the entire month of March and a lot of April will be one of our busiest seasons every year. This is because of all the spring breaks, tax refunds, and overall readiness to get out of the house after winter. We get a lot of business from people all around Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. One big thing that changes our business each year is what day Easter falls on. Either way, most high schools and colleges start their spring breaks towards the end of February through into April depending on Easter. Weekly, we will get whole crowds from Michigan saying their kids are on spring break, then Southern Ohio, then Northern Ohio, etc. Because the spring breaks are so different nowadays, we stay extremely busy during ‘spring break season.’ During May, it will slow down again, but only temporarily because around the first week of June, we have one of our busiest events of the year. Kalahari hosts Colossalcon which is comparable to Comic-Con. It’s INSANE!! You probably can’t get a room even if you tried because the guests pre-book very early on. Either way, that weekend kicks off Kalahari’s summer season and June-August stays consistently busy. Kids are off school and people are there on all days of the week. The only thing that might deter some locals from coming for the day is bad weather, so every once in awhile, we’ll get a slow summer day. After the summer, the kids go back to school, and Kalahari becomes a ghost town. September and October are very slow. November and December are generally pretty slow as well, but you won’t get as good of rates because of the holidays and because it does start to pick up a little during these months due to holiday parties that businesses will host in the convention center. Overall, if you’re looking to come during our slow season, think about when kids are in school. On a week to week basis, the weekends are going to be busier than a weekday no matter what month you come because the weekends are when children and adults have off work. Coming when it’s busy isn’t all that bad, it’s still a huge establishment that can hold thousands of people at one time; however, I just think if you have an option, go during a slow day or slow month!
Indoor Water Park: Sandusky Kalahari’s indoor water park is massive and filled with fun. There are 2 specific areas for babies and children under a certain height, 2 areas for older kids/adults where you can swim/play basketball, a massive jungle gym for all sizes with a huge bucket of water splashing over it every 10 minutes, a huge wave pool, a lazy river, 2 flow riders (where you get to try and surf), and at least 8 rides including a brand-new video game simulated water park ride where you get to play a video game while your riding down the slides on a tube. There is so much to do just within the indoor water park that usually I hardly even have time for all the other activities they have to offer outside of the water park. The rides are all different; some are single person, others are for the whole family, some have tubes, and on others it’s just you. My favorite ride in the indoor water park is called the Tanzanian Twister, but I call it the toilet bowl. You go down by yourself into this big bowl where you go around and around until you fall into the big center hole (like a toilet) into a swimming pool! Don’t go on this one unless you’re a good swimmer, though! There are 2 bars and several dining options while you’re in the indoor water park. One of the bars is within a swim-up, indoor/outdoor hot tub. It’s called Mud Hut and when I vacation here, this is most likely where you’ll find me. This hot tub is only for adults 21+, but there are also 2 other indoor/outdoor hot tubs located in the indoor water park if you’d like to stay with your kids. The other bar is called Monsoon Saloon and I’m sure you’ll notice it because it’s quite big and located in the middle of the water park. You can get all the cocktails/beer that your heart desires at this location. The main dining option available is Zulu Grille where you can find pizza, burgers, fries, nachos, etc. Inside the water park is also a place called the safari grille that offers yogurt options (with all the toppings you could imagine) and a Dip n Dots stand; however, both of these options aren’t open regularly and have specific hours depending on how busy Kalahari is.
Outdoor Water Park: The only bad part about the outdoor water park is that it can’t be open all year round! Thanks to renovations in May 2017, the outdoor water park is the best it’s ever been! The outdoor water park includes 4 brand new water slides, an outdoor adventure park & safari, a kiddie area, and a great big pool to jump around in. There’s also the Zanzibar where you can get drinks and order a meal. The dining is casual and seating is outside. Menu options include fruit cups, hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, salads, appetizers, and a kids menu. The outdoor water park also offers sand volleyball courts and corn hole. Kalahari’s Adventure team will pop up during the summer with games for little kids such as hula-hoop competitions, chalk drawing, and many other random activities to get the kids active and having fun. Coming in summer 2018, there will be live entertainment, D.J.’s, bands, and more activities on a daily basis for all to enjoy.
Cabanas & Lockers: While you’re staying at Kalahari, there are several options for storing your stuff while you enjoy the activities. If you have a hotel room, you can feel safe leaving all of your stuff in there. However, if you’re only staying for the day, you can leave your stuff at a table or around the water park, you can rent a locker, or you can rent a cabana. Considering I work at Kalahari, I see and talk to a lot of people. A lot of people do just leave their belongings at a table and nobody messes with their stuff. I think as long as you’re not leaving your phone, credit card, laptop, or something worth a lot of money, you don’t have to worry. When I come to Kalahari for the day, I leave most of my items in my car and wear clothes/shoes that I don’t care much about. As for my credit card and I.D. (in order to buy food and drinks), I leave these items with a bartender after I get my first drink. The bartenders can hold on to your credit card, I.D.’s, and room keys so that you don’t have to worry about losing them on rides. If you want to feel a little safer, you can buy a locker. The lockers cost $20 upfront, but as long as you return the key, you’ll get $5 back. So, for $15, you can feel safe and secure about all of your belongings. Not bad! Another option that has a few more perks involved is renting a cabana/bungalow. There are cabanas available in the indoor water park and the outdoor water park. The cabanas vary in size and price but they all include a mini fridge, comfortable seating, a safe, a trash can, a little bit of privacy and safe space to store your belongings, provided towels, food & drink menus, a T.V., and a personal server that can bring you anything you need throughout the entire day. Depending on the season/month/day, the prices will range from $75 for our most basic cabana (on a slow day) all the way up to $1,000 for our best cabana (on a busy day). Most of our cabanas are very basic, some of the more expensive ones offer more privacy and more space, and our most expensive cabana offers its own private hot tub. These can and do sell out often during the busy season so make sure to rent one while you reserve your hotel room.
Rates & Hours: The only rates that vary (depending on business) are rates for hotel stays and rates for cabanas. All the other rates are pretty steady. Hours for outlets can sometimes vary too depending on how busy Kalahari is. The season for the outdoor water park is from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but they will open earlier or later if the weather is extraordinary. Hours change throughout the summer season but for the most part, its 10 am-sundown. Due to weather, the outdoor water park is not always open daily. The indoor water park is open all year round from 9 am-9 pm Sunday-Thursday and 9 am-10 pm Friday & Saturday. On spring breaks and special occasions, sometimes the water parks will stay open later. Each outlet/restaurant has there own hours and they change frequently depending on business. If you’re looking for exact hours, you can always contact the front desk and they can tell you the planned hours for that day.
Day passes: If you want to come to Kalahari for the day, you can get an all day pass or evening pass. Prices vary depending on guest height and dates desired to come. Also, if the park reaches 100% occupancy, they will not sell anymore day passes, so it’s not guaranteed that you will be able to get a day pass for the day that you want. You can always buy online before you go to save the hassle! To avoid all this, I actually recommend getting a hotel room. In some cases, it can actually be MORE affordable to get a room compared to getting several day passes. Day passes can cost $50 and up depending on the day you go. If you have a family of four, you’re going to pay $200 for 4 day passes good for one day only. When you reserve a room, however, even the most basic room comes with 4 water park passes (some rooms come with 6 passes) and you also have the option of buying more passes for only $25. Not only do you get a hotel room and passes to the water park, but the passes roll over into the next day, too. So, when you sleep at Kalahari, you get to enjoy the first day at the water park and then after you check out, you are still allowed to enjoy the water park the next day, too! Depending on the costs of rooms, you could actually save money and receive way more!
Safari Outdoor Adventure Park: Located throughout the outdoor water park is the outdoor adventure park and safari. You’ll have to pay for these passes separately and the cost is not included if you have a room at Kalahari. This adventure park includes zip lining around the outdoor water park, adventure climbing walls, and a ropes course. There is also a safari adventures animal park that has quite an impressive amount of exotic animals including zebras, ostriches, giraffes, camels, stingrays, snakes, owls, birds, kangaroos, etc. I’m going to be honest with you on this one, as an outside guest, I always thought “yeah, right, what could they possibly have here that is cool enough to pay to see.” I always thought because the animal park looks small from the outside that they wouldn’t have a lot to offer on the inside. However, I got lucky on a slow shift and asked if I could walk around and see the animals while I was at work. I was pleasantly surprised and blown away by how many animals they had. I would highly recommend the animal park especially if you have kids!
Arcade: The arcade happens to be one of my favorite activities at Kalahari! After the water park closes for the night, this is the perfect place to go to continue the fun. Within the arcade is mini bowling, mini golf, virtual reality, 7-D motion theater, laser tag, and too many arcade games to count include simulators, whack-a-moles- and picture fun. You can purchase ‘chips’ to play the arcade games and for all your wins, you will receive tickets. After a long night of arcading, make sure to count your tickets and go pick a prize.
Spa Kalahari: Located within the resort is a beautiful spa devoted to your relaxation. Open from 9 am to 9 pm daily, they offer many packages and options. Different categories include massage collection, body treatment collection, skin care, halotherapy (salt room), manicures, pedicures, spa retreats, and an entire junior pamphlet loaded with things such as Princess packages and Prince packages.
Massage Collection: Includes African Rungu (25 min/$80 50 min/$115), Deep Tissue (25 min/$80 50 min/$115), Hot Stone Ritual (25 min/$75 50 min/$105)
Body Treatment Collection: Ancient African Aloe or Clay Wrap (50 min/$110), Body Glow Treatment (50 min/$110)
Skin Care: Gentlemen’s Facial (50 min/$100), Makeup Application ($40), African Princess/Customized Facial (80 min/$155)
Manicure: Amani Manicure (70 min/$75), Gentlemen’s Manicure (30 min/$40), Shellac Manicure (45 min/$50)
Pedicure: Spa Pedicure (50 min/$60), Express Pedicure (25 min/$50), Gentlemen’s Pedicure (40 min/$50)
Spa Retreats: Safari Escape (3 hours/$243), Kalahari “Kouples” Getaway (3 hours/for two/$365), Mama Africa/Mom to be (3.25 hours/$370)
Junior Spa Kalahari: Teen Express Facial ($65), Junior Pedicure ($40), Princess Up-Do Style (Starting at $35)
Listed above are just some of the many examples from each category along with some of the prices so you can see if it’s something you’d like to try. For each option, they give an in-depth description of the treatment. They do suggest reserving your spot and not relying on just walking in because they often are booked throughout the day.
Drinks: Kalahari has so many fun specialty cocktails, draft beers, non-alcoholic options, and drinks to offer. For the kiddies, all the bars have fruit juice smoothies and icee machines are at a lot of the food outlets. Each restaurant has their own flare, so make sure to ask if they have any specials for the kids. It gets really fun for the adults, though! All throughout Kalahari, you can find hand crafted cocktails and select draft beers. All the bars carry the same Monster Drinks menu which features 15-20 specialty cocktails in 3 different sizes. Every few months, Kalahari will switch up the menu and add some new fun drinks, but there’s always a few classic’s that remain on the menu. One of the most popular drink options is Kalahari’s Famous Frozen Strawberry Long Island. The 3 sizes are a basic small 16 oz plastic cup for $11, a medium 24 oz souvenir cup for $22 (that gets no refills), or a large 45 oz souvenir cup that’s $30 for the first one and $20 refills. The small has 2 shots, the medium has 4 shots, and the large has 6 shots. Basically, how we describe it as bartenders is that the large has 3 of the smalls in it, so instead of getting 3 small drinks and spending $33, get one large for $30! Then, when you refill the large for $20, it’s basically like you’re getting a small drink for free. It’s a little hard to explain without seeing the cup sizes, but if you like to drink, go with the large and get some refills. The best perk about it is that you can get as many refills as you like from anything on the Monster menu. You can also bring the cup back with you no matter when you come back. I always tell the guests that I’ve had my cup for 5 years now and I bring it back every year for my $20 refill! One last tip about drinks at Kalahari is that you are allowed to walk around with your drinks no matter where you’re at. You can walk through the lobby, through the arcade, back to your hotel room, and through the water park. Mostly, I drink my monster drinks at the swim-up bar (Mud Hut) but I do like this perk when I’m playing arcade games or walking back to my room.
Restaurants: There are a lot of dining options located throughout Kalahari so that you never even have to leave the resort! If you’re looking for quick eating, you can stop at Café Mirage (near the arcade), Zulu grille (Indoor water park), or Zanzibar (Outdoor water park. Java Hut Manjaro also has some quick food options and pastries/cakes but they are most popular for delicious coffee options and they are located right within the lobby. Right next to Java Manjaro is the Candy Hut, where you can find all the sweets your heart desires including ice cream, candies, cotton candy, candied apples, and chocolate covered goodies. We have some of the best chefs and bakers I’ve ever seen; I’ve tried several of the pastries and goodies and oh my goodness! Delectable! If you’re looking for a sit down restaurant, look no further, because you have three great options located right by the front lobby. Ivory Coast Restaurant, Great Karoo Marketplace and Buffet, and B-Lux Grill & Bar are your three sit down options for dining. I’ve heard that the buffet is an excellent option for kids because there is just so much to choose from. Both Ivory Coast Restaurant and B-Lux Grill & Bar are pretty similar in the sense that they have appetizers, drinks, salads, sandwiches, burgers, steaks, and entrees; however, each one has their own flare and specialties. One of the best things about all of our sit-down restaurants is how dedicated our chefs are to providing food options for people with food allergies. Our chefs, even on a busy night, will come out to your table (if you have an allergy) and discuss with you how severe it is and what your possible options are. I have always been blown away by this because most people don’t receive that when they go out to dinner. So, if you’re gluten-free, have a peanut allergy, a vegetarian, vegan, etc. don’t fear because Kalahari will find and make something that works for you!
Convention center: As much as I’ve talked about the water parks, food, and arcade, these areas only make up half of Kalahari. “HALF?” You may say! What could possibly make up the other half? What most people don’t know is that Kalahari also offers an unbelievably large convention center. Made up of several massive ballrooms, quant side rooms, and grand hallways, you can host many types of events here. The ballrooms can be sectioned off or open as big as possible. Full fire trucks, semi trucks, and helicopters have been brought into the convention centers for different events. Kalahari has put up stages, hosted dance competitions, and held massive company conferences for over 1,000 people and you would have no idea if you were in the water park. These events can include food and drink options, as well. For your small or big meeting, make sure to call Kalahari for one of the best convention centers in the area.
Special Events: Considering Kalahari has a massive convention center, it would also make sense that they can host massive special events. Special Events don’t have to be hosted in the convention center, though. Some special events include birthday parties, after-prom festivities, holiday parties, massive conferences, family reunions, weddings, etc. If you are looking for a typical hall rental, you can find that at Kalahari, but you can also bring Karaoke, a live band, outside vendors, etc. Working at Kalahari, I’ve definitely seen my fair share of fun events hosted. A recent event that a company was hosting at Kalahari had a picture booth, a live band, and about 15 beer pong tables set up. Other events I’ve worked have included kegs, incredible speakers, games, movie nights, laser tag, “babysitting/daycare” rooms so that the parents can have some fun, robotic competitions, cheerleading competitions, contests, prize winners, DJ’s, etc. Kalahari also hosts water park lock-ins every once in awhile. So, if your company wanted to rent out the water park, you could do that after regular business hours. The lock-ins usually last from 11 pm-2 am where whoever is included gets to enjoy all the rides with no outside guests allowed in. Kalahari has had high schools have water park lock-ins for their “after prom” event. How cool is that? If you’re looking for something simpler than that, Kalahari can also cater to birthday parties and family reunions. They are all ears to anything you have in mind and I’m sure they’ll try to make it happen for you!
Retail: While staying at Kalahari, there are more than enough options for souvenirs, goodies, and gifts. If you forgot something at home, I’ll bet Kalahari has it! Different retail shops around Kalahari sell items such as toiletries, Kalahari inspired clothing, bathing suits, flip flops, stuffed animals, necklaces, rings, sun tan lotion, pool toys, water diapers, shot cups, glassware, African souvenirs, and much, much more.
Holidays at Kalahari: Because Kalahari is open 365 days a year, that means they celebrate all holidays at Kalahari resorts. On many holidays, Kalahari hosts a beautiful buffet in celebration. There is a fee but it is open to guests and locals, too. The buffets are not like your typical buffets, though. They have beautiful décor including holiday inspired ice sculptures, bars/bartenders, servers, and some of the best foods such as shrimp, prime rib, and endless sides/deserts. Holidays at Kalahari are not packed full, but we do get pretty busy so I would recommend reserving your room early on to be sure you’ll get one!
Randoms: Last but not least, I wanted to include a few more random, cool things that Kalahari offers to their guests. Because Kalahari is always changing and growing, these may change over the years, but when they stop doing one thing, it’s usually so that they can start doing an even cooler thing. Kalahari always has an Activities and Events Calendar filled with things such as cookie decorating, coloring contests, t-shirt tye-dying, craft time, cupcake wars, etc. If you’re wondering what’s on the calendar during the dates you’ll be staying, I would recommend calling Kalahari’s front desk. A new activity Kalahari started offering is face painting by airbrush (and it doesn’t wash off) located within the indoor water park. The mermaid experience is another fun thing they offer where you can put on a mermaid tail and swim throughout some of the pools located in the indoor water park. Hemp tattoos are another fun thing offered near the arcade. One last thing I wanted to mention (you’ll notice, it’s the very last thing because most people don’t care much about this one) is that there is a fitness room available to guests at the hotel. If you find the time after all the other fun activities, well, then that would be quite impressive;)
Now that you know the ins and out of Kalahari, Go make your reservation! You can find more information at https://www.kalahariresorts.com/ohio/