The Midwest is full of indoor waterpark getaways for any time of year
These waterparks are all a relatively short drive from Champaign-Urbana, making your family’s great escape less than a day’s drive away
Want to get away for a splashing good time with the family? Whether you need some “tropical” themed fun, or you just want a break from the sun, these indoor waterparks offer hours of family fun while being just hours away from Champaign-Urbana.
Editor’s note: During COVID-19, some of these attractions may be operating under restrictions or temporarily closed. Always do your research before heading out, and don’t forget your masks!
Why plan a family trip to an indoor waterpark?
If you’re craving a taste of warm weather, but don’t have plans to head south during the winter for a tropical escape, an indoor waterpark vacation is a good substitute. And if you have kids, this trip is bound to be the best time EVER when you ask your kids about it afterwards. Water, slides, sprayers and more are only the tip of the iceberg at many of these destinations. You can often find arcades, kid-friendly food everywhere, and other fun attractions right on the property or nearby.
The Midwest is the spot when it comes to indoor waterparks
You’ll find indoor waterparks all over the country, but certainly the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio rise to the top of the list when it comes to the ultimate waterpark getaway. And lucky for those of us in Champaign-Urbana, these states are all a relatively short drive away!
The longest drive we include in our list is about five hours to Missouri. The rest of the drives are shorter than that, and based on your family’s road tripping preferences, we believe you can do all of these drives easily in one day. Much easier than driving to the ocean somewhere!
Please note: This article includes affiliate links through AirBnb and Groupon and chambanamoms.com earns commission on bookings through those links.
Tips for planning an indoor waterpark vacation with your kids
We’ve been to a few indoor waterparks over the years and have some tips when it comes to planning your trip.
- Shop around for the best deals. This goes for all trips right? But especially trips like this. In areas like Wisconsin Dells, where there are many waterparks in proximity, you’re going to find some mega-deals as they compete with one another. Peek around to see which one offers the best deal for you.
- Consider playing hooky. Shhhh. We didn’t tell you to do this. But these places are practically EMPTY when it’s not 1) a weekend, 2) a widely observed three-day weekend and 3) winter vacation. Even if you can take two days off school and work, it is worth it to go early before a weekend or stay late to truly max out your time there, while enjoying smaller crowds.
- Get creative with where you stay. Of course, staying on-site at your waterpark feels appealing. Admission to the waterpark is included with your stay and it’s oh-so-convenient for those mad dashes back to the hotel room. But if you want to travel with another family, you may want to consider getting a nearby AirBnB and buy day passes to the waterpark, as this is often an option. Just call and ask if it is not listed on their site.
Time to hit the road: Now where will you go?
Indoor Waterparks within 2 hours of Champaign-Urbana
Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Falls Waterpark, Utica – 1 hour, 45 minutes. Waterpark closed until further notice
Features: 24,000 square-foot indoor waterpark with play zones, slides, wave pool, lazy river, and spa. Bonus: Located near popular Starved Rock State Park. Day passes and overnight options available. Call (866) 399-3866 for reservations.
Want to stay at a villa through AirBnb instead? Try this one.
Indoor Waterparks within 2-4 hours of Champaign-Urbana
Pirate’s Cay, Sheridan – 2 hours, 15 minutes. Waterpark closed until further notice
Features: 31,000 square-foot indoor waterpark with retractable roof including lazy river, four water slides, and children’s playscape. Day passes and overnight options available. Call (815) 496-3292 for reservations.
Want to buy day passes and stay at a historic AirBnb in the Ottawa area instead? Here’s a nearby option.
Great Wolf Lodge, Gurnee – 3 hours
Features: 80,000 square-foot indoor waterpark including lazy river, wave pool, slides and more. Call (844) 482-9653 for reservations. Gurnee is located 45 minutes north of downtown Chicago. Know before you go: See our review of this fun family day trip. SEE THE DEAL ON GROUPON!
Huck’s Harbor, Burlington, Iowa – 3 hours. Temporarily closed
Features: Channel river, swimming pool, wading pool and Kiddie City, 12-person hot tub. Part of the larger PZAZZ! Casino Resort. Call (319) 753-2946 for information.
Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark, Lake Geneva, Wis. – 3 hours, 30 minutes
Features: 50,000 square-foot indoor waterpark with lazy river, 35 foot high slides and more. Call (866) 636-4502 for reservations. Day passes not available.
Great Wolf Lodge, Mason, Ohio – 3 hours, 45 minutes
Features: Lazy river, wave pool, slides and more. Mason is located 30 minutes north of downtown Cincinnati. Call (800) 913-9653 for reservations. GROUPON DEAL HERE.
Splash Universe, Dundee, Mich. – 3 hours, 45 minutes. Temporarily closed
Features: Water slides, lazy river with family spa, and little ones’ kiddie pool. Day passes and overnight options available. Call (734) 606-0149 for reservations.
Big Splash Adventure, French Lick, Ind. – 3 hours, 45 minutes
Features: 40,000 square-foot indoor waterpark with retractable roof including lazy river, slides and a tropical oasis for adults. Day passes and overnight options available. Call (812) 936-3866 for reservations. GROUPON DEAL HERE.
Indoor Waterparks more than 4 hours from Champaign Urbana
Blue Harbor Resort, Sheboygan Wis. – 4 hours, 15 minutes
Features: 54,000 square-foot entertainment area and waterpark with double surf simulator, slides and activity pool. Day passes are limited and cannot be purchased in advance; call (866) 701-2583 for reservations.
Visit Wisconsin Dells, the “Waterpark Capital of the World” – 4 hours, 30 minutes
Chambanamoms.com readers recommend Wilderness (Groupon Deal here), Great Wolf Lodge (Groupon deal here) and Kalahari (Groupon deal here) resorts, all featuring indoor waterparks. There are others, too, and Wisconsin Dells is FULL of attractions. Check out our post “One Tank Road Trip: Wisconsin Dells.”
This is a great destination to visit with friends or family. Check out a cabin big enough for two families to share in proximity to the action!
Timber Falls Indoor Water Park, Osage Beach, Mo. – 5 hours
Features: 20,000 square-foot indoor waterpark with slides, activity pool and lazy river. Day passes and overnight options available. Call (573) 348-3131 for reservations.
Staying in condos/cabins is very popular in Lake of the Ozarks. Check out this huge house large enough for two families and with a hot tub (!) in the Ozarks area.
Some ideas on trips you can take with your family:
- 20+ Unique Summer Day Trips from Champaign-Urbana
- How to Rent a Boat on Lake Shelbyville with your Family
- Road Trip: Visit St. Louis as a Family
- Visiting Imagination Grove Near Bloomington-Normal
- Best Midwest Summer Road Trips for Champaign-Urbana Families
- Road Trip: Visiting Wisconsin Dells
- Midwest Indoor Waterparks Within a Few Hours of Champaign-Urbana
- Day Trip from Champaign-Urbana: Living Large in Casey
- Head North for Family Fun: What To Do On Your Chicago Trip
- An Insider’s Guide to a Springfield Getaway
- A Whole New (Old) World: Exploring the Arthur Amish Area with Kids
- Effingham, a Trip to the Crossroads
- Winter Break Day Trip: Family Fun in Peoria
- Travel Back in Time at Lincoln Log Cabin