Indoor water park deals driving winter trips

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Though the recession has dampened an explosive expansion rate over the past few years, indoor water-park resorts are still making a splash among bargain-conscious, close-to-home vacationers. What started in this south-central Wisconsin tourist town two decades ago as a way to pump up a three-month summer season has spread from Alaska to Virginia, with 217 hotel-based parks operating in 35 states, says Jeff Coy of JLC Hospitality Consulting.

Read more from USA Today.

There is a Great Wolf Lodge about 90 minutes from me. As cool as it looks for an offseason trip, the cost really seems expensive even with deals. Rooms are in the low $200's on slow days up to $400+ for peak times, just for 1 night. I could buy 2 passes to Dorney with WWK included for less than that $200.

What I would like to see offered is day passes during slower times. For $20 or $25, I'd consider going for the day since I wouldn't want to stay at the hotel in the first place.

janfrederick's avatar

Is "dampened" pun intended? ;)

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
crazy horse's avatar

The only indoor water park that is worth the cost of admission, is kalahari.

Kalahari is bigger than most outdoor water parks. Places like great bear and castaway bay are wayyy overpriced for what they have to offer.

what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard.
Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.
I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Why does every single thread have to turn into an "its too expensive" whinefest? Honestly, 'buzzers are tighter with a dollar than Ebenezer Scrooge. Stuff costs money, and even at $400, these aren't a half-bad getaway for a family of four when you figure it covers both lodging and entertainment.

Here are a couple other comparison points. A ski weekend: the Saturday night room is going to run $150-200 in season. Lift tickets for Saturday and Sunday, family of four, will easily run you $300, even at the lesser places. If you have to rent equipment, add another big chunk of change.

Here's another one: the weekend getaway to Chicago for a show. Floor seats for Annie this winter are $340 for a family of four, and you'll need at least another $100 to stay anywhere in the Loop near the theater, and you'll need to figure out what to do Sunday other than just drive home.

Finally, some of these places can be pretty good deals. Castaway was advertising rooms in December for $100 a night---and that included a Saturday that I checked. That's a screaming good deal (and suggests to me that there is at least one too many indoor water parks in Sandusky.)

LostKause's avatar

Well Brian Noble, since you brought it up... ( ;) )

I'm sure that there are many people here who have never stayed in a $200 a night room or traveled to Chicago to see a show just for a weekend trip. What seems like a great value to one person may be considered something only "rich people" can do to someone else.

For me and one or two other people, a weekend trip to an amusement park will only reach a total of about $300 - $400. That is a lot of money to me, especially to spend it all in one weekend for entertainment. To someone else who has more money, it may seem like a drop in the bucket.

The amount of extra money that everyone has to throw around is different. $100 a night for a hotel room that includes an indoor waterpark sound like a good deal to me, but some of those other so-called "deals on that website seem to be more than i am willing to spend.

...And I agree with Crazy Horse, Kalahari is much bigger, and much better than Great Bear Lodge or Castaway Bay, but Kalahari is the most expensive as well. I guess you get what you pay for, and you pay for what you can afford.

You know what?

You're absolutely right. That's the demographic they are shooting for. To make sense, these places have to fill rooms from $200 a night on up. Ultimately, the fact that Castaway Bay has to dump rooms at $99 on a Saturday night in December tells me that they are in trouble.

But, that doesn't mean these places "wayyy overpriced" in any absolute sense---because that's in the eye of the beholder. If they've got 150 rooms, they only need about 150 families a night to see value in the proposition. As long as they get that, they are happy, and it doesn't matter if everyone else on the planet thinks it's overpriced.

As another example, take the Polynesian at WDW. Rooms there *start* at $400 a night, including tax. Ask 100 people at random, and 99 1/2 will tell you that there is no way that they'd pay that kind of money to stay there. It doesn't matter. Disney doesn't need to do anything but fill that hotel---and fill it they do. I know a great grandmother who lives in Indianapolis and works in WalMart just to earn enough to stay in the Polynesian for week every June. She likes it, she enjoys it, and she finds value in it, so she does it.

Ultimately, most everything we talk about here on Coasterbuzz is a leisure-time, discretionary expense. It's not food, clothing, or housing, and a lot of people can't afford to do any of it. That's just the way it is.

LostKause's avatar

I absolutely agree with you, Noble.

I especially like how you pointed out that the grandmother who works at Walmart chooses to spend her extra money for a higher priced room at WDW. It really is in the eye of the beholder.

I just now decided to eat less double cheeseburgers, and save up for a trip to Kalahari*. :)

(* Or maybe an extra amusement park trip throughout the next season.)

Last edited by LostKause,

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