Local writer Jody Halsted takes you through the top eight indoor water parks in Iowa for family fun with or without the sun.
Early spring winds are whipping the trees in my backyard, twining the leafless branches together with 30-mile-per-hour force before seeming to take a pause, allowing the trees a moment to regroup, then battering them again. My kids, sedentary during the long winter, look at me wearily, as if they wish I were Mother Nature and could offer them sun and warmth.
I try to remind us all that summer is just around the corner, and soon we’ll be searching for ways to stay cool on hot and humid days. But those comments fall flat as I consider how many days will contain the words, “I’m bored,” or “there’s nothing to do.”
A waterpark getaway seems to be the right answer no matter the season. And with eight waterpark resorts in Iowa, it’s easy to plan a quick escape.
Adventure Bay, at Adventureland Resort in Altoona, boasts Iowa’s largest wave pool and the longest lazy river in the state. If you plan to come as a family or group, then be sure to reserve a private cabana ahead of time. It makes it that much easier for everyone to find each other again later.
Twenty water slides offer experiences from wild to mild. Plunge 60 feet on Pirates’ Plummet or take on the twists and turns of the Typhoon. Not quite ready for that much excitement? The Bermuda Quadrangle offers four smaller tube slides with funnels, bumps, and twists.
Entrance to Adventure Bay is included with admission to Adventureland Park, so plan to spend a full day exploring all the rides and attractions available.
Although you can stay onsite, The Best Western Altoona Inn is just a short walk from Adventureland. The hotel offers a complimentary full breakfast each morning and all rooms feature a refrigerator and microwave, making this a terrific option for families.
Best Western Altoona Inn
7.7 Good (1258 reviews)
Huck’s Harbor Water Park at Pzazz! in Burlington has been recently renovated and updated to include five water-slide experiences. Take on the twisting tube slide known as Huck’s River Ruckus or race friends down Koozmicki Falls’ twin super slides before slowing your pace on the lazy river as you float around the park.
Younger children will delight in the splash park with fountains, waterfalls, and a water cannon, perfect for delivering a watery blast to any unsuspecting adult that crosses their path. If the sun gets too hot, or the weather isn’t cooperating with your outdoor plans, move to the indoor water experience where a splash zone, lazy river, and 12-person hot tub offer a mini waterpark experience year-round.
Refuel at the Snack Shack with pool-side favorites including hot dogs, soft pretzels, and plenty of bite-sized treats. Over 21? Enjoy one of the Tiki Bar’s signature frozen drinks in an adults-only environment.
The is just across the street from Huck’s Harbor, offering easy access to the waterparks and other Pzazz attractions including go karts, laser tag, and ropes course. Rooms are designed with a clean, modern aesthetic, making the already large rooms feel expansive. Included amenities like a mini-fridge, microwave, and complimentary breakfast expand your food and beverage options beyond the nearby restaurants and bars.
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Burlington
8.1 Very good (596 reviews)
With 25,000 square feet of fun, the water park at Grand Harbor Resort, on the banks of the Mississippi River in Dubuque, offers an exciting escape for all ages. Multiple water slides, including an indoor/outdoor tube ride, splash into small pools just off the lazy river. An indoor tree house water feature includes a jungle gym, a huge dump bucket to ensure a splashy climb, and two slides to zip active children to the bottom of the structure to try another route up. For kids, a zero-depth entry pool with colorful sprinklers and bubbling water jets will ensure a wonderful, watery experience.
Book rooms at Grand Harbor Resort and indulge in beautiful mornings along the mighty Mississippi. Many of the well-appointed rooms have a river view–you may even catch sight of a bald eagle soaring over the river. Tony Roma’s, the on-site restaurant, also offers stunning views of the mighty Mississippi and the river bluffs. Begin your day with a filling breakfast or savor one of their award-winning entrees for lunch or dinner.
Grand Harbor Resort & Waterpark
7.6 Good (2416 reviews)
You can make waves at Boji Splash indoor waterpark all year long. Fill chilly weekend hours relaxing in the warm waters of the lazy river as you imagine a sunny summer day while your daredevils race down two waterslides, laughing as they splash into the pools below. Lil’ Squirts will love play features that include smaller slides, a 500-gallon dump bucket, and a pirate ship play area where young swashbucklers take aim with water cannon.
Poolside eats from the Pickled Parrot Cantina will help keep the energy up. Slurp a slushie- both kid-friendly and adult varieties are available- and share a flatbread pizza while you decide on your next aquatic activity.
Stay onsite and enjoy a mini-break at Bridges Bay Resort on the shore of Lake Okoboji. Featuring room types ranging from double queen and one-bedroom suites in the hotel to two and three bedroom condos, you’re sure to find the perfect space for your family. And with five tasty dining options, including Caribbean, Surf & Turf, and flatbread pizza, there’s no need to leave the resort.
Bridges Bay Resort
8.4 Very good (98 reviews)
Owned by the city of Ottumwa, The Beach offers a bit more than your typical city-owned aquatic center.
Spend the afternoon tubing in the wave pool, plummeting over 100 feet down the speed slide, or enjoying a more leisurely ride down the curly slide. Small children will delight in the play area featuring two smaller slides, a clubhouse splash area, and water toys. You’ll even find an indoor lap pool, one indoor slide, two sand volleyball courts, and a concession stand.
is perfectly located for exploring nearby attractions like the American Gothic House and the Airpower Museum in the morning before spending your afternoons at The Beach. Fuel up for the day’s adventures with the complimentary hot breakfast. Traveling with kids? This hotel offers spacious rooms as well as inter-connecting rooms for family-friendly comfort.
Hampton Inn Ottumwa Iowa
8.3 Very good (1051 reviews)
You can enjoy a tropical party at Buccaneer Bay indoor water park no matter what the weather is outside. Preschoolers will love frolicking in the ocean-themed zero-entry pool with a palm tree fountain and small pirate ship slides, while their older siblings will have fun in the activities pool with lily pad crossing and obstacles. The lazy river winds through the water park, a relaxing escape from the noisy pools, and the two-story water slide offers excitement for those willing to climb a few steps. Need a pick-me-up? The snack bar serves a variety of appetizers, small snacks, and beverages.
You’ll want to stay at Honey Creek Resort to take full advantage of what the water park and surrounding state park have to offer. Choose the Lodge on Rathbun Lake for an inclusive experience or one of 28 luxury cottages complete with a wrap-around deck to admire rural Iowa sunrises and sunsets.
Honey Creek Resort State Park
8.4 Very good (239 reviews)
The fun lasts all year at King’s Pointe Waterpark Resort in Storm Lake. The indoor water park, open year-round, has three massive water slides, one body slide, and two tube slides, for thrill seekers. Would you rather relax? The lazy river winds through the park, passing the splash-down areas with barely a ripple to the calm current. The huge zero entry pool features a kiddie fort in the center, and sprinklers and small slides keep young children splashing and sliding for hours.
During the warm summer months, the outdoor water park offers over 50,000 square feet of nonstop action. Take the Discovery Plunge, with a 420-foot descent, or race your friends on the dual speed slides which have a 100-foot vertical drop. Move away from the five water slides for a more relaxed visit near the zero entry pool, splash pad, or lap lanes.
King’s Pointe Resort features spacious standard rooms but choose a suite for an upgraded experience that includes a kitchenette with refrigerator and microwave. For a private retreat reserve a lake-side cottage. Complete with patio, full kitchen, outdoor grill, and firepit, you’ll have all the luxuries of home with a side of glamping.
Hotel King's Pointe Waterpark Resort
7.5 Good (235 reviews)
With nine major water slides, three large water attractions, and three splash areas just for the little ones, it’s smart to have a plan before visiting Iowa’s largest water park, The Lost Island in Waterloo.
Multiple private cabana areas, as well as lounge seating, are spread throughout the 24-acre park. Secure a ‘home base’ closest to your favorite rides to make gathering your group easy.
The banks of the Kailahi River offer easy access to two of the kiddie areas and the lazy river, making this a terrific spot if you have young kids. If you have kids between toddler and teen, choose a spot near Blue Iguana Island, another kiddie area close to a couple of the smaller slides. Traveling with teens? The deluxe cabanas at Barefoot Lounge are close to the largest water slides, and the Barefoot Lounge, an 18-plus area of the park.
Because all the fun in the sun is sure to make you hungry and thirsty, The Lost Island has five snack bars and cafes throughout the park. Choose from healthier fare like salads and wraps, or theme park foods including fries, pizza, and funnel cakes.
Less than four minutes from the water park, offers comfortable rooms and spacious suites in a convenient location near Highway 20. Fortify your morning with the free, hot breakfast before heading out to the water park or to explore the Grout Museum District.
Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Waterloo, IA
7.9 Good (2622 reviews)
Even though the Kalahari's indoor water park is just in one building, we felt that the amount and variations of thrill slides on offer knocked socks off the ones at the Wilderness! If your looking for things to do in Wisconsin Dells for adults, the Kalahari should definitely be on your radar.Is Kalahari or Wilderness better for adults? ›
Even though the Kalahari's indoor water park is just in one building, we felt that the amount and variations of thrill slides on offer knocked socks off the ones at the Wilderness! If your looking for things to do in Wisconsin Dells for adults, the Kalahari should definitely be on your radar.Is Wilderness or Kalahari bigger? ›
The Wilderness is the largest waterpark resort in the United States and home to four total parks (two outdoor and two indoor.) Access to all of them is included in the price of your stay. When combined, the Wilderness complex is bigger than the Kalahari resort (more on that later.)What is the biggest indoor water park in the US? ›
Dreamworks Water Park – New Jersey
Located in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Dreamworks Water Park is the largest indoor water park, covering 8.5 acres or 375,260 square feet. This enormous park is inside the American Dream Shopping and Entertainment Complex at the Meadowlands Sports Complex.
Spend the day splashing in the water with an entry ticket to North America's largest indoor water park in American Dream Mall, East Rutherford. Have fun on the slides, enjoy the wave pool, and more.