How Parents Can “Celebrate” National Waterpark Day at Kalahari

Photo courtesy of Groupon.
Photo courtesy of Groupon.

Nestled on Lake Erie’s coastal prairieland just 66 miles from Toledo, the Kalahari transports visitors into a veritable African safari, trading tent sleeping and Landrover cruising for polished hotel rooms appointed with art sourced from the African continent. Anyone who’s been to Africa could question the notion that Kalahari is a vaguely authentic representation of Africa. Because National Waterpark Day falls on Saturday, July 28, the elaborately themed waterpark resort seems a particularly appropriate venue to celebrate.

Let’s first concede that Kalahari’s mind-bendingly large indoor/outdoor waterpark carries an undeniable allure for children, teens and young adults. Even the recently opened Bugs Burrow, engrossed the littlest of kids in providing a “bug’s eye view” themed outdoor play area, with a splash pool, slides and swings, well away from the less sedate activities throughout the park.

However, for parents, especially parents of kids aged at least 12 or 13—that is, children old enough for their parents to feel comfortable letting them galavant the resort’s myriad attractions without familial supervision—Kalahari may initially feel like an otherworldly getaway with limited options for allowing parents some guilt-free time away while the younger set is engrossed in the age-appropriate bacchanals of wave pools and water slides.

Spa and dining and more

In fact, the resort offers the conceptual opposite of its all-stimulating main attraction water park through its spa. The recently installed sensory deprivation “Float” tank (though undergoing a “scheduled maintenance” during our visit) purportedly offers visceral respite from the lifeguard-monitored water park chaos as does the antioxidizing “Halotherapy” salt room, both bookable in advance.

There’s also the B-Lux Grille & Bar, a decidedly adult-friendly restaurant focused on serving burgers, local doughnuts (from neighboring Sandusky’s Frosty Frog’s House of Donuts), a borderline intimidating selection of craft beer and boozy milkshakes.

The restaurant’s Sandusky-born Chef Justin Fouse (pronounced like it rhymes with “house”) insisted on sending us the Bavarian-style pretzel, served hanging from a hook with a hot beer and smoked gouda cheese dipping sauce and stone-ground mustard. The fresh soft-dough pretzel proved perhaps the menu’s foremost experiential departure from its garden variety (but still tasty) appetizer company comprised of the more typical finds including onion rings and chicken wings.

Though relatively pricey for burgers at $15 each, these upmarket sandwiches deliver the level of quality requisite of such a price point. The beef is custom ground to Kalahari specifications with 70% tri-tip and 30% short rib, definitely making the burgers worth the asking price. Additional local products like Toft’s ice cream and the pride of Norwalk, Ohio, produce from Sirna & Sons, demonstrates the attention to sourcing that makes all the difference in the taste of the food.

And while I initially found myself surprised at the absence of any African-inspired menu items, the restaurant’s wall-sized American flag print metaphorically assured that B-Lux was created for patrons to enjoy a solid and well prepared meal, (which they accomplished, because the food sang with rich flavor).

However, the far more certain route to parental relaxation winds through the Mud Hut, a swim-up bar protruding like an oasis from an expansive indoor/outdoor hot tub restricted to adults 21 and over. Though the bar serves the requisite kitschy frozen drinks blended from all variety of hued liquors, I felt just as acutely away from the indoor park’s madness nursing a scotch-and-soda in the hot tub’s outdoor area.

Sure, the view consisted of a Mobile station servicing a moderately busy county highway, but it was in this milieu that the apotheosis of the desire to get away from the Kalahari’s quixotic promise of getting away for some quality family time comfortably drenched me in this warm pool’s water—itself refreshingly adulterated only with chlorine. Like the ever-elusive moment of peace and clarity, the ephemeral existence of this adult sanctuary comprises the raison we take vacations—to enjoy.