We took a mini family vacation a couple weeks ago to Key Lime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort in Gurnee, IL (my kind of road trip with the kids = short.)
Water park hotels have kinda become our thing, the go-to place to stay when you have a gaggle of kids. It’s a nice get-away without having to get too far away. We can’t afford traveling to Disney, and to our kids, a big room of water next to an arcade IS Disney World, you know? (NO ONE CLUE THEM IN YET, PLEASE.)
So anyway, we’ve stayed at a few- Great Wolf Lodge, Coco Key Resort; and Key Lime Cove was instantly my favorite of them all the moment I walked in. I don’t think there’s any relation, but it reminds me a lot of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel I stayed at in Nashville- where every single detail was spot on.
The decor, the colors (COLORS!!), the atmosphere, even the shops and restaurants. The hotel room (we had two queen beds with a pull out couch for the six of us with plenty of space to spare) reminded me a lot of the Beach Club at Disney, actually. Everything looked and felt new and clean. That’s nice when it comes to a hotel room, y’know?
The waterpark is in one big room- which I liked. I get all anxiety-attacked when there is too much going on and several rooms of water and slides and kids and chaos will do that to me. There were a few bigger slides that I found exciting and so did Carter (he’s our only big-sliding kid) and at the same time, there was plenty for the non-sliders to do. Pretty much anywhere you wanted to go in the park area had tables, chairs, and loungers and something for all ages. Our favorite? The lazy river. I loved that we all could go together as long as the smallest kids were on a tube with an adult. (Oh sidenote, the tubes were clear so I would stick my face in them and look down like I was seeing underwater. I kept looking for money or jewelry or anything really and that place was spotless. Not even dirt.)
Other things I really liked:
Wristband-activated everything. Getting into your hotel room, paying at restaurants and stores, the lockers in the park, the arcade vending machine = super nice when you don’t want to wear a waterproof wallet or stick your room key in your sandals and be all nervous that someone is going to take it.
Lifeguards- they were everywhere and quite friendly. Like, I’ve seen them at waterparks before and they usually look bored out of their minds. I caught some of them interacting and playing with my kids and that was all kinds of awesome because I could lie on my lounger and read my book, I mean, sit and watch with more peace of mind.
The arcade room (as much as I think it’s a waste of money, my kids LOVE THE ARCADE)- it had a dinosaur video game in Gray’s size. Like, lower to the ground, it only cost ONE TOKEN, and it had two huge buttons to control. SO SIMPLE and he loved it AND it spit out tickets. Win Win Win.
Nice shops and restaurants. Like, we’re talking fashionable clothes and swimwear (they even carry maternity!) and food that isn’t all fried and fast foody. Oh, and a coffee shop with good iced coffee and breakfast sandwiches and CANDY.
Things I thought were kind of “meh”:
I found the waitstaff and lifeguards to have MUCH more personality and friendliness than the people at the front desk. I thought that was kind of unusual, so maybe they were having a totally off week or something.
We didn’t have all the bedding needed for the pull-out bed and didn’t realize it until late (because we didn’t set up the bed until bedtime!) and I made two calls to the front desk and they promised to send it up, but never did. That was awkward. (My recommendation- make sure you have all the bedding you’ll need as soon as you check in.) (We got the bedding we needed the next day.)
I would have loved to have a bigger veranda on the room, one where you can at least sit with a couple chairs so hubs and I could sit out with a glass of wine after the kids are asleep. It was teeny tiny (I think other rooms might have bigger ones, not sure.)
No WiFi! You had to use a cable thing to hook up to their internet and thankfully hubs had brought his laptop- my HP Mini isn’t set up for that.
Really, overall, the rooms were the nicest of any waterpark we’ve been to, as well as the water park and everything else about the hotel in general. Already I’m wishing we could go back again soon.
I must not forget to mention that there is the Paradise Mist Spa at Key Lime Cove and they are always having fun events and specials (and girls’ night out getaway weekends!)- totally something to think about if you live in the area or are just visiting. I didn’t end up making an appointment for the massage I really wanted because we were saving our pennies and also, I was having so much fun with the kids I didn’t want to sneak away! (Now, in hindsight I wish I could have escaped to that spa while hubs was driving them home and then followed by myself later.)(Now that’s paradise.)
Oh, and hello- Key Lime Cove is like a sister to Six Flags Great America. We aren’t ready to take the kids to Great America just yet, but they do offer some great specials and a free shuttle and more perks like that. The hotel even books and caters events like family reunions, receptions, parties, corporate meetings, etc with a real event coordinator that will do up an event pretty much any way you want.
I did take a little time to talk to Key Lime Cove’s Director of Food and Beverage Chris Adams. That was nice because I had a lot of questions about families with food allergies (Gray is allergic to dairy, eggs, and nuts) as well as healthy eating options.
Chris just joined the company about three months ago but is already implementing changes to the menus, offering better choices for old and young diners. He also was inspired by Food, Inc. for his family and his restaurants and I thought that was great. It should inspire us all.
For those with food allergies: Chris invites any family planning a visit to call ahead and let them know of any special dietary needs you might have. They will prepare and make sure they have something you can eat. They do keep gluten-free products on hand, including gluten-free pizza dough, for those with gluten sensitivities. I was so excited by their option of goat cheese for the “make your own pizza” on the D.W. Anderson’s kids menu- that’s what Gray made. He was so excited.
The Crazy Toucan also had some great vegetarian menu items as well. Nice to see!
We got to talking about what we’d love for our kids to eat while we’re on vacation, and what they’ll REALLY eat, and how to find a balance within it all. I would like to see less burgers and fries and more pita and hummus and vegetable soups, things made with black beans, etc. Chris said they are searching for some new realistic menu items to offer on the kids meals. Of course, when you’re on vacation you’re going to splurge a bit on some junk food, but if you’re staying there a couple days, you’re going to want to eat something healthy SOME of the time at least, right?
(I’d love for you to comment with your suggestions for new kids menu entree ideas whether you’re a local or would ever visit Key Lime Cove or not.)
That brings me to a little give away I have here.
Win. Key Lime Cove is giving away a dinner for 4 people at one of their signature restaurants, D.W. Anderson’s or The Crazy Toucan. Perfect for locals or anyone driving through this way of the midwest. (The restaurants are open to the public, winner is not required to book a stay or enter the waterpark.)
To enter, please leave a comment with what you’d like to see featured for your kids on the childrens’ menu at a restaurant.
I’ll choose one winner at random after Friday July 23 (11:59pm).
If you do plan a visit to Key Lime Cove, follow and tweet- they’ve always got great specials and contests.
Congrats to winner Leighann of D-mom Blog!
Disclosure! I was not compensated to write this post but did pay a discounted media rate for our stay at Key Lime Cove.