Columbus's Fort Rapids Indoor Waterpark and Newark's CoCo Key Water Resort.
Fort Rapids Indoor Waterpark Resort
My boys have always been curious about the winding waterslides at the Fort Rapids Indoor Waterpark Resort. The slides, which start and end indoors, are easily visible from I-70, a road we travel often.
I've hesitated taking them to an indoor-water park because I worried they might be too little to enjoy it, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Fort Rapids has a large zero-entry pool, dubbed the Kiddie Korral. It features several small slides that my sometimes-nervous 4-year-old eagerly tackled again and again. Points for the netting that keeps sliders from colliding with swimmers. The pool, which is only 2 feet at its deepest point, also has bucket swings which appealed to the toddler set.
Six-year-old Nick was drawn to the basketball hoops located in the same pool. Later, he and his 5-year-old friend hit the four-story play structure called the Rascal Round Up, even though it attracted kids a little older than they are. The structure has a variety of open and closed slides, water games and climbing spots for kids.
One of the most popular features was a bucket that youngsters could fill with water and then dump on unsuspecting people several stories below. Several adults who got nailed seemed mildly annoyed by the water attack.
Nick really wanted to try his hand at the monkey bars set over water but was told he was too short. Several of the attractions have height restrictions.
The 5-year-old in our party tried the Shoot Out Racer slide that is open to kids 42 inches and taller: Riders lie on their bellies on a mat and shoot through a dark tunnel. He said he was "a little scared" during the ride.
His mother, who also braved the side, agreed that it was frightening.
"I wouldn't encourage a kid to go unless you knew he or she was mature enough to not freak out," she said.
I tried out the big tube slides that have a height minimum of 48 inches and use an inner tube. I had a blast zooming down Ambush Alley, one of the slides that loop outside the building. I couldn't tell when I left the building for the frigid outdoors but enjoyed it all the same.
Overall, we had a great time. We went on a very busy day, which meant lines for some of the bigger slides. The locker rooms were crowded and a bit messy. The park didn't feel overly crowded until we went to order lunch. We waited more than an hour for our pizza, but the clerk gave the kids free ice cream to apologize for the delay.
The cafe serves pizza, hotdogs and hamburgers. Prices range from $4 for a personal pan pizza to $5.50 for a hamburger combo that includes fries and drink.
-Melissa Kossler Dutton
CoCo Key Water Resort at Cherry Valley Lodge
I knew we wouldn't be alone when my son, two of his seventh-grade buddies and I headed east for the CoCo Key Water Resort, just south of Granville, on MLK Day. The water park opened in 2006 and has remained a popular destination for families (despite ongoing issues with ownership: at press time, the facility's corporate owner had just been sold, but with assurances that operations will remain the same at its 10 facilities across the U.S.). But we weren't expecting the line out the door when we arrived at the 10 a.m. opening time.
Once inside, it was a mad dash to claim a table and chairs. There are small lockers available ($6, payable when you check in), as well as five sparsely-furnished "cabanas" ($50-$75 each). But once we got down to the business of splashing, all was well.
The locker rooms were a little rundown: Most of the showers were either not working or spewing only cold water. But in the rest of the spacious, colorful and well-managed facility, all is well. I was especially impressed with how vigilant, without being overbearing, the teen-aged lifeguards were.
The little-kid area featured a zero-depth pool, buckets and sprays, plus a short slide. Nearby was also a parent/child warm whirlpool, but it was always overcrowded.
Parrot's Perch, the centerpiece area, has four open-topped slides, a water cannon and a gigantic bucket that emptied every 10 minutes. Tip: To avoid getting nailed by the water dump, listen for 20 seconds of ticking noises. I saw one little boy get emotionally scarred for life when he was flattened by the deluge.
More popular with my tweens were the Coconut Grove Adventure River and three giant closed slides - which don't come with any warnings, by the way. I foolishly chose the Barracuda Blast slide and it was only after
I came shooting out of it at warp speed that the boys giddily informed me that I had picked "the scariest one." Ya think? All I'll say about the pitch-dark, winding, twisting slide rides is hold your nose unless your sinuses need a good cleaning out.
Food acquisition was a chore. You can't bring anything of your own in there, except for baby food or formula in plastic containers. Getting our medium cheese pizza ($12.75) and five garlic breadsticks ($5.60) took about 40 minutes. There is also a 12-and-under menu available ($5 for the usual combo array of food and drink). You can also towel off, get dressed and hit one of three sit-down restaurants on site.
The boys also enjoyed the games arcade, which gave them a break from the splashing. We ended up staying five hours and it felt about right.