Illinois, Family, Local

5 Best Indoor Water Parks in Illinois

Hi, I'm Kristen!
I'm an award-winning senior portrait and family photographer based out of Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. I love sunshine, cacti, chocolate chips, and a great cup of tea - but most of all I love photographing joyful clients. :)
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Family of three looking at the river's water at a park in Illinois.

Winter is upon us and I would like nothing more to be on a white sand beach. Alas, the children are in school. To get that warm-water swimming fix, here are the best indoor water parks in Illinois that would be fantastic for a weekend getaway!

5 Best Indoor Water Parks in Illinois

Mother and young daughter in white dresses at an Illinois park with water near Chicago.

Indoor Water Parks and Resorts in Illinois

Great Wolf Lodge (North of Chicago)

Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee, IL (North of Chicago), is a 47 minute, 46 miles drive from the Chicago Loop. This hotel and resort offers a lazy river, wave pool, and multiple body and raft waterslides. Also, they have a toddler water playground and a 4-story water playground. Great Wolf Lodge offers multiple fun options for a variety of ages, from splash pads and tiny pools for toddlers, to rafting water slides for teens and adults.

Furthermore, they have plenty of dry land activities! These options include a ropes course, scavenger hunt, arcade, a climbing wall, a mining activity, and a bowling alley! Additionally, they offer indoor mini golfing and a Build-A-Bear Workshop.

For dining options, Great Wolf Lodge has five restaurants, a bar, a Dunkin Donuts, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Shop, and a candy store.

General admission for a day pass is $90/person. Resort guests have free access. However, Great Wolf Lodge often has coupon codes; it is worth checking the website to see what codes are active.

Great Wolf Lodge is my favorite of the 5 best indoor water parks in Illinois.

Family of three at a riverbed at an Illinois park with water.

Pirate’s Cay Indoor Water Park (Southwest of Chicago)

Pirate’s Cay Indoor Water Park (Sheriden, Southwest of Chicago) is a 1 hour, 18 minutes, 72 mile drive from the Chicago Loop. This water park is part of Holiday Inn’s Fox River Resort and is open Fridays through Sundays.

Pirate’s Cay offers a lazy river, water slides, and a pirate-ship themed water playground. Additionally, they offer an outdoor pool, an arcade, and movie theater. While no outside food and beverages are allowed in, they have two dining options inside.

Admission for resort guests is $20/person over 48″ tall, $17/person under 48″ tall, and people under 36″ are free. For general admission, the prices are $27/person over 48″ tall, $22/person under 48″ tall, and people under 36″ are free.

Mother playing with daughter in a park in Illinois

Grand Bear Falls Indoor Waterpark and Resort (Southwest of Chicago)

Grand Bear Falls Indoor Waterpark and Resort (North Utica, Southwest of Chicago) is a 1 hour, 34 minutes, 94 mile drive from the Chicago Loop. This indoor water park near Chicago offers waterslides, a lazy river, wave pool, whirlpool, and kids water playground. Additionally, Grand Bear Falls has an arcade, 15-person hot tub, crafts activities and movie nights. Also, you may be interested in exploring the state parks near the resort for hiking; Starved Rock, Matthiesen, and Buffalo Rock are all nearby.

For dining options, it has a restaurant, cafe, ice cream shop, bar, and concession stand at the water park.

While admission is free for resort guests, it is $40/adult and $35/child for general admission.

Mother playing with her young daughter in a grassy park in Illinois

Indoor Water Parks with Hotels

Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee, IL, Pirate’s Cay in Sheridan, IL, and Grand Bear Falls in North Utica, IL are all indoor water parks in Illinois that are part of hotels and resorts.

Family of three in light-colored neutral clothing standing next to a stream in Illinois

Indoor Water Parks near Chicago

While all of the options mentioned above are within a 2 hour drive from Chicago, the following options are indoor water parks without hotels that are suitable for a day trip from the city.

The Water Works Indoor Water Park

The Water Works Indoor Water Park in Schaumburg (Northwest Chicago suburbs) is a 38 minute, 33 miles drive from the Chicago Loop. It’s open Wednesdays 5:30-8:30 PM, Friday 4-8 PM, and Saturday and Sunday 12-5 PM.

This pool is inside the Schaumburg Community Recreation Center. It offers three water slides, a “rapid water channel” and a whirlpool along with more typical amenities like a lap and diving pool.

Admission is $8/residents, $12/nonresidents.

Pelican Harbor Water Park

The last of my 5 best indoor water parks in Illinois is Pelican Harbor Indoor/Outdoor Waterpark (Bolingbrook, Southwest Chicago Suburbs) is a 43 minute, 32 miles drive from the Chicago Loop. There are multiple indoor water slides (two big slides and one small slide), a zero-depth entry pool, and an indoor lap pool. For indoor water play amenities, this indoor water park is better set up for younger age groups.

The hours are as follows:

Weekends, 12-5 PM;

Monday 4-8 PM,

Tuesday: closed,

Wednesday: 8-11 AM,

Thursday: closed,

Friday: 4-8 PM.

Admission pricing is complicated, but averages $10/person/day. You can check the prices here.

Food options are not available every day, but you are allowed to bring in your own food and drinks. So bring snacks or a meal just in case!

Father throwing his young daughter in the air at an Illinois park with water.

Indoor Water Park near Lake Geneva, WI

Timber Ridge Lodge (Lake Geneva, WI)

An honorable mention, the Timber Ridge Lodge & Water Park in Lake Geneva, WI is just a 1 hour and 23 minutes, 85 mile drive from the Chicago Loop. It offers water slides, a lazy river, a a water playground for smaller kids, including swings which is unusual for a water park.

Additionally, Timber Ridge Lodge offers dry land attractions including magic shows, a bowling alley, an arcade, and outdoor mini golfing.

Timber Ridge Lodge offers a “Daycation Package” for $129 which includes 4 passes to the water park and use of a room from 2-10 PM. Otherwise, admission to the water park is included with your hotel stay.

The Wisconsin Dells Water Parks and Resorts

And of course the Wisconsin Dells (3 hours, 15 minutes, 195 miles from the Chicago Loop) has many more water park resort offerings, but that’s a blog for another day. 😉 Thanks for reading about my picks for the 5 best indoor water parks in Illinois!

If putting up with inconsistent weather isn’t fun for you, please consider my indoor studio and at-home photoshoots for the next time you would like to update your family’s portraits. You can check out my portfolio here. 🙂 Not ready for a portrait session? Sign up for the newsletter so you’ll be in the know! 🙂

Kristen Hazelton is an award-winning Oak Park, IL (West Chicagoland) and Livermore, CA (San Francisco East Bay Area) graduating senior, and family photographer. She occasionally photographs in San Diego, CA, Tucson, AZ, and Seattle, WA. You can inquire about your own photoshoot here!

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