After our successful trip to the Great Wolf Lodge last year in Washington, and Simon's recent love for playing in the bath tub (and getting me soaked), I've been anxious to get back to an indoor water park. Plus it's cold. We figured we'd give Castaway Bay a shot this time. As you might guess, I can't not compare to Great Wolf (in Washington).
First off, I was really impressed with the theme throughout the hotel. It's fairly well executed, and not cheap looking. They even have a little animated show in the lobby. My last visit to that hotel was probably ten years ago, when it was still a Radisson. The exterior looks a little weathered in places, but the interior feels fresh and warm throughout.
Our room was clean and in good shape, and I'm usually pretty picky about that. The furnishings were in pretty good shape, and generally better than what we had at Great Wolf. The thing you typically ask yourself about the indoor water park hotel is whether or not the room rates are worth the room and admission, and I would say they're absolutely pricing it right. The only thing I could really pick on is that I wish they would use real glasses instead of those individually wrapped plastic cups.
The water park is very well suited to a family with a toddler. It's not overwhelmingly huge, and that's a good thing. We started at the wave pool, because that's what Simon seemed to enjoy the most last spring at Great Wolf, but he wasn't really having it. I think some of his apprehension comes from having to wear a life jacket, which they require at his height. That just seemed to generally make him uncomfortable. It's a small-ish wave pool that probably gets crowded at busier times, but has solid wave action.
The toddler pool has a number of splash elements and spouts with a zero-depth entry, perfect for the little ones. Simon took to the big squid thing with a slide on it, and it was definitely the thing that made him comfortable there. Unfortunately, its lowest step is way too high for a toddler, so he needed some help to start climbing it, but particularly when it wasn't busy, he owned it. Later he graduated to the two bigger slides at the other end of the pool, and kept going around over and over. He really enjoyed it!
The big play structure with the bucket was impressive, and after seeing the bucket dump a few times, he was totally into watching it. He traversed much of the structure with our help, but his favorite spot was a group of spouts in the floor and a valve that controlled their spray height. He went completely apeshit over them! I did one of the body slides off of the structure, and was impressed with how fast it went, given its younger targeting.
There are a few activity pools along the one side of the building that are really geared more toward tweens and teens, but they did seem to be a hit. Back in the corner, almost hidden, is the entrance stairs to the three big body slides that can be seen on the outside of the building (they could really use better signage for them). Diana and I both took spins on these, and they're seriously intense. There aren't enough body slides out in the world anymore, that you can do without tubes. By the time you get to the bottom, they pull some serious G's. Excellent!
Neither one of us got up to do the water coaster, which is unfortunate, but I'm so tainted by Wildebeest at Holiday World that I'd probably find it lame anyway. It'll be fun for Simon once he grows a few inches, I'm sure.
Overall, the water park is really nice, and very right-sized for a family with a little one. I suspect older teens wouldn't be as into it, which is OK by me. Other than the toddler pool, it seemed like the water could have been a few degrees warmer, especially in the play structure. Maybe I'm just too used to the hot tub. They have a snack bar in there too, where you can apparently charge back to your room with your wristband, but we didn't get around to that. They also have a small food shop and a restaurant open for breakfast, but we didn't go to either one of those. We did go to the attached Friday's, and it wasn't bad at all. I haven't been to one in probably two years because they sucked, but what I had wasn't bad. Plus one to the manager, who refilled Diana's draft cider after a chain reaction spill that started with Simon's milk.
I don't know that Simon will remember his visit there, but I know his parents had a good time! We had a nice little getaway there, in a comfortable room and perfectly sized water park. I can definitely see another visit in our future, and likely for years to come while our little guy remains little.