5 waterpark resorts for (safe) family getaways from Pittsburgh

Photo: Experience four stories of exhilarating, fast-water fun on the Alberta Falls tandem tubes at the Great Wolf Lodge. Photo courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge.

We can all use a break from hybrid schooling, Zoom meetings and the tedium of our everyday routine. Escaping for a weekend is within your reach at indoor water parks equipped with new Covid guidelines that ensure your family’s safety. Pack up swimsuits and goggles to prepare for splashes and wave jumping. Crystal blue water destinations are within a few hours’ drive.

Family-friendly challenges appeal to thrill-seekers of all ages. Photo courtesy of Kalahari Resorts.

1. Kalahari Resorts Indoor Water Park

If size matters, welcome to the 173,000-square-foot, African-themed Kalahari Resorts in Sandusky, Ohio. The four Kalahari Resorts, including one in the Poconos, are aimed at families looking for adventure. Kids can learn to surf at the Flow Rider, where they will catch the perfect wave. Ride a raft spinning 60 degrees around the Swahili Swirl. Experience the Zimbabwe Zipper, a wild ride that allows thrill-seekers to reach speeds of up to 40 mph. Water-loving tots are not forgotten. Coral Cove and Kid’s Safari are geared for smaller paddlers. And you won’t want to miss the very cool Underwater Virtual Reality experience. Buy a day pass or get free water park admission with your overnight stay.

Occupancy numbers are reduced to allow for social distancing within the resort and water park. Masks are required while out of the water for everyone age 2 and older. Lounge chairs are sanitized frequently. You’ll also find cash-free payment methods and protective screens. Check out the complete safety protocols here.

At Big Foot Pass, giant, floating lily pads and cargo nets build dexterity and strength while offering soft, warm water landings. Photo courtesy of the Great Wolf Lodge.

2. Great Wolf Lodge

The Great Wolf Lodge resort brand has everything a family might desire in a getaway trip. The locations closest to Pittsburgh are in Sandusky, Ohio, and the Poconos. The lodge’s amazing array of water features includes four stories of fast water thrills, riding a tandem tube and splashing along banked turns. Relax and float on a lazy river while the kids test their balance and dexterity hopping on lily pads with a soft water landing for silly spills. Whooping Hollow gives kids pint-sized water slide fun, while the gentle spray features at Soak’n Oak Springs will appeal to toddlers in the group.

Great Wolf’s safety “Paw Pledge” includes completing a guest wellness questionnaire as part of the check-in process. Masks are mandatory throughout the resort for visitors ages 5 and older. Expect expanded sanitation throughout public areas, guestrooms and on high-touch items like rafts and life vests. For enhanced safety, daily housekeeping service is suspended, but you can text the virtual concierge for extra towels and other needs.

Spend downtime cruising through the park on the Lazy River. Photo courtesy of Splash Lagoon.

3. Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park

Erie is home to Splash Lagoon, an easy day trip from Pittsburgh. But with six partner hotels, an overnight stay could be even more fun. The 12-level interactive Tree House is a cool feature. Among its nine water slides are the Python Plunge, Big Kahuna and Shark Attack. Kids taller than 42 inches will love the FlowRider indoor surf machine. The Wild Waters Wave Pool lays claim as the largest in the eastern U.S. with 200,000 gallons of water and waves that rise to six feet. The Tree Tops Rope Course offers a view from three stories in the air. There are loads of flowers, palm trees and a steady 84-degree temperature to keep your tropical dreams alive. Watch for specials like weekday Mommy and Me Days.

In preparation for reopening Splash Lagoon, the resort’s Covid Action Plan included deep cleaning and sanitizing the water park and hotel rooms. The procedures continue with a dedicated Sanitation Specialist overseeing the efforts. Masks are required, except when swimming or sitting as a family at socially distanced tables and chairs. About 472,000 gallons of water are cycled through filtration and neutralizing systems four to six times daily as part of the safety protocol.

Kids will find slides for every age at Hershey’s Water Works. Photo courtesy of Hershey.

4. Hershey’s Water Works at Hershey Lodge

Guests at Hershey Lodge can enjoy exclusive, complimentary entry to Hershey’s Water Works, with 30,000 square feet of indoor splashy fun. Race down the Twizzlers Twists water slides and test your balance on the Reese’s Water Walk. Other features include the Sandcastle Spray Zone, Lighthouse Tipping Bucket and the zero-entry pool. Save with a weekday special, the Kids Stay, Play, Splash and Eat Free package.

Along with other Covid safety protocols, Hershey has implemented a new weekend water park reservation system to manage capacity and guarantee time slots for families. Masks are required for everyone older than 2. The fitness center and arcade are open with reduced capacity to allow for social distancing.

Find your happy place with 84-degree temperatures and palm trees. Photo courtesy of Split Rock Resort.

5. H2Oooohh! Water Park

This wet and wild indoor water park is part of Split Rock Resort at Lake Harmony in the Poconos. Water attractions include a wave pool and five slides for body, tube and raft drops. An extreme slide allows gravity to take the most courageous down four stories to a crash splash finish. Smaller adventurers will have fun at the Jungle Play area with a dumping bucket and the Leapin’ Lily Pads. Bring your own towel or buy one at the gift shop.

Covid safety procedures include resort-wide cleaning and sanitizing. Temperature checks, social distancing and masks are required for all guests and staff.