BEMIDJI — Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted an early spring this year, but let’s be honest: This is Minnesota. Just when the snow had nearly melted, it’s back at it again – and probably for the next couple of months, too.
Yet, for the portion of us who are eager for warmth, white sandy beaches and palm trees are looking more than a little appealing right now.
Sure, we may be walking a fine line between sticking out the cabin fever and impulse buying a Caribbean vacation, but why not spare the sanity – and the wallet – and make a day at one of the state’s indoor water parks?
With warm temperatures, warm water and – more than likely – a tropical theme, these aquatic parks may not be the equivalent of a Jamaican getaway, but they do make for an excellent premature taste of summertime.
After all, it’s called improvisation, which is something Midwesterners have been pulling off for some time now.
In 1994, the Polynesian Resort Hotel in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., unveiled the city’s first indoor water play area – in an attempt to make the community a more year-round tourist destination.
Outdoor water parks had gained popularity throughout the latter half of the twentieth century in America, but this weather-proof concept picked up when other hotel owners saw the Polynesian’s success during the more unseasonable months.
As a result, the idea quickly spread throughout the tourism industry, and today, Wisconsin Dells is recognized as the “Water Park Capital of the World.”
And while the parks on this list are localized to Minnesota, they too provide folks a fun yet practical way to splish and splash in the wintertime.
Great Wolf Lodge, Bloomington
If you want big, Great Wolf Lodge has you covered.
The year-round family destination has a 75,000 square-foot indoor water park that comes complete with activities for all ages. Equipped with five water slides, the aquatic playground -- which is set to a balmy 84-degrees -- includes an indoor surf simulator, a tandem tube ride, a wave pool and a lazy river.
There is also the River Canyon Run with Splash Cinema, which allows guests to choose a movie theme for an interactive ride full of lights and music down a slide.
And while children will enjoy a water fort treehouse that is decked out with a huge tipping bucket, interactive water toys and kid-activated splash features, adults will love the indoor cabana rentals, which offer a more private space to unwind with family. The cabanas come with unlimited soda refills, towels, seating and flat-screen televisions.
Water park day passes are available to non-guests of Great Wolf Lodge.
Big Splash at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center, Alexandria
Although the city of Alexandria, Minn., isn’t lacking in outdoor recreation, a trip to Big Splash Minnesota Indoor Waterpark fits the bill for those looking to escape the snow.
The 38,000 square-foot expanse of fun has three waterslides that are four-stories each, which blast guests through the upper levels of the building, even taking them for a brief enclosed trip outside.
There is also a children's play fort with three slides, water blasters, palm trees with tipping coconuts, a basketball shootout, a lily pad waterwalk, geysers and deck bubblers. On top is a 500-gallon splash bucket.
Both kids and adults can lounge on inner tubes and float down the lazy river or take a soak in the tropical-themed whirlpool hot tub.
The Big Splash Minnesota Indoor Waterpark offers day passes and is open daily in the summer and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the winter.
Venetian Waterpark at Holiday Inn, Osseo
For those looking to experience some Italian flare with their aquatic adventures, the Venetian Waterpark is the way to go.
Upon entering the 25,000 square-foot Mediterranean-style area, guests are transported to the canals of Venice, surrounded by a landscape of the city’s Venician Gothic building architecture.
Younger children will love the Bambini Piscina, a wading pool with zero-depth entry, a ship slide and interactive activities.
While there are two 4-story water slides that send older guests twisting and turning, there’s also an activity pool that features water basketball and a lily pad waterwalk. And with a pretty ambiance to boot, adults will delight in taking a soak in the water park’s large hot tub.
The water park is available to hotel guests only.
Paul Bunyan Water Park at Arrowwood Lodge at Brainerd Lakes, Baxter
While all parks on this list are geared toward children, Paul Bunyan Water Park is especially perfect for families with younger kids because of its low-impact slides and toddler-friendly play areas.
The 30,000 square-foot space not only has a zero-depth entry pool but a large interactive treehouse play structure with water cannons and a splash bucket, which are sure to entertain a younger crowd.
Along with a lazy river and whirlpool spas, the park also features an activity pool that has basketball hoops and an activity called Paul's log walk, which tests guests’ agility and balance.
Day passes are available to the public.
Three Bear Waterpark at Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Brainerd
With 250,000 gallons of heated water pumped into Three Bear Waterpark, there’s more than enough H2O to power the park’s abundance of activities.
From a tot slide for toddlers to various 300-foot tube and body slides for thrill seekers, there’s bound to be something for all ages to enjoy.
Here, guests can discover a huge tipping bucket that is rigged to occasionally splash 1,000 gallons of water on passerby. There is also a lazy river and an activity pool with basketball hoops.
For those looking to enjoy the park without children, there are adult-only hot tubs available. Family hot tubs are also an option, and both types can accommodate 18 people each.
Day passes are available to the public.
Edgewater Hotel & Waterpark, Duluth
Guests will feel like they’re in an island oasis when visiting this tiki-themed water park.
At 35,000 square-feet, the park boasts four-and-a-half-story tube and body slides as well as an interactive water play structure, children's pool, activity pool and hot tub.
A lengthy 400-foot lazy river winds through the park, and guests can take a break from the slides to relax while floating on single or multi-person tubes.
This destination also features Minnesota’s first vortex pool, “a smooth, speedy ride that allows you to swim with – or against – a fast-moving current,” the Edge’s website said.
A limited number of water park day packages are available for non-guests.
Seven Clans Casino, Thief River Falls
After undergoing a renovation that was completed in June 2019, the water park at Seven Clans Casino is back with upgrades.
A new slide and bridge have been added to its center, and new swings have been placed in the kiddie pool. There is also a toddler-friendly area with a splash pad now.
Along with the additions, the 40,000 square-foot water park comes complete with four large water slides, three mini-slides, two hot tubs, a lazy river, a shallow wading pool, and a swimming pool. An interactive play center with a splash bucket is included as well.
The park is open to the public and on-property guests.