SANDUSKY - I'm pretty sure I've never been in a room this big before.
That's really what it is. One giant room. One giant room that contains 10 water slides, a large wave pool, three huge hot tubs, dozens of cabanas with flat-screen TVs and patio furniture, thousands of pieces of outdoor lounges, tables and chairs, a restaurant, a bar, two swim-up bars, a lazy river and other stuff that I'm probably forgetting.
Perhaps the best part came on the ride home when all I heard was . . . silence. The kids were sound asleep within 10 minutes and when we got home they went back to sleep for about 12 hours.
Kalahari Waterpark Resort turned into an excellent home base for an overnight trip to Sandusky with the kids and their friends. There are other attractions the Merry-Go-Round and Maritime museums in this town formerly known almost exclusively for Cedar Point. But when the ''Amazement'' Park shuts down for the winter, America's largest indoor water park keeps tourism from skipping a beat.
The Kalahari Surfari FlowRider and the Kalahari Zip Coaster generate a lot of buzz, but there is a lot to be said for traditional slides. The Zip Coaster is a water roller coaster, certainly a unique concept, but the thrill doesn't match the wait in line. We all tried it once and never returned.
The surfing, however, looks like an awesome experience the young men on the board certainly had a great time - but we never tried it because we didn't want to wait just to fall in front of a crowd.
7000 Kalahari Dr.
Ohio's largest indoor water park and America's largest indoor water park resort. Includes indoor surfing, a 500-foot water slide ''coaster'' with free fall, dips and high-banking turns, water basketball hoops, lazy river, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis, and over-21 water bars.
301 Jackson St.
Ride an antique carousel, visit with wood carvers creating new carousel horses, hear the band organs, and learn about the art and history of these legendary rides.
125 Meigs St.
The museum interprets the maritime history, including boat building, recreational boating, shipwrecks, fishing and boats involved in Underground Railroad in the Sandusky area.
There are plenty of other ways to have fun here. We raced each other in the four-person cheetah slide. We went in groups on two- and four-passenger tubes on the Swahili Swirl and Rippling Rhino, we went bareback on the Tanzanian Twister (you'll fall through a funnel at the end), and Zimbabwe Zipper. The Wild Wildebeest and Elephant's Trunk we rode the most because the lines were shortest and the rides exciting.
One of the nice things about the attached lodge is that you can arrive at noon, pre-register for your room, and start using the facilities even though you haven't officially checked in yet. And although you have to check out at 11 you can continue to in the water park until 3.
But beware of the money pit. To get into the water park you must navigate through the dazzling lights and ringing sounds of arcade heaven (or the other place depending on how you look at it). There's also a $5 per locker charge for your stuff, and you'll need a place for your stuff since you don't have a room. Hint: If you leave your valuables elsewhere, such as in your vehicle, you can just lay everything else wherever you establish your spot inside the park.
If you want peace and quiet, wander over to the Nia Center where you can lounge on comfortable furniture in the large hallways and find a rest room that is secluded. It could be after 4 p.m. when your room is available. It could be 1 p.m. if you're lucky.
Inside the park you can also relax in one of the three indoor/outdoor hot tub spas, including two that are exclusively for those 21 and older and have swim-up bars. There is also a large bar in the middle of the complex.
Or you can simply relax on a lounger under the Texlon transparent roof that allows natural sunlight into the 173,000-square-foot African-themed park.
If you visit during a peak time, you'll certainly need this. The crowd, the noise, the battles for tubes, and the lines can test your patience.
The rooms can all accommodate at least four people. Our Lodge and Hut room combination included: a bedroom with a bathroom, two double beds, flat screen TV, microwave and patio; a kitchen with full size refrigerator, stove, second microwave, dishwasher, flatware and silverware; a dining area; a living room with sleeper sofa, second flat screen TV and second patio; a small bedroom with king size bed and third flat screen TV; and a bathroom with Jacuzzi.
It's a short drive from Kalahari to the Merry-Go-Round Museum. This is a nostalgic place for adults reviving memories, and the 80-year-old building itself offers many unique architectural points of interest. It's also a great place for young children who can ride the centerpiece carousel while the adults marvel at the cultural significance of the 1939 piece that arrived bare and later was populated with museum pieces and others on loan from private collectors.
The ''tweens'' and certainly young teens may be too cool for the Merry-Go-Round Museum.
For dining options outside of the resort, Ryan's Family Buffet is nearby with all-you-can-eat from $6 to $9 per person. If you want to get away from eating at a chain, Danny Boy's Italian Eatery is also near the resort and is comfortable for large families with kids. Money can be saved there by ordering pizza.
If you want to load up on sandwiches to bring back to your room, Dianna's Deli is nearby with a lunch and dinner menu that ranges from $3 to $9.You can eat in, but that may not be comfortable for a large family with kids.
The resort itself offers a couple options that are easy on the wallet. The Big Kahuna pizza is 20 inches for $20 and the 8-piece chicken with mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and mac and cheese is $23.
In fact, it's easy, perhaps too easy for the Sandusky tourism officials, to simply never leave Kalahari.