One of my favorite ways to get through a long, cold winter in Iowa ... is to spend a long weekend at a resort with an indoor water park.
For the last two winters, we'd gone to Honey Creek Resort. It's a bit of a drive and the water park is a little small. But it's well planned out and it's a great getaway. The first time it was just my youngest and myself - and we got a hotel room. The issue with that was that there's really only one restaurant around and it's uber-expensive within the resort to eat. Nice if you don't want to go outside at all the whole weekend. But not the cheapest trip.
Then last year, it was all five of us. Myself, my eldest, his fiance, her son, and my youngest. And we rented a cabin. The problem with a cabin is that you have to almost drive to the resort to get to the water park - so you are in and out of the cold a lot over the weekend. Having a kitchen though? Made it much more affordable. We got to eat what we wanted, when we wanted and the trip for the five of us, cost less than the trip for the two of us when you factored in food costs.
This year, my youngest really wanted to go to the Ramada Tropics Resort instead. The advantage is that it's pretty much in town... and my eldest and his fiance could still work this weekend, but join us after work. There are lots of places to eat nearby - so we weren't stuck eating in just the hotel restaurant - however, I did enjoy a couple of meals there anyway. The food was expensive, but about half the cost of the other resort.
The water park has nicer features... more to do for the kids. BUT, not well laid out. There are two structures in the middle of the water park that obstruct a parent's view. So, there isn't a single place you can stand or sit where you can watch more than half of the water park. My youngest is a good, but not great swimmer. Which means, I need to keep an eye on him. My grandson is a beginning swimmer... which means that he's still learning how much he can or can't swim - which means constant monitoring for him as well. At Honey Creek, you can monitor about 95% of the water park from the majority of the water park - including from a seat in the hot tub.
Also, the Ramada Tropics water park is crazy, crazy full of people at most hours of the day. There were a few hours here and there where folks were checking out or going to lunch when it would get a little quieter - but the quietest moments were comparable to the majority of the time at Honey Creek. Now, if you are a kid or a teenager - busier is better to a point as there are more other kids around to play with and interact with. But, at my age? less kids in the water makes it easier to keep an eye on my kids in the water... and frankly? We managed to bump into some rather unfriendly and rude folks this weekend. Fewer people will always get my vote.
For cost? The Ramada Tropics was only about 75% of the cost of Honey Creek Resort. The hotel rooms are very similar in quality. Great beds for a good nights sleep. A nice flat screen for the tv with dish service. Honey Creek is a newer facility, but the rooms we had a the Ramada were newly remodeled with the newest bathroom fixtures, including a over head shower head in the shower stall (no tub). The cabins we'd used had two bedrooms, two baths, a nice open living area with an amazing fireplace.
For future stays, we'll probably continue to go to the Ramada while my kids want to go there - but if they get to the point where the crowding gets to them as well ... .or once it's just me going on my pilgrimage - then I'll probably head back to Honey Creek.