Sliding Solo at the Kalahari Resort

In my time with Meetings Today I’ve been able to attend a number of press trips to gain a better perspective on the destinations and properties we cover each month.

However, a visit to Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio, this past summer was a little more unusual in that it was the first 100% family-friendly convention resort that I had visited, and I was left to my own devices to explore, as it was not part of a formal press trip and mostly over the weekend.

This created an interesting dynamic, in which none of the resort’s staff—outside of the ones that invited me out, directly related to promoting meetings—knew I was a writer. Also I was at a resort known primarily for its awesome indoor water park, as a then 26-year-old male. I was sliding solo.

As a quick background, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions is a water park resort chain with locations in the Wisconsin Dells and Sandusky, Ohio, with another property in Pocono Mountains, Pa., scheduled to open in the summer of 2015 (with the possibility of even more locations down the road).

Each property has a vibrant African theme across the entire resort that stretches to its convention facilities, as reflected by a giant lion statue found in the main entrance to the meeting space. I was told in Sandusky that the Kalahari Resorts actually contained one of the largest collections of authentic African art in the country. And of course the resort is named after the Kalahari Desert.

The Sandusky property features 215,000 square feet of flexible event space, which makes it a major player that can house large-scale meetings, in a modern convention environment.

The distance covered from hotel room to meeting space was one of the shortest I’ve seen for a property of this size, yet I never felt distracted by the waterpark portion of the resort while exploring the meeting facilities and checking out a customer appreciation event going on that weekend. Distance is something I always think about from a planning perspective in regards to accessibility.

The indoor water park is more spread out, and touted as “America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark,” where I almost managed to get lost on a number of occasions. But that’s more of a pro than a con, when most of your clientele in this part of the property is there for exactly that reason.

Back to that customer appreciation event setup, the Zambezi Ballroom featured a colorful open layout that instilled a sense of fun into the room with the use of LED lighting. It made things feel a little less stodgy and a little more whimsical, which I think is what the resort is going for.

I was informed, on numerous occasions, that owner and president Todd Nelson placed an emphasis on providing quality food across the resort—especially in its banquet services—which did leave me impressed, since family-friendly and “quality food” don’t always go hand-in-hand.

There was a level of professionalism found throughout the resort that made me believe it was a place where attendees could bring the family along, but also get work done at the same time. And I think that certainly makes it worth a look for planners in the market for a large family-friendly property.

And now on to the most pressing question. Did I go on a waterslide? Yes. While I admittedly spent most of my poolside time by the outdoor pool away from the water park (and the noise), I did take a couple hours to see what the indoor water park had to offer as well.

I selected the Tanzanian Twister as my ride of choice, touting sliding speeds of “up to 40 mph” into a winding spiral that spit me out into the pool below. I’m sure it was an interesting sight to see a bearded dude waiting in a line of kids and parents for a turn on the slide, but I had no shame (maybe it was the margarita in the outdoor water park beforehand). Hey, it was the weekend after all!

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