by Andrea Guthmann
Note: KeyLime Cover Indoor Water Park Resort has closed and will reopen as a Great Wolf Lodge in 2018.
Want to take the family to the Florida Keys, but don’t have the money or vacation time? That’s the idea behind Key Lime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort in Gurnee, Illinois, an hour from both Milwaukee and Chicago. In here it’s always summer — 84 degrees and the water’s warm — even when snow’s falling outside.
You’ll find 414 island-inspired rooms, faux palm trees in the lobby, frozen drinks with umbrellas, and an indoor beach boardwalk of shops and restaurants designed to resemble a Key West street — all nestled just south of the Wisconsin border in Illinois.
The main attraction here is the large 65,000-square-foot water park, and while it’s not a Tsunami size waterpark like the largest ones in the Wisconsin Dells, it still has plenty to keep all ages happy. Tiny tots will enjoy the Play Pond, a fun area with small slides, while thrill seekers will enjoy flying down the body slides and tube slides, or spinning down the vortex. The interactive water playground is sure to be a hit with its water sprays and giant pineapple pouring every few minutes.
Aside from the waterpark, there are six restaurants onsite, an arts and crafts area and an arcade. The resort’s daily “Fun-tivities Guide” tells guests what’s happening each day. Scavenger hunts, cookie decorating, and story times are some of the activities offered.
The waterpark is reserved for hotel guests, too (no day passes available for purchase), which keeps the crowds to a minimum.
Better yet, the hotel is only a few blocks from the Six Flags Great America amusement park and a mile from the massive Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall, with some-200 shops and a 20-screen movie theater. The hotel has a free shuttle to both, a real perk given that parking at Six Flags costs $25.
Our Editor Loves
- 65,000-square-foot water park
- Large arcade and crafts center
- Complimentary shuttle to nearby outlet mall and amusement park
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The Florida theme carries through to the hotel's 414 rooms and suites, with their colorful tropical decor. Split between two wings -- the Key Largo and the Key West wings -- the wide variety of rooms and suites lets you customize your stay based on budget, amenities, and group size.
Rooms all have a 32-inch, flat-screen TV with cable, an iPod dock, mini-fridge, coffeemaker, iron and ironing board. Suites also contain microwaves. Bathrooms all have showers and bathtubs and standard shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion.
King Guest Room
This room includes a king-size bed and sofa bed, sleeping four guests. It has a mini-fridge. If you need a microwave, there's a shared one in the hall.
King Spa Guest Room
This room includes a king-size bed and a Jacuzzi bathtub. There's a mini-fridge, but no microwave. The hotel does not allow rollaway beds, so this room can only accommodate up to two people.
The Queen Deluxe features two queen beds and a sofa bed. There's a mini-fridge, but the microwave is at the hallway vending machine. Sleeps up to six.
Mangrove 1 Bedroom Suite
This suite features a bit more room for families to stretch out. There's a living room/hang out area with a 32-inch TV and sofa bed, separated by a sliding door from the bedroom with two queen beds and another TV. Sleeps up to six.
Toucan 2 Bedroom Suite
This suite has even more space for everyone with its two bathrooms, balcony, three TVs and living room with dining table. One bedroom has two queen beds, the other has a king bed. Sleeps up to eight.
Captain Dave's Presidential Suite
This is the most luxurious of all the rooms, with plenty of space for up to eight guests. The two-bedroom, two-bath suite is furnished with upscale Tommy Bahama-inspired decor. There's a fireplace, wet bar, living room with a dining table and a balcony. One bedroom has a king bed with a Jacuzzi tub, the other has two queen beds connected to a private bathroom. There are four of these high-end suites in the hotel.
Accommodating a wide variety of families traveling together, the hotel offers a number of different connecting room configurations. Two Queen Deluxe standard rooms connect to each other. The Two Bedroom Queen Deluxe also connects to a One Bedroom Suite. The Two Bedroom Queen Deluxe also connects with a King Room that has a pullout couch. There is a $67 additional charge for staying in the connecting rooms.
Lost Paradise Waterpark
The 65,000-square-foot aquatic playground has something for every age. Those seeking an adrenaline rush will delight in swirling down the whirlpool of the Hurricane Vortex or catapulting down the Screaming Banshee body slide. Those looking for a gentler ride can grab a raft and float along the lazy river. The water park is open Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sundays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Water park admission is included in rates.
Riptide Reef Arcade
The 8,000-square-foot arcade at Key Lime Cove sits right outside the entry to the water park. There's a wide variety of games for kids of all ages. All transactions go through a player's card, where money can be added and a ticket count is kept. Tickets can then be redeemed for prizes.
On the lower level near the water park and arcade is Leapin' Lizards, a crafts and activity center. Here, kids can participate in various arts and crafts, watch movies, and play board games and video games. Be advised that some crafts cost an additional fee and kids 12 and under need to be supervised by parents.
Pinki's Pet Palace
Similar to the Build-A-Bear stores, this shop allows kids to make and purchase their own stuffed animal.
Enchanted Lagoon Kids Spa
If your little princess wants to get glammed up, you can bring her over to the kids' spa for a mani/pedi, make-up application or hair styling, temporary color or extensions. There's also an area where you can make your own lip gloss, lotion or fragrance. The kids' spa is recommended for kids ages 4 to 12.
Paradise Mist Spa
Adults can step away from the waterpark madness to seek out serenity at the Paradise Mist Spa. Consider the Sea Calm Facial ($95), Coconut Creme Body Glow ($65) or the ultimate package, the Island Escape, which includes a massage, facial and manicure/pedicure ($225).
D.W. Anderson's Eatery and Ice Cream Parlor
Get ready for a nostalgia trip at this classic 1950's-themed soda fountain. Enjoy burgers, sandwiches, and of course, mouth watering ice cream creations. The restaurant also serves breakfast.
Crazy Toucan Margarita Grille
Similar to a Chili's, this island-inspired eatery offers a taste of the tropics, with a side of Caribbean kitsch. But hey, slipping on a Hawaiian shirt and ordering a frozen tropical drink might just help you forget a Midwestern winter. Add the colorful dÃƒÆ'Ã†'Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©cor, classic beach music, huge plasma TVs (to watch the big game) and everything from Fiesta Nachos to seafood entrees, and you've got the ingredients for a fun evening.
Island Temptations Coffee & Confectionery
This grab-and-go stand is a good place to start your day, with specialty coffees and fresh baked goods.
Food Court Area
Located just outside the waterpark entrance, the food court is open noon to 8 p.m. and features three restaurants: Anna Chovy's Pizzeria, Hot Diggety Dawg's-serving hot dogs and brats, and Sharky's Big Bites, which serves burgers, fries, smoothies, hot pretzels and other snacks.
The pizzeria delivers to the rooms, but other than, that there's no room service.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Internet service is complimentary for guests. The hotel does not have a business center or any computers for guests to use.
The hotel does not have a fitness center, but offers guests free passes to Fit Nation, the fitness center across the street.
There is a coin operated washing machine/dryer on each floor.
Families will appreciate Key Lime Cove's cashless tab option, allowing guests to purchase items without carrying cash or credit cards around with them. At check-in, all guests are issued wristbands that serve as your key, and allow you to pay for meals, arcade game tokens and other items, so you can explore the resort without carrying money or keys around.
The hotel has three stores: Mangrove Jack's, a convenience store; Island Hoppers, a souvenir shop; and Lulu's Swim Shop, selling googles, swim suits, and other amenities for the water park.
The Art of Smart Timing
May and September are the least crowded times at the hotel. Thanksgiving, spring break and summer break are the busiest times.
Located just south of the Wisconsin border, Key Lime Cove is off I-94, an hour from both Chicago and Milwaukee and their airports.
Guests generally drive to this hotel as it's not easily accessible by public transportation or a cab. Parking is free and there's a complimentary shuttle to take you to nearby attractions like the Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall and Six Flags Great America.