In the dead of winter, you might find yourself hankering to hit the waves in a tropical setting. You have several options: fly to the Bahamas for a few days of sun and sand, sit in your bathtub and splash around, or try one of the new indoor water parks that opened this month within easy driving distance of Long Island.These days, local is the environmental watchword when it comes to food and travel. And now, with our new austerity economy, who can fathom spending thousands on a tropical getaway? Nearby resorts are scrambling for customers looking for budget alternatives, and you, the traveler, reap the benefits.
Whoever came up with the idea of enclosing slides, wave pools and water activity centers within an airplane-hangar-like space must have noted that there is nothing so forlorn as an outdoor waterpark offseason. Empty swimming pools, shuttered concession stands, solitary bones of plastic slides -- these warm-weather playgrounds are like ghost towns when the temps cool. Such a waste.
But now, technology brings new ways to keep these vast interiors toasty, recycle hundreds of thousands of gallons of water hourly and keep crowds of wave-runners happy year-round.
Part terrarium, part amusement park, it's all fun at the newest indoor water parks.
CoCo Key Water Resort
Holiday Inn, Waterbury, Conn.
COST $159-$209 a night, includes room and four admission tickets
With rock music blaring, water splashing, palm trees (painted and plastic) and walls decked out in Caribbean hues, CoCo Key is a smidgen of Key West in the middle of Connecticut.
WHAT YOU'LL FIND
A signature Lazy River is a 275-foot ribbon of water that gently meanders throughout the 50,000-square-foot park, which, combined with an interactive play area for tykes and ample seating for less-energetic adults, makes this water playground geared more to parents with younger children than to those with teens.On a recent visit, Parrot's Perch -- a multilevel play area crisscrossed with nets and pipes, cascading water and intermittent downpours from a 700-gallon bucket -- seemed to be a big hit with those barely out of diapers. For those still in them, Parrot Beach has oh-so-cute baby bungee swings.
For older kids and fearless tots, there are three four-story-high twisty slides that snake hundreds of feet for riding tandem or alone.
Ten-year-old Benjy Robinov from Stamford, Conn., liked the pitch black 302-foot Barracuda Blast best."It's dark and really fun because you don't know where you're going," he said.
Split Rock Resort H2Oooohh!
Lake Harmony, Pa.
"Stay and Splash" packages cost $100.50-$133 a person, a night, and include breakfast and dinner (two-night minimum). Other packages and day passes available.
It is clear that H2Oooohh! opted for nifty features over decor. The reception area is utilitarian, as is the locker-crammed entryway and -- except for some authentic palm trees cast here and there -- the cavernous water room. Yet, the place rocks, particularly for teens and adults.
Kept a warm 84 degrees, the air in this 53,000-square-foot space is refreshingly crisp. And 276,000 gallons of water pump through filters fitted with bacteria-zapping ultraviolet rays every few hours, making for a thunderous din even Van Halen can't match.
WHAT YOU'LL FIND
With its powerful hydraulics, the signature "Flow-Rider" is essentially a waterfall in reverse. Surfer-dude instructors show the young and the brave how to surf and boogie-board while taking turns demonstrating their own finely honed skills.
A four-pattern wave pool simulates lulling ocean rollers. Three fast, equilibrium-busting slides, a complex multilevel play structure (including, according to aquatics director Justin Marion, "a hundred squirting objects") and an unusual family raft ride draw a frisky crowd.