MAPLE GROVE, MN
A two-year old, her mother, that mother’s mother, and that mother’s mother’s mother walk into a bar…
Nope. That would never happen. No way could all four of those people enjoy themselves at one single location. Right? WRONG!
I wanted to celebrate my birthday with some extended family, but really struggled to find a place that could easily entertain nine (yes, nine) kids and still be relaxing enough for three grandparents to ease in and watch the chaos from a distance. A hotel would be fun…but it needed to be more than just a hotel. That’s when we discovered the Holiday Inn & Suites in Maple Grove. Everyone – from my toddler-aged niece to my own 77-year old grandma – had an absolute ball at the Venetian Waterpark inside the hotel. It was the ideal find for our awkward range of ages and a fantastic spot to celebrate getting older. I mean, who feels old when you see your 62-year old father zip down a body slide at lightning speed, am I right? My family gives this super creative staycation idea two huge thumbs up!
What is it?
The Holiday Inn & Suites is just that – a Holiday Inn & Suites. But what makes it a hot spot is that it’s home to the Venetian Waterpark, an indoor waterworld of entertainment located right inside the hotel and available to hotel guests ONLY (no outside visitors allowed). Sitting at 25,000 square feet, it felt like a nice fit for our family of young swimmers – not too big and not too small.
The waterpark (which is only open on weekends) consists of four major features: a pair of waterslides (one faster and one slower), a medium-height pool with basketball hoops and a rope climb, a large corner hot tub (decently distanced from the chaos) and a young kids zero-depth play area (where I spent 85% of my time because, well, babies and stuff).
My kids span the age gamut, which always makes me nervous when we go somewhere. But here, my worries were for naught – the baby did the smallest slide about a zillion times while my 7-year old shot hoops and my 5-year old went back and forth between the pools. What was nice about the Venetian was that it was really hard to lose track of your kids because everything is relatively close together and no pools are too fearfully deep. In fact, my 7-year old could touch just fine in the middle pool. Of course, having attentive lifeguards on duty definitely offered me additional “mom peace of mind.”
The hotel is Italian-themed (not so much as the Vegas hotel, but let’s consider budget, people!) and is really nice and clean with a fitness center, an arcade, a restaurant and bar in addition to the waterpark. It’s also walking distance from the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes, Dave and Busters, Benihana, and a ton of other retailers and food joints.
Oh, and the water is warm. If you’re a weinie like me, this is most definitely worth mentioning!
Fit for what ages?
While I wouldn’t necessarily choose this hotel if I wanted a romantic getaway with the sound of silence, if there are kids involved, this is the place, man. As I mentioned in the intro, a variety of ages can find relaxation here. Mom and dad with little ones need not be quite as tense as they would elsewhere because A) lifeguards are everywhere; B) the water doesn’t go deeper than 4 feet; and C) the zero-depth area is big enough to keep their attention for longer than five minutes and there’s no irritating giant dumping bucket that drive me nuts at so many splash pads.
YOUNGSTERS: For ages 0-6, the young kid area keeps them busy. With three slides ranging in length, kids can choose their “difficulty” level and land in a few inches of warm water with smiles on their faces. And if they’re too scared to do the slides, don’t worry – parents are allowed on them too. And the fact they need to climb the stairs of the Venetian Bridge over and over and over again should help them sleep soundly at night. My little guy was happy we brought a small bucket and ball, which kept him occupied in there for at least an hour.
MID-RANGE: All ages can have fun in the medium pool area, although if you want to feel more comfortable, consider bringing a life jacket for fearless, independent littles who want to jump in solo but have never taken a swim lesson in their life (I’m talking about my own toddler here). The Venetian does offer some life jackets for free borrowing in case you forget yours. Speaking of forgetting items, swim diapers are sold at the front desk. Now isn’t that thoughtful? Big kids tend to hog the basketballs and kids obviously have to be tall enough to manage the rope course, but the rest of the pool is free rein for any able-bodied child to jump, paddle, cruise and play.
BIGGER KIDS: Do you have bigger, braver kids? Don’t let them leave without trying the body slides. There are two four-story waterslides that are surprisingly thrilling. One is far, FAR faster than the other, so depending on your level of thrill-seeking, be sure to inquire about that before picking the wrong one (like my pregnant cousin did – don’t worry, she’s fine). No life jackets are allowed on the slides so kids need to be able to swim safely on their own, and there’s a minimum height requirement of 48″.
ADULTS: While the number of chairs and tables seem relatively limited, if you can snag one, wonderful! Adults can sit and relax at a table, comfortably keeping an eye on their little ones, munching on pizza from the concession stand and sipping on a little bubbly (soda?). The hot tub is also a great spot to hang out (did I even have to say that?). But I do suggest splashing around with the kids because that’s what it’s all about, right? And do the body slides! I double dog dare you.
For sleeping arrangements, the Holiday Inn offers your classic guest rooms, but they also have suites, including a Kids Suite. The Kids Suite has a separate wall alcove for children to chill (includes a bunk bed, TV set and video game console). It was a small area and the bunk was tricky to climb up, but the kids thought they were the bee’s knees in their own space.
How much are we talkin’?
We’ve all stayed at a Holiday Inn, right? I mean, rates will be like that but slightly more since it’s also a waterpark. I’d say your average night stay will set you back somewhere between $120-200. However, keep in mind that February through April are their busy months (so $$$) and May through August are their slowest (so $) and also note that Friday nights are quieter and sometimes substantially cheaper than Saturday nights.
The hotel stay provides you with five wristbands for your room. No additional bands can be purchased and kids 2 and under don’t require a band.
Where else will you spend money while you’re here? Well, you could rent a locker in the waterpark area if you want, but you’re a hotel guest so your room is a pretty realistic alternative to locking up your stuff. Plus the lockers only cost a quarter, so that tip isn’t really saving you tons of jack. There’s a concession stands that sells everything from pizza and beer to wine and candy all at less-than-baseball-game prices. If you feel fancier, try Palazzo, the on-site restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner (including a weekend morning buffet for $10.95 plus kids eat free with a paying adult).
There’s an arcade with typical arcade prices (but it’s nothing to write home about) – super small. There’s also a tiny convenience corner near the check-in desk where you can purchase snacks, ice cream, deodorant, a razor, you name it.
If you do reserve the Kids Suite, there is a DVD player and video game console in the bunk bed alcove. For a one-time $5 fee, you can rent movies or games from the front desk (one at a time, like an old school Netflix-type system, check one in, take one out).
Want some tips?
My list of tips is long, so I’m going to summarize them for ease of reading. Ready?
- As aforementioned, if you want to visit the waterpark during quieter nights, consider booking a summer staycation weekend rather than a spring break. While, yes, the waterpark DID open during the week for 2017 spring breaks, it was also crazy busy. Fridays are less popular than Saturdays too (thus making them cheaper: cha-ching!). If you are going during winter or spring months, book early.
- The waterpark is for hotel guests only. Each room comes with five wristbands. These must be worn at all times (unless you’re age 2 or under). The waterpark is ONLY open Friday-Sunday (minus special no-school days or spring breaks), so if you’re trying to save money by booking during the week, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
- Be safe: Before heading in to the waterpark, give your kids the talk about staying where you can see them and NO RUNNING! This is always something I repeat a zillion times because water + floor = a slippery accident waiting to happen. I’m not uptight about a lot of things, but running around a swimming pool is one of them. If your words of safety wisdom fall on deaf ears, don’t worry – the lifeguards will tell them. Yes, there are lots of lifeguards.
- Bring life jackets. If your kids aren’t trusted to swim on their own yet, life jackets are nice for the medium sized pool. The Venetian has some to loan out as well if you don’t remember yours.
- There are tables and chairs available in the waterpark area. Not a ton so I recommend loading all your stuff into a bag so you can just shove it into a corner somewhere if need be.
- Towels are available in the waterpark. No need to bring your own. Also, don’t bring your own food. There is an on-site concession area and outside food and drink is not permitted in the waterpark area. High chairs are also available for little ones to take a seat. If you get hungry, you can always head back to your room for a snack break too. Factor in time for concession food. Waterpark hours are obviously busy hours and the snack bar seemed low-staffed when we were there so getting three pizzas took far longer than I’m sure it should’ve. Just don’t wait to order until your kids are rolling on the floor due to “hanger” pangs.
- Or go out! This Holiday Inn is in an awesome location for eating, shopping or entertaining yourself. Dave & Busters is a family favorite and it’s literally across the parking lot. Hungry? Try Benihana (hibachi) or Freddy’s (fast burgers) or Cafe Zupas (salads). Or heck, get fancy and try Pittsburgh Blue Steakhouse or Biaggis or PF Changs. You can’t go wrong with food. Like, ever. But specifically in this neighborhood. But also, like, ever. Mmmm….fooood….
- The guest rooms are super clean! Right up there with my food snobbery is cleanliness snobbery, and this place was definitely neat and tidy. Also the morning coffee was tasty and readily available super early in the lobby area (thanks to the baby for that 5am wake-up call – all hail coffee!). We were up before the birds and spent two hours in the Palazzo bar area eating Cheerios, climbing chairs, and conversing with the extremely friendly desk clerk.
Hours and location
11801 Fountains Way North | Maple Grove, MN 55369
The waterpark is open on some holidays and no-school days, so do check their website before booking to make sure the waterpark will be in service for your stay. Hotel check-in is 4:00 pm and check-out is 11:00am.
Be sure to follow The Venetian Waterpark on Facebook to see great deals on stays, contests for complimentary nights, extended hours, and more. They also have a really nice website with tons of answers to all your questions. Visit them online at http://www.venetianwaterpark.com.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary stay at the Holiday Inn and the Venetian Waterpark in exchange for my time sharing this post. All thoughts are my own.