COLUMBUS Indoors waterpark resorts are popping up all over Ohio.
Joining the Sandusky-area trio last year were the Great Wolf Lodge near Kings Island in Mason, Cherry Valley Lodge's CoCo Key Waterpark in Newark and the Holiday Inn's Fort Rapids in Columbus. Others are in the works as well.
During a visit to COSI last month, I spent a night at Fort Rapids with my wife and our three girls.
Fort Rapids features an Old West theme, complete with replicas of stage coaches, teepees, totem poles, horses and wagon wheels scattered throughout the waterpark and a mural of an old town dominating one of the walls.
A requirement of all indoor waterparks, I think, is that centrally-located, multi-story fort with slides, shooting water gadgets, netting and of course a big bucket that dumps hundreds of gallons of water on patrons at certain intervals. Fort Rapids is no different in this regard.
It has the other staples as well: a toddler pool with tandem slides, an activity pool with basketball hoops, tube slides, a pad walk with cargo nets, a hot tub and eateries within the waterpark area.
In addition, the 60,000 square foot waterpark includes a lazy river with rapids action.
Two attractions not found at Great Wolf, Kalahari or Castaway Bay are "Shoot Out Racer" and "Black Out Pass."
Shoot Out Racer participants lay down on their stomachs on a mat and go face first down the slide, following an enclosure that briefly takes them outside the building before returning, then they gain speed as they race downhill. It feels like sledding, only in water instead of snow.
Black Out Pass riders enter the slide on a tube at the top of the tower, pop outside for a quick turn, then enter into the funnel, spinning 'round and 'round until they are shot out into the lazy river. It's like getting flushed down a giant toilet bowl.
The toddlers' activity area features two small slides exiting directly into the pool with a zero depth entry and small interactive play structures, including basketball hoops like the ones also found in the bigger kids' activity pool. The swings for babies are a nice touch.
Two of Fort Rapids' policies differ from other waterparks and are disappointing. The 30-person hot tub is reserved for guests 18 years and older. And the minimum height for the pad walk with cargo nets is 54 inches more than any other attraction, including Black Out Pass. We saw at least two children leave the nets in tears after being turned away.
But other than that, we enjoyed our time there and would recommend it to those who enjoy the Sandusky-area parks. Fort Rapids is different enough to make the stay worthwhile.
And because it's a Holiday Inn, guests enjoy the amenities and services offered by that chain, including the program in which children age 12 and under eat free when accompanied by a paying adult.