By Anna Fishman
Going thousands of miles away from your home is not a prerequisite for travel. Have you looked at the sites, activities, nature, and history that can be found essentially in your backyard? I love living in Bergen County, NJ because it is so close to countless parks, nature trails, fun activities, historical sites, and NYC. When you get that travel itch but don’t feel like flying, Kalahari Resort and Woodloch Resort, both in the Pocono Mountains, a few hours away from Northern NJ and NYC are excellent choices for a weekend getaway. Having been lucky enough to visit both, here is a trip report with helpful tips for your next getaway or family experience.
OVERALL FEEL AND ATMOSPHERE:
The two resorts can’t be more different. Kalahari is a modern concrete jungle. Built in 2015, it has everything under one roof – rooms, restaurants, water park, arcade, spa, stores. Rain, shine, sleet or snow – Kalahari has your next family adventure vacation covered without the need to leave the building.
Woodloch Resort is spread out into multiple buildings and cottages around a tranquil lake. There are separate houses available that can be rented for an entire family. When staying in Woodloch, you feel like you are staying in the woods surrounded by beautiful scenery. Your room will have a balcony or a porch, overlooking the lake or the woods. In Kalahari, our room had a view of the main road approaching the resort, parking lots, and a pretty fountain. The other side of the Kalahari building is most likely is looking at the woods, but we did not get to experience that view. Woodloch is also several decades old and it is showing in its décor and some of the wear and tear of the rooms, but that also adds to its own rustic charm.
Kalahari Resort and Waterpark is actually America’s largest indoor waterpark and is one of the best resorts for family vacations! If you have kids or you are a waterslide-loving kid at heart yourself, this is the resort for you. Tweens, teens, and parents will have a blast and a ton of adrenaline pumping as you take a ride in the park. Love to boogie board or surf? The resort has flow rider and an indoor beach with waves! Even your toddlers will have a blast. There are plenty of small rides, water table activities and swings for the little ones. I haven’t seen my 2.5-year-old son more excited than when he was going down one of the toddler slides. Outdoor hot tub and pool area plus as well if the weather permits. Lots of chairs and loungers all around the waterpark area are a big plus and if you are celebrating something special or just want to splurge on a bit of luxury, opt-in for one of the cabanas with soft couches and armchairs and TVs.
Woodloch Resort has much smaller “water facilities”, but it has something for everyone – a big pool for adults and kids, a kiddie pool, a hot tub, an outdoor pool with lots of loungers, a small water slide outside for summer fun, a nice size baby splash area with some small slides and a small but pretty impressive waterslide for older kids and adults. If you are staying at Woodloch during the summer, you can enjoy the lake, with its own water slide, the beach, a playground, mini golf, paddle boats, and other water sports.
Having visited both resorts on a weekday in September (and then back to Woodloch in December of the next year), when school was in session, Kalahari was still much busier than Woodloch. If you are looking for a quieter atmosphere, being surrounded by beautiful nature (Woodloch’s pool is overlooking a lake) or just peaceful and relaxing time in the pool or hot tub – Woodloch is your choice.
TIP: When staying in Woodloch, request a room in a building attached to the pool facilities. Woodloch Resort is spread out and buildings are not attached to each other.
Woodloch is a clear winner in this category. I must preface that with the fact that I am a foodie, a picky one and my family and I love to eat. And I loved Woodloch. Their menu is a standard menu for a traditional American restaurant so I wasn’t excited about tasting anything there, but i was pleasantly surprised. Every dish was tastier than the previous one. Fresh ingredients and homemade style of cooking made our experience finger-licking good. We even ended up pre-ordering a dozen muffins from the onsite bakery to take home. Yes, food can make or break my vacation and food at Woodloch definitely made it memorable. To add a cherry on top, our package at Woodloch included breakfast and lunch, and it was a value hard to beat.
TIP: Woodloch bakery doesn’t have a storefront, so you need to ask your waiter about available items that can be pre-ordered for purchase a day before.
Unfortunately, the culinary experience at Kalahari was far from what we experienced at Woodloch. Yes, Kalahari has more restaurant offerings but food is not included in any of your room rates and it is unreasonably expensive – $10 for a chicken wrap, $5 for a bottle of water, etc. Aside from high prices, the quality of food was underwhelming (and that’s me being nice). The Ivory Coast restaurant in the lobby was very disappointing – even the simplest omelet tasted bland. Their coffee shop Java Manjaro looked very promising, but $7 tiramisu in a chocolate cup was pretty much a cup of whipped cream. The only meal that was ok was my birthday dinner at Brandberg. Their prime rib steak was semi-chewy, the chocolate soufflé was nicely cooked (except for a lump of chocolate that did not melt), and my son’s mac and cheese was clearly from a box. The bill however, resembled that one from a Manhattan steakhouse. After two days of disappointing culinary experiences in Kalahari, we opted out of their character breakfast ($25 per adult, $16 per child). At Woodloch, characters appear at meal times at no extra cost.
TIP: Bring a case of water, snacks, and sandwiches with you to eat in your room, which has a fridge and a microwave. You will save a lot of $$. Outside food is not allowed in the waterpark area.
Overall, Kalahari’s arcade is newer, bigger and has more options of games. Woodloch has a much smaller arcade, but it has an indoor jungle gym for kids, a basketball court, bumper cars and much more. Also, Woodloch has a ton of toddler activities included in the room rate – here is an example of a daily schedule. While Kalahari has some activities available for everyone to enjoy, it nickels and dimes you for every single thing you would like to do (with a few minor exceptions).
If having a ton of waterslides is your #1 priority, Kalahari is your top choice. If you are looking for the best value for your money, with delicious food, fresh crisp air – choose Woodloch.
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