Back in July, as Nick’s birthday was fast approaching, I asked him what he’d like to do in terms of a party. He decided that he wanted to take one friend away for a trip to a indoor water park resort, instead of having a party. At the time, he was thinking about Great Wolf Lodge, where we had been with Mystic and his kids back in October (super late review coming one of these days!), but then I heard about CoCo Key in Mount Laurel, which was a little farther from us (and in the opposite direction), but the same general concept.
And so a plan was born.
It doesn’t make sense to me to go to an indoor water park during the summer, so we planned to do it when the weather started getting a little cooler (and an escape to an 80 degree indoor resort was more in order). Between sports schedules and various other interferences, it finally landed on the calendar mid-October.
Like Great Wolf, there is a hotel in the same building as the resort, as well as a restaurant, making it very convenient. After our last soccer games on Saturday morning, we packed up the car, picked up Nick’s friend and Mystic’s daughter, Taylor, and headed off.
I ended up getting a great package deal that included the hotel room, four passes to their water park, four passes to the nearby Philadelphia Zoo (separate review coming soon), and $20 worth of credit for the hotel’s arcade. We checked in, and made our way to the room, ready to unload our stuff and get bathing suits on right away.
As soon as we walked in, I noticed the handle and lock hanging off the sliding door that led outside. In a first floor room. Me. Four kids. First floor room with a broken slider. No bueno. I called the front desk and the phone rang and rang and rang. I gave up and schlepped all the way back to the lobby (there is a lot of walking to be had at this hotel), and explained the problem. They promised to send an engineer down to look at it and would move us if it couldn’t be fixed.
We waited 20 minutes and decided to head off to the water park in the meantime. By the time we returned over two hours later, they still hadn’t come, I voiced my opinions, and we eventually got moved. Much better.
The kids and I watch Hotel Impossible, and it might have spoiled us. Or maybe we just like dust-free hotels. The bathroom had a $10 coffeemaker (at best) with a serious layer of dust on it. The dresser’s finish was wearing thin. The tv in the first room didn’t work. The rooms are a stark dichotomy to the image the hotel seems to be trying to project. They have bell hops, ready to help you with your bags, but the rooms look seriously tired. But the beds and bedding were bright white and clean (except for that all-important top blanket that we always remove right away; ick), and it was a decent place to stay. For what we needed, it was fine.
The water park is very similar to the Great Wolf set-up. But slightly not. They have many different areas, offering something for every age group, and every adventure level. There was a small pool with two slides that Madeline loved, getting a face full of water every time she slid down. A lazy river and a huge slide that, while still enclosed, actually goes outside of the building. And tons of slides, climbing areas, rafts, and other spots guaranteed to get you absolutely soaking wet.
Similar to Great Wolf, there are lifeguards aplenty. Pacing. Watching. Whistle-blowing. They are conscientious and observant and don’t miss a thing. Which is awesome. While I wouldn’t trust them to watch my kids on their own, I felt good having extra eyes on them. Mostly because I’m extra cautious when it comes to kids and water, especially my littlest daredevil who has zero fear in the water.
They have towels for you to dry off, but their location is not readily apparent; we had to go asking for them. You need a wrist band to enter the water park area, but there is no one checking that you have one, as people were just wandering in and out. Two things that I think need attention.
At CoCo Key, you can get a day pass to just go and visit for a day of warm, tropical fun. At Great Wolf, you can only go if you are a guest in the hotel. For a Saturday afternoon, I was expecting it to be jam-packed; although there were a lot of people, there were enough activities to go around and the kids didn’t have to wait for anything (although the biggest slide had a teensy little wait and was most popular).
Right outside the water park, there is an arcade. I always groan a bit when I see them, because it’s such a draw for the kids, and such a money suck for the parents. The only reason we went in is because my room package included $20 credit in the arcade, so the kids played one game each, and then one of those claw games that guaranteed a winner every time. Which netted them each a large plastic bouncy ball. A guaranteed winner is my kind of game, and super pocket-friendly. Because while it’s fun, there’s nothing worse than mindlessly entering quarter after quarter after quarter to win a cheap furry toy that we could have bought much cheaper anywhere else.
After the kids had their fill of the water park, we headed back to our room to change and get ready for dinner. Because I didn’t know the area too well, we opted for the in-house restaurant, Talia’s. Although our waitress was friendly, I wouldn’t make that mistake again. Venturing out the next day, we noticed a Chicago Pizzeria Uno, a Bob Evans (where we ate breakfast the next morning), a diner, an iHop and a few other places that, in my opinion, would have been heaps better.
Before going in to the restaurant, I asked the front desk if the restaurant and the menu was kid-friendly. “Oh yes, it definitely is,” was the answer.
Not so much.
When we walked in at 6:30 pm, we were the only people in the restaurant. I scanned the menu quickly … filet mignon, shrimp, calamari … amongst a few burgers and sandwiches. Fancier food than we were looking for. I asked if they had a kids’ menu, and the waitress rattled off the usual suspects … grilled cheese, cheeseburger, chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese.
Madeline opted for steamed broccoli. Man, I love that kid.
The boys went with grilled cheese and a cheeseburger. Taylor, a steak, and an omelet for me. If you follow me on Instagram, you likely saw this picture. For $13. I wasn’t asked what side I wanted, and if I knew it came with a side or that I had a choice, french fries wouldn’t have been it.
Our food came out 40 (40!) minutes later, and staggered. First, two dishes. And then two more. And then the last one. Over the space of ten minutes.
I opted for skipping the in-house restaurant (and their $14 breakfast buffet) the next morning. Bob Evans across the street was just fine, thankyouverymuch.
I wouldn’t hesitate to bring the kids back to CoCo Key again. It’s a fun little spot for a quick getaway, and particularly perfect during the colder months when you need a little tropical temperature respite. Now that we’ve been to its adjoining hotel and restaurant, and better know the lay of the land, I would skip staying in this hotel. I would either make it a day trip (there are lockers available at the water park section) or stay in one of the other hotels I noticed in the area (there was a Fairfield Marriott property just one block away). While the package deal from the hotel (and the convenience factor) won out this time, I’ll just be a little more creative next time.
The bottom line? The kids had a blast, and Nick got exactly what he wanted for his birthday “party,” and that’s enough for me.
PS – Two more quick notes … at Hotel ML, they will charge an extra $100 security deposit upon check-in that releases a few days after you check out, and at Great Wolf, you have to pre-pay your entire reservation before you go.
PPS – Double post today! Grab your chance for a Subway gift card right here.
Tomorrow? A new recipe!