Kalahari Resorts and Conventions isn’t your typical resort – its authentically African theme is designed to bring families together, and that isn’t just a marketing ploy. The spirit of Africa is reflected in every aspect of Kalahari – from the handpicked Rwandan coffee beans that are brewed on-property, handcrafted artwork on the convention center walls, furniture placed in guest rooms, recorded music from the streets of Cape Town echoing in the resorts and original crafts for guest souvenirs. It’s all part of Kalahari’s commitment to bring guests a beyond-expectations experience.
In October 2014, the Nelson family returned to the source of their inspiration – Africa. It is a place defined by creativity, ingenuity and the spirit of Ubuntu, an African philosophy that believes every person’s humanity and actions affect the entire world.
This philosophy is something guests will find emulated throughout Kalahari Resorts and in each of the properties located in: Wisconsin Dells; Sandusky, Ohio, the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania and coming soon to Round Rock, Texas. It is the driving force behind everything the “World’s Coolest Indoor Water Park” does.
Kalahari Resorts and Conventions deliver a “world away” waterpark resort and conference experience. It is home to America’s Largest Indoor Waterparks, and the all-under-one-roof resorts feature well-appointed guest rooms, award-winning signature restaurants, family entertainment centers, state-of-the-art conference centers, fitness centers, unique retail shops and the full-service Spa Kalahari and Salon.
About Kalahari Resorts
Kalahari Resorts in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin; Sandusky, Ohio, Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania and coming soon to Round Rock, Texas have changed the nature of vacations by delivering an exciting new type of destination.
The authentically African-themed Kalahari Resorts combines the convenience of an “all-under-one-roof” vacation with some of America's largest indoor and outdoor waterparks and the luxury of amenities travelers expect from an upscale resort.
Kalahari Resort – Wisconsin Dells
- Approximate Employees: 1,100
- What's New: Beginning December 2011, Kalahari opened a multimillion dollar waterpark renovation project with a new slide structure rising above the existing roof as well as a new African-themed children’s water play feature
- Guest rooms and suites: 756, includes 96 three-key condos and 16 stand-alone five bedroom suites
- Indoor waterpark: Wisconsin’s Largest Indoor Waterpark: 125,000 square feet
- Outdoor waterpark: 77,000 square feet
- Indoor theme park: 110,000 square feet
- Convention Center: 100,000 square feet of meeting and convention space
- Amenities: Full-service Spa Kalahari and Salon, three on-site dining options, unique retail shops, a fully equipped fitness center, indoor playground, a 15-screen cinema, Crystal Grand Music Theatre and the 27-hole award-winning Trappers Turn Golf Club
Kalahari Resort – Sandusky, Ohio
- Approximate Employees: 1,300
- What’s New: The long-awaited $22 million convention center expansion opened December 2011, making it the only all-under-one-roof complex in the Midwest to feature a convention center and hotel of its scope.
- Guest rooms and suites: 884, including 192 three-key condos
- Indoor waterpark: Ohio’s Largest Indoor Waterpark 173,000 square feet,
- Outdoor waterpark: 77,000 square feet
- Safari Outdoor Adventure Park: 115,000 square feet
- Convention Center: 215,000 square feet of meeting and convention space
- Amenities: Full-service Spa Kalahari and Salon featuring Halotherapy – one of only two salt therapy rooms in Ohio, a collection of unique retail shops, an indoor mini-glow golf course, indoor playground, the largest game arcade in Ohio, a fully equipped fitness center and three on-site dining options.
Kalahari Resort – Pocono Mountains
- Guest rooms and suites: nearly 1,000 rooms including one-, two- and three and five bedroom suites that can accommodate up to 22 guests
- America’s Largest Indoor waterpark: 220,000 sq. ft.
- Outdoor outdoor pool, large sundeck for relaxing, indoor/outdoor whirlpools and swim-up bar
- Family Entertainment Center: 40,000 square feet with dry activities such as mini-bowling, cutting-edge arcade games, a 5-D theater and black light mini golf.
- The Arena – premier free-roam virtual reality experience on the East Coast
- Gorilla Grove Treetop Outdoor Aerial Adventure Park
- On-site dining experiences:
- Double Cut Charcoal Grill Liquor Bar: Kalahari’s signature steak house experience featuring: premium cuts of meat, craft cocktails, family style sides and more
- Sortino's Italian Kitchen: A new-aged, red-sauced restaurant where old-school Italian cuisine meets the modern age. The menu will include: wood-fired pizza, Italian family dining, a large variety of wines and more.
- Marrakesh Market: Grab and go convenience e bazaar style shopping, unique gifts, authentic-African items and everyday needs
- Brandberg: A classic tavern with a modern twist, Brandberg is an oasis in the Kalahari – a refuge for adults, a welcoming environment for families, and a destination for anyone in search of a distinctive dining and drinking experience
- Amenities: full-service Spa Kalahari and Salon, 6,000 square-feet of unique retail shops, a fully equipped fitness center
- Convention Center: 100,000 sq. ft. with 65,000 square feet of flexible meeting space
For guest reservations at either Kalahari property, call 1-877-KALAHARI (525-2427) or visit KalahariResorts.com.
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How Kalahari Changed the Industry
Founded in May 2000, Kalahari Resorts has built a reputation as one of the most innovative and exciting waterpark resort destinations in the country. The following outlines the company's growth and innovation.
December 2002 – Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, adds a $12 million expansion to make it the nation's largest indoor waterpark at 125,000 square feet.
December 2002 – Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, unveils the nation's ONLY indoor water roller coaster, the Master Blaster.
December 2002 – Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, opens America's longest INDOOR lazy river at 920 feet.
August 2003 – Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, expands the Spa Kalahari to include a hair salon within the resort.
October 2003 – Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, boasts the largest and highest concentration of indoor waterparks, where 18 now exist.
November 2003 – Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, is the first indoor waterpark resort to offer guests luxury shuttle services to and from the Madison and Milwaukee airports.
June 2004 – Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, unveils a 100,000-square-foot convention facility, making the Kalahari Convention Center the largest independently owned meeting facility in the Midwest.
June 2004 – Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, debuts 120 condominium units, the first condominiums in the nation attached to a convention center.
June 2004 – Additions to the Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells outdoor waterpark are introduced, including a new 750-foot-long lazy river, a waterfall and a zero-depth entry beach and lounge area where guests can sit and relax in the sun.
June 2004 – The first-ever indoor surfing ride, the FlowRider, makes its debut at Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, the nation's largest indoor waterpark.
May 2005 – Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, outdoor waterpark introduces an exciting new three-story interactive water feature called SplashDown Safari. This water jungle play area features twisting waterslides, splashing water, 125 special interactive play features, tipping bucket, safari jeeps, African animal figures and more.
May 2005 – Kalahari Resort takes its ultra-popular, all-under-one-roof vacation concept on the road and opens a second property in Sandusky, Ohio.
February 2006 – Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, adds a championship golf course to the already extraordinary list of amenities when it purchases Trappers Turn Golf Club.
June 2006 – Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, marks its one-year anniversary by unveiling an impressive, newly expanded 77,000-square-foot outdoor waterpark featuring a wide array of new amenities including, luxurious African-styled private bungalows.
August 2006 – Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, tapped "Chicken Soup for the Soul" author Jack Canfield to open a $19 million 100,000-square-foot conference and events center that makes Kalahari Resort – Sandusky the only stand-alone hotel and meetings facility of its kind in the region.
January 2008 – Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, opens its expanded indoor waterpark – the largest in the U.S. at 173,000 square feet – featuring a Texlon transparent roof and other unique waterpark features such as the world's largest behemoth bowl, mat racers, a second FlowRider and much more.
January 2008 – Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, adds 96 additional three-key condos (288 guest rooms), making it home to the largest hotel in the state of Ohio at 884 rooms.
April 2008 – Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, unveiled new and upgraded amenities for the 2008 golf season at its Trappers Turn Golf Club, which included an expanded clubhouse, the new Kalahari Golf Academy, and course and practice facility upgrades.
December 2008 – NBC’s American Gladiators stopped by Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, to help open a new $20 million, 110,000-square-foot Indoor Theme Park featuring a six-story Ferris Wheel, elevated go-cart track, ropes course, climbing walls, laser tag and much more.
February 2009 – Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, joined forces with the Grammy Award-winning M.C. Hammer for a concert to showcase the high-octane entertainment in the new Indoor Theme Park.
June 2009 – Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, teamed up with renowned animal expert and director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, Jack Hanna, to unveil its Safari Adventures animal park featuring giraffes, zebras, ostriches and more.
May 2011 – Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, opens the Safari Outdoor Adventure Park, featuring a zip line tour, ropes course and climbing walls, among other features. This expansion adds to the existing 77,000-square-foot outdoor waterpark, playground, shuffleboards, sand volleyball and Safari Adventure Animal Park.
December 2011 – Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells, introduces two of the world's first indoor Super Loop waterslides at more than 250 feet and speeds of about 25 mph.
December 2011 – Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, opens a $22 million convention center expansion, making it the largest convention center resort complex in the Midwest.
July 2015 — Kalahari Resorts opens its first property in the East Coast (and third in the U.S.) located in the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania featuring Pennsylvania’s Largest Indoor Waterpark
June 2016 – Kalahari Resorts announces intention to build the company’s fourth resort in Round Rock, Texas.
March 2017 – Kalahari Resorts opens “Phase 2” in the Pocono Mountains. Included in the expansion is America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark, additional rooms bringing the total to nearly 1,000, signature dining experiences and more.
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Information on some of those who lead Kalahari's drive to success.
Owner and President
As owner and president of Kalahari Resorts, Todd Nelson has been the driving force behind the development, creation and expansion of the brand since its inception in 2000. With a myriad of accomplishments and a brand synonymous with innovation, Nelson is defined as a leader in the waterpark industry's constant evolution and growth.
A Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, native and an entrepreneur at heart, Nelson combined his intimate knowledge of the region and business savvy to launch into the waterpark and hospitality business in 1997 with the opening of an indoor waterpark at the Raintree Resort in Wisconsin Dells.
Armed with the experience Nelson gained during his first waterpark venture and a remarkable drive, the Kalahari Resorts brand was born in 2000 when Nelson opened the highly visible and authentically African-themed Kalahari Resort, perched along I-90/94. Under Nelson's leadership, Kalahari Resort added a $12 million expansion in 2002, which included innovative indoor waterpark attractions such as the nation's first indoor FlowRider surfing attraction and Master Blaster water roller coaster. Guided by Nelson's vision, Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin has continued to expand and now features a 125,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, a 77,000-square-foot outdoor waterpark, 756 guest rooms and suites,10 five-bedroom "Ny-Um-Ba" suites, a 100,000-square-foot convention center, Spa Kalahari and Salon, 27-hole Trappers Turn Golf Club, shopping outlets, a variety of restaurants and more.
In 2005, with a strong belief in the growth potential of the Kalahari brand, Nelson took his "under-one-roof" waterpark resort concept to Sandusky, Ohio, where he opened the second Kalahari Resort. In late 2007, Kalahari Resort in Ohio unveiled a show-stopping expansion that made the resort home to the largest indoor waterpark in the nation at a whopping 173,000 square feet. In addition, the resort added 288 guestrooms, making Kalahari Resort home to the largest hotel in Ohio at 884 rooms. Kalahari Resort - Sandusky also features a 77,000-square-foot outdoor waterpark, 215,000-square-foot state-of-the-art convention center, Outdoor Safari Adventure Park, Spa Kalahari and a unique array of dining and shopping options.
Today, Nelson continues to serve as the brand's visionary, overseeing the expansion and innovation of Kalahari Resorts.
Beyond waterparks, Nelson is also dedicated to philanthropic giving and corporate responsibility. Under Nelson's leadership, Kalahari has worked closely with nonprofit organizations that serve local Kalahari communities. Kalahari serves as the host of annual fundraising events, such as the United Way Duck Derby, a toy duck race to benefit United Way, Golf for a Song, an annual charity golf tournament at Kalahari's Trappers Turn Golf Club to raise funds for Wisconsin Dells High School's marching band and music programs, and the annual Andy North Classic at Trappers Turn Golf Club to raise funds for the University of Wisconsin Paul P. Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center. In addition, Kalahari Field, a new synthetic sports field at Huron High School in Ohio, opened thanks to contributions of $500,000 in cash, in-kind donations and fundraising events donated by Kalahari. Kalahari also supports organizations including Make A Wish Foundation, American Cancer Society and Multiple Sclerosis Society, through a myriad of ongoing philanthropic activities.
In recent years, Nelson and Kalahari have continued to broaden their long-standing commitment to ecofriendly initiatives at Kalahari Resorts. As a responsible industry leader, Nelson is dedicated to introducing state-of-the-art "green" operations that protect the environment. Notably, Kalahari Resort - Wisconsin Dells is home to the state's largest solar hot water system and an Entergize Energy Control System that conserves energy. As part of the 2007 Kalahari Resort - Sandusky expansion, the property introduced a Texlon transparent roof system, which works as a natural heating source for the indoor waterpark. Most recently, Kalahari Resorts introduced the AquaRecycle system, a laundry water recycling and filtration system that allows the reuse of 70 percent of laundry water at both properties.
As a leader in the waterpark industry, Nelson has been honored with numerous industry awards and profiled in many respected media outlets, including BusinessWeek, USA Today, NBC’s “The Today Show,” ABC’s “Good Morning America” and CNBC’s “Mike on the Money.”
Nelson operates the family waterpark business with his wife and five children.
Travis Nelson, son of Kalahari Resorts president and founder Todd Nelson, began working for Kalahari Resorts in Wisconsin Dells long before the first scream was ever had on a waterslide. As a member of the original team, Nelson has held nearly every position and worked every job at both Kalahari locations during his 11 years with the company.
Nelson, a graduate from the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater, first began working with his father in the family's famous “Pizza Pub” restaurant in the Wisconsin Dells at just 12 years of age, a position that he held until the opening of Kalahari in 2000. Shortly after, Nelson joined the team at the company's second resort in Sandusky, Ohio, where he spent two years developing the property ahead of its official opening before remaining on for another year as general manager of the property.
Now back in the Dells, Nelson continues to work as a core member of the operations team.
Kalahari Resort – Wisconsin Dells
John Chastan serves as the General Manager for Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells. Today it combines the convenience of an "all-under-one-roof" vacation with Wisconsin's largest indoor waterpark plus the luxury of all the amenities travelers expect from an upscale resort.
Kalahari Resorts – Sandusky
A 30-year veteran of the hotel and resort industry, Brian Shanle uses his expertise to consistently improve guest experiences at Kalahari Resorts - Sandusky.
In 1999, Shanle opened an 800-suite Holiday Inn Family Suites Resort, which would later become the first-ever Nickelodeon Family Suites Resort. Under his leadership, Shanle developed and managed a team of 850 associates, earning a Quality Excellence Award, which would ultimately culminate in the hotel earning the “Best Holiday Inn North America” recognition for six consecutive years.
From 2006 to 2008, Shanle managed numerous Forbes Hamilton Management Company properties, including Embassy Suites - Downtown Minneapolis, Crowne Plaza - Omaha, Lexington Hotel - Montgomery and Holiday Inn - Kansas City.
Then in 2008, Shanle joined the Kalahari team as General Manager of the Sandusky property. At Sandusky, Shanle oversees a dedicated team of associates, ensuring the smooth operation of America's Largest Indoor Waterpark. Shanle spearheaded the recent opening of Sandusky's Safari Outdoor Adventure Park and one of the largest convention center meeting spaces on a resort property. The American Hotel Lodging Association has awarded Shanle with Certified Hotel Administrator and Certified Room Division Executive titles, which have contributed significantly to Kalahari Resorts’ ongoing success.