A Family of Dreamers
How a Wisconsin Family of Seven Is Revolutionizing the Hospitality Industry
Like any good story, there’s so much more than meets the eye at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions. Owner Todd Nelson, with the help of his family — high-school-sweetheart wife Shari and their five children, Todd Jr., Travis, Natasha, and twin daughters Alissa and Ashley — has grown his business from a pizza pub in Wisconsin Dells to several sprawling properties that received the title of World’s Coolest Indoor Waterparks by Conde Nast Traveler in 2014.
“Kalahari is a result of hard work and love and represents my family’s dream come to life,” said Todd Nelson, owner, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions. “We aren’t content sitting on the sidelines but understand that hard work guided by family principles is the key differentiator that has allowed us to partake on this whirlwind journey. It doesn’t get lost on us how lucky we are — sometimes we have to pinch ourselves.”
In 2020, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions celebrated the brand’s 20th anniversary and opened its fourth property in Round Rock, Texas. The Round Rock location is the new home of America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark Resort – with a true 223,000 sq. ft. of wet and wild fun.
As the owners of Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, Todd and Shari Nelson have been the driving force behind the development, creation and expansion of the brand since its inception in 2000. Todd and Shari met in drivers’ education class and have been together ever since. Entrepreneurs at heart, Todd and Shari started creating business ventures together right out of high school. From a saloon to a pizza place, Todd and Shari worked hard to ensure success in both business and family – they have five children and 13 grandchildren.
“The greatest accomplishment in my life is being able to work with my family. I couldn’t be prouder of my kids. Seeing them grow and learn, not only as people but also as leaders, has been truly exciting. That includes our extended family of awesome management leaders and associates who helped build this dream and will be crucial to any future success.”
Todd Nelson is defined as a leader in the waterpark industry’s consistent evolution and growth due to a myriad of accomplishments and a brand synonymous with innovation. Today, Nelson continues to serve as the brand’s visionary, overseeing the expansion and inventiveness of Kalahari Resorts & Conventions. He 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.” In 2023, Todd and Sheri Nelson were honored with an induction into the Wisconsin Business Hall of Fame.
The Nelsons are dedicated to philanthropic giving and corporate responsibility. Under the Nelsons’ leadership, Kalahari has worked closely with nonprofit organizations that serve local communities. Kalahari Resorts & Conventions serves as the host of many annual fundraising events, such as the United Way Duck Derby, Golf for the Future hosted by the Wisconsin Dells Education Foundation, and the annual Andy North Classic at Trappers Turn Golf Club 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 a variety of international organizations, including charity: water and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. Learn more about Kalahari’s Corporate Social Responsibility Programs and the Nelson Family Life Foundation.