There are plenty of things to do with tweens in Chicago, but driving home from KeyLime Cove in Gurnee, Ill., left the four 10-year-old girls began a heated debate. Was it the kids spa, or the Hurricane Vortex water slide, that they would brag to their friends about?
To me, the best part of this place was that it had both.
Had it just been just a water park, or just a kids’ spa, I’m not sure it would have justified the drive (about an hour from Chicago’s north side). But when you can do both under one roof, and get a heaping ice cream cone to boot … well, that’s a tween girl jackpot.
And it’s perfect for a TravelingMom like me, who is ready to leave a water park after an hour.
I’ll get to the spa in a moment. The main attraction is the water park.
KeyLime Cove Water Park
KeyLime Cove’s water park is relatively small, so tweens can walk around by themselves and no one gets lost. Everyone’s favorite slide was the Hurricane Vortex. You walk up a bunch of cement stairs, and then ride down in a two-person inflatable tube. You loop around a giant funnel, and then slide down the center chute.
All of the other usual water park features also were there: a wave pool, a basketball area, a lazy river and a giant bucket that occasionally dumps water on everything below it.
I was impressed by how well the lifeguards were paying attention, and making sure kids weren’t doing anything dangerous — an important and impressive detail to note.
Outside the water park, a sprawling arcade had better-than-average games and prizes (come on, the prize quality matters), a few not-too-overpriced fast food offerings, and an arts & crafts area with organized activities, such as bingo and a scavenger hunt.
During our visit — on a Wednesday afternoon in June — the whole place was pretty empty during the late morning and early afternoon, which was awesome. It got more crowded as the dinner hour approached. So if you can go during the day, do it.
My favorite feature of KeyLime Cove? A wristband that allows you to do everything — open the door to your hotel room, buy food, or open your poolside locker — just by swiping it.
Enchanted Lagoon Spa Caters to Tween Girls
I used it to pay for the girls’ spa treatments at the Enchanted Lagoon Spa. The spa is much smaller in person than it looks online, but it delivered in a big way. It was clean, friendly and cute. After a princess crown and sash was put on the birthday girl, everyone put on white bath robes over their clothes and rotated through the stations — facials, makeup and pedicures. I limited them to three things, but they were cooing over everything on the spa menu (and all the colorful products they sell, including a make-your-own bath scrub).
The girls felt like pampered grown-ups, and it was adorable seeing them sitting side-by-side in their robes, having their toes polished. The pedicures are done in custom-made, kid-sized tubs, so they could soak their feet before being clipped, massaged and polished.
“You don’t get that in a regular spa,” my daughter said.
The staff talked to the girls, and can do pedicures for up to four girls at once. My 10-year-old posse had mixed feelings about the glitter lotion applied to their calves at the end of the pedicure, but they all loved their facials. Cold cream was conservatively applied to their faces, as were cucumber-designed eye pads (very cute). Then they wrapped a warm, wet towel on their faces and wiped it all off. The girls were less enthusiastic about the makeup, consisting mostly of neutral colored lip glosses and eyeshadows.
Of course, go here AFTER you’re done at the water park, so their glamour doesn’t wash off.
While it’s possible to go to KeyLime Cove for the day, like we did, almost all of the packages require you to stay overnight. If you want to go just for the day, inquire about their “Daycation” packages, which include a hotel room for the day and up to 6 passes. They’re available on limited dates.
Taking a group of kids to KeyLime Cove can be an expensive outing, so watch for specials or buy one of their package deals. Some of the packages include admission to nearby Six Flags Great America amusement park and water park.
And when you’re looking for something special for tween girls to do, keep KeyLime Cove on your radar.
Disclosure: Key Lime Cove provided water park passes and a 25% discount at the spa, but all opinions in this article are completely my own.