The Evil Genius family got a terrific chance at a basically free vacation, when Mr. BTEG's company arranged to send him to CodeMash, a convention for computer developers, that is held yearly at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, OH. Mr. BTEG got a four-person room, and since that entitled him to up to four waterpark passes, the Musician, the Dancer, and I came along. It was not only a great opportunity for a vacation, but family participation is encouraged with KidzMash, "a free family track for the spouses and families of attendees."
Free-to-us getaway, as noted above
The Musician and the Dancer got time to interact with all kinds of adults in technology fields, and take part in activities such as helping Daddy build a NodeBot. Most of the KidzMash activities were designed for much smaller children, but the girls were very welcome in anything that was not an official lecture or class. The Musician's outgoing and vivacious personality really shone through here. Since the Dancer is still thinking of studying STEM in college, it was a fantastic chance for her to get a closer look at technology opportunities, and meet lots of adults in the field. They also got to do some fun things like play Settlers of Catan.
Parts of the waterpark were really fun. The girls enjoyed the wave pool. I got to ride the Zip Coaster, a kind of roller coaster in a water slide tube, which was fun for this roller coaster enthusiast.
I got bored with the water park very quickly. I enjoy the lazy river ride at Great Wolf Lodge, and expected to find a really great lazy river at Kalahari, since it is a much bigger water park. But it wasn't really any longer than the one at GWL, and it was chilly! GWL likes to stress how warm their waterpark is, and I can see why now that I've been in the Kalahari one. Not only was I shivering in the lazy river, but there are several places where water splashes down on you, which does not help with the chill. Another reason I didn't enjoy the water park as much as I would have liked was because:
The air was very dry. After only several hours in the park, my legs were dry and itchy. I would have liked to have gone on the Zip Coaster again, or tried out a few other things, but I didn't want to make my skin irritation worse. I do have sensitive skin, but even though Mr. BTEG hadn't gone in the water park yet, his hands were drying out after a couple of days. I can see that they would not want to have the area outside the water park feel overly humid, but they went too far and dried the air out too much, especially for the winter months.
The food was so-so. One of the fun things about going to an indoor water park like GWL or Kalahari during the winter months, is that everything is self-contained: your lodging, your meals and entertaining activities. It's great fun not to have to venture out into cold or snow for a few days. I'm a picky eater, but even so, with all the different places to eat in Kalahari, there was nothing special for any of us. We quickly discovered that the food options were essentially the same. The food at the cafe by the arcade was the cheapest and lowest quality; the upscale restaurant was the most expensive and best quality, but that was about it. Mr. BTEG found the catered lunches for attendees much more interesting than the restaurant food. Also frustrating was that one of the restaurants, the buffet, was closed for the week, although the park was at or close to maximum capacity for the entire week. This leads us into:
On Wednesday night, Mr. BTEG, the Dancer, and I went to the mid-priced restaurant to grab something to eat. There was a line to be seated, despite the restaurant being half-empty. The hostess mumbled something about everybody from the convention coming in to eat. Well, what did they expect? They had a very good handle of how many people were at the hotel, given that most people got a water park bracelet. This is the 10th year that the convention has been held at Kalahari. The schedule includes lectures during the day, and social activities at night. Many people are going to come for dinner in between those times. There are a few other outside restaurants in that area, but really, shouldn't Kalahari want you to stay and eat at their places? Plus, as I mentioned above, although the weather has been blessedly snow-free, it was rather cold. It was a very appealing option to just stay inside.
After a wait to be seated, we then had to wait for our waitress, who had probably just come on shift. We sat and watched the line to be seated wax and wane, until we noticed the table behind us was getting food. Unfortunately, the people at that table had decided to leave a while ago. At this point we realized that not only had we ordered our food before that table, but it had been forty minutes since we had ordered, and we hadn't even received our appetizer in that time. The manager did give us our entire meal for free, but the whole thing was just a big mess that should have been avoided by having enough staff on hand.
The first night, the Dancer and I grabbed something small in the cafe that was next to the arcade. It was dimly lit, and there was some kind of pipe making noise the entire time we were there, that made it difficult for the Dancer and I to hold a conversation. The cafe didn't look any brighter any of the other times we walked past it, which we did a lot, because:
You have to walk through the arcade to get to the water park. Not only is this over-the-top marketing to try to get you to play games in the arcade, it was unpleasant to have to wend your way through arcade games to get where you were going, every single time. The Dancer and I especially found all the lights, noises and garish colors to be over-stimulating.
The lazy river decor was literally ugly. There were about ten hyena statues placed at intervals around the lazy river. Hyenas are ugly animals, and that was pretty much all there was to look at going around the lazy river. At one point, there were a couple of hyenas that looked ready to take on an alligator, which wasn't really much fun to look at either. I don't know; it was like they got some hyena statues cheap and just decided to throw them there.
So to sum it up, the girls and Mr. BTEG did have a good time at the CodeMash part of the week. I got bored and came home Wednesday night; they will be there until late tonight. I was expecting Kalahari to be so much more, since it is so much bigger than its neighbor down the street, Great Wolf Lodge, but it really wasn't. It probably is at least more fun in the summer, when all the outdoor activities are open too. It was refreshing to get away for a couple of days at least (we got there Monday night) so there's that.