I have lived in Vernon Hills for 10 years, and one of my favorite places to take my kids on a hot summer day is the Vernon Hills Family Aquatic Center. This neighborhood water park has something for everyone, yet it’s small enough where you won’t feel like you’ll lose sight of your kids.
The Family Aquatic Center has two zero-depth pools: one large pool with a small toddler slide, waterfall, water sprays and lap lanes, and the other with interactive play features for little ones.
Having two pools to choose from means that when the main pool closes for swim lessons, there is still plenty of room to play in the second pool. (It also means that if you have little ones, you will find yourself hopping from pool to pool – but hey, it’s good exercise.)
In addition to the pools, there are three large water slides: one tube slide and two body slides. These are surprisingly fun. My family is a big fan of the Wisconsin Dells, so we’ve been so many water parks, and the slides at the Family Aquatic Center are a good alternative. The green body slide will satisfy the daredevil in you, while the white body slide is nice and slow – perfect for my 4-year-old, who can ride by himself with a lifejacket (there are plenty available to borrow). The tube slide accommodates both single and double tubes, which allows you to ride with your kiddos if they aren’t quite ready to master the slides by themselves.
At the end of the tube slide, your raft will be plummeted into a 700-foot lazy river, where you can lie back and relax while your heart rate returns to normal – that is, until you drift underneath the tipping buckets. There is about a 50 percent chance that a bucket of water will dump on your head – but hey, it’s all in good fun, and you can’t expect to come to a water park and not get wet!
My kids, ages 4 and 7, can literally spend two hours riding the waterslides alone. But when they need a break, the large sand play area is a good option. Parents can park a chair under a canopy and enjoy the shade while the kiddos make masterpieces out of wet, goopy sand. The sand is soft and clean, and the play area is isolated from the pools with one entry/exit point, which makes it easy to keep an eye on them.
They say that swimming increases your appetite, and that always seems to be the case with my kids. Fortunately, Bo-Bo’s, a Vernon Hills staple, operates a grill at the Aquatic Center, where you can purchase typical pool fare, such as burgers, fries, hot dogs, hot pretzels, ice cream and a variety of other snacks. If you’re trying to limit your calories, be sure to eat beforehand or pack some healthy snacks, because most of the food served is of the fried variety. (However, perhaps you can justify splurging on an extra-large elephant ear after spending an hour walking up the waterslide stairs – at least, that was my excuse!)
The Family Aquatic Center has plenty of shaded seating – just get there early. The locker rooms always seem reasonably clean, too, although there isn’t a lot of private changing space and there are only a few showers.
If you want to avoid the crowds, come after 2:00 p.m., after the day camps have left. The Aquatic Center also hosts parent/tot open swim before the pool opens, from 9:10 a.m.-10:15 a.m, Mondays through Saturdays. This is only available for parents and toddlers five years old and younger, and it’s a perfect way to enjoy some quiet time with your little ones before the pool gets crowded.
Vernon Hills Family Aquatic Center
635 N. Aspen Dr., Vernon Hills | (847) 996-6800
The pool is open daily through August 13 and weekend’s through September 4. See Website for current hours and rates.
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