Gurnee, Illinois—-There are hundreds of great places to stop and spend a day or two and oddly enough Gurnee, Illinois was recently recognized by TripAdvisors as one of the Top Ten Vacation Destinations for 2009.
This is amazing to me as I spent the majority of my summers, through the 1970’s driving straight through the sleepy hamlet on my way to warm, mosquito filled days at the “lake.”
The Gurnee of my childhood was a small, small town dominated by agricultural, dairy and horse farms.
Today Gurnee is a hub of activity that has grown up around the Great America amusement park that was built in the mid-1970s leading to the development of plenty of entertainment and shopping diversions, including Gurnee Mills.
Traveling toward Milwaukee from Chicago, passing Great America and just beyond the Grand Avenue exit, stands a yellow building featuring large waterslides springing from its side.
Thus an impromptu visit to KeyLime Cove was determined to be in order and we entered what is one of the newest entrants into the “waterpark” resort/hotel marketplace.
The resort is the brainchild of Dave Anderson of the nationally Famous Dave’s barbeque restaurant chain presently found in thirty-eight states in the U.S.
Spinning a tale of an Island Paradise lorded over by cast-a-way Captain Dave, Mangrove Jack, Toukie the Hawaiian shirt wearing toucan and Marty the surf-boarding chameleon, KeyLime Cove offers a Key West inspired color palate of lime greens and sunshine yellows set against clear sky blues. Walking into the lobby, guests are greeted with island inspired charm along with the brightly hued bustle of Duval Street.
This wide boardwalk is lined with plenty of fun activities and shops. Stop by Pinki’s Pet Palace and create your own stuffed friend, born at KeyLime Cove or visit with the exotic birds and street performers. A sweet shop counter offers plenty of confections while the Crazy Toucan Margarita Grille offers great island inspired treats including a spicy Grilled Shrimp Lapaya as well as local standards, such as the cheesy beef.
And of course for fans of Famous Dave’s, order a half or full rack of ribs.
Other dining options include the eponymous D.W. Anderson’s Eatery and Ice Cream Parlor that features the “Kitchen Sink” sundae featuring 24 scoops of ice cream served in a kitchen sink. Other eating spots include Anna Chovy’s Pizzeria, Hot Diggety Dawg’s for burgers, brats and dogs and Sharky’s Big Bites conveniently located in the waterpark. Rooms are surprisingly spacious and include options from standard queen and king sized rooms to junior and one or two bedroom luxury suites.
Rooms sleep from two to eight, each featuring flat-screen cable t.v., high speed internet access, iPod compatible alarm clocks, refrigerator and coffee maker, Panama Jack bath accessories and in room safe. Larger suites also include kitchenettes and dining areas.
Captain Dave’s suites are luxurious and spacious featuring two bedrooms, one with a king the other two queen sized beds, a full size pull-out, luxury master bath including a whirlpool tub with viewable flat screen television, complete kitchen facilities and private balcony with island inspired furnishings.
Keeping the kids busy is the Lost Paradise Waterpark, 65,000 square feet of water fun including five giant waterslides, including the swirling Hurricane’s Vortex, two side winding and two enclosed body slides, each with forty-foot drops. Toukie’s Big Deluge play area complete with slides, the 250 gallon Pineapple Splash Bucket, water hoses, cannons, spinning wheels and smaller water dumps all ready for wacky water play.
The KeyLime Creek 560-foot lazy river releases tubers into the Tsunami Washout wave pool while mom and dad relax pool side with a cocktail from the Sand Bar or take in the soothing waters of the Key Lime Grotto hot tub. The waterpark also features the “play pond” designed specifically for little swimmers.
After dinner let the kids burn off any remaining energy at the Rip Tide Reef Arcade filled with over 8,000 square feet of banging, clanging, light-flashing techno fun for children of all ages.
As children take part in the many planned activities offered by the property, mom and dad can partake of a bit of pampering at the Paradise Mist Spa. The spa offers a variety of services, some wrapped into multiple treatment packages. For those familiar with “resort spas” Paradise Mist Spa, while being very welcoming and services well provided, is a day spa.
Guests should expect relaxing service; however the pre-and-post pampering is limited.
All in all, KeyLime Cove provides plenty of guest options – from dining choices to accommodation packages that include tickets to Great America, dining options and more.
Of pleasant surprise to us during our visit was the general pleasant nature of all the employees we encountered and the outstanding levels of cleanliness found from the waterpark to the washrooms.
Because KeyLime Cove does not offer “day only” admission to the park, it retains a private resort flavor and comfort that a restricted environment offers.
Additionally KeyLime Cove offers special Armed Forces service personnel packages and community events in which the company “gives” back to the community by offering limited day only access to the park, with all fees collected being given to neighboring charities.
With a location close to Milwaukee and/or Chicago, great shopping and a quality hotel destination, Gurnee makes a great travel destination while KeyLime offers a great “post Great America” destination filled with cooling relaxation following a day of thrill rides and amusement park excitement.