Sahara Sam's Oasis - Hilton Garden Inn - Great Getaway!
Posted: Jun 26th, 2013
Sahara Sam’s Indoor/Outdoor waterpark – Hilton Garden Inn Mt. Laurel
We arrived just after the 11am opening on a June Saturday and were happy for the beautiful weather, a sunny 85 with fluffy clouds! The kid’s excitement grew once they spotted all of the colorful waterslides jutting outside the building. The parking lot was filling up already but we easily found a parking spot and headed in. No need to bring in outside snacks or drinks, the staff does a thorough bag search before you head in, and seemed to find anything and everything in those bags! The admission entrance takes you through the 3,000 foot game arcade – arcade entrance is FREE – and you will find all your favorite games offering tickets for prizes. Normally, my kids would want to stop to play, but it was hot and my kids headed straight to the back wall for the Admission gate to the water park. We forgot ear plugs but were able to pick up a set inside near the ticket booth. Ticket lines moved quickly and soon we had our wrist bands and were heading into the park. You have the option to purchase a large or small locker for your personal items and I would recommend it - it is a busy and large place with lots of folks, so I’d rather be safe! Changing and restrooms are available right near the lockers.
As many cars as were outside, it did not feel crowded at all. We found chairs up near the wave pool and pretty much used this as “home base” during our stay. There was upbeat music to suit all tastes playing outside – loud enough to give it a beachy feel, but not too loud to be able to talk easily. There were plenty of chairs to go around and even nicer Adirondack chairs along the sides of the wave pool. There were not any actual lounge chairs in the common area, but they were included in the rentable private cabana’s ($125/day) that include wait service, electric plug in, and 4 comp bottles of water. Inside, the noise level was considerably higher and the a little more crowded in some areas. There was a large bar inside for cocktails and drinks as well as snack items. There was a separate aisle way for just the Birthday party children …. And I was amazed at the amount of birthdays going on this particular day. Each birthday child had a large rolling bin for the party attendee’s items …. But even with that many parties, there still didn’t seem to be too many kids on the slides or lazy river. Swim shoes for the little ones could be a good idea … some of the floor surfaces were a little hard on the feet, but at least they were slip resistant!
We decided to head out to the right to the new outdoor water park … and were pleasantly surprised at the open space! The kids truly spent most of their time in the wave pool – but we did try out the soaking pool too. Inside, The Flow Rider was a new feature that we had never seen before ….and actually the only indoor Flow Rider in New Jersey. There was never more than 5-6 in line, so both of my older kids had a chance to try. Adults need to sign a waiver for anybody trying the Flow Rider … so be sure to bring your driver’s license if you think someone in your group will want to ride. You hve to be 8 or older to try … though I would not allow my 8 year old on it after watching a couple younger kids wipe out. Whatever you do, do NOT step on the water surface! They tell you this and actually instruct you on proper riding -- thankfully there are 2 attentive life guards on the attraction, but it still did not look like something I would try after watching those kids wipe out! J My kids actually did well for their first times. The Samazon Ropes course caught our eye as we pulled into the parking lot … it is the highest one in the world. Unfortunately, by the time I got the kids over that way, it was closed for the day – next time! It was just as well though, you’ll need tennis shoes to climb! Inside the kids tried the Congo Bongo lazy river and the smaller slides in the middle at Tim-Buk-Tu …. If you can believe it, we never even made it on the larger water slides …. I’m telling you, they LOVED that wave pool! I would have loved to try Mount Kilimanjaro, the family slide that fits 4 in the tube! With so much to do, I could totally see the benefit of purchasing an annual pass, especially if you lived close by. Year round fun … indoors and out …. Seems like a no brainer to me. We would pay $599 for the family to join the outdoor pool near our home … and would only pay $500 ($99/pp) for an ANNUAL pass here – I wish we lived closer!
There were snacks available for purchase outside, as well as a larger snack/seating area inside at the Desert Palm Café that included all the favorites like pizza, burgers, salads and sweets. There was also a large bar area just inside the Indoor Water Park, Sam’s Lounge – located centrally to help keep an eye on the kiddo’s. There was a smaller bar area outside also offering fun cocktails (pina colada’s $7.50, and the popular “fishbowl” drinks looked refreshing at $22 ). No worries that they snagged our water bottles on the way in as they offered a variety of drinks for the kids and complimentary cups of water at the refreshment bar.
I was impressed with the cleanliness of the park overall as well as the availability of staff and security. The lifeguards appeared very attentive to their duties and in fact we saw them tested on two occasions. While swimming in the wave pool, apparently a child “doll” was secretly placed in the pool with a life vest on, only it’s legs visible in the waves. The doll was spotted - whistles blown and waves stopped as the “drowning” doll was rescued.
If you are planning to stay in the area … I would recommend The Hilton Garden Inn where we stayed … located just 7 miles down the road. This family friendly hotel is completely updated with a casual modern atmosphere. After a day of swimming and cocktails, it was nice to head over to a nearby hotel for a relaxing evening. They do offer a wonderful restaurant on property, but we opted to order pizza and wings from a local eatery suggested by the staff. They delivered to the hotel and we were able to enjoy our meal on the outside deck. Afterwards, we took in some more swimming in the salt water pool and hot tub. If you are craving a late night snack, they offer a 24-hour Pavilion Pantry with all kinds of salty or sweet temptations! The beds in this hotel were TOTALLY worth it … they call it the “Garden Sleep System” with dial it up service on each side of the bed to make it as soft or firm as you want. Overall, this hotel was clean, updated and the service was wonderful. Keep in mind that the rooms only fit 4 … with roll away cots available for an additional $10 on a first come basis. The rooms offer a mini fridge, microwave and coffee maker. I’d highly recommend the breakfast in the restaurant the next morning ($12.95) ….. a fresh cooked to order meal including eggs, waffles and anything and everything you could want to eat! There is a Dunkin Donuts just across the street should you choose that option too! The hotel was conveniently located near the movie theatre, mall and other shopping …. So no matter the weather, you would have plenty to do while in the area!