On November 12, Williamson County added one more reason to brag. After five years of planning, and all the challenges 2020 threw at their construction and development, Kalahari Resort in Round Rock officially opened to the public and welcomed its first guest family. To some it may seem like just another growth project, but Kalahari must be seen to be believed, and we are fortunate to be just minutes away from a world-class family fun destination.
Despite its size, Kalahari is truly a family-owned business. Owners Todd and Shari Nelson, and their five children with spouses are personally involved and invested in creating a great experience that brings the magic of Africa to Texas. Executive Vice President Bill Otto explained, “The Nelsons were successful entrepreneurs in Wisconsin and have been developing their resort business since 2000. Mr. Nelson saw most water parks used similar Caribbean or woodsy-milling themes. He wanted something unique and beautiful for his brand. After deciding on an African theme, the family visited the continent, and fell in love with everything about it.”
Round Rock is the fourth resort built by the family and Todd says, “We knew we wanted to come to Texas because Texas has the best attitude in the country by 100 miles. We went all over the state; but our site guide happened to come to Round Rock, found this beautiful site, met with the EDC, and the journey began. There is fantastic leadership in this town.”
Their African theme is designed to bring families together in the spirit of Ubuntu or “togetherness”—a belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all of humanity. From the “herd” of elephants that greet visitors at the front entrance, handcrafted artwork on the walls, and original music throughout the resort, the details and the experience are fully immersive.
Just outside the main lobby is the Amatuli arts center. This outdoor market will feature native African artisans and authentic crafts on a rotating basis. There are even plans for some of those creative experts to set up at market days in Georgetown and other local festivals.
Caleb Turzinski, Todd’s son-in-law, explained how the cross-continental art partnerships began; “We traveled to several villages and gave money to the local people to get food for their families. We asked only for one piece of art in donation, which we will sell at Amatuli and all of the money goes back to a charity in Africa; everything from clean water to supporting the arts and village entrepreneurship.”
But wait, there’s more…
The main attraction, the indoor waterpark (left), is the world’s largest, and day-passes are available to everyone. It has 30 slides, a wave pool with jumbo video screen, and dozens of features for all ages.
There are 975 guest rooms and suites, 20 pools—including one with swim-up cocktails—a world-class spa and salon, and 20 on-site dining options. There are four signature full-service restaurants, including the company’s first speakeasy piano bar, and first Mexican restaurant, Cinco Niños.
Inside the resort, families and thrill-seekers will enjoy Tom Foolery’s Adventure Park, which is 35,000 square feet of games, zip lines, climbing walls, mini-golf, bowling, laser tag, two indoor roller coasters, and two escape rooms. All of the entertainment is open for walk-in visitors. The only thing reserved for hotel guests is outdoor swimming privileges, but when you reserve a room, the water park is also included.
So, while many will be happy to make Kalahari a driving or flying destination, locals are able to drive 15 minutes from home and just walk in to enjoy nearly every activity .
Welcome to Texas
You might not think 35 acres in Round Rock could be so beautiful but the property is adjacent to the greenbelt at Brushy Creek, so nearly every view reinforces the pastoral feel you expect from a resort. When you’re ready to schedule your wedding or corporate retreat, the resort also includes a very large Texas Event Barn.
Congressman John Carter attended the ribbon cutting ceremony and was equally pleased with the impact Kalahari will have for our region. “Kalahari just hired 1,000 people from our area, and, if nothing else, we’re all about jobs. We’ve been watching this place grow and it is another example of doing government right; lower taxes, lower regulations, and government working to make projects successful. All of those things make Texas a destination for things like this. A year from now, this is going to be a destination for the whole United States.”
The Baobob Lounge is just one of the many areas with plenty of luxury, and plenty of room to social distance.
Kalahari Owner Todd Nelson with Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell. Judge Gravell was a big part of the perseverance that allowed Kalahari to open November 12; a date the company chose more than three years ago.
During the stay home-stay safe orders I issued, the one specific area I would not shut down in Williamson County was construction. I knew we had families that needed to be fed and work that needed to be done. The result is what I believe is the best thing to happen to Williamson County in 2020.
I think this is a place where dreams are going to come true for families. You have a safe, protected environment, with thousands of square feet to play.
What they have done in Round Rock is going to be the gold standard for the rest of the world, and it’s really quite wonderful.
~ County Judge Bill Gravell