All aboard! Next stop, Minneapolis!
Back in the late 1800s, the downtown train station in this burgeoning Midwestern city was bustling. But as time went on, little by little, the activity at the Depot tapered off until, finally, in 1971, the last train left the station.
Idle for years, the site was saved when the Minnesota Historical Society placed it in the National Register of Historic Places.
Now, the Depot is revitalized, home to two hotels, an ice rink and a small but wonderfully charming indoor waterpark.
CSM Corp. of St. Paul, Minn., a franchisee of Marriott hotels, completed the four structures in July 2001. Located right by the Mississippi River, it’s now a happenin’, year-round spot.
The centerpiece of the tiny, 8,000-square-foot aquatics area is the splash pool, which features a whimsical, interactive train.
“Children can climb into the engine, play with pulleys and buttons, triggering lights, fountains, bells, whistles,” says Judith Kayser, managing director of the Depot. “There are tracks in the pool. [Lots of] water comes out of the smokestack,” splashing down on happy kids below.
Kayser adds that “every 20 minutes there’s a sound and light show.” And, even though the train doesn’t move inside the small enclosure, a very heavy bass sound is piped in, causing such a reverberation that “kids feel as if the train is moving.”
There’s more: Youngsters can take a rope bridge to the top of the atrium, where a 185-foot, three-story water slide awaits. Riders then loop outside the building before returning inside to land in one of the four pools. In between, on the second floor, there are concessions, with areas for birthday parties and private events.
Guests at the hotels (a Residence Inn and a Courtyard) are “mostly corporate” during the week, says Kayser. But on the weekend, it’s more of a mix with families. Interestingly, 90 percent of the hotels’ waterpark guests live within 20 miles of the Depot.
That certainly is a good sign for the growing number of indoor hotel/waterparks or, as Kayser calls the Depot, “an urban resort for families.”