Family friendly hotel + 50,000 sq ft water park = License to print money.
Well, judging from the amount of kids and families we met during our recent visit to the Great Wolf Lodge Resort in Grand Mound, Washington, it certainly must be. The concept is simple; build an awesome water park packed with slides, rides, wave and kiddie pools and hot tubs, inside a hotel resort complex with restaurants, bars, cafes, a spa, arcade, Starbucks, and gift shops, and presto, you’ve got family theme-park travel success.
There are ten Great Wolf Lodges in the United States, and one in Niagara Falls, Canada. We’ve been to the Niagara Falls resort as well, and it is colossal – 100,000 sq ft of waterpark and a huge resort hotel.
In essence though, the Lodges and waterparks are all very similar in theme and design, centered around a natural wildlife theme of wolves and other forest creatures, with brown and green faux forest landscaping. The theming is kitschy but it certainly works with kids. The evening story-time of live action critters packed over 200 spellbound kids into the resort lobby on our first evening.
The reservation includes the hotel room suite and unlimited waterpark access, so it’s a flat fee based upon the size and type of your room. There are many types of rooms & suites to choose from; regular rooms and themed suites like the Kid Kamp Suite or Grizzly Bear Suite. All of the suites include a fridge, coffee machine, and microwave for heating up some soup, quick snacks, or popcorn.
But, really, you spend very little time in your room except to sleep or watch an evening movie.
Depending on the age and swimming ability of your children, the waterpark can be a place of total freedom or a stressful, incredibly loud, crazy place.
With tweens and teens, the kids can really roam on their own and come and go as they please. I certainly didn’t worry that my kids would leave the hotel because they were having too much fun. They only seemed to find me when they were hungry or needed more arcade tokens.
For younger children (and parents!), and size and noise level of the waterpark can be overwhelming. You’ll always want to be in close reach of your toddler or young one in the wave pool and near the splash park, and some rides will not be suitable for children under a certain height. Though there are lifeguards stationed throughout the water park, parents always need to maintain vigilance and be close by.
For those who can only take so much of the waterpark experience, Great Wolf Lodge has developed the interactive MagiQuest game. MagiQuest takes place on five floors of the Lodge and involves interactive magical activity with talking animals, crystals and dragons.
There is an additional charge to play the game, plus the cost of the wand (around $13 and up), but kids really seem to get into the imaginative quest game that keeps them roaming through the Lodge for hours at a time. [ttm tip: You can purchase the wand on its own as a souvenir for the under 5 set, if the game is too involved for the wee ones.]
For older kids, there is the gr8_space where teens can gather to play video games and hang out, if they’re not too tired after a day’s worth of water play.
[TTM tips: Before reserving, check for any GWL coupons or web coupons. If you’re a member of CAA or AAA, you can also get further discounts off the quoted price. Also, be sure to pack a cooler with drinks, snacks and some breakfast supplies so you won’t need to line up for a buffet breakfast when the kids are starving in the morning. You can order pizza to your room from one of the in-house Lodge restaurants, or pop out for takeout from a neighbouring nearby business.]
Photo Credit: C. Laroye
Have you visited a Great Wolf Lodge in the USA or Canada? What did you enjoy about your experience? Share your comment below.