(NOTE: This isn't a sponsored post and I wasn't reimbursed in any way. I just think it's helpful to get some extra info before spending lots of hard-earned money and wanted to pass along our thoughts)
Check out our stay (list of tips at the end of the post) ...
The main feature of the lodge is the large indoor waterpark and that's where we spent the majority of our time. The passes for the waterpark are included in your room costs and it's only available for use by guests staying at the hotel. (which helps to control the size of the crowds). However, guests are free to use the facilities starting at 1pm on the day they check in and the full rest of the day after their 11am checkout.
When you enter the waterpark there's a large climbing structure in the center. There are all sorts of nets, tunnels, slides and ways to dump and squirt water on those around you. There's also a huge bucket of water that dumps out 1,000 gallons of water on the people below every 5 minutes. (My kids LOVED the pouring water and would run over to stand under it when the warning bell went off)
The large wave pool was also a big hit with my kids. They liked floating on a raft in the middle or being at the edge where the waves were breaking. It was nice to have that beach experience without any sharp shells poking your feet or sand getting in your suit!
There were lots of other fun attractions too ~ floating logs to hop across, a surfing simulator, shallow kids' pool and slides, hot tubs (one for adults and another for kids), and a lazy river.
There were also several large waterslides that I don't have pictures of, although I did ride them each several times! (You can see the resort photos of them HERE.) My son declared the Howling Tornado, with its big drop into a huge funnel, his "favorite ride ever, anywhere!" and I have to agree it was really cool. We also liked the River Canyon Run with its darkened tunnel and flashing lights and the Alberta Falls where you twist and turn down one of two large slides. Even the two smaller water slides off the central climbing area were lots of fun.
While the cost for our whole little trip, even with a Groupon, was a few hundred dollars, it was definitely a fun and memorable trip for the kids and a really special treat. I couldn't afford to go back often, but we'd love to return again at some point.
Now for the tips and a few things worth mentioning...
- If you can arrange it, try to go on a weekday. We stayed Sunday into Monday and the crowds were manageable. The longest lines (approx. 20-30 minutes at times) were for the Howling Tornado, River Canyon Run, and Flow Rider surfing ride. Most of the other areas you could go right into. I've heard it can be much more crowded on weekends.
- Take advantage of the online check in. I didn't and had to wait in a really long line to check in on Sunday afternoon. I noticed that people who had done the online check in were able to go into a much, much shorter line. (info should be in the reservation email).
- Instead of a traditional room key, the plastic wristband you get at check in is somehow electronically coded to give you access to your room. (It's pretty cool, you just pass it in front of your door and it unlocks.) You can also set up your wristband to allow purchases to be charged to your room. It was really nice not to have to worry about keeping track of your wallet or room key while in the water.
- Plan for some of your meals to be outside the lodge. There are several eateries inside but you'll pay amusement park premium prices for your meals. We grabbed lunch before we checked in at one of the restaurants close to the lodge and ate dinner at another restaurant on our 2nd day when we left.
- Pack some snacks for your room. I packed breakfast foods and some snacks so I could keep costs down. You're not supposed to bring outside food into the waterpark area (there is a snack bar), but I did notice several families around us who brought in small snacks and drinks in their bags.
- Try to have someone get down to the waterpark right when it opens to claim a table. My son and I were at the doors right at 9am and were able to stake out a good table to serve as our "homebase" for the day. By 10am, nearly all the tables had been staked out.
- The lodge does provide free towels for use in the waterpark area. They were perfect for the kids, but a little small for an adult. You might one to bring a beach towel of your own if you want to be able to wrap it all the way around you.
- I thought there was plenty to do in the waterpark area for kids of all ages. Because that was the main reason we went, we didn't do many of the other activities in the lodge. However, I noticed lots of kids playing a Magic Quest game with a special wand (costs extra) and that could be a fun alternative to a whole day in the water, especially if you stay for more than one night. There was also an arcade, spa, art room, storytimes and activities in the lobby, and more. I can imagine it would get extremely pricy if you let your kids do all the extras, though.
- I found the place to be clean and well maintained and the staff we dealt with were usually quite friendly and helpful. (I often expect the worst after reading online reviews, but we had no problems.) However, I will admit that the pizza we got at the lodge for dinner was pretty gross, especially considering it cost close to $20.
- The lifeguards in the waterpark were very attentive and I felt comfortable letting my kids (ages 7, 9 and 10) buddy up and go on some waterslides or attractions without me right by their side.
- We stayed in the Loft Fireplace Suite and it was HUGE! It had two double beds, a separate seating area with a pull out couch, a small balcony, a fireplace and stairs leading up to a loft with another double bed and a half bath.
- Since we were planning on staying at the park after checkout at 11, I took most of our belongings out to the car. I rented a locker in the waterpark for $10 to hold our change of clothes, my purse and camera so I'd have quick access to them until we left the resort around 5pm.
I hope you've found this post helpful if you're planning your own trip to a Great Wolf Lodge.