February is THE birthday month for my family. Both my girls, my dogs and I all share the amethyst birthstone – which means this month is also produces the most expenses. Normally we opt to do a small gathering at a family members house, yet this year we decided to go a bit bigger. My youngest turned the big 5… and that is a big deal. Luckily, we also live in Southern California where the options for adventure are practically endless – adventures that are often featured on Groupon! When my hubby ran across a deal offering 50% Great Wolf Lodge stays, we knew this was the gift we wanted to give our girls for their birthdays. If you have thought about staying at the resort or you have questions, here is what you need to know about visiting Great Wolf Lodge.
Visiting Great Wolf Lodge
What to Know
All about Family
Great Wolf Lodge first opened in 1997 under the name Black Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, yet it was later changed when the company was bought and expanded in 1999. Now stretching across the United States, this family friendly resort boasts 18 locations with 7 more under construction or consideration. And when it comes to Great Wolf Lodge, the name of the game is FAMILY.
Everything about this resort is aimed at families, from their amenities to their decorations, their many restaurants to their famous indoor waterpark. You truly will find something for everyone here, no matter your child’s age, or your own.
The first and most important thing to know about Great Wolf Lodge is that if you wish to use the waterpark, you must be a hotel guest. Unless you are a guest of a visitor, there are no exceptions to this rule (unless you decide to pay for a room and not stay… and who would do that??) This enables the resort to keep the family friendly focus while maintaining adequate and safe levels in the park.
The initial price tag of a room may be a bit off putting for some, yet you can often find deals for non-peak months and days via coupon sites like Groupon, or even book a deal through the official Great Wolf Lodge website. Another thing to consider; you are paying per room, not per person. Each room has a max occupancy, and if you exceed that – there will be charge, otherwise, your cost stays the same. When you do the math, it is actually cheaper to take a family of 4 to this resort than it is to buy 1 day tickets at another waterpark – and here you get 1 and 1/2 days at the park to play!
You can also purchase DisneyLand Resort tickets while visiting Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove, CA. With the Magic Kingdom a mere 3 miles up the road, they offer shuttle service (first come, first serve) and a portal for purchase through their website.
Checking In and Checking Out
Check-in officially begins at 4pm, or whenever rooms are available. However, the waterpark is available for use from 1pm on. Just in case your room is not ready when you arrive, bring a small bag with your swimsuits and photo ID (in order to receive your wristbands) and leave the larger luggage in the car. You can always go back and get it when your room is available.
Check out is at 11am, though you are allowed to use the Waterpark till closing. Again, just store your luggage in your car (or near the front desk) and carry a small bag into the park.
Every guest at the resort is issued a wrist band.
Keys and tickets to the park (and practically everything else in the Hotel!) is handled with these clever wrist bands. When you check in, all members of your party are issued one – do NOT take them off! The larger ones (My husband and I wore one) have a chip on the back that serves as both a door key to your room and for purchases throughout the hotel. They will be charged back to your room. The small, thinner ones (pictured on bottom) do not have room access or purchasing power, which made them perfect for our little ones.
Great Wolf Lodge is HUGE! There are a variety of rooms available, from standard rooms that sleep 2 to 6, to themed rooms that feature cabin type decor and even bunkbeds all the way up to premium suits that include larger beds, more space and can sleep a max of 8.
This Indoor Water Park is fantastic! When you first walk in (entrance through a gift shop for the one in Garden Grove) – they check your wrist band, then measure your little one on a colored chart. They will then receive a second wristband according to how they fall on the height scale. Red means that they must wear a life vest in all pools and must have an accompanying adult. Yellow means they will wear life vests most pool areas, have an adult companion for some rides and are restricted from certain rides. Green means they can enter pools without a life vest (unless they want/need one) and can enjoy rides on their own.
This simple color coding is an easy way for the many, many life guards to ensure the safety of all swimmers. Life vests are available through out the park and in front of most pools.
While I took a thousand and five pictures throughout the park and resort while visiting Great Wolf Lodge, I am not including any photos of the waterpark in this review. Since this is a family friendly venue, all pictures taken in the waterpark included images of other people’s children – and since I will not even post identifiable pictures of my OWN children on my blog (read why here!) I certainly will not post images of others. That said, I did capture this kid-free image of the clock tower. =)
Towels are provided
Right after you are measured, you will notice a huge trolly of towels – take what you need! You throw them in the dirty trolley when you leave the park. This, combined with the ease of the wristbands serving as both key and cash, makes the visit easy, and cuts down on what you may need to bring into the park.
It’s not just the WaterPark!
While the indoor waterpark is famous, there is much more to explore while visiting Great WOlf Lodge.
Other attractions include:
MagiQuest and ShadowQuest – These are resort wide Scavenger Hunts that take you all over the hotel, recording achievements electronically via a wand. While we didn’t participate this time around, we saw evidence of the quests all over.
Howly Wood XD Theater – A thrill ride, Hollywood Style
Scooops – A Kid Friendly Spa with tasty treatments just for the little ones
Northern Lights Arcade – There is a game for everyone here
Creation Station – Kids can create their own stuffed animals
Ten Paws Bowling – Features shorter lanes and smaller balls, perfect for smaller hands.
Cub Club – Nature themed programming which features crafts and activities at various times.
The Great Wolf Lodge Kids Store – Themed Merchandise.
Howl at the Moon – Mini Golf
We also ran across a candy store and various restaurants to sate our hunger. I know there is an adult spa somewhere and at least 2 more kid friendly attractions, but I was too distracted to hunt them down.
All in all, visiting Great Wolf Lodge was a fantastic decision for us – and we’ll be back!