Last weekend, I mentioned we tried something different – Dad and Daughter did a getaway together at Walt Disney World, while our son and I stayed local and did a “big kid” trip at Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove. We have had many friends stay here and rave about it since it opened a few years ago, and there are locations all over the country. My 8yo and I had an absolute blast – though I think my (tiny) 5yo is still a little on the small/young side, and would definitely recommend this as ideal and a much greater value for older children (though some amenities for toddlers and babies do exist).
Spacious Family Suite Room Accomodations
First of all – to get a deal on staying here, many friends have done Groupon – we didn’t happen to snag one because it was a weekend, but the rates are incredible and definitely worth checking. If you can’t find one, contact me and I’d be happy to help book your stay as an agent at the best deal possible! The other thing to note is that some Lodge Activities are available to the public if you park there for the day – the MagiQuest, which my son LOVED, arcade, glow in the dark mini golf, bowling, and restaurants are all available to outside Guests and to pay separately from a hotel stay. The only thing NOT in that category where you MUST stay at the hotel to enjoy it is the Water Park – that being said, you can also be a “Guest” of a hotel Guest… many rooms sleep 4-6 people, but if you don’t have that many in your room sleeping overnight , you can list additional Guests and get them a water park wrist band that they can use during the open hours and then depart the premises at will. As it were, we stayed in a 6 person Family Suite and there were only 2 of us, so if we had known we may have arranged for local friends to come visit and enjoy the day! Plus – everyone who checks in gets a free pair of Wolf Ears! How fun is that 🙂
Small but fun bowling area (Extra Charge)
Yummy sweets and ice cream options
Arcades are always a hit!
Lots of Halloween Decor around the Resort
You can pose for photos with characters! They also have character dining!
Checking Out Magic Quest
The water park itself (again, Hotel Guests/wristband only) is 90% indoors, with an outdoor pool/splash area and outdoor grill/bar. We were impressed with how much they pack into the indoor space – 3 standard single/double tube slides, 2 Giant Tube Family slides (one thrill, one more chill), a 4 track Raceway slide on mats, a single thrill “Wolf Tail” drop slide, a small lazy river (Tubes or no tubes) with waterfalls, a Flow Rider for boogie boarding/early surfing, a wave pool, a Fort with 4-6 small slides for kids/families and splash pad area, a baby/toddler only splash pad area, and finally a general swimming pool with basketball hoops, floats, and bars/rope crossings and launching pads that my son loved. In addition, there’s a pretty decent amount of seating (chairs and table options), lockers, restrooms, and a small grill/bar that had pretty decent fast fare and lots of good cocktail options for the parents as well! We had a lot of fun here trying all the different slides – definitely go at opening to maximize your ride times, much like at any theme park. We were able to knock out a bunch in the first 30 minutes, but the lines got quite long in the evenings and later in the day. We found midday was a good break time, with a return to the water park around 4pm and then again stop before the peak crowds at closing around 7pm to enjoy other Resort Activities before bed. Obviously, do what works for you! My son loved the Lazy River, Tornado (2-4 person large tube slide), Alberta Falls, Raceway, and the swimming pool area the best! He also loved the Flow Rider – it was his first time, and he did great! He looks forward to trying again both on Flow Rider devices and in the ocean. The lifeguards are awesome throughout the water park and very nice and supportive. They allow you to race, accommodate you, and teach the kids on the Flow Rider and on the attractions. I was very impressed with their professionalism and kindness!
Plenty of food and cocktail options around the water park (No outside food allowed)
Wave Pool Fun – When the wolf howls, the waves start!
He loved riding the waves!
Fort Mackenzie – for all ages
Lazy River (with slides in background)
Another shot of Ft Mackenzie
Outdoor pool and play areas
An outdoor view of the family large 4 person Tube slides – the Tornado actually tosses you around that giant cone!
He enjoyed crossing the water!
Flow Rider fun!
Outside the water park, there’s plenty of fun to be had. We enjoyed the mini golf one night – only 9 holes and very short, but in the black light it’s a lot of fun! The arcade and sweets shop (ice cream) had a lot of takers, as did the stores and Critter Creations. While we didn’t try everything, my son did get a MagiQuest wand and took place in quests throughout the weekend, culminating in becoming a Master Magic and even taking place in a short ceremony with a robe. He’s a Harry Potter fan, and loves scavenger hunts, so this activity was heavenly for him – we went all around the hotel on the various floors, interacting with kiosks, lighting things up, finding clues, and fighting battles. Other players were very nice and friendly with their tips, as were the workers in the store. The story is very cute – you buy a wand once, and then have to pay for the game each time you visit. However, the wand (and any toppers or accessories you add) are good for life, so my son looks forward to returning and playing more games (there are several additional games we didn’t get to, and allegedly a 4th game and new kiosks being added by next summer) on future visits. Again, you can do this portion and anything outside the water park without booking a room, so it gives incentives for day visitors and people looking for add ons to their Disney vacation or other Southern California attractions, or certainly for locals as well.
Glowing Golf is lots of fun!
You meet characters all over the hotel in MagiQuest!
Battling a dragon = boy heaven
Dunkin’ Doughnuts is a great place in the mornings!
Master Magi Ceremony!
As this location is literally down the street from Disneyland, it’s a great option for families looking to extend their stay or have more from a hotel/resort than your basic pool and slide. This is a destination itself, but they do offer Disneyland tickets and can assist with other So Cal attractions. As I mentioned, they are located in many states throughout the country, and I know especially in cooler climates we’d love to check out some of the other ones to compare and enjoy! It’s somewhere we would definitely go back to… however, a few notes of caution:
(1) It’s Very Loud. I joked there’s a reason that there are plenty of bars and adult options for parents. There are not a lot of accommodations available or special lines for kids with special needs at this time. Something to consider with vacation planning
(2) There are 3 Height Categories with different things available.. below 42″ (basically baby up to older toddler/preschooler – allows all splash-pads/play areas, pools, river, and the very small slides at Fort Mackenzie), 42-48″ (allows riding of some bigger tube and family slides with a parent), and over 48″ (free for all). For our almost 52″ son, this was great – but for our small daughter who’s not quite 42″ yet newly 5yo, she would have been quite bored and frustrated. There are many babies and toddlers there, but most are there as a tag along with an older sibling, and mom and dad are taking shifts doing the baby splash pad vs going on the slides and the majority of the attractions solo or with older kids. If you’re going to spend the money, this is definitely one I’d wait until the majority of the family is at least over 42″ tall if not waiting til most are at the 48 mark.
Overall, we had a great weekend at Great Wolf Lodge! Please contact me if planning a visit or if you have any questions! 🙂