Last weekend – against better judgment – Spouse and I took MGM (10) and Trixie (now 9) to the re-vamped Great Wolf Lodge, a hotel that is approximately 11 minutes away from where we live.
Ostensibly, this was a birthday celebration for Trixie. I shelled out an extra $30 to have a birthday sign placed on our door, along with balloons and a gift card to the arcade.
If you’re not familiar with Great Wolf resorts, they’re a chain of water parks. This particular location has only the indoor water park – which is about as appealing to me as taking a bath with a bunch to strangers (to be clear: NOT appealing).
The hotel was previously a Radisson and was rebranded last year to a Great Wolf. While the physical structure is the same, the interior appears to have had a substantial upgrade.
We arrived around 4 PM to a full parking lot and overflowing lobby. There was some type of storytelling program happening in the lobby, which features comfortable seating groups and a huge working fireplace. This was nice. The kids received wolf ears at the front desk, a cute touch. Check-in was fairly efficient and we headed to our room to get ready for the waterpark.
A word about the room:
This was a great set up for a family. There was a distinct bedroom with a king bed, plus a main living area with a set of bunk beds and a sectional sofa with a pull-out full bed. There was a mini fridge and microwave, as well as a gas fireplace with a big TV over it. The bathroom also had a practical design: there were two sinks outside of the toilet/shower area, so multiple people could brush teeth or get ready at once.
About ten nanoseconds after arrival, the kids were ready to hit the waterpark.
Photos are supposedly not allowed in the waterpark, but you can easily picture the chaos. There were plenty of babies in swim diapers, overweight adults walking around and drinking alcohol, packs of tweens and many, many interesting tattoos.
Even though the temperature was probably 70+ degrees inside the park, I was still freezing, especially when we had to climb up to the rafters to get to the entrances of the biggest water slides, which are inconveniently next to huge glass windows that let wintery drafts liberally enter the building. Being wet and cold while you stand in line for 20 minutes to ride an oversized inner tube for 20 seconds is a special kind of torture.
The kids, however, were in heaven and we stayed for about three hours at the waterpark. Some of the time I may have had multiple towels wrapped around me, mummy style.
I accurately predicted that the restaurants at the hotel would be crazy crowded, as well as the fact that we would all be hangry by the time we got back to the room. We’d brought plenty of snacks and food for dinner, so the microwave and fridge came in handy. One note of caution: there were no plates, utensils, etc, so plan to bring your own.
Once warmed up, we snacked, watched the Olympics and everyone was ready to turn in by about 10 PM. I was totally ok with that.
The next morning I woke up early and checked my email. There was a receipt from Great Wolf and I opened it for review. I was surprised to see a $45 charge at the pool bar, so I decided to investigate this while Spouse took the kids to the breakfast buffet.
An inquiry at the front desk showed that someone – not us – had charged two double Grey Goose martinis to our room. This was annoying but was quickly taken off of our bill.
And then things got interesting.
I decided to grab a coffee from the Dunkin’ Donuts stand off of the lobby (conveniently located next to a Ben and Jerry’s outpost). Everyone else at the Great Wolf appeared to have the same idea, so I was about 30 people back. The line inched forward oh-so-slowly as people acted like selecting a donut was a irrevocable, life-changing event.
I had time to kill and became aware of the two guys who were in line behind me. They were having one of those loud conversations you sometimes hear where it seems like the conversants are speaking mainly with the purpose of being overheard. Perhaps, too, I am just a champion eavesdropper.
Here’s how it started:
I tell you what, Stacy Johnson sure ain’t like her mother. You can actually talk to her and she don’t look down on you.
These two gentlemen proceeded to spend the next twenty minutes debating the merits of leasing versus buying a new tractor (“I ain’t spending two hundred grand on a g-d tractor”), as well as how they needed to repair something called a skid loader. Also, people who live in the City are g-d fools, a sentiment that was repeated multiple times with increasingly colorful language.
This was exquisite.
Somehow, even though they were behind me, they got their order first (“Four plain coffees. PLAIN coffee. Not that fancy stuff. And four PLAIN donuts. We don’t want none with sprinkles or spice”). I took my coffee with light milk – no fancy donuts for me – and headed back to the room.
Via some miracle, neither kid wanted to hit the waterpark one more time before check-out. I thanked the Universe for small favors and agreed to let them do what they wanted, which was to check out the resort’s other indoor activities.
Here’s a look at the resort’s interior, with the waterpark in the background:
First stop: the arcade.
Trixie is oddly skilled at crane games and won an oversized bouncy ball.
Both kids also needed to get an egg from the Psychic Chicken:
This chicken cracked me up. There was a tiny monkey inside one of the eggs. Here is the monkey and me contemplating it:
We also spent $26 on dirt. Yes, dirt. There is a “mining” experience where you can sift through a bag of dirt to find polished rocks and “gems.”
Other activities at the resort include a Harry Potter-esque game where you buy a wand and travel through the hotel to find clues to solve some kind of puzzle, a climbing wall, a Build-A-Bear rip off, a kids’ salon where you can get hair braids or glitter, and an overhead roped course. All of these come with an additional price tag, so be prepared.
I may have purchased two types of hair perfume from the kids’ salon.
And then, just like that, it was time to go.
Spouse was the first to declare the night a huge success.
Everyone had fun.
We were physically active.
We all got a good night’s sleep.
The kids got along great and also were able to choose things to do that made them happy.
The short distance made getting home a breeze.
I got my coffee and eavesdropping fix in one fell swoop.
My final thoughts on the Great Wolf Lodge: Prepare to shell out cash. Even though this was a staycation, it came with a price tag. Strongly consider booking one of the rooms that easily accommodate families. I was pleased with the set up and condition of the room. If you go in the winter, bring cozy PJs to wear post-waterpark. Bring lots of snacks, possibly even a whole meal, and of course wine, plus any needed utensils. My favorite time was when we could all snuggle on the big sofa, fireplace on, watching the Olympics and enjoying being together.