Over winter break I took my kids to Great Wolf Lodge for a fun staycation. We only stayed one night but packed in a lot of fun. This mom’s guide includes all the inside tips you need to have fun, save money, and maybe even want to go back again since you enjoyed it, too.
Making Reservations at Great Wolf Lodge
My No.1 tip is don’t pay full price! I booked through Groupon and paid $119 plus taxes and fees for one night in a family suite. The Groupon runs a few times a year but dates are limited to weeknights. If you get on the mailing list for GWL, they will notify you of specials they are running and that’s your best bet for getting a discounted weekend rate.
There are a variety of room types available depending on the size of your group and the size of your budget. We opted for a basic family room with two queen beds and a pull-out couch. There are also themed rooms with bunk beds as well as two-bedroom suites. I was glad we didn’t splurge on our room because we spent very little time actually in our room, and there are lots of other ways to spend your money at GWL. Each room has a mini fridge, microwave, and a coffee maker which are handy and can save money on food. Since we typically stay in vacation rentals when we travel, I forgot how LOUD hotels are. Quiet hours don’t start until 11 p.m. so bring a white noise machine or use a white noise app on your phone if you go to bed earlier.
Check-In and Check-Out
On the day of your arrival, you can have access to the water park (and other attractions) starting at 1 p.m. even if your room isn’t ready yet. Plan to come early to maximize your time. At check-in, you will get four wristbands that can unlock your room and can be used to charge things to your room as well since everything is cash/card less. You can choose plain wristbands for your kids if you don’t want them to have the unlock and spend powers. After you check in, make sure to stop into one of the shops to grab a free pair of wolf ears for the kids. If you have friends or family that aren’t staying with you that want to join you for a full or half day, check out the day pass options.
On check-out day, you have to be out of your room by 11 a.m., unless you pay extra for a late check out at 2 p.m. You have access to the water park and all of the amenities on the day you check out as well. Since your wristband is your key you don’t have to return it or visit the front desk to check out.
The water park is the main attraction, and it is open from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. so plan accordingly. Not all attractions are always open, so check the board in the main lobby or at the entrance to the water park to see which ones are open/closed. When you enter the water park, life guards will measure the height of the kids and give them colored wrist bands that indicate which slides they can ride. You can also help yourself to towels when you enter. If you don’t have a room to change in, there are locker rooms and a family changing room available.
There are chairs and some tables spread throughout the water park but no loungers. To store your gear, you can rent lockers. Life jackets available free of charge, or you can bring your own puddle jumper from home. There are lots of things to do once inside, including slides of varying thrill levels, a pool with activities for small kids, a lazy river, two hot tubs, and lots more to keep everyone entertained. Check out all of the rides and features of the water park here. When you’re done, there are swimsuit dryers by the locker rooms that will wring the water out of your suit, and you can drop off your used towels on your way out.
Great Wolf Lodge is way more than a water park! There are daily free activities like story time, dance parties, and arts and crafts. Characters meet and greets with Wiley and Violet the Wolf are a fun photo opportunity. There are also seasonal events like Santa visits and Snowland in December and Halloween trick or treating in October. Download the GWL app because it lists the daily calendar of events and where to find all the activities.
MagiQuest was at the top of my daughter’s list of activities to try. Kids get a special wand (prices vary) and then go on treasure quests throughout the hotel. We underestimated how much time these quests would take and just how MANY quests there are available to you. So if you are only going for one night make sure to set aside a couple of hours for MagiQuest.
Other paid attractions include an arcade, laser tag, Build a Bear, and mini golf. To save money you can bundle these activities with a Wolf, Paw, or Pup Pass.
We are admittedly kind of snobby about where we dine, so we opted not to eat at any of the restaurants at Great Wolf Lodge and went to nearby restaurants at the Legends. We also brought our own snacks and ate those in our room since they weren’t allowed in the water park. But kid fare is available and the sit down restaurant offers both kid and adult friendly food.
More questions? The FAQs on the website are a great place to get many of your questions answered about the GWL!