Great Wolf Lodge has more than a dozen waterpark hotel locations around the US and Canada. If you’ve ever considered staying at one you’ve likely seen that, in addition to the indoor waterpark that made them famous, there are a number of other attractions and activities available during your stay. There is so much to see and do, it can be overwhelming to plan your first visit. Wayfinding TravelingMom Jennifer Kaufman has all of the Great Wolf Lodge tips you need – including what to see, eat, and do – for your first stay.
Accomodations at Great Wolf Lodge
We’ve stayed in a variety of suite options at Great Wolf Lodge, and each has its own charm. The most fun for families are definitely the themed suites: Wolf Den, KidKamp, and KidCabin. Bunk beds, a themed kids area, and even a kids-only television make these the most requested in our family. They do come at a cost though, so we don’t usually end up in one of these.
The kind of room we use most when we travel with extended family members is the Loft Fireplace Suite. With two stories and two bathrooms, it’s easy for multiple people to share a room without tripping over one another. This is a great option for grandparents to travel with kids and grandkids, or for two families to split the cost of a stay! Many of the suites sleep up to 8 adults.
The prices of each room type vary greatly, and I have to say that we’ve felt each one was worth whatever we paid for the room. Depending on how much we actually plan to be in the room on a particular stay, we’ll often opt for the more basic rooms at a lower cost, or more space for a bit of a premium. There are so many options!
Attractions and Activitives
It’s always nice and warm in the Great Wolf Lodge Indoor Waterpark, and there are activities for all ages and thrill levels. Our local property has 17 water features, including play areas for toddlers, slides families can ride together, an awesome water coaster, a wave pool, and so much more. Unlike most water parks we’ve visited, only two attractions have a height requirement of 48”, with many allowing guests 42” and taller to ride (and some having no height requirement at all).
Outdoor Pool Area
Subject to availability and seasonal openings, Great Wolf Lodge also offers an outdoor pool. Ours even has an additional splash area and a small obstacle course.
MagiQuest, ShadowQuest, and CompassQuest
MagiQuest and ShadowQuest are interactive adventures that take place throughout the lodge. Guests can purchase a wand that activates a variety of portals, as they go on scavenger hunt type quests.
CompassQuest continues the adventure in a group format. Where MagiQuest and ShadowQuest missions can take as little as 15 minutes (or as long as your entire stay, if you choose to play multiple quests), CompassQuest adventures last 4-6 hours each.
TravelingMomTip: Take your wand home as a souvenir and bring it back for your next stay. Wands can be reactivated for just the price of a game; you don’t need to purchase new ones each time!
Northern Lights Arcade & Ten Paw Bowling
The Northern Lights arcade has lots of fun games, and is open 24 hours (as long as you load a Paw Points arcade card during redemption hours). We don’t usually play in the arcade, but it’s a great option for people like our family who wake up before anything else opens!
Ten Paw Bowling is an adorable version of bowling with tiny lanes and small, 5-pound balls. We had so much fun during our last visit, and will definitely be doing it again. At just $5 at our location (at the time of posting), it’s a great way to spend some time out of the water.
Howl at the Moon Glow Golf
Indoor miniature golf with super cute glow-in-the-dark scenes. It’s not the most elaborate putt-putt golf course we’ve seen, but it’s inexpensive and lots of fun. Like Ten Paw Bowling, it’s definitely a fun way to do something different for an hour or so.
Creation Station & Clubhouse Crew
Creation Station is much like Build-a-Bear; guests choose their favorite Great Wolf Kids character and bring it to life! There are even outfits for them, though admittedly we thought the selection was pretty small. Thankfully, some of your kiddos’ favorite bear clothes fit these characters as well.
With the purchase of a Creation Station character, you can also participate in the Clubhouse Crew interactive game. Throughout the hotel there are kiosks that are activated by a sensor inside the plush character. You can help solve a mystery… and there are often additional holiday-themed activities!
Cub Club on Wheels
When our Great Wolf Lodge first opened, there was a kids club area very similar to a Community Hall at a Disney Vacation Club location. Families could come in and do a variety of crafts and activities, some for a small additional fee. Our location no longer has the Cub Club, but you will often find “Cub Club on Wheels” – where similar paid activities are offered at a specified time and location. We have seen options such as decorating a pillowcase, creating a picture frame, coloring a t-shirt, etc.
Storytime & Other Free Activities
Great Wolf Lodge has no shortage of actives you can do at no additional cost! Activities vary depending on location and season, but there is always something going on. We almost always experience:
- Great Games (Our last visit was Bingo with the Cub Club crew)
- The Great Clock Tower Show
- Wolf Walks
- Paws-on Projects (such as coloring or foam crafts)
- Character Meet and Greets
- PJ Parties
We have noticed that the number of activities offered increases significantly during the weekends, at least during the off-season. During the winter event Snowland, some favorites include Cookies with Mrs. Claus, Face Painting, a Snow ’N Glow Dance Party, and even carriage rides and visits with Santa!
Quick Great Wolf Lodge Tips for Booking Your Stay:
- Once you’ve booked your Great Wolf Lodge stay, take a look at the events calendar for your location. There are so many activities from which to choose, but will your family just prefer to stay in the waterpark from open to close?
- Similarly, find out which attractions interest your family most and fit in your stay. Will you play mini golf or go bowling? Are you going to load money on a pass for the arcade? Will you buy a wand and participate in the MagiQuest interactive games? Those can be very fun, but consider the length of your trip. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to spend a premium on a hotel that includes a water park if you won’t be using it, or justify the cost based on additional activities that are available, if you won’t be participating.
- Plan your visit with the super useful Great Wolf Lodge website. Select your specific location to access the events calendar, height requirements, specials and packages, and even a planning guide based on your child’s age.
- Maximize your time at the Lodge by arriving the morning of your first day (though you room may not be ready for some time), and planning to stay until everything closes on the last day of your reservation. You’ll have to vacate your room at check-out time, but you don’t have to stop playing! We often stay just one night, and get two full days of play!
- If you are going to opt for some of the paid attractions, be sure to look at the Paw Pass, Pup Pass, and Wolf Pass options. These pre-paid packages provide substantial discounts on some of the things you might pay for anyway.
Dining at Great Wolf Lodge
The on-site dining options are quite good, and reasonably priced. Each location may vary, but you will likely find the following from which to choose during your stay:
Lodge Wood-Fired Grill
Enjoy sit down dining with wood-fired steaks, seafood, and ribs at the Lodge Wood-Fired Grill. It’s a nice dining option, while still offering a kid friendly menu and atmosphere.
Hungry as a Wolf
Hungry as a Wolf serves pizza, pasta, salads and subs. We often order pizza from our room when we check in on our first day, pick it up after we unpack, and eat a quick meal so we can hit the waterpark.
Buckets Incredible Craveables
Located inside the waterpark, Buckets serves hamburgers, hot dogs, soft pretzels, chicken strips, and other family favorites. OUR favorite, though, is definitely “The Tipping Bucket”!
Loose Moose Cottage Buffet
Depending on the Great Wolf Lodge location, you may find a buffet that serves breakfast and/or dinner. On our last visit, ours was only open during breakfast hours; the staff was unsure if this was seasonal or a permanent change. We’ve enjoyed it for both meals, though!
Bear Paw Sweet Eats and Treats
Bear Paw serves house-made fudge, baked goods, and other delicious sweets.
Grizzly Rob’s is the bar located inside the waterpark at the Mason, Ohio location. I’ve seen Grizzly Jack’s at a variety of locations, but just know this – you won’t have to leave the waterpark if you need a drink refill!
Most locations have a chain bakery/coffee shop. At ours, the Dunkin Donuts even offers a refillable mug option for coffee drinkers.
Quick Tips for Dining at Great Wolf Lodge:
- Consider bringing your own meals to save time and money. Each Great Wolf Lodge room has a mini fridge and a microwave, and many suites have dining areas. It’s very possible to eat in your room and not spend any additional money on food, drinks, or snacks.
- Alternatively, get food delivered or purchase take-out from a nearby restaurant. Most Great Wolf Lodge properties are in areas that are already popular for tourists. This generally means you’ll find a number of fast food or local restaurants where you can eat, either taking a quick trip off site or bringing food back to your suite. We’ve never had so much as a glance when bringing in or ordering food from outside the hotel.
- If you do decide to check out the restaurants and snack options at the Lodge, check for package deals after you’ve booked your stay. There are Dining Package options that are excellent bargains, such as vouchers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (more than $75 value per person) for just $40/day; even single meals purchased in advance will save you money (like purchasing breakfast buffet vouchers in advance for $11, as opposed to the $14.99 in-person price).
Holiday and Seasonal Events at Great Wolf Lodge
Howl-O-Ween is a super fun time to visit Great Wolf Lodge, especially for a Fall Break staycation. Guests can enjoy Spooktacular Story Time, a Monster Bash Dance Party, and other Halloween activities. The best part, though, has to be the Trick-or-Treat Trail! Who doesn’t love an extra chance to dress up and get candy?
Snowland is hands-down our favorite event to experience at Great Wolf Lodge. The whole hotel is decked out in lights and holiday decor, activities become a little more holiday-inspired, Christmas music plays throughout the public spaces, and it even snows in the lobby! Just be warned: there’s a charming “Snowland” theme song that will inevitably get stuck in your family’s heads when you leave, making you wish you were back at Great Wolf!
While there are no formal celebrations (and major sales!) like those during Howl-o-Ween or Snowland, don’t be surprised to find fun seasonal activities other times throughout the year. We have stayed in the Spring before and participated in a “Peeps Challenge”, where we located stuffed peeps throughout the resort for a prize, and an Easter Bunny Celebration – with the bunny himself!
Our location also offers special dining experiences for New Years Eve, along with a family-friendly new year countdown and balloon drop.
Celebrations at Great Wolf Lodge
Birthday Party Options
While we’ve celebrated many birthdays at Great Wolf Lodge, we’ve never experienced their birthday parties. Each location offers a party package though, which includes cake, a decorated birthday space, pizza and drinks, and all-day waterpark access for guests.
If you and your family are just staying overnight for a birthday, there are also “Birthday Fun” add-on packages that include a decorated suite, birthday cake, balloons, and arcade credits. Of course these are subject to change, so check with your location before you visit!
Wine Down Service
A new addition, the Wine Down Service is an extra treat for the grown ups once the kids are finally worn out! Choose a bottle of wine and a side from the menu, and it will be delivered to your room at your specified time. The package can be ordered up until 8pm the same day.
We enjoyed our wine and truffles and found it to be a good value, but I’m not sure if it’s something we’d do often. I’ve also noticed a lot of variety between what was offered at each location; Preschooler TravelingMom Britni Vigil had a beautiful Wine Down Service experience while ours, though tasty, was brought in a plastic to-go container with far less elaborate presentation.
Shopping at Great Wolf Lodge
There are lots of shopping options inside each Great Wolf Lodge location:
Buckhorn Exchange Shop offers souvenir merchandise, apparel, the Character Creation station, books, gifts, and more.
MagiQuest Marketplace is where you’ll find wands, wand toppers, costumes, and other accessories for MagiQuest, ShadowQuest, and CompassQuest.
Bear Essentials Swim Shop carries swimsuits, cover-ups, sunscreen, goggles, and anything else you might need for your waterpark visit.
Great Wolf Candy Company has dozens of options of bulk candy.
Elements Spa & Iron horse Fitness Center are available to all guests who need a little pampering or are hoping to stay on track with a workout during the visit.
Scoops Kids’ Spa is a spa exclusively for kids – and almost all of the services are ice cream themed!
The Great Wolf Kids Store has Great Wolf Kids character merchandise.
Quick Great Wolf Lodge Shopping Tips:
- Make a list of things you may want to pack – especially if you’re traveling at off-peak times. While there are shops on-site that provide just about everything you need, you’ll pay a premium for items you forget to pack. For example, we paid nearly double for a small pack of swim diapers when my son was little, because they wren’t available in stores during the winter – and we didn’t plan in advance.
- Whether as a way to break the news of a Great Wolf Lodge visit, or a way to increase excitement while waiting for your stay to arrive, consider buying some GWL merchandise from the online store. A plush Great Wolf Kids friend, tee shirt, or wolf ears may be just the thing to get your little cubs super excited.