If I had any doubts about summer fun wearing my kids out, yesterday sealed the deal. We were invited to a media day at Great Wolf Lodge and we took full advantage of the activities by arriving at 9:00 and not leaving until close to 5:00 PM- and we still weren’t able to fit all of it in! It was my second visit to Great Wolf Lodge, but the last time Hailey was barely one year old, and this time I felt like I learned so much more about the facility, their offerings, and how best to navigate it. Since I know it’s a poplar destination for many, I wanted to share some of those tips I learned with you in case you are considering a family getaway to Great Wolf Lodge yourself!
MagiQuest can take three hours to fully play.
MagiQuest is described as a video game, come to life, and you are the main player. The kids (and adults if you’re into that sort of thing) choose a wand, activate it, choose a magical name, then run around completing quests by virtually capturing crystals and other paraphernalia with the power of your wand. It’s chaos, as the items can be found on three different floors, so kids are running up and down stairs and down themed hallways trying to find their treasure. It’s worth nothing that this game is not included in the stay. It can cost around $30 once you buy the wand and the access to the games. However, if you are a frequent visitor, you can bring your wand back the next time to use.
We completed one quest (supposedly the easiest one) and it took us 45 minutes! Part of that was a learning curve. The girls were really into it and I could see how it would be a great idea to send the kids on an adventure while mom and dad sat at the restaurant on the main floor, relaxing, and watching the craziness unfold. We chatted with staff that told us that for kids to complete all the quests, it can sometimes take 3-4 hours. That’s a lot of chill time for mom and dad!
One night equals two days at the park.
Great Wolf Lodge does not offer day passes; you have to pay for a night’s stay to access the facilities. However, you are allowed into the water park on the day of your arrival AND the day of your departure, so you can really maximize your stay by arriving early and staying late. They have an ideal setup for families because they offer bunk rooms. A tip? Splurge for the themed ones; the kids will lose their mind with excitement! Another tip? Take advantage of their wine and dine package. They will deliver a bottle of wine and a snack to your room so you and your significant other (or Nana, or sister, or just you!) can enjoy a chill evening after the kids crash into bed early!
Age 5+ is where it’s at.
I had a lot of DMs on Instagram asking about taking a toddler. You could totally take a toddler and they’d have a ball. There is an entire toddler area in the water park, plus other activities like story time, a miniature bowling alley, putt putt golf, and character meet and greets. However, personally I think ages 5+ will get the most out of the experience AND it will be more enjoyable for you too then without having to constantly hover over them. Hailey was in the sweet spot for this trip (age 6 1/2). She could ride all the big water slides, swim in the wave pool, participate in the ropes course, and run around doing MagiQuest by herself.
They’ve upped their food game.
In the water park, you’ll find what you’d expect- hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken tenders, and fries. However their restaurants offer some decent options like a hummus appetizer, grilled shrimp and farro salad, and roasted wild mushroom risotto. They served us food from their catering and conference division and it was really good! The Concord location (just outside of Charlotte) also has a Dunkin Donuts in it and will deliver donuts and coffee to your room in the morning if you’d like. There is also a breakfast and dinner buffet at which children age 3 and under eat for free. They are allergy-friendly and will accommodate any allergy; just make sure to talk to your server.
Summer is their busiest season.
This actually surprised me at first because I figured winter would be popular for people looking for a break from the cold and some water fun (I also received a lot of Instagram messages from y’all saying that the Christmas decorations are worth making a trip to see). However, now that I’ve been, it makes sense that summer is the busiest because you can also take advantage of the outdoor activities- the outdoor pool, ropes course, and putt putt. For me, the ropes course was a highlight and if we go again, I want to make sure we go when we have access to it. Watching my girls conquer their fears and move through the course and down the zipline was definitely one of those proud mom moments I’ll always remember.
All in all we had a great time. I had been eyeing a time to take the family (I was on the lookout for Groupons, but otherwise I was trying to find an time to go during the week when rates are lower and crowds are quieter), so being hosted for the day was a real treat that I was grateful to attend. I think it’s worth noting that we went during their busiest season and never waited more than 5 minutes for any of the water slides, and many of them we walked right onto. I do wish I would have worn my fitbit to see how many steps I accumulated because the place is huge and has a lot to offer families.
If I left anything out or if you have any questions, ask away!
And if you’ve visited a Great Wolf Lodge, I would love to hear how your experience was!
Looks so fun! Where did you get your suit? Cute and I like the color. And shopping tips? I have an upcoming beach trip with a preschooler and 17 month old and want to look cute but have it be conservative enough so I can bend over, etc to take care of the toddler.
Brittany Dixon says
Hi Laura! My suit is from Victoria’s Secret and I’m so bummed they don’t make swimsuits anymore because they were my favorite. I just ordered a couple pieces from Athleta (they should arrive today), and I’ve heard they are cute but also very mom-friendly (because like you said- chasing kids!).
We love GWL! Went for the first time recently with our 15 month old on a group trip (another GREAT) way to keep it affordable and had a blast. We went to the one in PA, so I’m always curious how the other lodges look/what accommodations they have. I was worried we wouldn’t get much out of it with a toddler but we did!
Brittany Dixon says
Oh that’s great feedback because so many people asked about taking toddlers! Thanks for sharing!
John J. says
Looks like another Dixon family adventure! It’s great the way you are exposing your kids to age appropriate activities and seeing their self esteem continuing to shine through.
A GWL opened recently in the Springs and I keep eyeing the groupon deals which are quite good. I think though that I’ll wait until the youngest is at least 3 since we wouldn’t be able to take full advantage and at this point my 4 year old is content with the little water slides and pools. We have been booking hotels on our road trips with a focus on fun/ unique pools which is always a lot of fun! It’s always surprising to me how often we get the pools almost to ourselves depending on the day and time.
Perfect timing on this. We just decided to go to the Great Wolf Lodge 45 minutes from us yesterday. We are planning for August. We live in PA so it would be the one in the Poconos. My question is are all the lodges the same so everything you wrote about I can expect at the one we are going to? Are they pretty much interchangeable like say a fast food chain? What is good for a 20 month old to do?
Brittany Dixon says
They lodges are not all the same; all 17 differ slightly so it’s worth looking online to see what the ones you are going to has. However, they are all similar! For a 20 month old there is a great toddler area that has water slides, squirt guns, space to just swim around, and a playground in the water to climb on. They had a craft center that you could take littles ones too (and stay with them) for some down time from all the stimulation. There are also activities like story time and dance parties in the main lodge that I’m sure a toddler would get a kick out of! Have fun! 🙂
We went to GWL in January for my daughters 6th birthday and had the best time! Our younger daughter was 20 months at the time and there were tons of toddler-friendly water activities for her too! I suggest bringing tons of snacks – I thought the food was pretty poor and healthy selections were limited. I actually saw a family bring a crock pot in with them so they could eat in their room (seems like a lot of effort to me, but also kind of genius!) I also have friends who stay one night at GWL, then check into a cheaper hotel down the road for night 2. That way, they can spend a full day at GWL after checking out without having to pay for a 2nd night.
Brittany Dixon says
Oh those are such great tips! I guess if you brought the crockpot in already full? It also would be so nice to go back and shower and bum after a long day instead of wrangling kids at a restaurant. How smart!
Brittany Dixon says
They are going to love it; I think 7 and 8 are awesome ages for this experience! You can just by Paw Passes for the kids as long as you don’t want to participate yourself. There are 3 different levels of paw passes, each containing different activities. I don’t think there are meal plans, just restaurants, so you could totally being your own food, though I don’t remember seeing fridges in any of the rooms, so you’d have to plan for dried/nonperishable foods.
Looks like a fabulous time was had by all! So many new adventures. So fun to watch the kids and their confidence levels continue to grow and they conquer new challenges!
We surprised our kids with a trip there several years ago; I’d guess they were about 7 and 9. I got tears in my eyes when we pulled in and they were like “Wait. What are we doing here? Are we STAYING HERE????? ARE YOU KIDDING???? YOU’RE THE BEST!!!!” and again when my daughter (the younger one) discovered the bunk bed / themed room… she was so excited to go find her brother, I couldn’t believe it (they had just started the fighting stage of their relationship and it was a relief to see that her first reaction was to want to share something with him!)
We went to the one near Concord (same on in your post) and for dinner, we ordered 5 Guys online for pickup. DH went and got food while we all got showered / cleaned up. As a meat – less eater (like you – not veg, but not a big meat eater), it wasn’t ideal for me, but worked for others in the family. My point is, you can order from the restaurants in the area and bring it back to your room.
We have now gone 2-3 times, and enjoyed it each time. I’m not sure if we’ll go again, the kids are 11 and 13 now and think they’re too old for it… but if I can convince them, we’ll go again at some point this summer!