Great Wolf Lodge – 10 insider tips for a howling fun stay!

Holiday Lodge - Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls
Holiday Lodge – Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls

We had a howling good time during our recent stay at Great Wolf Lodge. They were just getting ready for the holidays and had Santa and Mrs. Claus as special guests. They made it snow in the lodge!!!!

It’s really quite an unbelievable place, a hotel chain designed around making a child’s every vacation moment too good to be true. Brilliant really, it keeps the kids asking to come back, again and again.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I love Great Wolf Lodge just as much as the kids. First a bit about the place and why we go, then scroll down to the bottom to see the best insider tips for a great stay.

The basics:

Our trip last spring
Our trip last spring

Great Wolf Lodge has 14 locations, 13 in the United States and one location in the Honeymoon Capital of the World, Niagara Falls. Each hotel has a very similar set-up. Rooms are themed, some offering bunk beds, a fireplace and whirlpool tubs, it varies depending on the suite. They really are amazing!

Throughout the hotel there are animated forest animals that the kids can meet. There is a waterpark – each location is unique – but all have amazing waterslides, water playgrounds, wave pools, play pools, hot tubs and a lazy river.

magicquestThe hotel is also the setting for Magic Quest. All it takes is a wand and starting up a game, and each child can be turned into a Magi, following quests, hunting clues, waving wands, collecting digital gold and amassing runes to fight the dragon. The computer system keeps the games going and each visit your young Magi can add onto their previous progress.

There are also other funtimes, like bowling, mini-put, an arcade and a bunch of restaurants, as well as gift shops and lots of merchandise for the little ones to dig into!

Why we love the place:

Story Time
Story Time

The kids have the bet time. All of the activity helps them to sleep very well at night, but just to ensure this, the hotel does music and story time to help get the littles off to bed. They even offer a Cub Club, paid childcare to run your little muppet through some great activities and story time. Mommy and Daddy deserve some alone time in all of this crazy kid-centred fun (so I hear, we’ve yet to try it)!

They even offer an all-inclusive dining package. We like it. Breakfast, lunch and dinner without having to think about it. The food is quite decent and ultimately, though not cheap, offers decent value. It includes non-alcoholic drinks and tip. Where else can you let your kids roam around a hotel making friends and having high-volume fun while getting to stay in your pajamas or comfies all day. Seriously, flip-flops and fuzzy bunny slippers are the only footwear you need, because you never have to leave.

It's my vacation too. The private patios in the room are a great place to enjoy the view and have a break
It’s my vacation too. The private patios in the room are a great place to enjoy the view and have a break

We’ve gone at least twice a year for about 3 years now, and have learned a few tricks to a great deal and a great stay.

  1. One night is fun, it gives you waterpark passes for both the day of arrival and day of departure, but two nights is more optimal, three is our max. There’s just too much to do for a one-night stay and your kids can’t get enough of it.
  2. Join their newsletter mailing lists. They regularly send out discount codes. I wait until I get a 25% – 30% off code and then book. For the best savings, you should plan to book 2 – 3 months in advance.
  3. It’s not as expensive as it sounds. We usually upgrade to a themed suite so we’re not going for the cheapest room price, but even at $200/night, when you think, there are 2 days of waterpark passes for 4 people for the one night’s stay. If you consider a regular waterpark is at least $30/person admission, do the math and you can clearly see the value.
  4. Be nice. They’re super-accommodating, and the employees, from my experience, will always try to go the extra mile. It CAN NOT BE EASY to work there, yet everyone is so nice. The kids yelling, the kids going crazy, the lights and sounds and activity of the Magic Quest, the costumes, the events, the waterpark and the weekend kids’ dance parties… It’s quite a ‘special’ work environment, and requires a special kind of employee.
  5. Paw Passes are great for the first visit, but may not offer you value if you’re only staying one night. And they’re not so simple to share between your kids so they can get expensive. But they’re a treat, so check first if you’re planning on doing and buying a few of the things included in the Paw Pass because there’s extremely good value if you’re planning to do a lot of Great Wolf Lodge’s activities.
  6. The rooms have fridges and microwaves with a little bar skink – like a little kitchenette set-up. Bring your own cocktails, snacks and food. We do the inclusive meal package one night and have a quiet pizza night the other. If you have dietary restrictions or just want to keep costs down, bring your own food and eat in your room. It’s totally do-able.
  7. While I don’t drink much – or often – around my kids, it’s my vacation too. The Niagara falls location (and possibly others) is completely licensed, so, when you leave the restaurant they will put your adult beverage in a to-go cup and you can take it with you throughout the resort. Ditto for your morning coffee! If you bring your own alcohol with, keep it in travel cups, don’t go carrying wine glasses and beer bottles through the hotel, the kids will catch on that you’re having your own kind of fun, and you know how that goes!
  8. Have a credit card with available funds on it so that you can have your wristband connected to your credit card, that way you never need to carry money. The wristband is your waterpark pass, your hotel room key and your spending account. I wish I had one of these for the rest of my life.
  9. On check-out day, if you want to stay at the waterpark past 11am (check-out time) you should get a locker. They’re cheap and convenient and hold a fair amount of stuff. They can put your luggage in storage for the day. I don’t ever feel good about leaving my stuff in our van in a parking lot all day.
  10. Have fun. Seriously, give it all a try. The only thing that bothers me is that they didn’t have anything like this when I was a kid!

After so many trips to Great Wolf Lodge, I still haven’t had my fill. We just went a couple of weeks ago and we’re already looking forward to returning. If you’ve got any Great Wolf questions, just hit us up, and we’ll give you our Urban Suburban Mommy-approved insight. It really is a howling good time.

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