When it comes to family getaways, I’m not usually one to opt for the all-inclusive resort or “themey” vacation. Our trips tend to be more DIY; I like to piece it together, and where we stay is more of a home base for adventures beyond our lodging, not where we plan to spend the bulk of our time.
This is much of the reason why, until very recently, we had never been to Great Wolf Lodge. I’d been hearing about it for years from friends who had been to the indoor water park resort in Williamsburg, VA. I’d also heard about it from my kids, who’d heard about it from their friends, and asked many times if we could go. So when I received an invitation for my family to experience a stay at the lodge, it seemed like a good time to compromise on my own getaway preferences and take the Great Wolf plunge — literally (it’s a water park, after all).
And I am so glad I did because we had one really fun weekend! As you might imagine from a resort with a water park among its amenities, Great Wolf Lodge caters to families. From the moment we checked in on Friday evening when they gave us all head bands with wolf ears as a kiddie dance party was going on in the lobby with a Great Clock Tower as its centerpiece, there were treats and activities to be enjoyed by all ages.
The kids each received a Paw Pass, which granted them all kinds of fun and games: A magic wand for MagiQuest (more on that in a sec!), yummy snacks, arcade tokens, a round of mini golf, photos, swim goggles, temporary tattoos, stuffed animals, a leather bracelet, and more. There was so much it took them all weekend to redeem everything.
The suites are all designed with families in mind. There are many room options at varying rates, and they all have a cozy, lodgey feel. Some even have a separate Kids Camp or Treehouse area with bunk beds for kids. Rooms also come with a mini fridge, microwave, and coffee maker for added convenience, plus you can bring in your own food, so you don’t have to buy everything from the resort snack stands and restaurants. (KFDC tip: There’s a Wal-Mart less than a mile down the road, where you can pick up snacks and beverages to keep in the room.) We stayed in the Majestic Bear Suite, which was very spacious, and I have to note the beds were especially comfortable!
We arrived pretty late on Friday, so most of our fun started on Saturday. We began with breakfast in the Loose Moose Bar and Grill, a huge buffet with myriad options, including healthy ones (same with dinner, which we also ate there). There is also a Dunkin Donuts in the resort if you want something quick and less expensive, plus a couple of other snack bars.
After eating, the kids picked out their wands for MagiQuest: Guardians of the Realm Portals. So, Great Wolf Lodge is WAY more than a resort with an indoor water park. Among the many fun activities for kids and families is this live-action game that takes kids on an adventure around the lodge with a magic wand and interactive displays. It’s like a virtual Harry Potter experience and kind of enchanting with hallways covered in forest designs and “magical” portals lining the walls. The kids loved this game, and we felt comfortable letting them roam the floors themselves to play (and saw many others doing the same).
Of course, we spent much of the day at the water park — and it was a total blast. There are several big slides, some the whole family can ride down on a raft, so you enjoy the thrill together. The Howling Tornado, a fast ride that drops into a funnel and spins you through to the end, was our favorite, but we enjoyed them all many times over — the waits in line were never too long, so the fun was ongoing. There is also a water fort to climb up and slide down, a wave pool, lazy river, a mellow pool area especially for toddlers, an obstacle course, plus two hot tubs — one for all ages and one for adults. There is also a food stand right in the water park area for poolside dining (and they sell beer!). And you just can’t beat the convenience of throwing on swim suits and walking down the hall to access it all!
We finally left the water park to enjoy some of the other activities around the lodge. We caught a “movie” at the Howly Wood XD Theater, an immersive 4-D adventure that really makes you feel like you’re part of a thrill ride. We did the Oliver’s Time Challenge, the kids used their Paw Passes, and of course, there was a lot of MagiQuest. And as the kids wandered, Levi and I grabbed some comfortable chairs and a bottle of wine for some relaxation. (And here I should note that our kids’ ages allowed for this… parents with younger children shouldn’t let them roam alone.)
There are also lots of free activities and programs to join throughout the day, many that younger children can enjoy, like storytimes, craft sessions, character appearances, family yoga, dance parties, and more. You can usually find one of them happening in the lobby at any given time. And for additional fun, you can conquer a ropes course, play mini golf, or go bowling.
More of the same fun ensued on Sunday. And though we left by early afternoon, guests are welcome to spend the entire day at the resort, even after the 11am check-out time (and starting at 1pm on check-in day.) They really do want you to pack in the fun.
So, as skeptical as I was about the whole water park resort experience, I have to give Great Wolf Lodge huge props. It really was a fantastic and convenient weekend escape for our family. And we’re aiming for a winter weekend next time, when we can don swim suits and enjoy some water park fun indoors while it’s parka weather outside.
Great Wolf Lodge has many locations around the country, the closest to DC in Williamsburg, VA, about a three-hour drive away. Rates vary depending on when you go and which room you select, but all stays include water park access and daily programs. Special offers are always running, so be sure to see what’s available before you book.