Going to the Lodge

After hearing good reviews from other parents, Jenny and I took the boys to Great Wolf Lodge Tuesday night. Great Wolf is a family-oriented resort in Grapevine that features a large indoor water park along with other water activities and entertainment for the kids.

Pictures from Great Wolf Lodge

Overall, it was a pretty good experience. Most importantly, the boys had an absolute blast! We spent a couple of hours in the indoor water park on Tuesday afternoon and a couple more Wednesday morning before we left. It was definitely the highlight of the trip. Brenden was barely tall enough to ride some of the larger slides with a parent, so Jenny and I took turns watching each boy to allow both of us to ride with him and to play with Jonathan in the toddler area. The park offers a variety of slides, pools, and activities for all ages, and I loved not having to worry about the sun while we played. Plus the larger slides were fun for us, comparable to ones you’d find at Hurricane Harbor or Hawaiian Falls.

This was the boys’ first stay in a hotel. As expected, this new experience proved to be a bit of a challenge for us, although they really enjoyed it. First, we had to convince them to be quiet in the room and especially in the hallway to avoid disturbing the other guests. Good manners are easy to forget in the excitement of a new adventure. Next, we had to get them to sleep in a hotel room when they normally sleep alone in their own rooms. Our original plan of putting them in the same bed lasted about five minutes, during which a very tired but overstimulated Jonathan talked Brenden’s ear off and wouldn’t stop messing with him. So I switched places with Brenden and pretended to sleep while Jonathan patted my shoulder and kept saying, “Wake up, Daddy, wake up!” I finally dozed off and promptly proceeded to wake Jonathan up with my snoring, which Jenny fixed quickly by waking me up. Throughout the rest of the night, Brenden woke Jenny up every few hours to tell her something (for example, “Did you hear that, Mommy? That was me tooting!”), while Jonathan woke me up periodically by tossing and turning and poking me in the butt with his feet. It was not a restful night, but the boys got a decent amount of sleep.

Here are my impressions of Great Wolf:

Good

  • Indoor Water Park – As I said above, the indoor water park was lots of fun, clean, and included activities for all ages. Guests can use it from 1:00pm on the day of checkin and the entire day of checkout, which is a very nice perk.
  • Staff – The resort caters to families with kids, so the staff are generally very nice and helpful and know how to work with kids. Our server at dinner brought the boys free wolf ear headbands and patiently waited while Brenden talked to her and tried to decide which color headband he wanted. The lifeguards paid attention and seemed to care about their responsibilities.
  • Wristbands – Instead of a room key you must guard while swimming, each guest gets an electronic wristband that serves as a room key, allows you to charge purchases to your room, and provides access to the water park.

OK

  • Room – We got an entry-level room that Great Wolf calls a family suite. It had two comfortable queen beds, sofa, fridge, microwave, coffee maker, and a nice view of the Gaylord Texan and parts of Grapevine. It was a nice room, but not as upscale as the price would suggest (see below).
  • Entertainment – In addition to all the pools, Great Wolf also offers an arcade, an interactive fantasy game call MagiQuest, a girl-themed spa for children, costumed characters, and story time at 8:00 and 9:00pm. The boys liked story time pretty well, although the little animatronic show before the actual story time could be improved.

Disappointing

  • Prices – Everything at Great Wolf is expensive and seems overpriced to me. Everything. I got a small discount for being an airline employee, but even the basic room is really expensive ($200+/night), and any of the special rooms with bunk beds or separate bedrooms can run $250-500/night. Yes, it’s a nice room, but I can get a nicer room at a nearby hotel for significantly less. Management seems to think the water park justifies a huge premium. They add a resort fee to cover in-room coffee, wireless internet, etc. even though the wifi service was intermittent in our room. Food is very expensive for what you get as well. The MagiQuest game, while it looks fun, runs $30 or more per person.
  • Food – We ate two meals plus a separate dessert at the resort, and overall we felt the food was decent but overpriced. My Philly cheesesteak had maybe 2-3 ounces of actual steak. Jonathan’s mac and cheese was great, but kid’s meals at the grill were $8.00. I don’t want to pay $8.00 for a meal that my kid might or might not actually eat. My cupcake, while pretty, was topped with a huge glob of the sickly sweet icing they use for Baskin-Robbins clown cones, a bit too much even for me. The breakfast buffet offered a pretty good selection but was poorly organized and charged separately for juice and soda, which seemed pretty cheap given the high price of the buffet. We decided to eat off-site for lunch.

Did we enjoy our stay? Yes. The boys really enjoyed the visit, which was the goal. Will we go back? Maybe. Most likely, we’ll go back next just for the MagiQuest game rather than an overnight stay. A hotel guest wristband is only required for the water park, not for general access to the hotel during the day. We didn’t try MagiQuest this time because the boys were too young, but Jenny and I think it sounds fun. Maybe we’ll try it as a family in a few years.

Bottom line, if you have kids who would enjoy a nice indoor waterpark and don’t mind dropping lots of cash on an adventure for them, Great Wolf might be a good choice for you. If you’re looking for a good value on a really nice room for a relaxing, romantic getaway, go across the street to Gaylord Texan or Embassy Suites.

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