Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge
Location: Grapevine, TX
Price: Room rates vary, add ons
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes, one the first floor

The basic idea of the Great Wolf Lodge chain is that you have a hotel with a water park attached.  In reality, they have a resort that could be your only destination for a whole trip.  We stayed two nights and spent one day in the water park.  We did not do any of the extras and I felt we had a very good time and got our money’s worth in our stay.

We arrived around 6:30 PM on our first night.  You can download the app and do early check in for your room prior to check in time.  This does save you some hassle when you arrive at the resort but you still have to stand in line at check in to get your wristbands.  Your wristband has a microchip in it that acts as your room key and you can set it up to charge things to your account via the band (you can opt for kid’s bands that do not have the microchip in them).  The wristbands are waterproof so you wear it the whole time you are at the resort.   Each kid also got a complimentary set of wolf ears at check-in, which were very cute, and a nice touch.  Our girls wore their ears just about everywhere while we were there. Just as we finished checking in, the staff announced that they would be starting the evening dance party.  My husband took the two girls to wiggle off some energy while I unloaded our bags to the room.  The resort had plenty of luggage carts.  I would suggest unloading in the loading zone because we always ending up parking far away from the doors.

The resort had two staff members leading the kids in some dances to current pop songs and it lasted for about a half an hour.  It was crowded toward the end but it wasn’t too hard to keep an eye on the kids.  After dancing the kids are encouraged to sit down on the rug in front of the clock tower and the clock tower goes through a short animatronic show/song for about five minutes.  Then the mascot of the resort, Wiley the Wolf, comes out with one of the cast members and they read the kids a bedtime story.  Story time lasted about fifteen minutes then Wiley posed for photos with the kids.  This whole activity time (dance time and story time) is aimed at the younger crowd.  My two-year-old was enthralled and my eight-year-old kept glancing at me rolling her eyes (but she was a good sport for little sister).  I’d say that the perfect age for this activity is probably four to six.  I will give big applause to the resort Wiley hung around till everyone got a picture that wanted one.  I came back by a half hour after story time was over and he was still taking pictures and interacting with the kids.

We had just a standard room.  There are upgrade room options available for additional costs that have bunk beds for the kids, rooms with balconies, or suites that could sleep a larger family.  Our standard room was very spacious though.  We had two queen beds and small sitting area with a pull out couch (I’d guess full size mattress) plus a small table and a mini fridge.  Even with both suitcases open on the floor and the kids spread out all over I still felt there was plenty of room to walk around without tripping.  Also there is a retractable clothes line in the shower which is perfect for hanging up wet bathing suits.

We had decided to do the character breakfast the second morning which is held in The Loose Moose Cottage which is on the main floor directly next to the clock tower.  We don’t know how to sleep in so we started our breakfast at 8.  At this point in the morning there were maybe 5 other families eating breakfast.  It is a buffet style with a few specialized stations: customized omelets and waffles.  The rest is a standard breakfast buffet offerings with a special kids section with treats not found on the main lines like donuts, mini pancake stacks and wolf print mini waffles.   About every half hour or so, they play some special music (that was a little loud) and the costume characters dance around through the tables.  The characters didn’t really stop at individual tables to interact with the kids but they did offer high fives and fist bumps as they went by.  When they aren’t dancing through the dining room, one of the characters is stationed in front of a backdrop by the exit so you can get pictures.  We only had two characters at breakfast the girl and boy wolf and only the girl wolf was posing for pictures when we left.  Drinks were not included in the price of the buffet so it ends up being semi pricey (about $20 per adult and $12 per kid before tip) but we ended up being so full from breakfast that we never stopped for lunch.   So I’d say the buffet was worth the money as a meal since you can get by with a lite or no lunch but I wouldn’t do it if your kids are hoping to see a lot of the characters.

We were finishing breakfast about 8:45 and people were starting to trickle in for breakfast but I wouldn’t say lines at the various food lines was very long yet.  We went back to our room, changed into swim gear, and headed down to the water park.  The water park opened at 8 AM the morning of our stay but at 9 there were very few people there.  We left our flip flops and cover-ups on one of the lounge chairs.  There are lots of chairs but it is a first come basis and later that afternoon there weren’t many empty.

The water park has several different activities for various age levels.  There are three large slides that are about three stories tall and you have to carry your tube up the stairs with you.  There are height requirements for these slides but allow for one or two riders.  I wouldn’t say any of these rides were very intense but they are mostly enclosed since all of them exit the building at one point before returning inside to the splash pool so younger kids may not enjoy them.  There are also two large group slides that four people can ride together.  You do not have bring a tube up with for these slides.  The Howlin’ Tornado is considered a “thrill” ride and it was faster than the other slides but it wasn’t super intense.  The other River Canyon Run is a milder family raft ride.  Any of these slides would be great for adults, teens, preteens and older grade school kids.

For the slightly younger set there are two smaller slides on the water play set Fort Mackenzie.  This is the attraction that you see as you first enter.  It’s several levels of water play with squirt guns and small buckets you can dump on people below.  There is also a large bucket overhead that fills and dumps every ten minutes are so.  This was a big hit with my older daughter.  She really enjoyed getting doused by the big bucket and enjoyed the slides.  The slides do not have a height requirement but young kids have to go down alone.  We sent our toddler down one of them once and she did not enjoy it.  I would suggest preschool age and up for these slides.  There was also a general pool that was around 4 foot deep with some basketball nets and a few anchored floats to play on.  My older daughter also tried her hand at crossing the floating lily pads.  The overhead ropes were designed with someone under 5 foot in mind so this is an activity for the younger grade school kids.

For the really little kids there was a separate wading pool.  This water was only about knee deep on me.  This area is filled with small play structures and a few water fountains the kids can turn on and off.  There are also two small water slides in this area.  Adults or older children can ride down these two slides with a toddler on their lap if wanted but my toddler had no problems going down these on her own.  This area was by far her favorite area.

Activities that everyone could enjoy include a lazy river (it’s not very lazy just a heads up, lots of kids swimming through) and zero entry wave pool.  The wave pool gets about 5 foot deep at the far end.  Waves run for about three or four minutes and then there is a five-minute break.  While the waves are not very high they did seem a little forceful.  I had a hard time keeping my position when I was seated in the shallow area with the toddler.  There were also two hot tubs: one for families and one for adults only.  Our location had an outdoor section of the water park but it did not open until after Memorial Weekend so we were not able to check that out.

The water park area is kept at a warm 80ish degrees so it felt comfortable moving from attraction to attraction and the water was comfortable throughout.  The park offers life jackets at a first come basis, we had brought our own but every time we went by the rake there were plenty available.  There were also two food options available in the park.  Buckets looked to serve basic burgers, hot dog, chicken fingers and such.  The other appeared to be more of a bar but did serve soft drinks.  The water park area does offer towels so there is no need to bring your own.  There is a towel check just as you come into the water park.  They scan your wrist-band so make sure you turn your towels back in before leaving the water park to avoid additional charges.

We stayed in the water park until around 1:30.  After four hours of playing in the water my kids were starting to drop but older kids will probably want to stay and slide until the park closes.  We opted to go check out the nearby Grapevine Mills Mall which has many stores, dining options, Legoland and an aquarium.

The resort offers some other amenities and add on extras we did not do.  Other free offers include morning activities with the costume characters, a lunchtime craft project and a fitness center.  There are also many activities that have an extra charge.  The resort offers three levels of PawPasses that lump together access to these activities for one flat rate or you can pay individually for any of them.  The extra charge activities include:  adult spa, kid spa, ropes course, XD theater, lazer maze,  arcade, Build-A-Bear and the Quest games.  The Quest games are unique to Great Wolf and there are three options with slightly different themes: MagiQuest, CompassQuest, and ShadowQuest.  They all run on the same basic idea.  You buy a “wand” and then pay for the game.  Each game has several quest you complete by following clues that will lead you across all the floors of the resort.  You’ll wave your wand at the correct piece of artwork, magic chest, screen, or other Quest item and once you’ve solved all the clues you’ll complete the quest.  You can buy additional wand toppers that give you different boosts or powers.  The wand and toppers are then yours to keep and can be brought back on additional stays to play again.  The game cost covers as many quests as you wish to complete for the full length of your stay.

In addition to the games and activities the resort offers shopping and dining.  The resort has a candy shop, a MagiQuest shop (sells the wands, toppers and costumes), a swim shop, a personalized souvenir shop and the main souvenir shop that sells general souvenir fare such as stuffed animals, t-shirts and home-goods.  For dining options in addition to the two options in the water park, the park offers an ice cream shop, a Starbucks, a buffet style restaurant, a pizza shop and a sit down restaurant.  You can also pre-purchase a dining plan if you want your stay to feel all-in-clusive.

Overall:   There is a lot happening at Great Wolf at any given time and I think it does offer something for every member of your group.  I would say that with what’s included in your stay (water park, free activities, etc) I think the cost is worth what you are getting especially if you can get a Groupon or special.  If you are looking for a quiet stay, you should probably look into something else.  If you are staying for several days or think that your kids would want to do several of the additional activities then the PawPass is probably a good value.  We did not do any of the extras.  Our younger one didn’t notice but our older one was very interested in the MagiQuest.  As for room locations, I would suggest asking for a room on a lower level.  There always seemed to be a wait for the elevator so it was nice to be able to take the stairs up one flight to our room.  I would also suggest requesting a room further away from the elevators.  All the MagiQuest props for your floor are clustered around the elevator.  The kids playing weren’t excessively loud but we could hear them while we were in our room.  The game does turn off at 11 PM and it had quieted down by around 10 but we had a toddler we were trying to get to sleep around 9.  So if you need to turn in early or really like a quiet room you’ll want to request at the end of the hallway.

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