One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year is to offer even more travel advice–more often–and post pictures of my family enjoying some of our favorite vacation spots. (Yes, I realize how quickly I lost track last year and plan to make up for it this year). From princesses at Walt Disney World to hiking the Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg to seeing shows in Las Vegas, there is just so much for families to do–and one really cool destination might be closer to home than you think.
Have you heard of The Great Wolf Lodge? These wonderfully themed hotels are located in Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Michigan, Virginia, Washington, and Ontario (near Niagara Falls). And, boy, are these hotels fun! With indoor waterparks, arcades, bowling alleys, mini golf courses, and more, there is just so much for a family to do. The best part? You don’t even have to leave the building!
We visited the resort in Mason, Ohio, the week after Christmas, and we had a blast (we even took the grandparents and they loved it, too!). Not only was it totally decked out for the holidays with snowflakes and a special, seasonal show, it actually snowed it the lobby. No kidding! My daughter thought this was one of the coolest things ever. We loved being there in the winter and walking around in short sleeves and flip flops while it was rainy and cold outside. In the summer, the resort offers even more water options by opening up an outdoor water area. We haven’t experienced this yet, but I hope to in the future.
If there is a Great Wolf near you, and you plan to visit, here is some tried and true advice:
- Only guests staying at the hotel are allowed access to the waterpark.
- Hotel suites can be pricey, so opt for the best one for your family–most rooms offer a sitting area separate from the sleeping area with couches that pull out into beds.
- Be sure to book when there is a % off sale. Usually you can find a room with a 20% discount if you stay at least 2 nights.
- You get waterpark access from 1:00pm on the day of checkin until closing on the day of check out. So, even if you have to checkout at 11:00am, you still have access to the waterpark for the entire day. Plan to pack a gym bag and a fresh set of clothes for the ride home instead of paying for an additional day–or pay a few dollars more and get an extended checkout.
- MagiQuest, CompasQuest, and ShadowQuest are interactive games that can be played right inside the hotel. If you’ve played before at a different location, be sure to take along your wand or compass so you don’t have to purchase another one. You can activate a game for a small fee and the game remains active until the end of the day you check out.
- The arcade is fun, but you need a healthy amount of token to grab a decent prize. You’d probably be better off just buying that stuffed wolf in the gift shop.
- Food at the resort can be pricey, especially on the weekend. However, if you hit the buffet during a weeknight, you could grab a good deal. We saw that the buffet was advertised as $40 for a family of 4 on a Thursday night. Can’t get much better than that.
- Bring your own beach towels. They do provide towels–and there are always plenty available–but it is great to have your own towel to take back to the room with you.
- You get a mini-frig and microwave in your room, so take some snacks, drinks, and lunch foods. Eat/Snack in the room when you can–hotel policy forbids outside food and drink in the waterpark.
- The hotel can be noisy with all of the kids running around. Request the top floor for the most privacy and quiet.
- Opt to travel during non peak times–i.e. don’t plan a visit during the local school’s long weekend–or you will end up having longer than normal waits for the rides.
If you do plan to visit, or if you recently stayed, tell me about it. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What did you like? What did you dislike? Post in the comments below! Thanks–and happy travels!