We’ve got ways to save money, how to maximize your water park time, and loads of other Great Wolf Lodge tips
With new locations coming up across the U.S., Great Wolf Lodge is the largest collection of indoor waterparks and resorts in North America. There are currently 17 locations in the U.S, and most are a skip-and-a-jump away from a major city. As soon as you walk in the door to the massive lobby, you’ll be immersed in the wilderness theme that leans into the “great outdoors” aesthetic. We checked out some of the Great Wolf Lodge properties and have a number of tips and tricks for you to make the most out of your indoor waterpark visit!
Tips for Checking In and Staying Late at Great Wolf Lodge
1. Get there early!
There is so much to do inside the doors of the lodge. Even if your room isn’t ready, you can ask to check in early in order to use the facilities and leave your luggage in the car. With daily events lined up, there is no time to waste. In October you'll have trick or treating and in the winter season, it's all about holiday crafts and storytimes.
2. Check out the app
The Great Wolf app has the menus of all the restaurants under its roof, information on the attractions, and times of the daily events. It has everything you need to know in one place instead of continuing to call the front desk or check with an employee. You can also use it to check in and avoid the long lines!
3. Charge your phone.
While you enjoy the park, leave your phone on so that you can get updates on when your room is ready. You can also text the Great Wolf Lodge number for any issues you have during your stay.
4. Check out and stay late
You don't have to end your water park day early on check-out day. You still have access to the water park until closing on your check-out day. Pack up your room and store your luggage in your car or with the front desk. You change in the locker rooms before heading home.
How to Get the Best Room at Great Wolf Lodge
5. Upgrade your room to suit your family.
Skip the standard room and go for a Wolf Den room or Kid Cabin so your crew can really spread out. Older kids will love their own pseudo-room within a room. For younger kids, the bunk beds' twin-sized mattresses can easily be taken down and put on the floor. Couches have pull-out beds and there is space to add another bed or crib and shift furniture for parents who co-sleep. There's even a TV in the kid room to keep everyone entertained when you need a little downtime.
Great Wolf Lodge Water Park Tips
6. Set up camp at the water park
Even if you aren't planning on heading to the water park until later in the morning, it's a good idea to send an adult down once it opens to set up your home base for the day. On crowded days, chairs will get snagged early in the morning and you'll be forced to sit on the floor in a corner. Grab a few chairs and leave some flip-flops or other cheap gear on them with your towels. When you come to the water park, show the kids where your home base is located so they can find you if they are older and can explore on their own.
7. Snag a cabana
If you have a larger group or would like your own designated area with a waiter, a cabana is a good option. You have access to the cabana beginning at 10 a.m. and it includes water, sodas, a fan, and a little bit of privacy. You can also get your waiter to bring you lunch and drinks when you are ready so that you can avoid the lines.
Other Activities at Great Wolf Lodge
8. Find activities for everyone
If you have a child or two that’s not super fond of swimming, there are plenty of dry activities. Spend time in the arcade and running around the hotel to find treasure with an interactive witchy game called MagiQuest. There's a ropes course for older kids (be sure to bring socks/closed-toe shoes for this activity).
9. Free Activities at Great Wolf Lodge
Consult the day's schedule on the app to see what is being offered for the day. You can typically find activities like crafts, yoga for kids, character meet and greets, and so much more. There's even more to do if you visit during Snowland or one of the other themed times of year.
10. Buy a pass
To save money on those inevitable impulse purchases that kids on vacation want, buy a pass depending on your children’s interests and ages. From most expensive to least, there is the Wolf Pass, Paw Pass, and Pup Pass. This is especially good if you have kids that want to spend time outside of the waterpark on other activities like the arcade and ropes course.
11. Leave space in your luggage.
You’ll bring home more than you left with whether it's sweet treats, magic wands, gemstones, souvenirs from the gift shop, or prizes. Some locations have additional attractions like ropes courses, mini-golf, arcades, or Build-a-Bear workshops.
12. Save the Magic Wands
MagiQuest is the brand’s exclusive adventure game. If you’re planning on visiting another location or the same location at another date, save your wands to continue playing the game. This way you don’t have to buy a new one.
Great Wolf Lodge Dining Tips
13. Make dining reservations early
If your GWL restaurants take reservations, book yours early. We found that many of them book up early in the day on busy holiday weekends.
14. Avoid lines and order food via the app
This was especially important when you are buying lunch in the water park, Avoid the long lines and order your food through the app. You'll be notified when it is ready for pickup.
15. Get food delivered
Many GWL locations have restaurants nearby that will deliver. The Bay Area location in Manteca is connected to a Costco via the parking lot so you can walk over there and snag a large pizza to bring back to your room. You'll also have a mini fridge and microwave in your room to heat up food brought from home. Consider bringing a cooler with you and leaving it in your room (coolers are not allowed in the water park).
How to Save Money at Great Wolf Lodge
16. Get the email deals
Sign up for the lodge’s email club to receive alerts on deals and specials. You can also find GWL on sites like Groupon during the off-season.
17. Grab a day pass
If you want to check out the water park, ropes course, and arcade but want to avoid the cost of staying overnight, snag a day pass. These are available at all Great Wolf Lodges, depending on capacity.
18. Go during the off-season
Prices vary greatly depending on time of year and whether you are visiting on a weekend. You can save a lot by being flexible on when you visit.
What to Pack for Great Wolf Lodge
Don't forget to bring these essentials with you:
- swimsuits and cover-ups for walking from your room to the water park
- closed-toe shoes if your GWL has a ropes course
- pool bag for schlepping your gear to the pool (so you can avoid returning to your room)
- snacks to keep in your room (outside food is not allowed in the water park)
- waterproof phone case so your phone doesn't get water-logged on the lazy river
- swim diapers
- reusable water bottles
- sound machine or white noise app
- puddle jumpers (some kids prefer these to the life jackets available on-site)
Editor’s note: This visit was paid for by Great Wolf Lodge but all opinions belong to the writer.