Great Wolf Lodge FAQs: What to Expect When You Visit with Your Family

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A preschooler in an orange puddle jumper and an older sibling play on a lily pad float in a Great Wolf Lodge pool
There are activities for all ages at Great Wolf Lodge, including many the whole family can do together! Photo credit: Jennifer Kaufman

An indoor waterpark without crowds or long lines. Thrilling family-friendly water slides and coasters. An adventure park with climbing walls, ropes courses, bowling, mini, golf and an arcade. Activities that include crafts, stories and special themed events. That only just scratches the surface of all there is to do at Great Wolf Lodge. It’s easy to see why these indoor waterpark resorts are “go-to” getaway destinations for families. Here, a Great Wolf Lodge veteran shares her insider tips and dives into the most frequently asked questions. Read on to know exactly what to expect from your stay.

When my twins were just a few years old, we had a friend who worked at the local Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati. I caught wind of several seasonal activities that could be experienced without staying overnight, so we decided to visit. We watched it snow in the lobby and saw an adorable audio-animatronic show and thus began our love affair with the beautifully-themed waterpark hotel. We loved it long before we ever set foot in the famed indoor waterpark, and have enjoyed it even more every time we’ve visited since. With so many attractions and activities, it’s a new experience every time.

water slide exiting building at great wolf lodge colorado springs
The water slides at Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs actually run outside of the building. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Over the years, we have become the go-to family when friends have questions about their stay. If you’re considering a trip to Great Wolf Lodge, here are the answers to some things you might be wondering… and some useful advice you might not even know you need.

What to Expect at Great Wolf Lodge 

Can I Visit Great Wolf Lodge without Staying Overnight?

This is a great question, and one that can vary by location, and also change without notice. So, be sure to check at your desired location.

SheBuysTravel contributor Liana Moore, shares that when her local Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs opened you could not just pay to enter the waterpark. The only way to gain entrance was by staying there. However, more recently that policy changed and you currently can purchase entrance to the water park without a stay. However, that probably doesn’t make financial sense. The full day tickets are prices per person and when multiplied for a family can often be as much or more than just booking a night’s stay.

Is it Super Crowded in the Summer, During Holidays and on the Weekends?

We have been in many different months of the year, including both off-peak times and on busy holiday weekends. I’ve never once felt like the public areas or pools were too crowded or the lines too long.

Is There Something for Little Ones? Teens? Grandparents?

There’s a great balance of activities available for kids and grown-ups of all ages, and of all skill (and thrill!) levels. There are play areas that are zero entry, splash zones, slides of all sizes (including some for infants and toddlers) and plenty of chairs from which to watch family members have fun. The slides and attractions may vary at each location, but our Great Wolf Lodge has family slides with no height limit, thrilling slides and water coasters for bigger kids and adults and everything in between. There are challenging obstacles, a water basketball court, and more. And that just covers the waterpark!

Within the hotel, you’ll also find a ton of activities for the whole family. Some require an additional fee, but there are at least half a dozen things going on during any stay that are complimentary, including crafts, story time, educational “wolf walks”, etc. Find out all you can do in our Ultimate Guide to Great Wolf Lodge!

great wolf lodge adventure park
The Great Wolf Lodge Adventure Park packs in a ton of fun. Photo credit: Liana Moore

What’s Not Included in the Room Price?

Admission to the waterpark is included with your hotel room; you can enter the waterpark at opening on the first day of your reservation (though your room will likely not be ready until check-in time, depending on occupancy), and you can stay and play until everything closes on your last day. As mentioned, there are also crafts and other activities – including super fun holiday or seasonal offerings – included with your stay.

There are, however, plenty of things that could take more of your money. Each Great Wolf Lodge location has a number of on-property restaurants.

Many (including our Northern Cincinnati location) have miniature bowling, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, an arcade and a number of interactive games that take place throughout the whole property.

That said, we almost never do any of the additional activities during our short stays (usually only 1 or 2 nights), and I’m not sure we’d have much time if we wanted to! Having experienced many of them at least once though, I will say that the attractions offered are a lot of fun – and quite reasonably priced if something is appealing.

wolf pass at great wolf lodge indoor water park
The Wolf Pass at Great Wolf Lodge includes the ability to experience pretty much every activity in the Adventure Park, and even a scoop of ice cream and cup of candy too. Photo credit: Liana Moore

SheBuysTravel contributor Liana Moore adds that the Adventure Park at the Colorado Springs location is an attraction in and of itself. A Wolf Pass made sense for her kids because it included many of these activities.

My advice is to look at your Great Wolf Lodge location’s website and make an overall plan in advance; decide where you’d like to spend (or save) your money – before you step into the hotel. Stay tuned for more money saving tips!

When is the Best Time of the Year to Visit?

Personally, we’re partial to visiting Great Wolf Lodge during the holidays; our favorite time to visit is between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m a sucker for the Christmas season anyway, and Great Wolf Lodges transform already beautiful hotels into stunning winter wonderlands. During their “Snowland” season, there are also additional lobby activities. You’ll even see it snow in the grand lobby several times each day!

a preschooler is in awe of the snow in Great Wolf Lodge lobby in Cincinnati, Ohio - SheBuysTravel
I’ll never forget the wonder on my kids’ faces the first time they saw it snow in the Great Wolf Lodge lobby; it hasn’t changed, years later! Photo credit: Jennifer Kaufman

Near Halloween and Easter, many Great Wolf Lodge locations have extra activities including a Peeps hunt and a trick-or-treat trail. For New Year’s Eve, our location offers a beautiful (and delicious!) dinner buffet and family-friendly celebration. Be sure to check out any additional celebrations that might be going on when you’re booking your visit.

If you aren’t visiting during a holiday, you’ll still have a blast. In the warmer months, you’ll have access to additional slides, pools and attractions outside as well. Honestly, there isn’t a bad time to visit!

SheBuysTravel Tip: Sign up for the Great Wolf Lodge email newsletter to hear about all of their special rates. Several times each year, they offer a 48-hour sale; these have been the best rates we’ve found year after year, even at peak times such as Memorial Day weekend.

Should I Bring Beach Towels? Pool Toys? Coolers?

Great Wolf Lodge provides towels in the waterpark area, but ask that they be returned before exiting the waterpark. So while you’re covered (no pun intended!) inside the pool areas, you may want to bring towels and/or coverups for the walk to and from your room, in dining locations and for other public spaces.

Pool toys and inflatable toys are not permitted inside the waterparks. And while coolers are allowed in the resort, they are not permitted inside the waterpark area. Each room has a mini-fridge, so a cooler may not be entirely necessary.

colorful water slides at Great Wolf Lodge
On your marks. Get set. SLIDE! Photo credit: Liana Moore

Will My Kids Be Safe in this Huge Indoor Waterpark?

Everyone under 18 should be supervised at all times in the waterpark and during other hotel activities. That said, it’s totally understandable that you can’t be by each child’s side at all times. In our experience, there are more lifeguards at Great Wolf Lodge pools and slides than we’ve seen anywhere similar. The lifeguards are very friendly and helpful, too.

I’m very comfortable with my kids swimming and playing throughout the waterpark, but I do make a plan to be where I can see just about everywhere; we also make very specific meeting plans for kids to check in between activities.

Water Safety Precautions at Great Wolf Lodge

SheBuysTravel Amanda Jones has the scoop on all the water safety precautions you can expect at Great Wolf Lodge.

Free use of life vests

My mind was instantly put at ease when I saw a large rack of life vests. There was a sign indicating which color vest fit which age/size of child.  Given that I knew my kids and their swimming ability, I quickly fitted them for vests. I told them that they were to keep them on until we left.

Surprisingly, they didn’t argue with me about keeping them on.

Water Safety Precautions at Great Wolf Lodge
Getting measured before swimming, a detail that will put you at ease. Photo credit: Allison Taylor

Measuring and giving appropriate wristbands

Upon walking into the water park at Great Wolf Lodge, we were greeted by friendly staff members ready and willing to help.

There is a height chart with different colors indicating which waterslides your child can go on solo. Once your kiddo has been measured, a corresponding wristband is given. This makes it easier for the staff and the child to determine which ride is safe for a person of his size.

Extensive lifeguard training

Becoming a lifeguard at Great Wolf Lodge isn’t as easy as passing the standard lifeguarding test. During our visit before the waterpark was opened to the public, we saw 120 lifeguards attending a mandatory training. Each month all of the lifeguards at Great Wolf are required to go through an additional 4 hours of training. The trainings are all in addition to being CPR and first aid certified.

Something for everyone

If your kiddos are still fairly young and aren’t quite ready for the bigger water rides, don’t worry. There is still a lot to do. There are small waterslides in fairly shallow water and shorter basketball goals in a manageable depth. Additionally, there is a play structure with buckets of water to dump and a fort to explore. If your kids are anything like mine, be prepared to float down the lazy river for a while!

Great Wolf Lodge really goes the extra mile to ensure safety in an environment that can potentially have dangers lurking. They sure put this mama’s nerves at ease!

Take a look at our First Timer’s Guide To Great Wolf Lodge to get a more comprehensive feel for what a Stay at Great Wolf is like!

SheBuysTravel Tip: Guests can bring their own life jackets for younger kids, but there are also life jackets and puddle jumpers available on a first-come, first-serve basis. We have never had any trouble getting an appropriate jacket for my kids at any point, but keep that in mind if you know you’ll absolutely need something specific.

Jennifer Kaufman is a stay-at-home mom of three travel-crazy kids: twin girls and their little brother. Commonly known as “that Disney family”, she and her husband have discovered that the very things that draw them to Disney destinations – the story, the attention to detail, and the “little things” – can often be found anywhere they look. She has always had an insurmountable case of wanderlust, daydreaming of what it would be like to pick up the family and move to Europe for a few years, or perhaps live off of a boat for a while. As she waits for such a grand adventure, she has dedicated herself to exploring the stories and details wherever she travels, and finding the joy in the everyday moments at home. Jennifer and her family can be found in articles, videos, and podcast episodes at The Delightful Life.
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6 responses

  1. The GWL in Niagara Falls does sell day passes for the waterpark. Perhaps some other locations do not.

    1. Oh, interesting! I’ll have to follow up with them. The last I had heard, they would (all, I thought…?) only sell day passes to guest staying (ie, if grandma wants to join you for the day). Thanks for letting us know!

  2. I’ll soon be able to join the insider/go often group with my grandchildren because Georgia is getting a Great Wolf Lodge in a favorite town of mine: LaGrange.

  3. Great Wolf Lodge is one of our favorite places to visit! Love this post, thanks for all the tips. xo ~ Megan The Fashionista Momma

    1. It’s so much fun, isn’t it?! I think we learn something new each time we visit. Have fun on your next stay!

    2. Thanks for stopping by! I think we learn something new each time we visit!