Great Wolf Lodge Tips: The Ultimate First-Timers Guide

Jennifer Kaufman Avatar

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

Once you’ve decided to book a trip to one of the 20 Great Wolf Lodge resorts, read this first-timer’s guide. Then, read it again. You’ll have questions as you go through the process of picking your family’s room, checking out dining options and all of cool things to do. We’ve got the answers.

Great Wolf Lodge Sign - SheBuysTravel
Photo credit: Jennifer Kaufmann

Top Great Wolf Lodge Tips

  • Once you’ve booked your Great Wolf Lodge stay, take a look at the events calendar for your location. There are so many activities from which to choose, but would your family just prefer to stay in the waterpark from open to close?
  • Determine which attractions interest your family most. Will you play mini golf or go bowling? Are you going to load money on a pass for the arcade? Will you buy a wand and participate in the MagiQuest interactive games? Those can be very fun, but consider the length of your trip. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to spend a premium on a hotel that includes a water park if you won’t be using it, or justify the cost based on additional activities that are available, if you won’t be participating.
  • Check the super useful Great Wolf Lodge website. Select your specific location to access the events calendar, height requirements, specials and packages and even a planning guide based on your child’s age.
  • Plan to arrive early and stay late. Maximize your time at the Lodge by arriving the morning of your first day (though your room may not be ready for some time), and planning to stay until everything closes on the last day of your reservation. You’ll have to vacate your room at check-out time, but you don’t have to stop playing! We often stay just one night, and get two full days of play.
  • Consider buying a package deal. If you are going to opt for some of the paid attractions, be sure to look at the Paw Pass, Pup Pass and Wolf Pass options. These pre-paid packages provide substantial discounts on some of the things you might pay for anyway.
  • Make the most of your wristband. When you check in at the front desk you can add charge capabilities to your wristband. Then there’s no need to carry your wallet. Kids can get wristbands too that double as room keys.

Accommodations at Great Wolf Lodge 

We’ve stayed in a variety of suite options at Great Wolf Lodge, and each has its own charm. The most fun for families with young children is definitely staying in one of the themed suites: Wolf Den, KidKamp and KidCabin. Bunk beds, a themed kids area and even a kids-only television make these the most requested in our family.

The kind of room we use most when we travel with extended family members is the Loft Fireplace Suite. With two stories and two bathrooms, it’s easy for multiple people to share a room without tripping over one another. This is a great option for grandparents to travel with kids and grandkids, or for two families to split the cost of a stay! Many of the suites sleep up to eight adults.

The prices of each room type vary greatly, and I have to say that we’ve felt each one was worth whatever we paid for the room. Depending on how much we actually plan to be in the room on a particular stay, we’ll often opt for the more basic rooms at a lower cost, or more space for a bit of a premium. There are so many options!

Attractions and Activities

Indoor Waterpark

It’s always nice and warm in the Great Wolf Lodge Indoor Waterpark, and there are activities for all ages and thrill levels.

There are many different water features, including play areas for toddlers, slides families can ride together, an awesome water coaster, a wave pool and so much more.

Unlike most water parks we’ve visited, only two attractions have a height requirement of 48”, with many allowing guests 42” and taller to ride (and some having no height requirement at all).

Water Safety Precautions at Great Wolf Lodge
Getting measured before swimming. Photo credit: Allison Taylor

Outdoor Pool & Lazy River

Some locations also boast a lazy river, along with the indoor pool and slides. Others offer an outdoor pool. You will want to check before you go to find out what your chosen location offers.

magiquest at great wolf lodge
MagiQuest is another great activity to keep the kids entertained before or after other activities are open. Photo credit: Liana Moore

MagiQuest

MagiQuest is an interactive adventure game that takes place throughout the lodge. Guests can purchase a wand that activates a variety of portals, as they go on scavenger hunt type quests.

These missions can take as little as 15 minutes (or as long as your entire stay, if you choose to play multiple quests).

TMOMTip: Take your wand home as a souvenir and bring it back for your next stay. Wands can be reactivated for just the price of a game; you don’t need to purchase new ones each time!

climbing wall and ropes course at great wolf lodge
Harness station for the Howlers Peak Ropes Course and Rustic Ridge Climbing Wall at Great Wolf Lodge. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Rustic Ridge Climbing Wall

Rustic Ridge offers a fun way for kids to challenge themselves. Gear up and then find a route up the climbing wall.

Howlers Peak Ropes Course

SheBuysTravel Liana Moore’s 9-year-old son loves this ropes course designed for kids. With just enough of a fear factor while still feeling safe, he looped it a few times crossing swinging rope bridges and other obstacles located high above the ground.

northern lights arcade at great wolf lodge
Northern Light Arcade is an excellent place to entertain early-riser kids while you wait for the water park to open. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Northern Lights Arcade

The Northern Lights arcade has lots of fun games, and is open 24 hours (as long as you load a Paw Points arcade card during redemption hours).

It’s a great option for people like our family who wake up before anything else opens!

Ten Paw Bowling

Ten Paw Bowling is an adorable miniature bowling alley with tiny lanes and small, 5-pound balls. We had so much fun during our last visit, and will definitely be doing it again. It’s a great way to spend some time out of the water.

Howl in One Mini Golf

Indoor miniature golf with super cute glow-in-the-dark scenes. It’s not the most elaborate putt-putt golf course we’ve seen, but it’s inexpensive and lots of fun. Like Ten Paw Bowling, it’s definitely a fun way to do something different for an hour or so.

Build-a-Bear

Build-a-Bear lets guests choose their favorite character and bring it to life! There are even outfits for them.

Storytime & Other Free Activities

Great Wolf Lodge has no shortage of actives you can do at no additional cost! Activities vary depending on location and season, but there is always something going on. We almost always experience:

  • Great Games such as Bingo with the Cub Club crew
  • The Great Clock Tower Show
  • Storytime
  • Wolf Walks
  • Paws-on Projects such as coloring or foam crafts
  • Character Meet and Greets
  • PJ Parties

We have noticed that the number of activities offered increases significantly during the weekends, at least during the off-season.

During the winter event, Snowland, some favorites include Cookies with Mrs. Claus, Face Painting, a Snow ’N Glow Dance Party and even carriage rides and visits with Santa.

Dining at Great Wolf Lodge

The on-site dining options are quite good, and reasonably priced. Each location may vary, but you will likely find some of the following from which to choose during your stay:

Lodge Wood-Fired Grill

Enjoy sit down dining with wood-fired steaks, seafood and ribs at the Lodge Wood-Fired Grill. It’s a nice dining option, while still offering a kid friendly menu and atmosphere.

Hungry as a Wolf

Hungry as a Wolf serves pizza, pasta, salads and subs. We often order pizza from our room when we check in on our first day, pick it up after we unpack, and eat a quick meal so we can hit the waterpark.

Buckets Incredible Cravables

Located inside the waterpark, Buckets serves hamburgers, hot dogs, soft pretzels, chicken strips, and other family favorites. OUR favorite, though, is definitely “The Tipping Bucket”!

loose moost at great wolf lodge
Loose Moose is popular for breakfast. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Loose Moose

Depending on the Great Wolf Lodge location, you may find a buffet that serves breakfast and/or dinner. On our last visit, ours was only open during breakfast hours; the staff was unsure if this was seasonal or a permanent change. We’ve enjoyed it for both meals, though!

Bear Paw Sweet Eats and Treats

Bear Paw serves house-made fudge, baked goods, and other delicious sweets.

Grizzly Rob’s

Grizzly Rob’s is the bar located inside the waterpark at the Mason, Ohio location. I’ve seen Grizzly Jack’s at a variety of locations, but just know this – you won’t have to leave the waterpark if you need a drink refill!

Dunkin Donuts

Most locations have a chain bakery/coffee shop. At ours, the Dunkin Donuts even offers a refillable mug option for coffee drinkers.

Ben and Jerry’s

Feel like cooling off with a sweet treat. Ben & Jerry’s will have you covered. A small ice cream is included in the Paw Pass, if you opt to purchase that.

a brown Great Wolf Lodge "bucket" holding a large ice cream sundae, from Buckets - a restaurant in the Great Wolf Lodge indoor waterpark
Even if you don’t plan to eat meals during your Great Wolf Lodge stay, consider setting some money aside for “The Tipping Bucket” – a delicious, family-sized sundae from Buckets. Photo credit: Jennifer Kaufman

Is the Great Wolf Lodge Dining Package Worth It?

Great Wolf Lodge offers several dining deals. They all offer a discount. Which one you purchase is really a matter of how much you will dine on property.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Evaluate nearby dining options before you go and decide which meals you want to eat on site.

Quick Tips for Dining at Great Wolf Lodge

Consider bringing your own meals to save time and money. Each Great Wolf Lodge room has a mini fridge and a microwave, and many suites have dining areas. It’s very easy to eat in your room and not spend any additional money on food, drinks, or snacks.

Get food delivered or purchase take-out from a nearby restaurant. Most Great Wolf Lodge properties are in areas that are already popular for tourists. This generally means you’ll find a number of fast food or local restaurants where you can eat, either taking a quick trip off site or bringing food back to your suite. We’ve never had so much as a glance when bringing in or ordering food from outside the hotel.

Check for GWL package deals. There are Dining Package options that are excellent bargains, such as vouchers for breakfast, lunch and dinner (more than $75 value per person) for just $40/day; even single meals purchased in advance will save you money (like purchasing breakfast buffet vouchers in advance for $11, as opposed to the $14.99 in-person price).

A checkin desk at Great Wolf Lodge, decorated for Snowland during the Christmas holiday season - SheBuysTravel
Christmas is especially fun at Great Wolf Lodge resorts. Photo credit: Jennifer Kaufman

Holiday and Seasonal Events at Great Wolf Lodge

Summer Camp-In

During the summer, take advantage of fun Summer Camp-In activities. Enjoy an evening dance party or a splash and dance party at the pool. Sing along at the Campfire Ceremony. Or get moving with Wolfercize or Yoga Trails.

Howl-O-Ween

Howl-O-Ween is a super fun time to visit Great Wolf Lodge, especially for a Fall Break staycation. Guests can enjoy Spooktacular Story Time, a Monster Bash Dance Party and other Halloween activities. The best part, though, has to be the Trick-or-Treat Trail! Who doesn’t love an extra chance to dress up and get candy?

Snowland

Snowland is hands-down our favorite event to experience at Great Wolf Lodge. The whole hotel is decked out in lights and holiday decor, activities become a little more holiday-inspired, Christmas music plays throughout the public spaces and it even snows in the lobby! Just be warned: there’s a charming “Snowland” theme song that will inevitably get stuck in your family’s heads when you leave, making you wish you were back at Great Wolf!

Other Holidays

While there are no formal celebrations (and major sales!) like those during Howl-o-Ween or Snowland, don’t be surprised to find fun seasonal activities other times throughout the year. We have stayed in the Spring before and participated in a “Peeps Challenge”, where we located stuffed peeps throughout the resort for a prize, and an Easter Bunny Celebration – with the bunny himself!

Our location also offers special dining experiences for New Year’s Eve, along with a family-friendly new year countdown and balloon drop.

Celebrations at Great Wolf Lodge

Birthday Party Options

While we’ve celebrated many birthdays at Great Wolf Lodge, we’ve never experienced the birthday parties. Each location offers a party package though, which includes cake, a decorated birthday space, pizza and drinks and all-day waterpark access for guests.

If you and your family are just staying overnight for a birthday, there are also “Birthday Fun” add-on packages that include a decorated suite, birthday cake, balloons and arcade credits. Of course these are subject to change, so check with your location before you visit!

A bottle of wine, two plastic wine glasses, and chocolate truffles, part of the Wine Down Service at Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio
Great Wolf Lodge offers a “Wine Down Service.” Get a bottle of wine and a selection of treats delivered to your room to enjoy once the kids have worn themselves out! Photo credit: Jennifer Kaufman

Wine Down Service

A new addition, the Wine Down Service is an extra treat for the grown ups once the kids are finally worn out! Choose a bottle of wine and a side from the menu, and it will be delivered to your room at your specified time. The package can be ordered up until 8 pm the same day.

We enjoyed our wine and truffles and found it to be a good value, but I’m not sure if it’s something we’d do often. I’ve also noticed a lot of variety between what is offered at each location; sometimes it’s a beautiful Wine Down Service experience. Ours, though tasty, was brought in a plastic to-go container with far less elaborate presentation.

great wolf candy company
A cup of candy from Great Wolf Candy Company is included with the Paw Pass. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Shopping at Great Wolf Lodge

There are lots of shopping options inside each Great Wolf Lodge location:

  • Buckhorn Exchange is a gift shop offering souvenir merchandise, apparel, the Character Creation station, books, gifts and more.
  • MagiQuest Marketplace is where you’ll find wands, wand toppers, costumes and other accessories for MagiQuest.
  • Bear Essentials Swim Shop carries swimsuits, cover-ups, sunscreen, goggles and anything else you might need for your waterpark visit.
  • Great Wolf Candy Company has dozens of options of bulk candy.

Great Wolf Lodge Shopping Tips

  • Make a list of things you may want to pack – especially if you’re traveling at off-peak times. While there are shops on-site that provide just about everything you need, you’ll pay a premium for items you forget to pack. For example, we paid nearly double for a small pack of swim diapers when my son was little, because they weren’t available in stores during the winter – and we didn’t plan in advance.
  • Whether as a way to break the news of a Great Wolf Lodge visit, or a way to increase excitement while waiting for your stay to arrive, consider buying some GWL merchandise from the online store. A plush Great Wolf Kids friend, T shirt or wolf ears may be just the thing to get your little cubs super excited.

Great Wolf Lodge Locations

Over the past decade these indoor water park resorts have expanded across the US. The 20th location will open soon.

Anaheim/ Garden Grove, California 

Atlanta/ LaGrange, Georgia

Baltimore/ Perryville, Maryland Lodge

Charlotte/ Concord, North Carolina

Chicago/ Gurnee, Illinois

Cincinnati/ Mason, Ohio

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Grand Mound, Washington

DFW/ Grapevine, Texas

Kansas City, Kansas

Minneapolis/ Bloomington, Minnesota

New England/ Boston, Massachusetts

Niagara Falls, Canada

Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania

San Francisco/ Manteca, California

Sandusky, Ohio

Scottsdale/ Salt River, Arizona

Traverse City, Michigan

Williamsburg, Virginia

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Each of our visits to our local Great Wolf Lodge have been different and wonderful! Want to know more about other Great Wolf Lodge locations? Check out our reviews:

Colorado Springs Great Wolf Lodge

Lake Denton WI Great Wolf Lodge

Mason OH Great Wolf Lodge

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is Great Wolf Lodge?

A: Great Wolf Lodge is a chain of indoor waterpark resorts located in North America. The lodges offer a variety of water-based activities, as well as other family-friendly amenities.

Q: Where are Great Wolf Lodge resorts located?

A: Great Wolf Lodge resorts are located in various cities across the United States, as well as in Canada. 

Q: What types of rooms are available at Great Wolf Lodge?

A: Great Wolf Lodge offers a variety of room types, including standard rooms, themed suites, and premium suites. Some rooms even come with bunk beds and separate sleeping areas for kids.

Q: What are some of the water-based activities available at Great Wolf Lodge?

A: Great Wolf Lodge offers a variety of water-based activities, such as water slides, wave pools, lazy rivers, and kiddie pools. Some lodges also have surfing simulators and indoor water roller coasters.

Q: What other activities are available at Great Wolf Lodge?

A: In addition to water-based activities, Great Wolf Lodge offers a range of other family-friendly amenities, such as adventure parks, arcades, mini-golf courses, and spa services.

Q: What dining options are available at Great Wolf Lodge?

A: Great Wolf Lodge has a variety of dining options to choose from, including sit-down restaurants, snack bars, and coffee shops. Some lodges also offer in-room dining options.

Q: Is Great Wolf Lodge suitable for all ages?

A: Yes, Great Wolf Lodge has activities and amenities suitable for all ages, from toddlers to grandparents.

Jennifer Kaufman Avatar
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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