From Wolf Howls to Water Slides: Is Great Wolf Lodge Worth It?

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Is Great Wolf Lodge Worth It? Fort Mackenzie at Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee, Illinois.
Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee, Illinois, has an 80,000-square-foot indoor water park. Photo credit: Danielle Braff

This post is sponsored by Great Wolf Lodge.

There’s no shortage of fun family activities at Great Wolf Lodge, North America’s largest chain of indoor water parks. The resorts offer thrilling water slides, wave pools, lazy rivers, interactive play areas, themed hotel rooms, dining options, arcades, character meet-and-greets and storytime sessions. Some Great Wolf Lodge resorts even offer adventure activities – ropes courses and climbing walls – and mini golf.

These resorts are much more than hotels. They are full-fledged theme parks – and can be priced as such.

A tremendous amount of fun is included in the hotel rate. But that rate can fluctuate wildly. A recent search of the Colorado Springs Great Wolf Lodge turned up rates as low as $99.99 per night on a Monday in January for a standard room and rates as high as $849.99 for a themed suite on New Year’s Eve.

Certainly, when you stay, which resort you choose and which activities and meals you add on will affect your final cost. And there are ways to save on the add-ons, such as buying a dining package or bundling extras with a Wolf, Pup or Paw pass to amplify the fun for less.

So, the burning question: Is Great Wolf Lodge worth it?

Is Great Wolf Lodge Worth It? A giant water slide at the Great Wolf Lodge of Colorado Springs.
A giant water slide at the Great Wolf Lodge of Colorado Springs. Photo credit: Liana Moore

What Will You Get for Your Money?

Every Great Wolf Lodge is unique. Not all include every activity and feature. For example, when my family visited the resort closest to my home, Great Wolf Lodge of Colorado Springs, we found that it does not have a lazy river or an adults-only hot tub, but it still has an extensive list of fun indoor activities.

And every Great Wolf Lodge adventure includes the one feature that makes it a great deal: two days of water park fun for the price of one night in the hotel.

How does that work? Well, check-in isn’t until 4 pm. But Great Wolf Lodge fans know that the secret is to arrive much earlier – as soon as the water park opens for the day. That’s because you can dive into the water park as soon as you arrive even though you might not be able to check in to your room until the late afternoon.

The same thing happens the next day. You might have to check out of your room in the morning, but you can slide, splash and play until the water park closes that night.

Two days in the water park for everyone in the family for the price of one night in a hotel? That definitely is worth the money.

Great Wolf Lodge Rooms & Themed Suites

All of the rooms at Great Wolf Lodge resorts are designed for families. That means even the standard suite sleeps at least four, with two queen beds and a sleeper sofa.

But if you want to step up your room choice, spring for a suite upgrade:

Themed suites: The themed rooms, such as the Wolf Den Suite, have bunk beds for the kids and a queen bed for the adults. There’s also a full-sized sofa bed so the room can sleep up to six. But you may have to stay two nights so all of the kids get a turn sleeping in the bunk beds!

Premium suites: These larger suites can accommodate larger families. For example, the Deluxe KidCabin Suite can sleep up to 13. These suites have a private bedroom with two queen beds and a full-size sofa sleeper, a queen bed and full-size sleeper sofa in the main living area and – the coolest feature for kids – an in-suite log cabin with bunk beds and a daybed.

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What is Included with Your Lodging?

While there are plenty of entertainment options that cost extra, there is also a lot that’s included in the room rate.

Each resort will have a lineup of fun activities scheduled throughout the day. Expect to find options such as kids’ yoga, arts and crafts, storytime and a dance party.

There are also seasonal celebrations. The seasonal celebrations offer many activities that are included in the rate of your lodging, while there is an additional cost for some of the special activities, such as reserving your own personal snow globe.

  • Snowland, running from the end of November through the beginning of January offers visits with Santa and winter-themed games and activities. For an extra special holiday experience (and upcharge) reserve a life-sized snow globe for your family. It comes stocked with a hot cocoa bar, cookie decorating kit and a light show choreographed to holiday music.
  • Spring BreakOut runs from the beginning of March to the end of April. The lodge transforms to a spring theme complete with Sunshine Celebration Dance Parties and spring games.
  • Summer Camp-In is a summer event when the lodge is transformed into a summer camp, complete with campfires, s’mores and sing-alongs.
  • Howl-O-Ween is a month-long Halloween celebration that includes a monster bash dance, Halloween crafts, games, costume contest and trick-or-treating throughout October.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Be sure to check out our list of the best things to do at Great Wolf Lodge for every age group.

Is Great Wolf Lodge Worth It? A Wolf Pass in front of a signpost at Great Wolf Lodge.
he 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

Add on a Pass or Package

While the water park is included with your room reservation, there are many other fun activities available for an additional fee. The best deal is to buy a pass or package for the activities you think your family would enjoy.

Here we walk through some of the available options, using my Colorado Springs resort prices in January 2024 to give you an idea of the fee for each:

Adventure Pass Family Package

This activities pass includes:

  • Unlimited bowling
  • Unlimited mini golf
  • Unlimited ropes courses
  • Unlimited climbing

Cost: starts at $129/per day and covers the whole family.

Or, if you’re staying for more than one night, choose a package that includes a $100 dining credit and unlimited bowling, mini golf, rope course and climbing for the full stay for $250.

Is it worth it? Definitely if your kids love adventure and will want to spend time on dry land in addition to time in the water park. You would spend much more buying the activities individually.

Wolf Pass

This activity pass includes:

  • MagiQuest game with a choice between a Vellara wand, standard topper, or Magi belt
  • Small Great Wolf Lodge Candy Shop candy cup
  • Single scoop of ice cream
  • 1 game of bowling at Ten Paw Alley
  • 1 round of Howl in One Mini Golf
  • Paw Points game card for Northern Lights Arcade ($5)
  • Admission to Howlers Peak Ropes Course
  • Double climb admission at Rustic Ridge Climbing Wall
  • A pair of Great Wolf swim goggles

Cost: starts at $89.99/per person.

Is it worth it? Yes, especially if you’re visiting with teens and tweens or planning to stay more than one night.

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

Paw Pass

This activity pass includes:

  • MagiQuest game with a choice between a Vellara wand, standard topper, or Magi belt
  • Small Great Wolf Lodge Candy Shop candy cup
  • Single scoop of ice cream
  • 1 game of bowling at Ten Paw Alley
  • 1 round of Howl in One Mini Golf
  • Paw Points game card for Northern Lights Arcade ($5)
  • An immersive experience at Oliver’s Mining Co.

Cost: starts at $69.99/per person.

Is it worth it? Yes, especially if you’re visiting with teens and tweens but staying just one night. It will give you plenty of entertainment after the water park closes for the day.

Pup Pass

This activity pass includes:

  • Build-A-Bear animal (outfit not included)
  • Small Great Wolf Lodge Candy Shop candy cup
  • Single scoop of ice cream
  • 1 game of bowling at Ten Paw Alley
  • 1 round of Howl in One Mini Golf
  • Paw Points game card for Northern Lights Arcade ($5)

Cost: starts at $49.99/per person.

Is it worth it? Yes, especially if you are visiting with preschool and younger elementary-aged kiddos. They WILL want to visit Build-A-Bear!

Is Great Wolf Lodge Worth It? Two hands with MagiQuest wands tap each other in front of a stone wall and MagiQuest screen.
MagiQuest is another great activity to keep the kids entertained before or after other activities are open. Photo credit: Liana Moore

MagiQuest Game

This game is a fun challenge for older elementary age kids, tweens, teens and all Harry Potter fans. It takes you throughout the lodge where you can join forces with the Guardians to safeguard the Realm Portals, forge bonds with Treetop Pixies, confront the malevolent dragon Charlock, reclaim pilfered jewels from the Goblin King, and strive to attain the esteemed rank of Master Magi.

Treasure chests along the route reveal their secrets and crystals radiate a brilliant glow at the touch of the magic wand.

Different lodges have different versions of the game, so you could visit more than one to have a totally different MagiQuest experience.

Cost: starts at $16.99 for the game. But playing the game requires a wand. The bundled wand and game cost starts at $34.99.

Is it worth it? Yes, especially if your kids are Harry Potter fans. And the good news is that once you buy the wand, the kids can use it again and again, so playing MagiQuest on your next visit to Great Wolf Lodge will cost much less.

She Buys Travel Tip: The genius of the MagiQuest game is that it can be played upon demand and takes kids throughout the property. No lines to wait in and can be done while drying out from the fun water activities, or even during a meal.

Is Great Wolf Lodge Worth It? loose moost family kitchen
Loose Moose is popular for breakfast. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Dining Deals

Great Wolf Lodge offers plenty of dining variety. You can get a meal for the family including pizza, wings, pasta and soda for around $40. Or, you can enjoy a leisurely meal at Barnwood, where entrees range from $8.50 to $15, with a kids menu that offers lots of meal options for $8.99, and craft cocktails for the adults.

If you plan to eat onsite, definitely consider one of the dining deals. Book before you arrive and get the $150 worth of dining credits for $120, $100 worth of dining credits for $85 or $50 worth of dining credits for $45.

Plus, the meal portions tend to be large and all rooms have a mini fridge, so it’s easy to take the leftovers back to your room for a snack later on.

Is it worth it? Definitely. Who doesn’t want to spend $120 to get $150 worth of food?!?!

fort makenzie at great wolf lodge colorado springs. Is Great Wolf Lodge Worth It?
Fort Mackenzie is a great place to start the day with some starter water slides before hitting the big thrill rides. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Bottom Line: Is Great Wolf Lodge Worth It?

Theme parks in general are not a cheap family getaway. However, we’ve found that a Great Wolf Lodge visit can be a reasonably affordable family getaway, especially when we can be flexible on the dates we visit and we pay for one night in the hotel to get two full days of water park fun.

Our kids have never had a moment of boredom during a GWL trip. We’ve always found it well worth the cost for the amount of entertainment for basically the price of a hotel room, plus a pass or two added on.

Even better, the weather inside a Great Wolf Lodge water park is always a delightful 84 degrees Fahrenheit. That means you can get the feeling of a tropical family getaway without the plane tickets and passports that would require.

And, despite its theme park style, we have never had to waste time waiting in theme park-like long lines. While there can be some water slide lines during peak water park hours on a weekend visit, we have always managed those by arriving the moment the water park opens, then spending the middle of the day bowling, golfing or waving our MagiQuest wands, then returning to the water park around dinnertime.

Even better, unlike Orlando theme parks, you don’t have to figure out how to get to the fun. At a Great Wolf Lodge, it’s just a short walk down the hotel hallway!

SheBuysTravel Tip: While Great Wolf Lodge is certainly a great place for a family vacation, every time we’ve visited, we’ve said it would have been even more fun if we had brought friends with us. Plan your visit with a family of friends of similar ages for an extra dose of fun!

Liana Moore lived overseas growing up, attending British public school for kindergarten in London. She then moved to Stavanger, Norway for nine years until age 15, growing up with friends of different cultures. Summers involved camps in Switzerland and Wales, plus USA time in East Texas and Minnesota. Liana sees things from others’ viewpoints, believing those experiences shaped the woman she is today. She’s instilling that empathy in her children, having fun along the way. Currently based in the mountains of Colorado, much of her time is spent exploring the Rocky Mountains. When she’s not marketing a resort property professionally, or traveling and writing, find her trying out new sports with her kids, like BMX biking, or debating with her teenager (and occasionally winning). Follow Liana’s adventures at Insider Families.
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