The Great Wolf Lodge has plenty to offer all ages and stages, from an epic water park to the MagiQuest adventures, story times and more. But if you’re looking for one more reason why you have to visit this hotel-waterpark near you? In October the whole place goes wicked-cute with Howl-O-Ween. We stopped by to check it out and here’s what we discovered! Scroll down for the spooky deets.
1. The Howl-O-Ween Special
From October 1st to the 31st the Great Wolf Lodge’s already awesome decor and kid-friendly activities are kicked up a notch with a spooky (but not scary) Halloween bent. Weekends you’ll be treated to a Monster Bash Dance Party, a Trick-or-Treat Trail, Spooktacular Story Time and Halloween crafts, face painting and games. Kids are encouraged to bring and wear those costumes (or just let them rock the wolf ears that come with every check in). Even if your stay doesn’t fall on a weekend, you’ll still find plenty of creepy-cool decor and a festive October atmosphere around every bend. Except in the waterpark, where you will be able to pretend it’s still warm out (see #2).
2. The Waterpark
Too cold to play outside? (Yes, Minnesota, we know you have cold winters!) Great Wolf Lodge has you covered! With amazing things like an indoor waterpark that is 84 degrees year round, it’s also a haven from hot summers. Relax in Crooked Creek, a winding lazy river, let the tots splash around the multi-level Fort Mackenzie (surrounded by well-placed tables and lounge chairs for the parents), test your balance on the Wolf Rider Wipeout and coax the whole family to take the River Canyon Run, a tube ride with an interactive Splash Cinema.
video: Amber Guetebier
Good to know: Safety is a priority, and there are plenty of Coast Guard certified water jackets on hand, including ones fit for toddlers. Some of the rides, like the Totem Towers and the Wolf Rider Wipeout have height requirements but do not fear: even your smallest kiddos will not feel left out.
Dial It In: Claim a lounger by Fort Mackenzie and order yourself up some fancy house drinks from the Watering Hole. You don’t even need your wallet: just scan your wristband and the cocktails get charged right to your room.
3. The Rooms
Whether you’ve got a big clan or it’s just you plus one, there are rooms for your family at the Great Wolf Lodge. The most popular option is the Deluxe Bunk Bed Suite, which has built-in bunks and a queen bed, as well as a pull-out couch. The rooms are spacious enough to chill in after a busy day and all rooms at the Great Wolf Lodge include mini-fridges and microwaves. Other great options include rooms with multiple queen-sized beds, rooms with double bunks in a separate space (Queen Cabin Suite with themed KidCabin) and even big family suites like the Grizzly Family Suite which sleeps 12 and the Northwoods Suite which sleeps 12 and includes a fireplace.
Good to know: Unless you spring for a room with separate bunks (KidCabin) you and the family will all be in the same room. This isn’t a bad thing, since this is a family vaycay, but if you’re hoping for some downtime/privacy after the kids sack out and you’ve got light sleepers, you should upgrade.
Dial It In: Wine Down Service is as amazing as it sounds. When you check in you can indicate what time you want to get a wine and food pairing delivered–after the kids are settled in (or while you’re settling them in). When the delivery has arrived, they just text you to let you know and will leave it outside your door, keeping you from having to interrupt that “oh, she’s almost asleep” stage.
4. The Perks
Throughout your stay at Great Wolf Lodge, there are activities and events scheduled with your family in mind. Start your day out with Yoga Tails. Cap your evening off with story time—PJs are encouraged. You’ll also find face painting, balloon animals, craft or coloring stations and character visits—be on the lookout for Violet the Wolf and Wiley the Wolf. Each day offers a different program so that your kids are never bored. And the Great Wolf Lodge MN is the first location to offer the brand new Northwoods Friends Adventure Show. Check out the giant frame in the lobby as it comes to life!
Good to know: For a modest fee you can ask for late checkout (2 p.m), giving you more time to get your stuff together before you leave for the day. But even if you check out at 11 a.m., your wristband gives you access to the waterpark until closing that day! Stash your luggage in the car and then hit the waterpark, where you can shower before getting dressed and prying yourself away from the property. There are lockers at the Water Park for a change of dry clothes (locker fee is $15).
5. The Great Wolf Adventure Park
If the Water Park is the crown jewel, we think the Adventure Park is the hidden gem. With plenty of different level arcade games, a climbing wall, a ropes course and a mining experience you’ll find hours of fun right there. Plus, there’s Ten-Paw Bowling (ten pin bowling! you never see these anymore!) that even the littles can master. Grab some pizza and salad at Hungry Like a Wolf on the second level and then hit the lanes.
Good to know: The water park is exclusive to guests but the arcade, including MagiQuest and bowling, is open to the public.
No visit to the Great Wolf Lodge is complete without an introduction to MagiQuest—the interactive game that is like a scavenger hunt meets video game. But don’t be fooled—there’s very little screen time and kids and their parents will get lots of exercise. Wander the lodge communing with Pixies and battling dragons. Start your Quest at the MagiQuest shop where you procure a wand and declare your Quest name. Throughout the second and first floors, you’ll find the wands react with features, stations (called “portals”) and more. Light up crystals, make paintings talk and more as you solve each level. And if you find yourself heading to a different Great Wolf Lodge location, bring your wand! It will work for the adventure at any location.
Bonus: See what your wand does to the bear in the lobby.
7. Sweet Shops & Snacks
For a souvenir worth snuggling, stop by the main gift shop’s Creation Station —think a slightly smaller scale Build a Bear with the Great Wolf Lodge characters as your choices (like Oliver the Racoon, Violet the Wolf, etc.). You choose the animal and then an outfit to go with. Outfits cost additional but if you get the Kids can also hit up the Great Wolf Candy Company for some bulk goodies gummies, jelly beans, taffy and all kinds of treats. Scoops is not, as it may sound, an ice cream parlor but rather an ice-cream/cupcake themed spa just for kids. Glitter tattoo or hair chalk, anyone?
There are nine different food and drink spots on site, including a Dunkin Donuts, Hungry Like a Wolf pizza place, a breakfast and dinner buffet offering and more. Pack a few power bars for the kids to avoid the hangries, but most everything you need is on site.
Insider tip for coffee drinkers: There’s no beloved Caribou on site so your main coffee house is Dunkin Donuts. You have been warned.
8. The Staff
Every time we’ve visited, we’ve noted the wonderful treatment toward guests by the staff. From the enthusiastic customer service at the MagiQuest Marketplace to the managers on site who can make the Northwoods Friend Adventure show appear “like magic” in spite of the schedule, every employee you and your kids interact with will make your family feel like they are honored guests. Knowing your kids are not going to be ignored or chastised goes a long way toward making any parent feel good about taking their family somewhere. Kudos to the staff at this Great Wolf Lodge location.
Rooms start at as little as $99. The best bet for parents with busy kids is the Paw Pass which includes a MagiQuest wand, Oliver’s Mining Co., a Creation Station stuffy and more.
All guests receive a wristband that acts as a room key, access to the waterpark, allows food and drinks to be charged to their room and can help reunite lost parents from their kids. If a kiddo finds themselves alone, any Great Wolf Lodge employee can scan the band and help locate the parents.
Daily shuttles between the property and both MSP and the Mall of America occur every 30 minutes.
Great Wolf Lodge
1700 American Blvd E
Bloomington, MN 55425
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Thanks to Great Wolf Lodge for hosting; while portions of this trip were paid by Great Wolf Lodge, the opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.