The Great Wolf Lodge and its massive indoor water park is the perfect place to escape to during the cold, winter months. But did you know that during the holiday season, the hotel-water park transforms into Snowland—a magical winter wonderland complete with hundreds of twinkling lights, indoor snow showers, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus and a life-sized gingerbread house you can dine inside? We recently stopped by the Great Wolf Lodge and here’s what we discovered. Scroll down for the snow-tastic deets.

1. The Snowland Celebration

From the weekend after Thanksgiving through Jan. 4, the Great Wolf Lodge celebrates the “howliday” season with its annual Snowland celebration. In addition to hundreds of twinkling lights, Christmas trees and festive decorations in the Grand Lobby, families can participate in tons of complimentary, holiday-themed activities. From decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus and making holiday crafts in Santa’s Workshop, to writing letters to Santa and attending the North Pole University, families will have no problem filling their stay with plenty of holiday cheer.

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photo: Great Wolf Lodge

2. Snowland-Themed Suites

During the Snowland celebration, families have the option of booking a special winter wonderland suite. Each Snowland suite comes adorned with twinkling lights, glimmering garland and a fully decorated Christmas tree along with an assortment of take-home goodies and special snowflake bedding. To up the holiday ante, families who book a Snowland Suite also receive a surprise milk and cookie delivery from Great Wolf characters Wiley and Violet the Wolf. Psst…this special milk and cookie visit is arranged at the time of check-in, so you can choose the time that works best for your kids.

Good to know: Don’t want to leave your winter wonderland suite? For a small fee you can ask for late checkout (2 p.m.), giving you more time to get your stuff together. The best part? On the day of checkout, your wristband will give you access to the water park until closing. So stash your bags in the car and plan to hit the slides and pools before prying yourself and your wolf pups away from the property. Showers and locker rooms are available inside the water park along with locker rentals for $15 per day.

3. A Life-Sized Gingerbread House You Can Dine Inside

Inside the Grand Lobby is where you will find a life-sized gingerbread house—the centerpiece of Great Wolf Lodge’s Snowland celebration. Constructed by Great Wolf Lodge’s culinary team, the delectable house is made from more than 600 pounds of gingerbread dough, 1,300 pounds of sugar and hundreds (and hundreds!) of candies. With incredibly detailed gingerbread walls, candy trim and heaps of white icing snow, this ah-mazing house is what candy-filled dreams are made of. The best part? With a $10 donation to the Ronald McDonald House, you and your crew of gingerbread boys and girls can dine inside the house for breakfast, lunch or dinner! How sweet is that?

4. Visits with Santa & Mrs. Claus

If you’ve been meaning to get to the mall to see Santa, but just haven’t had the chance, you’ll be happy to know that another perk of visiting Great Wolf Loge during the holiday season is that Santa and Mrs. Claus make weekend visits (Fri.-Sun.) to good little boys and girls staying at the Great Wolf Lodge. Before Santa makes his evening visit, kids can stop by his Letter Depot and write out their Christmas wish lists and drop them in his official mailbox. Then, when the big guy in red shows up, grab your camera and check Santa photos off your holiday to-do list. It’s that easy! Psst…pictures are complimentary, but BYOC (bring your own camera).

photo: Great Wolf Lodge

5. Earn a Degree From the North Pole University

Did you know that the North Pole University is currently enrolling for its winter 2018-2019 snow-mester? All wolf pups who visit Great Wolf Lodge during the Snowland celebration can complete a variety of holiday-themed activities and earn their official Snowploma from the North Pole University. Kids who receive their Snowploma will also receive a limited-edition Rowdy the Reindeer trading card they can only get during Snowland. Psst… during the howliday season, many of Great Wolf Lodge’s ongoing children’s activities such as the Great  Clock Tower Show, Story Time, Yoga Tails and Paws on Projects also get a dash of Christmas cheer, giving you four more reasons to book a Snowland experience.

6. Snow Showers and Story Times and Snow ‘N’ Glow Dance Parties. Oh, My!

It may be 84 degrees inside the water park, but that doesn’t mean it can’t snow inside the Great Wolf Lodge. With a little bit of Snowland “magic” and some pretty awesome technology, each night during the Great Clock Tower Show (7 p.m., 8 p.m. & 9 p.m.), families can watch the snow fall in the Grand Lobby as everyone sings “Let It Snow.” Psst…if you live in a climate that rarely sees snow during the wintertime, get ready to watch your kids’ eyes light up with delight!

During the Snowland season, families can also enjoy a special howliday story time with Wiley the Wolf and one of Santa’s special helpers. After the Great Clock Tower Show, find a seat next to fireplace and settle in for a sweet holiday story told with a Great Wolf Lodge twist. Then, get ready for the big Snowland event of the evening—a Snow ‘N’ Glow Dance Party! With the house lights dimmed and the party lights going, you and your crew can shake your tail feathers to a set of Top 40 tunes along with a few holiday hits thrown in for good measure (think: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”) before ending the party with everyone’s favorite song from Frozen. It’s the perfect way to cap off your Snowland celebration and an easy way to tire out your wolf pups.

7. Swim, Splash & Slide at the Massive Water Park

Great Wolf Lodge has several signature attractions that you and your kids will absolutely love! The most popular attraction is Fort Mackenzie, a four-story, 12-level, interactive water fort that boasts suspension bridges, cargo nets, web crawls, more than 60 guest-activated water effects and a nearly 1,000-gallon tipping water bucket. Slap Tail Pond, a gigantic wave pool filled with more than 112,000 gallons of water and artificially generated large waves, is also another top attraction you must hit. Each Great Wolf Lodge property also boasts a plethora of toddler water features, and, of course, the River Canyon Run, a family raft ride with a raft elevator that does the heavy lifting for you.

Families with kids of different ages will love the variety found inside each Great Wolf Lodge water park. The play areas feature climbing structures, pools, several water slides and inner tube tunnels along with super-fast thrill rides for more daring water enthusiasts. For the laid-back members of your pack, the Crooked Creek lazy river is where it’s all about floating around on an inner tube. And for littlest fish in your crew, who only want to get their toes wet, Cub Paw’s zero-depth entry children’s pool is where they will find delight.

Good to know: Safety reigns supreme at Great Wolf Lodge. Lifeguards are everywhere and there’s a variety of different sized life jackets available at no extra charge. You’ll find the life jackets stationed at a kiosk between the two large pools as well as complimentary clean towels in the pool area. Water park access is available at 1 p.m. on the day of your arrival, even if you’re not able to check into your room until 4 p.m. Plus, you can stay at the water park until closing, after you check out of your room.

8. MagiQuest

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, parents—there’s very little screen time and kids will get tons of exercise wandering the hotel, going up and down the stairs and battling dragons. Start your Quest at the MagiQuest store where you can procure a wand and declare your Quest name. Throughout the first and second floors, you’ll find your wands react with many of the hotel’s features and stations (called portals). Psst…if you find yourself heading to a different Great Wolf Lodge location, be sure to bring along your wand. It will work at any Great Wolf Lodge location!

Good to know: If your kids are too little for MagiQuest, or if you’re short on time, you can buy and activate a wand at the MagiQuest store, and then let your kids go around and point at the different interactive elements throughout the hotel. The wand will make squirrels teeter-totter, raccoons swing, bear rug eyes light up, treasure boxes open and sparkle and pictures on walls speak.

photo: Great Wolf Lodge

9. Sweet Treats & Eats Around Every Corner

Great Wolf Lodge makes it super-easy for families to park their rears and not have to leave the property for anything, including food. There are several restaurants, snack shacks and treat shops around the main lobby and in the pool area. If your family is a crew of big breakfast eaters, be sure to hit the breakfast buffet at The Loose Moose Cottage at least once during your stay. Here, you’ll find everything from fruit, yogurt and cereal to pastries, bacon, waffles and eggs cooked to order. Got a sweet tooth or need an afternoon pick-me-up? Swing by Bear Paw Sweets & Eats for freshly brewed coffees, espressos and lattes as well as fresh-baked pastries and cupcakes, ice cream and delectable lodge-crafted fudge. For families who love Italian food, you can’t go wrong with a Brooklyn style, hand-stretched pizza, savory Italian and meatball Parmesan sandwich, garlic cheese bread or freshly made salads at Hungry As A Wolf.

10. Paw Passes Take the Guesswork Out of What to Do

In addition to the full-scale water park and complimentary daily Snowland activities, the Great Wolf Lodge offers a variety of activities that can be done a la carte or as part of a package. The Paw Pass ($79.99), for example, comes with a lanyard to be worn by each child and a list of activities and experiences each Paw Pass holder is entitled to during his or her stay. By purchasing a pass, you will not only save 40% off the price of adding the same items a la carte, but you’ll take the guesswork out of figuring out which activities your kids should participate in during your stay. As a bonus, you’ll also walk away with several quality souvenirs, like a MagiQuest wand, a personalized leather bracelet and a stuffed animal, and hopefully avoid any extra trips to gift shop on your way out.

Snowland Dates: Nov. 24, 2018—Jan. 4, 2019

Online: greatwolf.com/snowland

—Kristina Moy (all photos courtesy of the writer unless otherwise noted)

This trip was paid for by Great Wolf Lodge, but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.

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