Howlin’ good times are within reach as Great Wolf Lodge brought their signature brand of fun to Gurnee. After more than a year of renovations on a pre-existing structure, they’re ready to show Chicago we can have Wisconsin-Dells-level adventures in our own back yard. Read on to learn why you’ll want to add this newcomer to your Summer 2018 to-dos.
photo: Chance the Rapper opening the new Great Wolf Lodge
They’re Big Time Do-Gooders
Great Wolf Lodge is already making an impact on Chicago youth with the inclusion of summer campers from Chance the Rapper’s non-profit Kids of the Kingdom in their opening. Kids of the Kingdom is presented by Chance’s non-profit SocialWorks, which aims to empower kids through the arts, education and civic engagement while fostering leadership, accessibility and positivity. As part of the celebration, Great Wolf challenged Chance the Rapper and the campers to test ride all 15 slides within the water park, with Great Wolf donating $5,000 for each slide conquered. This mean an impressive donation of $75,000 to fund next year’s programming.
photo: courtesy of Maria Chambers
Let’s be honest, the real thrill for kids when it comes to Great Wolf Lodge is the pools . . . and the 80,000-square-foot indoor pool and outdoor pool with cabana area has no chance of disappointing. This signature attraction at every Great Wolf Lodge includes Fort Mackenzie, a multi-level interactive water fort treehouse with a massive tipping water bucket, Crooked Creek winding lazy river, Slap Tail Pond wave pool, toddler water features, and the River Canyon Run, which is a 476-foot-long family raft ride with a raft elevator that does all the heavy lifting for you.
Good to know: Great Wolf Lodge pools are open exclusively to guests staying at the resort. This means the chances for crowded pools and long lines diminish significantly. If you’re staying at the resort and you have a guest pop in for the day, extra wristbands are available for $50.
We’d say Great Wolf’s strong suit is catering to a large age range. In addition to the water play, they feature a variety of entertainment options including Great Wolf Adventure Park, a full-service family entertainment center featuring the Howlers Peak Ropes Course, Ten Paw Alley family bowling, Howl in One mini golf, 24-hour Northern Lights Arcade, and Rustic Ridge, a multi-story rock wall. For those that like their fun to include a bit of thinking and intrigue, they’ll dig MaqiQuest, the brand’s exclusive live-action adventure game where guests scour the resort using magic wands to uncover relics and runes needed to defeat dragons and goblins.
As soon as the kids roll out of bed, they can find their inner zen at Yoga Tails or become an expert on Northwood’s animals during Wolf Walk and at lunch, the fun continues with balloon twisting and face painting. Throughout the day, the kids can break from pool time to listen in on storytime, smile for photo opps during character visits and welcome the moon with a dance party.
Good to know: On arrival day, you have access to all resort facilities beginning at 1 p.m. and all day on checkout day. If you’re not a guest, but want to come to play, all amenities outside of the pool are open to the public.
You’ll be having so much fun exploring the resort, you’ll hardly want to spend time in your room. But, when you need to recharge for another day of keeping up with the kids, Great Wolf Lodge makes sure you have a pretty sweet space to lay your head. The most popular option for families is the Themed Deluxe Wolf Den Suite suitable for up to 6 guests with queen bed, cave-themed sleeping area with bunkbed and tv, and a full-size sleeper sofa.
For larger wolf packs, they have premium suite options available that sleep up to 12 guests.
Good to know: All rooms have mini-fridges and microwaves, which is nice for milk storage or wine chilling. Pack ‘n Play cribs are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and can be reserved by clicking “Pack ‘n Play” on the Reservation page.
Trust us on this one, you have zero chance of going hungry with 8 dining options. Well, 9 if you count Great Wolf Candy Company as dining . . . as we do. No need to leave the pool when you feel hunger strike, as Buckets Incredible Craveables offers a poolside picnic with premium burgers, hearty sandwiches and fresh salads and vegetables. Or, go all in with the Tipping Bucket, a family-sized treat layered with ice cream, brownies, cookies, candy, chocolate sauce and whipped cream! The other options range from all-day buffet service that rotates based on time of day, to a repurposed bus serving up quesadillas, nachos and tacos.
The real gem, however, is Barnwood. Situated in the lobby, Great Wolf Lodge is positioning the all-new Barnwood to be a desired destination whether you’re a guest at the resort or neighbor in town. The farm-to-fork, locally driven concept will feature small, shareable plates in a rustic setting. A must-eat on the menu: the pimento cheese.
Good to know: Great Wolf Lodge does not serve or cook with peanut or tree nut products. Be sure to have a credit card on file and all food devoured during your stay can be charged back to your room. No need to cruise the resort with cash or plastic in hand.
Focus on Safety
While all kids under the age of 18 are required to have their parents in tow at all times, Great Wolf Lodge has your back with rigorously trained lifeguards constantly scanning the pool. Each lifeguard goes through hours of training, participates in regular drills that provide simulated real-life experience and is subjected to audits from an independent contractor to test their performance and vigilance.
Good to know: Great Wolf requests that you always have your own child within arms reach and if they’re in the pool, you should be as well. For those still developing their fins, life jackets are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and you’re welcome to bring your own. Inflatable toys and rafts are not allowed in the water areas.
What are you waiting on? Dive on in!
— Maria Chambers
Photos provided by Great Wolf Lodge, unless otherwise noted.