Looking for a quick, local getaway that doubles as kid-paradise? The Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington is a short 1.5 hour drive south of Seattle (or, one Toy Story viewing in the backseat). The Green Seal-Certified resort features kid-centered rooms (some with camping theme bunk-beds), a full sized water park, a spa (for kids and adults), a sweet shop, an arcade, a kids club, a “Magiquest” game and a nightly performance.

Your wrist band is your entrance to the water park (only hotel guests can use the water park), but it also is activated to swipe as your key card as well as your credit card (for purchases throughout the resort while wet and without your wallet). The water park features a small outdoor section with a hot tub and splash park.  The inside features a kiddie pool/section, a wave pool, water slides, inner tube rides, and a deep pool (with basketball hoops).

Pack your PJs, slippers, a blankie and stuffed animal and head to the lobby at 8:00pm for the nightly show (involving animated trees, animals, and people). After the show, a GWL worker reads a story (with lots of stomping, clapping, and howling) along with one of the costumed mascots. There is a photo opportunity for all kids who want one.

Take your tuckered little comrades back to the room where they will fall deep into an exhausted slumber. Get yourself ready for your 2nd day as you have to check-out at 11am, but can use the water park until closing (9pm). On your way home, grab a Blizzard at the DQ down the street to cap off your kid-centric mini-vacation while the kids thank you profusely for the best day ever (or whine profusely about not wanting to leave).

Insider Tips:

  • The two-room suite (aka Grizzly Bear Suite) is a perfect way to share the cost with another family and be able to put the kids to bed and still stay up and watch a movie or TV. While there are TV’s in every room (with gaming devices too),  the TV’s don’t have DVD players and the movies to rent through the TV’s are pretty pricey-$14).
  • Guest rooms come with a microwave, sink, counter, fridge, coffee maker, and even a recycling bin (part of Project Green Wolf)!  This makes bottle making, storing drinks, and having healthy snacks on-hand easier for parents.
  • There is a Starbucks in the lobby, however, it doesn’t have breakfast sandwiches or a toaster. They do have oatmeal.
  • The hotel doesn’t have room service, but you can call in a pizza order and pick it up in the hotel restaurant or there are other pizzeria’s that deliver there. If your kiddos aren’t excited about the hotel food, you are only 4 miles from Centralia and 1 mile from Dick’s–a deli and brewery where they make their own beers and deli meats
  • You can’t bring food into the water park section of the resort, but you can buy some there. There are no high chairs in the water park area, so a stroller would be your best option for your littlest ones.
  • Leave your life jackets at home–they have plenty.
  • Measure your little ones as they have to be 42” tall to ride all but one of the inner tube rides (the 4th ride you have to be over 48”).  If you have more than one child along on the trip, who span the “can” and “cannot” ride height requirement, be prepared to bring another adult to split your time (or better yet, bring another family). The “Howling Tornado”, has a height restriction of 48 inches and can accommodate up to 4 people. This ride is the real deal!
  • The center of the park has a large water bucket which fills every minute or two and dumps over. Keep small kids away as it’s pretty intense (you can easily navigate around this feature). The two water slides in this area do not have a height limit, but there is a strict “one person only” rule on these.  Kids will need to wait at the bottom for mom or dad to join them or you’ll want to stage one adult at the bottom.
  • You can check-in at 4:00pm, but you’re welcome to use the water park beginning at 1:00pm, so pack a bag with separate swim gear so you can use the park early…the kids will be raring to go!  The lines are longest around this time of day (for check-in).  On your last day, check-out is 11am, but you may use the water park until closing (9pm).
  • The website frequently offers discounts on rooms. If you can make it work on a weekday, you’ll save about half from a weekend stay.

-Joia Poort

Photo Credit: Jenn K Via Flickr