If you’re looking for a holiday trip that’s nearby but feels like a storybook world away, it’s time to make a reservation at Snowland at the Great Wolf Lodge. Pack up the kids, pjs, swimsuits and wizard capes and point the car north for a smile-inducing, festive and active holiday vay-cay the family will be talking about all year long. Here’s the inside scoop on what we discovered when we checked out ourselves.
photo: Suzie Ridgway
It’s Snowland time at Great Wolf Lodge and that means everything is decked out for the holidays, from special family suites to Santa visits. You see it as soon as you enter the lobby: huge snowflakes suspended from the ceiling, cascading white lights, sparkling holiday trees and green garlands all greet you. Periodically throughout the day, the lobby is also filled with indoor snowflakes (aka bubbles) falling from the ceiling.
On the other side of the lobby’s Clock Tower, Santa is perched and ready for his close-up. You can’t miss him: he’s next to a life-size gingerbread house made from real gingerbread. If you make a donation to the Ronald McDonald House, your family can eat dinner sitting at the table inside the house. Kids can also visit Santa’s letter writing depot to write a letter to Santa and mail it in his official mailbox in the grand lobby.
As part of this festive experience, many of the guest rooms are specially decorated with white christmas trees with blue ornaments, swags of green garland draped over headboards and curtain rods, along with a special snowflake bedding throw and shower curtain. A story book, Unique as a Snowflake, and soft, fleece blanket are under the tree, waiting for you to take them home. Last, but not least, the staff will quietly let you know at check-in what time that night a Great Wolf Kids character will be showing up at your door to deliver milk and cookies. Just ask for a Snowland Suite when you make your reservations.
photo: Great Wolf Lodge via Yelp
Indoor Water Park
The water park is undoubtedly the main attraction at the lodge and is perfect for families and friends with a variety of ages, from babies to teens. The room is kept at a balmy 84 degrees. There’s an enormous wave pool with churning waves that goes from zero depth to 5-feet. Get ready for the waves to begin when you hear the wolves howling! A second large pool provides basketball hoops, floating animals to climb on and a rope challenge course. For the brave-hearted, the Howlin’ Tornado, River Canyon Run and Alberta Falls slides wait for riders with two and four-person rafts.
For babies, toddlers and preschoolers, there’s a zero depth, dump bucket area with fountains, a couple of crawl-around forts, slides and water shooters that they can sit on like motorcycles. The red and yellow slides, Totem Towers, on the climbing structure, Fort Mackenzie, provide enough fun for kids who are done with the toddler slides, but not quite ready for the big ones. Watch out when you hear the cowbell ringing, it means gallons of water are about to come rushing to the floor below from a giant Great Wolf Lodge bucket on the top of the fort.
Safety reigns supreme here. Lifeguards are everywhere and there’s a variety of different sized life jackets available at no extra charge are stationed at a kiosk between the two large pools. Clean towels are also provided in the pool area at no extra charge.
photo: Jen K. via Yelp
There’s something magical indeed about letting your kids roam around, getting exercise while hunting for clues with their magic wands. If they’re old enough to find their way back to you, you can let them roam on their own. Head to the MagiQuest store on the lower level to select and activate your wand. The staff will also give you a book on how to get started and what you’re looking for throughout the exploratory journey. The first clue hunt, MagiQuest, will take questers on a walk for a total of over 10 miles and 60 flights of stairs throughout the resort. The Shadow Quest hunt, the second hunt, is to be done on your next trip. Insider tip: try not to reserve a room near a stairwell! Kids are constantly running up and down them, starting as early as 8:15 a.m. and late into the evening.
If your kiddo is too little for the quests, or if you’re short on time, you can just buy and activate a wand at the MagiQuest store, and go around pointing at stuff throughout the lodge. The wand will make squirrels teeter-totter, raccoons swing, bear rug eyes light up, treasure boxes sparkle and pictures on walls to speak.
photo: Suzie Ridgway
The lodge is great in the fact that activities 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. On the back, is a list of exactly what they can get on the back of the pass. In addition to saving 42% off the price of adding the same items a la carte, they’re also high on the easiness factor, which we love, because it takes the the guesswork out of figuring out which activities to do. As a bonus, you walk away with enough quality souvenirs, like a wand, a personalized leather bracelet and a stuffed animal, to name a few, to keep you out of the gift shop on your way out. Possibly. See a list of Packages here.
photo: Suzie Ridgway
Kids’ Spa and Arcade
As if all of the other fun wasn’t enough, there’s also a kids’ spa, Scoops, where you sit on ice cream sundae benches and get manicures, pedicures and mud masks. There’s also a the Northern Lights Arcade that rewards kids with tickets to redeem.
The lodge is a like an enormous island unto itself, meaning that you don’t need to go off the property for anything, including food. There are several restaurants, snack shacks and treat shops around the main lobby, upstairs and in the pool area. Be sure to buy the breakfast buffet at The Loose Moose Cottage at least once on your trip. It’s totally worth it for even the pickiest of eaters and includes everything from fruit, yogurt, cereal and pastries to bacon, waffles and eggs cooked to order. If you need a restroom, there are none in the two main restaurants, but there are airport-sized ones just off the main floor lobby, just after Starbucks.
photo: Great Wolf Lodge
Making travel even more convenient, Great Wolf Lodge just added the Diaper Den program for guests with babies. Just ask for a Pack ‘n’ Play when you book your room and the staff will proactively place a Diaper Genie in your room to keep that distinctive diaper smell at bay. They’ll even give you a voucher for a free swim diaper for the pool.
When you check in, each adult will receive a wristband that acts as their water park pass, room key and room charge card all in one. Kids will receive a wristband that only gets them into the water park, but they also get fuzzy wolf ears to wear.
Included in your stay is access to the water park, fitness center, unlimited WiFi, Great Clock Tower and evening Story Time. The Great Clock Tower friends come to life periodically throughout the day, providing stories and songs about the northwest. PJ story time also happens each evening, in the same spot just off the grand lobby, near the massive fireplace.
photo: Great Wolf Lodge via Yelp
Water park access is available at 1 p.m. on the day you check into your room, even if you’re not able to get into your room until 4 p.m. And you can stay all day at the water park until 9 p.m. after you check out of your room.
Got leftovers, snacks or mimosa fixins? There’s a mini fridge, microwave and coffee maker in the room. Also, there’s an in-room recycling bin, as well as a trash can.
Check the website for discounts on rooms and activities.
Snowland runs now through January 3rd.
Rooms start at $299.99/night.
Great Wolf Lodge
20500 Old Hwy. 99
Have you checked out Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge? What did you think? Tell us in the comments!