When you live in southern Ontario and you have kids, a weekend visit to Great Wolf Lodge is pretty much mandatory. When your schedule is packed and you only have a few weekends free as a family to take a short trip, it’s also sensible.
So we packed up our brood to the rather short haul from Toronto to the lodge in Niagara Falls. Since we often spend time in the area, we were familiar with the faux-rustic looking, massive hotel from the road. And my kids had heard all about the fantastic water park from dozens of friends. Now it was our turn.
The first thing you notice — beyond all the wood and fake lodge furnishings — is the price. Ouch. A mere night’s stay is in the vicinity of $300, depending when you book and if you score a deal or not. (The lodge is very favourable to those who stay for more than one night and offers discounts for two-night stays, and not many deals exist for just one.) At check in, we were offered an all-inclusive meal deal. Did the math on the spot and while I hated to fork over more cash, the idea of having all our meals covered was appealing.
And then, the charming gal at the front desk charmed me into a Paw Pass, a $65 affair that offered all sorts of perks such as some arcade games, a free stuffie and a the equipment for the coveted MagiQuest game. Most alluringly, late check out, which would allow us to visit the water park on day two and not have to stuff our things in a crappy deckside locker, but have a sensible, private shower before we went home. And, of course, a late check out on its own is half the price of the pass. Suckered. Sold.
To save money on Great Wolf Lodge, check Groupon.com for deals before you go. They often have passes, with savings up to 35% off! There are likely deals to be had for a Great Wolf Lodge in your area. Savings here, splurge there. 😉
But that was the end of the money issue. Did not reach my hand into my wallet for the rest of the trip, I have to say. Instead, once you pay up at the front desk, the rest of the weekend is for pure and total relaxation and fun.
The Water Park
First stop: the water park. All you need to do is find an obscure chair that no one else has claimed and toss your towels, cover-ups and flip-flops there and you’re off to play where you will. For us, that meant a lot of visits to the lazy river, via floating or, as my daughter and I discovered, swimming it on your own is fun too. We did the medium sized water slides about a million times.
My son, who’s 10, decided he’d like to go for the big slides at one point. My daughter, seven, was only tall enough for the Canada Vortex. We braved the somewhat long line-up (it was Saturday afternoon and the lines were pretty long but dwindled a lot by the dinner hour) and grabbed our rafts (you can fit two per raft for this ride) and went for it. The ride actually involves, at one point, a straight drop in utter darkness. I screamed my head off, it was terrifying. When we emerged into the light and I saw my daughter’s face, covered with a look of complete and total horror, I realized we’d gone too far. Yep, rest of the trip, was on the kiddie-sized rides.
Food and Dining
Then, off to the all-you-can-eat, prepaid meal at the lodge restaurant. That involved going to the hostess station, being sat down, given drinks and serving ourselves. There was a lot, lot, lot of choice. Like the kind of choice where your plate is full and you’re pondering fitting in more beets and some chef comes out and starts carving a roast and handing out forkfuls. After we ate, we tried out the MagiQuest game, which involves a treasure hunt-style game at over a few floors at the central part of the lodge. You use the wand they give you to tap at screens and artworks and you “collect” the artifacts you need to complete the quest.
In fact, the layout of the lodge itself is part of its genius. The restaurant, gift shop, water park, arcade and everything else are located over a four floors at the central hub. The rooms are located on wings extending out from there. Although our room was at one of the farthest wings, using the stairs (or the elevator, which we always avoided because it was packed and not really necessary) we could zip back there within minutes to get what we needed, and converge back in the main part of the hotel to start our next adventure.
We visited the water park twice, had our turn at the arcade, skimmed through the gift shop without spending any money (amazing!) and had two truly delicious meals at the main restaurant, plus a to go lunch (included in our meal plan) at its takeout café.
Didn’t sweat a bit. Spent the whole weekend hand-in-hand with one family member or more. A pricey, but easy and very rewarding weekend. Would we go again? For sure.
Guest Article Submitted by:
Diane Peters ~ Toronto, Ontario
July 14, 2014