It's a Vegas for kids.
We recently returned from a 24-hour escape to the Great Wolf Lodge Arizona, and it was amazingly fun-filled, action packed and utterly exhausting (in a good way, of course).
If you’re unfamiliar, Great Wolf Resorts is North America’s largest family of indoor waterpark destinations, but it’s so much more than being a wet and wild getaway. Here are 5 things to know when venturing to the hot spot for your pack of pups.
1. Plot your stay
Yes, the waterpark is the main lure to the Lodge, but oh… that's not all. When visiting Great Wolf, be strategic in planning your schedule.
Upon walking into the water park, you’ll be greeted with a huge water feature flaunting several slides, spray guns, rope swings and more. This area was enjoyed by my fearless preschooler, cautious middle child, and adventurous 8-year-old.
On the right-side of the indoor facility, lies a huge beach-entry wave pool. Every 10-15 minutes, you’ll hear a big HOWL, and when the wolf sounds, know the waves will go into action (it’s fun!). Towards the backend of the park is an enclosed toddler section with age-appropriate pools and slides, and the left side of the park is dedicated to the big kids: a handful of exhilarating waterslides, a lazy river, and pools with climbing features and games.
We spent a solid four hours in the waterpark and couldn’t tell who had more fun… the kids or my husband.
However, your Great Wolf experience doesn’t stop there.
When you check into the resort, take mental note of the day’s schedule, as there’s always something going on (dance parties, story time, games, etc). And then make a Lodge bucket list of things you want to do. This includes:
MagiQuest: My boys were obsessed with adventure, and honestly- it’s brilliant. Once you get your MagiQuest wand, you’ll be immersed in quite the endeavor- collecting points in fulfilling a live-action quest. This attraction gets kids running around the resort looking for treasures and glowing crystals.
Climbing Wall: The Lodge’s Rustic Ridge offers a 33-ft. climbing challenge for every age and skill level. Note: climbers must wear closed toe/heel shoes with rubber soles.
Ten Paw Alley: Bowling built for toddlers, teens, and tall ones alike. Shorter lanes and smaller bowling balls make this a perfect way to indulge in some friendly family competition. No special shoes required.
Mini Golf: Located in the heart of the Lodge, golf 9 holes of interactive play with plenty of sand traps, tricky shots, giant animals, and ball-eating fish. It's challenging for more skilled players, while still being easy for young putters.
Ropes Course: My oldest is obsessed! This invigorating aerial adventure will have you balancing on ropes, crossing bridges, and climbing through obstacles- all from the safety of a climbing harness. The high-flying fun will challenge your children in an adventurous manner, testing their stamina and boosting their confidence! Note: closed toed shoes required and height restrictions.
Arcade: The Northern Lights Arcade is packed with games and small rides. Play for tickets and cash them in for prizes. The best part, your Paw Points don’t expire so you can bring your card back for future visits.
2. Reserve the right room
Hotel check-in is at 4, but you can start using the park at one. If you plan on maximizing your time, arrive around 12:45 to avoid front desk lines. Upon check in, you’ll get your pre-purchased pass; your choice of the Pup Pass, Paw Pass, or Wolf Pass. Each pass grants you access to different things and perks (all including waterpark entry). Some passes have free ice cream, while others have credits to the arcade. Explore each pass to determine which best suits your family.
If you’re traveling with a large group, there are plenty of room accommodations to sleep everyone comfortably. The Wolf Den Suites are our fave because they come with themed walls and dens with bunk beds (SO cute). All rooms are nice and spacious.
Adults are given special wristbands that double as a room key and charge card; in other words, you can use your wristband to charge food/attractions to the room (quite hi-tech and very convenient!).
3. Pack and prep
What to pack… well, the obvious: bathing suits, water shoes, close-toed shoes, etc. And don’t forget fun pajamas! Why? Because there’s a nightly PJ dance party for kids (9pm). I got my kids matching wolf shirts, as many visitors get into the matchy-matchy thing.
Our room had a fridge, so I brought drinks and snacks for the room. (You’ll surely need some Truly to survive the night.) Surrender the fancy clothes and plan for nightly chill-wear… everything is very casual.
4. Explore happenings/events
There’s always something fun and seasonal happening at the Lodge.
Free activities often include:
Character appearances: Enjoy special appearances from Great Wolf Lodge’s Wiley the Wolf, Oliver Raccoon, Sammy the Squirrel, and other characters throughout the day. Be prepared to ask for autographs and photo-ops.
Arts & Crafts: Get creative with special arts & crafts activities including create your own button making, letters from camp postcards, friendship bracelet making, DIY bug jars and designing your own dream catchers.
YogaTails + Wolfercise: Stay fit with family-friendly fitness programming like yoga for kids and choreographed exercise classes.
5. Eat & Drink
There are a bunch of dining options at the Lodge including a sit-down restaurant, pizza parlor, buffet breakfast, Dunkin’ Donuts, candy shop, and Ben & Jerry’s. While I suggest keeping snacks in your room, you won’t go hungry eating out. Plus, inside the waterpark there are two places to order, sit and eat packed with burgers, tacos, chicken strips and nachos.
And as for adult beverages… you won’t go thirsty! The Great Wolf Lodge is incredibly understanding of parents who need sweet sippers. In the heart of the waterpark is a bar with delicious blended cocktails- you can also get beer or margaritas.