It’s spring break for us here in Kentucky. Both of the kids have been in swim classes since August, so we decided to take a trip to Great Wolf Lodge to put those skills to use. It was our first time, so I asked for tips over on Instagram before our trip. My friends were so helpful and we definitely learned a lot. If you’re considering a trip too, here are my best Great Wolf Lodge Tips!
Length of Stay
We stayed two nights and were able to play for 3 days, which felt like the perfect amount. Even though check-in is 4pm, you can arrive early and start using the waterpark at 1pm. You can also stay and play the entire day of checkout too. We opted to pay for late checkout (2pm instead of 11am), just to make that last morning a little easier.
Day 1: When we checked in at 1pm to get our water park bands, we were surprised to find out our room was ready. That was a nice surprise. We quickly changed into our swim gear and played in the water until dinner. While we were waiting for our table, we played a game of free BINGO in the lobby. After dinner, we did MagiQuest (more on that below).
Day 2: We slept in, which was nice! Then we headed to the breakfast buffet. The pool opens at 10:00am, so we headed down around 9:45am to get in line. There are a super limited number of tables and a limited number of chairs, so it’s helpful to get there early if you want a spot to store your stuff and snack later. We played for several hours and ate lunch at the pool.
We took a break in the middle of the day for Charlotte to take a nap. After Carter had a short rest, Ryan took him to play more MagiQuest while Charlotte slept. We also did some of the free lobby activities.
After nap, we headed back to the pool until closing time (ate dinner poolside again). Carter played more MagiQuest before bed.
Day 3: We slept in again and then had breakfast at the buffet. We took advantage of late checkout to play longer at the pool. We took lunch up to the room around 1pm to eat and get cleaned up before checkout. After checkout, we stayed to play MagiQuest so Carter could finish his last adventure. We left around 3pm.
We actually booked our trip back in December because you get a better price when you plan at least 90 days ahead. Weekdays are also cheaper than weekends. Always check for coupon codes and package deals too! There’s a “Howling Heroes” discount for medical, military, first responders, etc. but you can’t combine it with other offers, so try it both ways. In our case we were able to grab 50% off with a two night stay. Then they give you a best price guarantee, so you don’t have to worry about waiting to get the best deal.
We got the “kid camp” room with a bunk beds for the kids in their own little room (no door). Ryan and I had a queen bed on the other side of this wall. The sofa also pulled out into a full bed if needed. The room felt spacious and it also had a fridge and microwave, which is nice!
Food + Meal Plans
I debated what to do for meals. They offer meal plans for breakfast, breakfast/lunch, and breakfast/lunch/dinner, but you have to buy those in advance of your stay. I wasn’t sure if we’d eat all meals there, if the food would be good, or if the meal plans were actually the best price.
After asking around, the general consensus was to go for the meal plan. It was $35/day for Ryan, Carter, and me to get the meal plan (Charlotte eats free since she’s 2, so they add a little extra money to the meal card for her). This means we spent $210 on the meal plan. Our meal card was loaded with $240 to include Charlotte’s free food AND we got breakfast buffet vouchers for everyone both mornings.
We ended up having extra money left on our card to grab to go snacks on the way out, so it was a good deal for us!
The food was hit or miss in terms of quality.
- The pizza was great. We ate it twice.
- The pool chicken tenders and hot dogs were a hit.
- We made several visits to the sweet shop for cookies, brownies, and ice cream (vacation life!).
- The breakfast buffet had a lot of options and the food was fine.
- The nicer “wood fired grill” was a miss. We would skip that next time and ended up tossing our leftovers. It was also the most expensive.
If you’re looking to stretch your food money:
- We ordered pizza twice during our stay and took leftovers to our room to use with the fridge and microwave.
- They offer free refills on souvenir cups. You break even around 5 drinks per kid. Our kids don’t drink quite enough at this age, but we’d probably use those in the future. The second day we figured out to buy a 2-liter of lemonade for the same price of two fountain drinks (which don’t come with refills). Then we ran leftovers to our room to use with snacks throughout the rest of our stay.
- You can bring your food and the fridge/microwave make this even easier. I saw several families with small coolers in the pool area.
- You can also opt to eat outside of the resort. We decided to maximize our play time by just staying on location.
- If you don’t want to pack your own food or come/go for meals, the meal plan is for sure your best bet.
Add On Packages
This was my biggest question mark. You can add on a Pup, Paw, or Wolf pass for each kid. These are essentially activity bundles similar to meal plans. Since we hadn’t been before, I wasn’t sure how many activities we would do, or if the kids would just want to spend the whole time in the water.
Carter wanted to do the MagiQuest (more on that below), so the Paw Pass made sense for him. In addition to the MagiQuest items, he also got a scoop of ice cream, cup of bulk candy, $5 to the arcade, and swim goggles.
We opted not to do bowling, mini golf, or Build A Bear this trip. There were just so many things to do!
At night, the lodge will be covered with kids (and lots of adults, haha!) waving magic wands everywhere to play MagiQuest. Many of them will be in capes. The rest will probably be in PJs. It’s CRAZY busy!
Basically, you buy a wand and an optional wand topper. Then you get an ancient book of quests and adventures. You use these to go on scavenger hunts around the entire resort, waving your wand and interacting with books, chests, crystals, etc. It takes several hours to complete the entire game. Carter played each afternoon and evening, but we still had to finish up the last day after check out.
The game is active for the duration of your stay. You can save your wand for future trips and then just pay to reactivate it with more game time.
The family in front of us spent over $100 on wands, toppers, and games for two kids. The Paw or Wolf Pass makes it cheaper. We spent a few dollars to “upgrade” Carter’s wand because he wanted one that wasn’t standard (of course!).
Then there was a ceremony on the last day where Carter was knighted and received a completion certificate.
Charlotte wasn’t really big enough to play the game, but it was a great bonding experience for Ryan and Carter. I’m thankful another momma on Instagram tipped me off about the whole thing. She warned me Charlotte would want a wand (she did) but would be too little to understand the game (she was). I thought ahead and bought Charlotte a princess wand on Amazon for much less. We pulled it out after we bought Carter’s and she was thrilled with it. Much better buy for her and several people asked us where we got it because they hadn’t seen that one in the Magi Shop. 😉
Bonus Great Wolf Lodge Tips
- The water was best a few hours after opening and a few hours before closing. During the middle of the afternoon, it was most crowded and lines to slide were the longest. We timed our second day to eat an early dinner and close the pool down. That was perfect.
- Check the daily schedule for free activities. Crafts, dance parties, BINGO, character meetings, etc. are happening almost every hour.
- Request a room close to the center. Our room was exactly halfway around, making it the furthest option from the center lobby/stairs. It was a hike to and from everything, and we made a lot of trips back to the room between activities.
- Take your own towels. There are free towels in the waterpark, but your own towel or cozy coverup is nice to make it back to your room. The pool area is heated and warm, but it’s cold once you head back to your room.
- Pack cute PJs. Pretty much everyone is in swimsuits or PJs all day long.
- Download the app. You can text the front desk questions, which is helpful. You can also check hours, see daily events, and even order food in the app to skip the lines.
- Consider staying during the week for extra discounts.
- Pack a separate “pool bag” that you can use for playing before or after your official stay. Leave everything else in your trunk and enjoy bonus water park time with only your essentials.