'Tis the season...to take your kids to an indoor water park! One of Trips + Giggles traveling moms, Katie T., has reported back on that time last Christmas when she took her two kids to the Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park and resort in the Poconos. Whether you're going in December or July, here's what to know before you go.
My family decided to take a long weekend getaway during the holidays to an indoor waterpark for the kids. We knew that trip would be geared toward their schedules and enjoyment rather than spa excursions for us. After researching a few different resorts and asking friends for recommendations, we decided on Great Wolf Lodge in Pocono Mountains, Penn. There have been similar resorts popping up along the Northeast, but we decided on Great Wolf Lodge primarily because of the age of our children (5 and 3) and this being our first time with them to a water park.
WHAT IS GREAT WOLF LODGE?
Great Wolf Lodge has over 15 resorts across the U.S. and Canada with the same branding, amenities, rooms and service. We noticed that kids of all ages were enjoying themselves at the resort, which isn’t just a waterpark. They have characters and storytime for the little ones, interactive quest games throughout the lodge for the younger kids and a challenging ropes course for old children and teenagers.
Booking our trip around the holidays wasn’t intentional but was such a welcome surprise when we arrived. The lobby was vibrantly decorated with Christmas trees, a mailbox for sending letters to Santa, a large gingerbread house used for private dining and multiple holiday activities for the kids throughout the three days of our stay.
We were warmly greeted by the staff, and both our kids received complimentary wolf ears at check-in. Parents, leave your fancy shoes, nice dresses and evening blazers at home for this trip. Pajamas and bathing suits are all that you’ll need. Although we didn’t rock pajamas outside our rooms, most of the guests stayed comfortable all day in their matching Christmas PJs or best bathing suit cover-ups. We forgot to pack our kids’ Christmas pajamas, but a quick trip to The Crossings Premium Outlets less than two miles down the road solved that dilemma and gave me a quick shopping fix.
All the “suites” come fully equipped with mini fridges, microwaves, coffee makers, hair dryers, safes and free WiFi. Upgrades are available for rooms with kid-friendly private alcoves, known as “wolf dens” or “kidkcamps” with bunk beds, a flat screen TV and colorful artwork to wow your little ones. We were originally booked in a standard suite but were upgraded at check-in by the friendly staff to a Wolf Den Suite, which gave us some privacy after the kids went to bed.
Our room also had a gas fireplace, private balcony and loads of space for the kids to spread out when we were in the room. The mini fridge was more like a full size, which allowed us to store all the necessary snacks and drinks we packed to have on hand. Although the room came with two complimentary bottles of Dasani water, I would recommend packing your own snacks and drinks to avoid outrageous prices on sodas, milk, juice and water as well as snacks. The lodge had a few places to purchase these items but at a premium.
The premier attraction here is the waterpark, which did not disappoint. The park had activities and pools for all different age groups from infants up to the “adult age children” racing down the waterslides on wake boards. The park provides complimentary life jackets and puddle jumpers in all sizes as well as complimentary towels, which helped decrease the amount of items we needed to pack. For children with disabilities, the park is fully accessible with lifts, ramps and plenty of staff on hand to assist.
This being our first time at a water park, we started in the toddler pool with smaller waterslides that my kids were able to go up and down without our assistance. The wave pool and lazy river were family favorites as well as the various splash zones throughout the waterpark. The larger slides (with and without rafts) were a thrill for all of us when the kids were more comfortable with the slides. Before your trip, be sure to start training by walking flights upon flights of stairs. I have to admit that I got quit winded a few times walking up 8+ flights of stairs carrying a double raft for me and my little one.
The benefit of Great Wolf Lodge is that it isn’t just a waterpark. There's so much more to do when water time is done. There's both an adult spa and a kid spa. (Sadly, we didn't have time to visit), a well-stocked arcade room, a candlepin bowling alley and even mini-golf. Our favorite part about it was all the activities throughout the day for our kids. We visited with Santa three times while we were there, heard wilderness tales during the various story times throughout the day, built a variety of holiday crafts and wrote letters to Santa that we mailed in the “Santa Mailbox” in the lobby.
The food at the lodge is definitely geared toward children. There are plenty of places and buffets for the little ones to chow down on pizza, fries and chicken fingers. The waterpark has a fast food service station inside allowing guests to purchase a quick lunch or simple dinner without leaving the waterpark. There is (thankfully) a full service bar in the waterpark, which comes in handy after an exhausting afternoon chasing after two children and climbing up multiple flights of steps with that heavy raft.
Our one complaint would be a better variety of food options with some upscale offerings or even room service to enjoy. But we were happy to stop at a local Wawa down the road to build our own sandwiches to store in the mini fridge.
Our kids loved this trip. They have been constantly asking us to go back again soon. It was enjoyable for my husband and I to see the excitement and fun they had over the three days. For the two of us, we were utterly exhausted from all the activity, but we knew going into the trip that it was a three-day excursion for us – it was for them.
Rates for the Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos start at around $300 a night for a standard room and $400 a night for a themed room like the Wolf Den. All rates include water park passes.
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