Our family was invited to Great Wolf Lodge along with a handful of other families for their media weekend and walked into a winter wonderland. (Disclosure: GWL hosted our family for the weekend but I was not compensated for this post.) The lobby was completely decked out with holiday lights and greenery and the giant roaring fire that never ceased gave the place a cozy feel despite its enormity.
We checked into our room and spent all of 10 minutes unpacking before we set out on a quick walking tour of the lodge before dinner. It became very clear very quickly that there was going to be no shortage of things for us to do during our brief stay. We practically had to drag Chase along on the tour because he was captivated by every last thing but we managed to sit down for a quick bite to eat at the media welcome dinner at the Lodge Wood Fired Grill and concluded our meal with decorate-your-own sugar cookies and s’mores.
As we left, we walked right into the Hustle and Howl dance party happening in the lobby and Chase practically sprinted into the middle of the action. It was so cute to watch him attempt the Cupid Shuffle because he was blissfully unaware of his lack of choreographic knowledge. Ryan, Ryder and I couldn’t resist joining in (I had Ryder in my baby carrier) and I loved seeing so many families let loose and just be goofy with their children.
We made it up to our room a little before 8 p.m. and Ryder was clearly ready for bed, so I hung back to nurse him and settle him in for the night while Ryan and Chase changed into their pajamas and headed back down to the lobby for story time and pictures with Santa. I had Ryder snoozing in his pack ‘n’ play by the time they returned and listening to Chase attempt to whisper everything that he just saw to me — Santa! A moose character! Snow! — was so adorable.
Our family fun got put on pause from about 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. because we admittedly had a bit of a rough night. Ryder was very restless which woke Chase up and while Chase was thankfully not cranky, he kept thinking it was morning and wanted to “help” me with Baby Ryder which got Ryder all the more awake. Couple that with Ryan having a coughing fit he couldn’t kick and I was quickly reminded why people call time away with kids “trips” and not “vacations.”
Our whole crew was awake a little after 6 a.m. and somehow the buzz around the lodge helped energize us along with some much-needed coffee. I had a media breakfast and tour of the property on the books first thing in the morning, so I said goodbye to Ryan and the boys as they were digging into doughnuts and headed off to meet up with our group.
We kicked things off with quiche and yogurt parfaits (so good!) before we learned a little bit about the lodge’s history and other locations. I had actually never heard of Great Wolf Lodge before we moved to the Charlotte area (the Concord location where we stayed is about 40 minutes from our house and people in our area seem to go all the time for staycations), and I was surprised to learn that they have nearly 20 locations.
Once we were all acquainted and our tour was complete, we had free time with our families and I met back up with Ryan and the boys and we immediately headed to the water park.
The water park is HUGE and admittedly our kids were too young to really take advantage of all the water park has to offer but Chase had a BLAST and didn’t care one bit about the giant water slides and tube slides he was too little to ride. (The Explore by Age tool on their website gives you a good idea what activities might be appropriate for children of certain ages.) We saw a lot of large families and big groups at the lodge and traveling with a whole crew of people makes a lot of sense to me since it would give parents a little more flexibility to swap watching each other’s kids so Mom and Dad could take advantage of some of the bigger, faster water slides, too.
Even though we couldn’t experience the entirety of the water park, the parts that were three-year-old friendly were perfect for Chase. He was 100 percent obsessed with the jet ski in the Cub Paw Pool and when I say he didn’t leave that thing for 45 minutes (other than for brief moments when another kid approached for a turn), I’m not lying. It was the hit of the water park for him!
We also made sure to pack some swim trunks for Ryder so he could get in on the water fun!
He was a little skeptical at first…
But quickly started kicking and splashing.
He loves bath time at home, so we had a feeling the water park would be right up his alley!
The biggest shock of the day for me was the moment when Ryan and Chase headed up to the top of the water fort tree house and Chase came down the big orange water slide all by himself.
I was surprised he was brave enough to attempt such a giant slide but he acted like it was no big thing and then asked to go ride his jet ski again. Ha!
After several hours at the water park, we were all hungry so we headed up to our room to change into dry clothes. Pizza sounded good to all of us so we ordered a large cheese pizza and a family-size salad to share and brought it up to the large sitting area outside the elevators on the fourth floor for a lunchtime family picnic. With full bellies, we were ready for our next adventure which included plenty of time at the arcade and the miniature bowling alley.
(In case you are wondering, yes, Chase is wearing slippers. One of the BEST things about Great Wolf Lodge was the casual anything-goes dress code. We saw kids and parents in holiday pajamas all day long and swimwear and cozy loungewear was the norm. I wasn’t sure what to pack so if a trip to GWL is on your radar, know that comfy and casual is the way to go!)
I loved that the arcade had a lot of decent prizes for not a lot of tickets so we we re able to walk away with a few small toys for Chase — a small whale shark and a snake — without feeling like we needed to spend hours in front of the games to win anything. Ryan and I may have had a little too much fun at the wack-a-mole game and felt our competitive sides come out a bit. I swear I am the least competitive person on the planet in most aspects of life but when it comes to games (mostly board games), I feel that fire emerge!
When we looked at the time and saw it was only 3 p.m. Ryan and I had to laugh because we felt like we had already lived 5 days in one short morning. Great Wolf Lodge is heaven for kids but man oh man it’s stimulation overload at the same time! I was shocked Chase wasn’t ready to conk out in our room but he was fired up and ready for more fun so we activated our wands and spent the rest of the afternoon on various quests thanks to Great Wolf Lodge’s MagiQuest.
Ryan and I were both unfamiliar with MagiQuest before our stay at GWL, but it’s basically one part video game, one part scavenger hunt and one part fantasy! You first choose a wand to activate and then pick your magic name and run all around the lodge searching for crystals, jewels and other odds and ends on your quest as you try to accumulate various runes. It honestly didn’t appeal to me at all at first but Ryan and Chase were all about it, so we got two wands and then quickly realized that despite Chase’s young age, he was REALLY into searching out crystals and even more into pointing his wand at various things to see if they would light up. We completed three quests that took us up and down and all around three floors of the lodge and left us totally wiped!
We headed back to our room to refuel with some snacks and relax for a bit (and catch some of the UCF game — Go Knights!!!) and about an hour later a knock on the door came from Oliver the raccoon with a special delivery of milk and cookies!
Such a sweet surprise!
The rest of our time at Great Wolf Lodge included revisiting some of our favorite activities from earlier in our stay — the Hustle and Howl dance party and story time in the lobby — before it was time for us to head home.
In case you are wondering how long it took for our boys to fall asleep in their car seats, the answer would be less than five minutes. They were wiped but clearly had the best time! Thank you so much to Great Wolf Lodge for such a memorable experience!!