I spent a night at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA.
Now, before I left, I had done much reading of reviews and perusal of their site. I knew, much like going to Disneyland, I was to hand over my wallet at the door and let them tell me how much I should be left with.
I had a fantastic time.
Great Wolf Lodge is a place for kids: an oversized, indoor water park with a hotel and multiple eateries and shops attached. The catch is that you must stay the night in the hotel, you can’t go into the water park without a room for the night. I went, not as the typical nuclear family (2 adults, 1.7 kids), but as the typical single mom: 1 adult, 1 kid. This is important to note as it impacts how you operate within a water park (for example — you stake out your table and need to go to the lockers to retrieve something? You’re both going — there is no other parent to hold on to things.)
At a nominal average price of about $180-$200 for a night, depending on seasonality, you get:
1. Wristbands to let you in to the park. The adults get RFID wristbands that allow you to do things like open the room or charge things to your room. Ergo, your wallet stays in the room and you are not tethered to it.
2. Access to a large water park from 1pm to 9pm on day of check-in, and from 9am to 9pm on day of check out
3. Access to an arcade. (Games cost the same as everywhere else).
4. A relatively nice, standard hotel room.
For $40 more, you get a wand and an interactive game that will take you the whole day, even if you rush at it. It involves climbing a lot of stairs and running around, and I enjoyed it as much as the small child.
Taken together, your total outgo minus food is about $230 for one kid and one mom. GWL has a reputation for being hideously expensive but, I will note that same room would run you about $120 or so elsewhere. The remaining $110 then is to cover the magic game and the water park and the convenience of your RFID tag. (That convenience goes both ways — proffering your wrist to pay for something removes you from the emotional attachment you may have for your cash).
With the magic game prepriced at about $40 (there’s the cost of the wand and the cost of the game itself), you’re left with $70 for two day’s access to a water park for two people. And here’s where the “it’s overpriced” argument fails: 4 water slides, a wave pool, an activity pool, a kids pool, and an indoor-outdoor pool and sunning area, unlimited clean towels, thorough and plenty lifeguards are yours for 2 days for $35pp. That is on par with local water parks — even those without as many slides.
YES, you will pay $10/day for locker rental (you check out at 11am, so if you have things like car keys or cell phones or wallets, and you don’t have a spousal unit out of the water at all times, you’ll need a locker). YES, the food is relatively overpriced (relatively = overpriced for “normal places to eat”. Not overpriced in the context of amusement park food, theater food, etc.) and it isn’t really all that good: but your admission comes with in and out privileges, and there are plenty of local restaurants (La Tarasca, Dicks Northwest Brewhouse) to go to. There is a Starbucks inside the building and it’s priced normally, too.
More to the point, there isn’t a single place in the edifice where you are not responsible for your own child (I regard this as something worthy of kudos). If your child is in the water park, so must you be. There is no day care, kids club, babysitting service, etc. If you want to go play in the spa or the bar, better have your spousal unit watching the kids and trade-off with you — because you, parent, do not get to abscond your responsibility. This, to me, was great. Also, the entrance to each water slide is monitored, and they ask you EVERY TIME, regardless of if they remember you (and they did remember us after 5 or 6 goes) if we met the height and weight requirements. (I’m not 700 pounds yet– that’s another post).
Now, there was one down side to GWL: I blew out my knee going on the Howling Tornado. It’s six flights of stairs to the two largest water slides, and we went on them multiple times. We were both eight years old this weekend — we’d ride down the slide, tumble out of the inner tube, scream “AGAIN!”, run up the stairs, wait in a very small line, and ride down again. After a day and a half of this, my knee has started making audible cracking sounds, and it is rather swollen; I’m going back to Mme. le Docteur next Monday. At least I will have a really fun story as to why it is doing that. I expect I’ll get a bunch of physical therapy, some more exercises, more taping to do, maybe another injection.
Just in time for my next GWL visit! AGAIN!