Westley just turned FIVE and for this milestone birthday, we decided to skip the party (which is fun, but expensive and stressful) and take a family trip instead.
The researcher in me, started planning this many months ago and landed on Great Wolf Lodge – a kid’s inspired indoor water park and resort with locations across the country. We happen to have one three and a half hours away in Georgia.
As a January baby, Westley never gets to celebrate with water activities, so the indoor water park was a big draw. He’s also a water baby and dare devil, so the slides and adventure activities on property were another big deciding factor.
While I’ll go into detail below, to not bury the lead, the verdict: A+ all around from Westley, mom and dad. We had an incredible time as a family and really loved watching Westley have an absolute blast of a birthday full of magical surprises and adventures along the way.
We stayed three nights, mostly because Westley’s birthday landed on a Friday this year and we really wanted him to wake up at Great Wolf on his actual birthday.
You can definitely enjoy everything in two days, but honestly Thursday was super chill and low key…not a lot of people, so we really enjoyed having the resort to ourselves. Friday more people arrived and by Saturday it was buzzing with kids. The good news, even on the busiest day, it did not feel crowded and we never really waited for any activities.
The resort has everything under one roof, so you really don’t have to leave if you don’t want to. We chose to explore La Grange and had two dinners off property, but it wasn’t a necessity – just a choice.
If you’re staying on property, your room includes water park admission as well as a host of free activities including The Northwoods Animal show, character encounters/pictures, story time and a nightly dance party (a favorite of Westley’s).
I was very impressed by how clean and pristine everything was and there was constantly staff around cleaning up, able to help answer questions, etc.
We received wrist bands at check-in and loved that these served as our room key, credit card and entry into the park! You never have to carry anything with you!
The Water Park
The water park was perfect for kids and families with a large wave pool, water play/features area with two smaller slides, a lazy river and larger family and individual slides.
There are two “thrill” slides geared toward teens and adults, but the remainder of the park is totally family friendly. Westley was able to ride all but one slide (he was an inch too short) and he fully took advantage of every day at the park. Sam climbed 14,000 steps on one of the days, going back and forth between Westley’s favorite slides.
There’s also a fun water obstacle course with large Lily Pads and a net above, which Westley conquered, as well as a water basketball area.
Even on the busiest day, there were plenty of loungers, chairs and table areas. You grab towels at the front (check them out and turn them in by scanning your wrist band), find a spot and get to splashin!
The water park also features two lunch spots, a bar and Cabanas for rent.
Unfortunately because I’m pregnant, I wasn’t able to do the slides, so I joined the boys on the lazy river and when the wave pool was calm. Otherwise, I read and relaxed and took videos and photos of them!
Our room was a Wolf Den Suite, which included a kid-friendly “room within a room” set up with a cool wooded entrance, bunk beds, wall mural and TV. Westley absolutely thought it was the COOLEST room.
The rest of the room featured a Queen bed, couch that converts into a full, a table with chairs, bench, vanity and bathroom area. There’s also tons of storage including a drop zone and a large counter space with drawers and open shelf storage.
This room was perfect for a family of three to five. There are also other room options for larger families.
Great Wolf Lodge is jam packed with fun. There are tons of free activities through out the day coupled with pay for options. Outside of the water park, the resort features rock climbing, a ropes course (Sam did this with W), mini golf, bowling, an arcade, gem mining area, Build-a-Wolf and more.
One of our favorite activities, which kept us entertained all trip long, was Magi Quest. This is a magical, scavenger hunt that is Wizard themed. Kids can pick up a magic wand and topper at the Magi store and then start a quest. To complete the entire scavenger hunt takes 4-8 hours, so we ended up doing two of the four quests.
The wand has special sensors allowing Westley to “cast spells” all over the resort, interact with magical paintings, find clues, save fairies and battle Goblins. Outside of purchasing the wand (which is included if you buy a Wolf Pass), the game is free and provides endless entertainment and exercise.
Food & Beverage
I was surprised by the number of food options at Great Wolf. This is definitely more casual, kid focused fare, but it was decent.
The menus include burgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders, BBQ, pizza, etc. Definitely a kid’s paradise.
Food Options Include:
- Campfire Kitchen – AYCE breakfast buffet restaurant featuring all the staples eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, assorted juices, coffee and more.
- Hungry as a Wolf – Pizza and pasta (think Sbarro’s style). You can eat in, take out or order to your room. Pizza looked mediocre, but Westley enjoyed a slice. Sam and I passed.
- Buckets – Burgers, hot dogs, tenders, sandwiches and fries. We ordered their special burger “The Southern,” which was more fancy with pimento cheese, a fried green tomato and onion rings. It was good!
- Timbers – “Food Bus” BBQ joint with pulled pork sandwiches, wings, BBQ nachos, Mac n cheese, cole slaw and more. It looked good, although we never ended up eating there.
- Barnwood – The resort has one “high end” restaurant, but based on the menu and prices, we opted to skip it and head out on the town for dinner.
- Dunkin – full service Dunkin
- Ben & Jerry’s – assorted ice cream
- Adult Beverages – There was a bar at the water park, inside the Adventure Park area as well as drafts available at Timbers and Buckets.
Overall, for a family focused resort, the food was good. Not a foodie paradise, but did the trick.
Special Add Ons
Since this was Westley’s big fifth birthday, I went all out and added ALL THE THINGS. And boy am I glad I did. I love pre-paying for as much of a trip as possible and my additions helped us budget and plan!
We chose the following packages:
- Wolf Pass – This is a MUST if visiting. For $59.99 your child receives a Magi Quest wand and topper, round of mini golf, bowling, two rock wall climbs, the ropes course, arcade card, scoop of Ben & Jerry’s, bag of candy from the Candy Exchange and other discounts. The best part, adults can add golf and bowling for $4 and the ropes course for $11.
- Birthday Package – It you’re celebrating a birthday on property, this was a great addition. While we were at the water park, our suite was decorated with a birthday door poster, balloons, cake, plates, cutlery, birthday card and a $40 arcade card! Westley was surprised and excited. The cake was yummy too!
- Splashin Fun – This package included four meals at Buckets (we used it for dinner), a cooler, four bottles of water and four GWL beach towels.
- Milk n Cookie Delivery – For our last night, we had one more surprise for the birthday boy…a special delivery. Violet Wolf stopped by our room to drop off milk and cookies, a photo and big hug. This was a big hit for W!
- Prepaid Breakfast – We added the daily breakfast buffet ahead of time, which cost less than if you decide to eat once one property. The buffet had lots of options and most days, we ate close to 11am and it kept us adults (not W) full until dinner.
Definitely search for promo codes and special deals to land the best rate, purchase a Wolf Pass, look into some of the special packages and HOWL if you’re ready to visit!