Great Wolf Lodge – revisited
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dsc033981On February 7th, 2009, we were fortunate to be invited back to the Great Wolf Lodge.  If you haven’t seen the accolades from our first article, please click here to be amazed.  On our first visit, we simply could not cover everything.  There were several key elements we had to leave out.  However, on this return trip, I’m happy to say that we can finally report on the remaining attractions and “Camp Critter” restaurant.  Let’s get started!

Hanging out in the pool - Great Wolf Lodge, Grand Mound, WARiver Canyon Run:  When entering Bear Track Landing (the actual waterpark), I noticed there were large, brown, circular rafts  being sent up the conveyor belt, which is normally reserved for hauling up the Howlin’ Tornado’s signature-yellow-rafts.  I thought these new rafts were just another option for the Howlin’ Tornado.  However, I quickly realized these round rafts were for a new(er) ride called “River Canyon Run.”

River Canyon Run is the perfect option for younger kids who are not tall enough (48″) for the Howlin’ Tornado.  Kids only need to be 42″ tall and accompanied by an adult to ride the River Canyon Run.  While an exhilerating ride, the River Canyon Run is a mellower option for kids who might be a bit frightened by the Howlin’ Tornado.

The access stairway is the same for both the Howlin’ Tornado and the River Canyon Run.  However, it seems that at least 85% of the people are actually in line for the Howlin’ Tornado.  Unfortunately, these folks end up blocking the stairway for the remaining 15% of people who want to ride the River Canyon Run.  This can be a problem, if you are not aware that you’re being blocked.  A sign or someone directing traffic would be helpful.

Excellent lifejackets for everyone!It would be great if the resort would paint a stripe down the stairs (keep left for River Canyon Run and right for Howlin’ Tornado).  However, until they do, you’ll need to politely ask the Howlin’ Tornado folks to move over and let you pass.  Don’t just stand in line waiting, because usually, even on a busy Saturday, River Canyon Run is a very short wait when compared to the Howlin Tornado.  I learned my lesson the hard way.

One other important thing to consider parents – the height requirements are still somewhat arbitrary depending on the lifeguard.  For the bigger slides, the height requirement is at least 42 inches.  The first time I went, my son was barely tall enough.  Some lifeguards would carefully measure him.  Others wouldn’t even give him a second look.  However, if you know your kid is under, eventually, they will measure your kid and you’ll need to walk an embarrassed child all the way back down the access stairs (against the traffic coming up)!  It’s not fun at all.

I recommend “height certification” when kids get checked-in at the desk.  That way, lifeguards wouldn’t have to mess with this issue at all.  It doesn’t seem like a good task to make them have to do while trying to keep things running smoothly.  If people have complaints, they can be worked-out right at the front desk.  I don’t know if this is feasible, but it sure makes sense to me.  I don’t blame parents for trying to get their kids (who are very close) on the fun slides.  However, if they didn’t get certification at the front desk, they probably wouldn’t even try.

Wizards at work playing Magic QuestMagic Quest:  Again, the waterpark is absolutely amazing, and your family will love it!  I have no problem hanging out there all day with my kids.  However, on this visit, we wanted to experience a couple activities outside Bear Track Landing.  It’s practically impossible to NOT notice all the kids running around with magic wands waving them wildly at various objects in the resort.  This is the game “Magic Quest,” and it is a MUST do!  Here is a clip:

I know what you might be thinking, “This is just another way to spend money while at the resort.”  The first time we went, I didn’t want to spend the $25 to play ($15 for a wand, $10 to play the game).  However, this time I did spend the money, and this medieval scavenger hunt was well worth every penny!  I really wanted to kick myself for not playing the first time we went – it was that much fun!  If you come more than once, save your wand because it can be recycled on your next visit.  Of course, you’ll need to pay the $10 to setup a new game; however, it’s good that you won’t have to buy a new wand.

Pond in the Pixie RoomWith Magic Quest, the hard part is getting oriented with the initial directions, especially if it’s busy.  There are just so many kids trying to do the same thing at the same time.  It’s all a bit confusing.  However, my advice to you (as a parent) is to really focus on these initial instructions, because I can almost guarantee your child will be so excited, s/he will totally miss some very important pieces of information.   For example, it’s imperative that you know how to check your child’s progress during each stage of the game using the kiosks.  If you and/or your child do not know how to check progress, it will be a very frustrating experience.

Also, do not lose the Magic Quest guidebook they give you.  This little booklet is very important when navigating around the lodge.  It basically gives you all the clues to find important artifacts.  Without the book, you will be completely lost.  Granted, it is  free to pickup another book, but try to hang onto it – it’s a pain to have to go get another booklet right in the middle of the game.  Concerning Magic Quest, the bottom line is:  I know the waterpark is fun, but do your kids a favor and play this game with them.  It’s collaborative, lots of exercise, imaginative, and it will engage you with your kids at a whole different level.  Have fun!

Cub Club at the Great Wolf Lodge - Grand Mound, WACub Club:  Before I get started on the Cub Club, I want to note that the Great Wolf Lodge staff members are VERY friendly and professional, and we’ve been highly satisfied with the service everywhere we go in the Lodge.  However, the Cub Club staff members win my award for the “most friendly.”  They made our trip extra-special, and we really enjoyed our time relaxing in the confines of their space.  Thank you Cub Club!

Cub Club at the Great Wolf Lodge - Grand Mound, WAThe Cub Club offers all kinds of arts, crafts, and activities for kids.  Again, it might be hard to pull your kids away from the waterpark; however, this is another diversion that is well worth the effort.  It’s NOT a drop-off/babysitting/daycare for kids.  Kids must be accompanied by a parent the entire time they are visiting the Cub Club.  However, while inside the Cub Club, their wonderful staff will interact with your child igniting their creative energy.  As a parent, you can hang back and relax, or help your child with the activity.  The staff members understand that (as a parent) you may need a little break, and you’re certainly allowed to relax with young toddlers in their small toddler/baby play area.  I almost fell asleep in this area myself!

Frog MaskWhile there, our kids decided to paint some Great Wolf Lodge t-shirts.  They were first fitted with an “art-shirt,” so they wouldn’t get their clothes dirty.  Then, their staff members got them all setup with t-shirts and painting-markers.  Parents were invited to join in the fun!  I chose to hang-out with our 8 month old in the toddler area.  Our son Rhys also got to make a frog mask – complete with a tongue to pick-up flies.

Elements Spa at the Great Wolf Lodge, Grand Mound, WAElements Spa/Scoops Spa:  Elements and Scoops are two different spa experiences for your family.  If you feel like you need some alone time away from the kids, Elements is a great escape.  Unfortunately, we have yet to sample this little gem, but after doing a walk-through, I think it would be well worth the investment!  This is a full-service spa with a myriad of spa services including couples massages, manicures and pedicures.  Click here to find out more information concerning their services.  Also, Elements Spa is open to the public.

Scoops Spa for kids - Great Wolf Lodge, Grand Mound, WAScoops Spa was designed just for kids, and they make every effort to make sure kids are comfortable in this setting.  As you can see from the picture, the furnishings are just right for your little ones.  They keep the menu here very basic with manicures and pedicures.  Older kids can be dropped-off as long as they feel secure being away from their parents.  Here is a link to a short video clip.  Here is a link to their menu of services.

Critter's RestaurantCritter’s Bar and Grill:  Critter’s is what you’d expect in a typical brewpub.  This is smaller than the buffet (Loose Moose Cottage), and I can imagine that it gets crowded; thus, it may be difficult to get seated right away on busy weekends.  If you have a larger party, get your name on their list early.  They will give you a buzzer that you can take with you while your family continues to have fun.  If they know in advance, they can setup tables for larger groups.  You’ll need to give them a call or just go over and see them in-person during the afternoon.

I called to let them know we’d be there at 5PM, and they had a table ready to go for our group.  Overall, I think everyone was happy with the food.  The service was excellent – very attentive!  We got our food within 10 – 12 minutes of ordering, which seemed like a miracle at the time.  They had some excellent microbrews on tap, and the kids’ meals were served in metal buckets.  The kids enjoyed eating out of these unusual dinner plates.  The burgers, sweet potato fries and onion rings were all excellent!  As a side note, our booth-seat had a small tear that exposed some of the foam cushion.  The foam had absorbed some water from a previous spill, which ended-up getting my wife’s pants wet.  It wasn’t a big deal, but they quickly got a towel to cover it, and brought us a free dessert!

Grand Bear Suite at the Great Wolf Lodge - Grand Mound, WAGuest Room:  The last item I’d like to mention in this article is our guest room.  We traveled with another family (mom and two kids).  They put us in the “Grand Bear Suite,” which is one of their “premium” selections for rooms.  Last time, we were in a kiddie-cabin room, which was incredibly fun for my son Rhys at the time.  However, if you’re traveling with another family where you can split the cost of the room, I would definitely look into the Grand Bear option.  It’s just too nice to pass up, especially if you want to share but also want a clear division between sleeping quarters.

Bed in Grand Bear SuiteThe Grand Bear Suite has 2 bedrooms with doors that can close-off the bedrooms from the main living area.  That way, if you have kids who might want to take a nap, they can just head into the bedroom and shut the door.  Each bedroom has a television, and the main living area had a giant, flat-screen set mounted on the wall.  There is a small refrigerator with a sink and some counter space for handing out snacks, etc.  The master bedroom has its own bathroom, which was convenient.  And, the suite has a common bathroom near the entrance with a HUGE family-style shower.  This shower was a nice touch, because as kids filtered into the room, we could just move them right into the shower at the same time!

Once again, the Great Wolf Lodge proved to be just what they advertise and much more.  If you haven’t made the trip yet, I suggest you do it soon.  The winter months, especially during the week are a bit slower, and you’ll probably not have to wait in any lines.  If money is tight, pair-up with another family and share a suite like the Grand Bear.  Don’t forget to bring your own snacks to help save money.

Technorati Tags: Great Wolf Lodge, waterpark, indoor, Grand Bear Suite, Cub Club, River Canyon Run, Magic Quest, Grand Mound, WA, Elements Spa, Scoops, kids spa


  1. This is a great post. I have been wanting to go but the website isn't so detailed. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    • Thank you for the kind words. We try to put in as much information as possible. As a parent, I like to know what to expect when I go places.

      The Great Wolf Lodge is a lot of fun, and I'm sure your family will have a great time.

      Vince Schreck, Ed.D.
      Instructional Designer, Portland State University
      Editor: Portland Family Adventures


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