Have you been considering going to Great Wolf Lodge in Anaheim? Not sure what to expect or if it is worth it? Read on about our experience and thoughts about Great Wolf Lodge in Anaheim.
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Why did we go to Great Wolf Lodge?
My daughter was about to turn the big 1-1 and we asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She said she wanted to go to Southern California’s Great Wolf Lodge in Anaheim. No parties, no presents, just Great Wolf Lodge.
I cringed at the thought. Will it be like that South Park waterpark episode? You know the one. Where there are tons of kids and water of a questionable color. Also, to be honest, I was turned off to Great Wolf Lodge after seeing it’s commercial: “Where siblings become friends.” My kids are already friends- because I make them. But anyway, how grueling must it be to go when you are trying to convince parents that their kids will become friends?
Other parents that had been to Great Wolf Lodge had a glint in their eye when I told that we would be going to the water park. Even the employee at dog boarding got this far off nostalgic look in her eye when she told my kids she had been and they would love it. The question that was always left unanswered: Would *I* enjoy it too?
You have to be a hotel guest in order to use the Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark in Anaheim. At the end of the day, we found it was worth it to stay because it included admission to the park for two days.
The view pulling up to the hotel was pretty impressive. There is a huge wolf statue in a howling pose, and you see some slide tubes sticking out of the building. I thought these were just for decoration. No my friends. I would later find out that these were the actual slides, that were so big that they were sticking out of the Great Wolf Lodge building.
There are varying room levels, and my daughter insisted that we get a Wolf Den because it was for her birthday after all. The Great Wolf Den is said to accommodate six guests. Our room had a queen bed, sleeper couch, and bunk bed in the wolf den.
The Wolf Den includes a “den” for the kids that is contained in a little log cabin-looking arrangement.
The kid’s den came equipped with a few little animatronic animals. However, these animatronics only come alive if you buy a MagiQuest wand in the Great Wolf Lodge Store. To my kids’ dismay, we opted out of paying an extra $17 plus tax for the basic wand. Don’t worry, their dad had them point to the animatronics and he would make voices for them. The little den also has vibrant mural paintings, along with it’s own little television. The room had lots of cute nature/animal inspired details that made for a nice touch.
There was one shower and toilet combo, with a single sink outside of the bathroom. I was disappointed to discover that the shower did not have one of those shower lines where you can hang wet swimsuits.
Single bathroom sink open to the main room and separate from the shower and toilet are
The room did not have a closet, but instead a small hanging rack for clothes. There were three drawers. Truthfully, we didn’t care because we planned on spending most time in a bathing suit.
In case you are wondering, the room did not have a wet smell to it. This is pretty impressive considering that the rooms are carpeted and the guests are obviously wet coming in. I would have loved a nice set up for people with wet bathing suits to wait for their turn to take a shower. But maybe I’m just nitpicking here.
What else can you do at Great Wolf Lodge?
Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California has definitely figured out the family friendly vacation game. When you get tired of the water park, you can try to coax your kids out of the water with the many offerings available in the Lodge.
When you walk downstairs to the Great Wolf Lodge waterpark area, you will walk into what feels like a kid-friendly Las Vegas sans the smoke and gambling. Prior to walking through the water park doors you will find a bowling alley, nail salon, large arcade, and glow in the dark mini golf course.
Unfortunately, these are not included in the cost of your hotel stay, but based on what I saw these activities looked like fun. I cannot speak to the services or the experiences at these locations because we did not have time to make use of them. We only stayed one night and the kids were not willing to leave the water at any time. However, the bowling alley was miniature in size and the bowling balls were small. This is toddler friendly, but definitely not something that the whole family will partake in.
Remember those MagiQuest wands I mentioned earlier? Great Wolf Lodge sells them in their stores and they come in a variety of styles and colors.
Aside from using them in the den, you can also use them throughout the hotel Magicquest kiosks. Each kiosk comes to life when you point the wand at it. There is also an elaborate scene set up at each kiosk. My girls came across one with a dragon and it was pretty neat. If we had stayed more than one night or with toddlers, I probably would have purchased the wand.
Great Wolf Lodge also has a few restaurants. We did not make use of these therefore I have no opinion to share about them.
The Water Park
Is Great Wolf Lodge worth it? Heck ya! This thing was huge! Let me tell you, the sign says that it has a capacity of 3,000. Thankfully, there was nowhere near that amount when we went.
Although Great Wolf Lodge hotel room check in is not until 3pm, you can start using the water park at 1pm if you are a guest that day. A room was available when we arrived, so we were able to do early check-in. Another great perk is that even though check out time is 11am, you can use the waterpark until closing. The day of checkout, we rented one of the lockers (there are multiple sizes to fit your needs) to hold our essentials and a change of clothes. The restrooms have showers with a soap dispenser, dressing areas with curtains, and a swimsuit machine that helps to wring out the excess water from bathing suits. This was well planned out by Great Wolf Lodge and I felt that they still treated me as a guest even though I was not technically staying in a room anymore.
Upon walking in, a Great Wolf Lodge staff member will check entering bags (I assume to make sure there is no glass). They will also measure your child’s height if they are vertically challenged. All slides have a color coded system attached.
*Red wrist band: Less than 42 inches tall.
*Yellow wrist band: Child between 42 inches and 48 inches can ride, some rides require an adult to accompany them.
*Green Wrist band: 48 inches or taller can ride
My youngest was just barely under 48 inches, so she had to wear a yellow wristband. Warning: They made her take off her flip flops to verify her height. She can ride all rides at Disneyland, but they don’t make her take off her shoes there :/
My yellow wristband child was able to ride some rides alone, some rides required that she ride with an adult. She was only unable to ride one ride regardless of whether an adult was present: The Tornado. Honestly, I don’t think she would have been willing to ride it anyway.
What does Great Wolf Lodge Water Park have?
Great Wolf Lodge water park has fun for the entire family. There is fun for the smallest child, apprehensive adults, and even more adventurous people. Here are some things you can find in the water park:
*A toddler area with splash pad type water features and shallow water.
*A water playground that includes slides that kids of all heights can ride (and some adults are not allowed to get on…yeah, I found this out when I got denied). Which reminds me of a key point: All slides that do not involve a raft require each person to slide alone. Unlike Disneyland, you can not place your child on your lap. Had I gone when my kids were smaller, I would have paid admission and my children would have refused to use most of the slides. Of course, this all depends on the individual kid.
*A pool with Ninja Warrior style lily pads. The kids can either swim around, or have a try at holding onto a rope (or not) while trying to get across the pool on lily pads. My girls loved this.
*A wave pool that periodically has a wolf howl and lets out some waves. This one requires kids with yellow wristbands to wear a life jacket. My girls loved this one too.
*A boogie board and or surfing area. This one requires everyone to sign a waiver. Minors must have their parents sign for them. I tried this one and was not very successful. It’s pretty cool to watch those that can do it though.
*Single racer tubes. Everyone goes down on a mat in a race for the best time. There is even a big electronic board that lists the times. All four of us continuously raced each other.
*A freefall tube with a heart beat while you wait for the operator to press the button. I didn’t do it, but my husband and daughter did. Husband loved it, kid not so much.
*Several slides that can be done on a single rider raft or in groups of 2 or more. I won’t say which, but one of these slides has a “drain” where you go around till you go through. Oh yeah, Great Wolf Lodge has thought of everything.
*The Tornado. This puppy deserves some recognition. The youngest couldn’t ride it, but the rest of us did. There is a steep fall (in a raft) along with some crazy air side to side in the tornado. I *loved* it. If you’re a chicken, which I am most of the time, maybe stay away from this one.
*An outdoor pool.
*There are also cabanas for rent. We did not rent one, but they looked pretty cool. They included a tv, stocked mini fridge, and lounge chairs. As of this writing, the website lists the cost as starting at $119/day+tax on Monday through Thursday, and starting at $199/day+tax Friday through Sunday.
Just an FYI, the water park slides require you to climb several flights of stairs. It is a workout. Be prepared to get your workout in climbing to the rides.
Food in the Water Park
Great Wolf Lodge Water Park has a couple of restaurant options. We only ate at The Bucket. The offerings there are your basic burgers, fries, chicken strips, etc. The chicken strips were pretty thin and small, so be aware of that. Also, the bucket of ice cream pictured is actually soft serve. Just an FYI in case that matters to you. Pricing was on par with what you would expect to pay at an amusement park.
You are able to bring food into the water park. There is even a Dunkin’ Donuts right outside the Water Park doors.
*Bring your kids googles if they plan on swimming a lot. We saw goggles at the Great Wolf Lodge store were $23+tax.
*Bring Visine. The water is highly chlorinated, and the air is damp and has a strong chlorine smell.
*Take enough lotion for everybody. As the water is highly chlorinated, it dries out your skin. This is especially problematic for those with sensitive skin. Better yet, get out of the water, rinse off, and take a break.
*If you have asthma or are sensitive, take breaks from the waterpark. You can enjoy the many offerings at Great Wolf Lodge. There are even signs in the water area giving this suggestion.
*If you absolutely have to have your phone, bring a waterproof casing to carry it around in.
*Bring water shoes if you do not want to walk around barefoot. You will be walking up a lot of steps and can’t go down slides with flip flops.
*Bring your own life jacket if you don’t want to use the ones provided at the park.
*If going with very little ones, make sure you have adult help. Kids may want to split off at times and this will be doable with another adult and set of eyes.
*For moms, a tankini with board shorts is your most comfortable bet for walking around in a bathing suit all day.
*Check your bill upon receipt. We had a wristband that was used as a room key and also to purchase items at Great Wolf Lodge. We noted that a $60 charge was made to our room for a restaurant in the Lodge where we never ate. We called Great Wolf Lodge and they took the charge off of our bill. No explanation was given, which leads me to wonder how frequently this happens.
In conclusion, Great Wolf Lodge in Anaheim is a great place to take the family. I think that it is worth the money if you take full advantage of all that it has to offer. Be prepared to get some exercise climbing those stairs and screaming as you zip down the slides. And of course, get ready for your family members to become friends if they are not already. Sorry, I just had to add that in.