1. WATER PARK FUN EVEN IN WINTER: The best thing about going to Great Wolf Lodge in the off-season is that even when it’s cold outside, the water park is the ideal temperature for wandering around in your swimsuit and enjoying all sorts of slides, rides, and attractions. We spent hours at the water park and even after taking a brief break for meals and side attractions, we always returned to the water park. It’s the reason to go, and we promise you won’t get bored. My kids were particularly fond of the Howlin’ Tornado, but my husband and I being a bit less thrill-seeking preferred the River Canyon Run rafting ride. There’s something for everyone, from babies and toddlers to picky teens.
2. A GOOD DEAL: I’m not saying Great Wolf Lodge is inexpensive, but if you plan ahead, look for a promotion (and there are plenty of them), and maximize your time in the water park, you *can* have a relatively affordable mini-vacation there with your family. You can couple your trip to GWL with a trip to historic Williamsburg for a longer vacation, but we preferred to keep things separate and just enjoy the water park on its own. Make sure to check out the site’s Special Offers page for the latest deals or military or other active discounts.
3. ONE-STOP FUN: For some people the idea of an all-inclusive vacation where everything is in one place isn’t appealing, but for ease and convenience, it’s actually kind of awesome to know you can show up and have everything just steps away — food, arcade, spa, games, bowling — from the action of the water park. So put on your wolf ears and stay a while. Now, if you’re going for 2-3 days, you might want to leave for a quick meal or to shop, but for an overnight, there’s really no need!
4. HOWLERS PEAK: My husband and sons loved this new ropes course (hours vary by season). Climbers will enjoy the steel climbing course the course right outside the water park. You can challenge yourself to three higher levels that contain more challenging obstacles (and scarier views). The ropes course ends with a platform 45 feet above the ground — that you jump straight off of! Luckily, an employee connects you to an auto-belay device (it looks like a pulley wheel) that slows you down as you fall. Unlike many other ropes courses, guests stay locked in the entire time to the overhead steel rails. so they’re spared sometimes exasperating effort of unlocking and relocking themselves to guidewires.
5. SEASONAL ACTIVITIES: Although we went during Halloween, when the Lodge was completely decked out for the holiday and featured nightly trick-or-treating, there is just as much, or even more, activities for the holidays. SNOWLAND is the theme for GWL during December; kids can visit Santa, enroll in “North Pole University,” dine in a life-size Gingerbread House, and more.
Watch the promo for SNOWLAND at Great Wolf Lodge:
1. Take your own breakfast food & snacks. If you do want to eat breakfast on the property, keep in mind that the Dunkin Donuts is the most economical and therefore the busiest place in the mornings. The line to get a donut & cup of Joe was alarmingly long, and we were grateful to have a voucher to dine at the sit-down buffet. But if you eat in your room before heading to the water park, you can pop up for a coffee later in the morning or buy a drink from the grill right in the water park, Buckets Incredible Craveables.
2. Go as early as allowed the day of check-in. Whether you stay one, two or more nights, you are allowed to use the water park on the day of check-in hours before your room is ready and then after you check out. Although check-in is not until 4:00 p.m., guests are more than welcome to start using the water park as early as 1:00 p.m. and after they check out, until 9:00 p.m.
3. Get the family pizza meal. By far the best value for dinner is the Hungry Like a Wolf. We fed our family of 5 for less than $40 with pizza, salad, and a 2-liter of soda. Considering the dinner buffet would cost more than that for two people, it was definitely a deal. And while the pizza wasn’t going to make our list of Top Ten Pizza Pies, it was fine.
4. Splurge on Scoops Spa: If you have a child who likes pampering, Scoops Kids Spa was a delightful treat for my daughter and me.
5. Don’t bother with the elevator. The lines for the elevator were pretty long, so we just walked. Yes, it can be a long-ish walk depending on where your suite is located, but as long as you have a cover up/towel, you should be fine and will get to your room faster than if you waited for the elevator.
Disclosure: My family was treated to a complimentary one-night stay, but we paid for certain amenities and meals ourselves.