Two weeks ago we surprised our kids with a two night stay at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, Michigan. This was our first stay at an indoor waterpark, and it was a very good experience.
We knew that we wanted to get away for a couple of days sometime this winter, and that turned out to be a great choice, as it’s been one of the coldest and snowiest winters in recorded history. In fact, the first day we were there, the recorded temperature outside was -22 degrees. It was a great decision to break up the winter with some ‘summer’ fun.
We booked two months in advance, and we looked at all of the various pricing models. Just like most everything in the travel / lodging industry, pricing is tied to demand. Weekends are higher than weekdays, and times like Spring Break and such have higher demand, thus higher pricing. We found a few week stretch between mid-winter break and spring break where prices were lower. In addition, we looked at staying Sunday and Monday instead of Friday and Saturday, which made the price cheaper.
The listed price of the room was $150 per night. This included your stay as well as access to the waterpark itself.
We used a 20% discount code that was made available to us through my employer. They have a deal where employees can use this code. That took us down to $120 per night, but keep in mind that taxes and mandatory resort fees will add about $25-30 per night. In the end, we paid $147 per night, so the 20% basically covered the extra charges.
It is worth noting that waterparks tend to offer codes or participate in Groupon deals, so even though your employer might not have a deal, it’s worth a Google search. You can also sign up for their e-mail list, which often provides discount codes as well.
I’m not going to lie, the check in process was not a great first impression. We arrived around 1pm, which apparently is around peak time for check-ins. While they had five of six spots open, we still had to wait over 30 minutes in line to check in. Apparently, there’s no need to change this, so it’s ‘common’. I also was not impressed with the elevators. In the main lobby there are two elevators. The waterpark is one level down from the lobby and the rooms are on the two levels above. With just two elevators, we had to wait another 10 minutes just to get to our floor. Luckily, I found that there are more elevators on the back end of the hall. As that’s where our room was located, this turned out to be a nice find. Still, I think the desk workers could have told people in rooms further down the hall about the other elevators, which could have reduced congestion significantly.
The rooms are very spacious. We had the basic type room, a Family Suite, which is still very nice. There are two queen size beds, and there’s an area with a couch, with a half wall between this area. The TV is on a dresser and can pivot to face the beds or the sitting area. This is a great layout because the kids can go to bed while the adults can stay up. The room also had a fairly standard bathroom, and a nice area outside which to get ready. There was also a nice area with a microwave, a small refrigerator (yes, there’s a small freezer section), and a coffee maker.
They have more intricate rooms. There are rooms where the kids beds are in a little built in ‘cabin’ or something like that. Our kids would have gotten little from that, but maybe down the road.
The main reason to go there is the water park and it did not disappoint. There is fun there for kids of all ages. Our kids are 4 and 2 and they were not bored for a single second. They spent a lot of time in the kiddie pool, which is very big and has three slides that they went down, each hundreds of times. Our four year old was big enough to go down himself. Our two year old was able to go down the slide, but we had to catch her at the bottom. Still, she loved it.
The centerpiece of the room is what I can only describe as a giant jungle gym that has water sprays, buckets, and such all throughout. There’s a giant bucket that holds 1,000 gallons of water. It fills every five minutes and the bucket is imbalanced, so every five minutes it dumps this down below. There are warning clangs and those who dare will stand directly underneath. You have to be careful as you’re walking by as people above can dump buckets or water on you or shoot you with spray guns. We found this out the hard way.
The jungle gym has two slides which my kids decided they wanted to go down on the last day. In fact, our two year old was the first to want to go. We thought she might be too little, but they said she met the requirements. We asked her over and over if she really wanted to go. She did. You have to go down by yourself (no going in mom or dad’s laps) and she went down each one once and decided she was done (she arrived ‘laying down’ each time, so it obviously bounced her around). My son went down each one at least four or five times.
They also had a larger pool with a basketball hoop that is probably for a bit bigger kids. We didn’t spend much time there.
They have a ‘lazy river’ ride where you go around in tubes. This was nice to relax in, as was the hot tub. The kids liked the hot tub for when they would get chilly. They also have an adults only hot tub, though we didn’t use that.
There are three enclosed slides that require you to ride on tubes. You have to be ‘big’ enough to get on those. My daughter wasn’t big enough, but my son was big enough for two of the three. My wife and I each took him once down the two slides, and while he enjoyed it, he always wanted to go do something else. I went down the third slide by myself. It was pretty fun.
The only knock on the waterpark is that on our first day there, they ran out of towels. How does that even happen? Other than that, it was great.
Tip: If you want a spot to put your things, you have to get there right when the place opens, as people nab all available chairs and tables.
The staff was very polite and friendly. On our first day, the housekeeping staff knocked on our door and asked if they could clean the room. We were still there and they asked us what would be a good time. We told them a window that we would likely be at the park, and they agreed to clean the room at that time. They followed through and it looked great upon our return.
I’ve heard people say that the staff will consistently try to up-sell you on extras and such. Maybe it was because our kids were little, but we were not approached at all. We felt no pressure to go for extras.
My only knock on the staff was that I called twice to find out if anybody had found my lost drivers license. The front desk looked, and each time transferred me to housekeeping to see if they’d found it. I left two messages asking for a call back, and while I’m sure that not getting a call meant that they didn’t find it, the message did say that they’d call back each time. It would have been nice to hear for certain, and not have to assume, that they in fact did not find my license.
There are a lot of other activities that kids can participate in. There are treasure hunts and such. Our kids were too little, but maybe down the road they’ll want to do this. There were always kids running around, so it must be popular.
They have a Dunkin Donuts which is a great choice for a family themed resort. I got my coffee, kids can get their morning treat, and everybody’s happy. They also have a restaurant, which we didn’t use, but seemed pretty busy. There’s a sweet shop right outside of the water park where the kids (and adults) enjoyed a scoop of ice cream. They also have a shop to buy swimming gear, there’s an arcade, and even a spa. All in all, they provide many different ways to try to keep people from leaving.
I’d have to say it was a great experience. My wife and I were pleased, the kids had a great time, and we felt the value was there for our money. We already started talking about going back next winter. All in all, for a break, I could highly recommend the Great Wolf Lodge.
(Note: This was my own personal review because I wanted to share our positive experience. I was in no way asked to provide this review, nor was I compensated in any way)Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.