It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that a stay at a Great Wolf Lodge (GWL) would be a hit with little children, but what about teens? Is there enough to do to entertain them without making them feel like a little kid? To find out, our family visited the Grand Mound location in Washington state. We have two teen boys, ages 18 and 14, and we have never been to a Great Wolf Lodge Resort before.
A Little History
The very first GWL opened in 1997 in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. Since then, 11 more have opened, most on the East Coast with a few more currently in development. Each location’s main feature is the indoor waterpark plus a few more activities, restaurants and shopping. Every room comes with free passes to the waterpark. In fact, you can’t visit the waterpark without staying at the resort.
Both our teens were very impressed as were we with the look and the layout of the Grand Mound location. Very upscale and yet very comfortable. While the resort has been in operation since 2008, it still looks brand new. Very neat, clean and woodsy. We stayed in one of the “basic” rooms which exceeded our expectations. It came with two queen beds, a sofa, dining table, mini fridge, microwave and a high vaulted ceiling. Almost all of the furniture is made with natural wood, keeping with the lodge theme.
Our boys couldn’t wait to walk around to see all there was to do. We let them go while I went to the Starbucks just down the hall and my wife looked over the guidebook in the room. The coffee shop was just like any other except that it had slightly inflated prices, but also had an incredibly nice and helpful staff who knew a lot about the resort.
We quickly learned that guidebook was quite out of date. It stated that the lodge had a “teen lounge” that offered video games as well as a place for teens to hang out. However, it had been converted to a family attraction. The on-site Pizza Hut no longer existed either. It had been turned into the “Hungry as a Wolf” take-out pizza shop. Ironically, the guidebook listed both pizza places and when we called to place our order, we found that the resort had already changed the menu.
Photo Courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge
When our boys returned, they were less excited than they were when they left. They too discovered that the teen lounge was no longer there. They also discovered that just about every activity in the lodge would cost an additional fee, and for that, they were bummed.
There are a number of options for dinner meals at GWL and most of them are fairly pricey. The Loose Moose Cottage is the biggest restaurant with an expansive buffet. A nice feature is that the restaurant is willing to work with guest’s special dietary needs, if you inform them ahead of time. There is one price for the all-you-can-eat menu with exception of soft and hard beverages. The buffet is led by Chef Tom Hanrahan who has been with lodge since it opened. There is also Camp Critter which serves like a bar and grill that is family friendly. We opted for the pizza which was ready to pick up in 30 minutes and quite tasty. Though the shop offered wine and 2-liter bottled pop, we opted for the cans of Coke we brought with us and saved a few bucks. There is also one more option in the water park itself, the Spirit Island Snack Shop which serves up cheeseburgers, hot dogs, hot pretzels, soft drinks and more.
For breakfast you only have one choice which is the Loose Moose. Breakfast isn’t cheap, but it does feature made-to-order omelets and waffles, hash browns, bacon, muffins, cereal, fruit and more. Don’t linger though as it shuts down at 11:00 a.m. Fortunately, local restaurants outside of the lodge are not far away.
Make a Splash
The reason you go to a GWL is for the waterpark and it is huge. All the stairs and construction are made with a “fo” wood that never needs to be re-stained or painted, so it always looks brand new. Like the hotel, the park was pristine except for the windows that were due for a thourough cleaning. During the summer, part of the park extends outside for sunbathing, but since we were there during the middle of winter, we were happy to stay inside the 84 degree park.
At first glance, my boys were disappointed looking from their vantage point, all they could see were small slides and a wading pool for the little ones, but they soon found that there was a lot more to experience. True, there is plenty for little tykes to do, but our teens (and us too) really enjoyed the bigger attractions like the Howlin’ Tornado where two to four people ride a raft through a giant tube that drops into a 6-story funnel. Riders typical swish up 30 feet on the sides before going down the drain. The River Canyon Run is just as fun, though a bit tamer. The Alberta Falls features four stories of twisting in a tube that changes colors all the way through.