If you have kids, chances are you’ve heard of Great Wolf Lodge. With locations throughout the United States and Canada, it’s the largest family of indoor water park resorts. The Poconos location opened in 2005, and is a sprawling, four-story, 401-room den of family entertainment. About a two hour drive from both New York and Philadelphia, this popular resort is packed year-round. The faux log-siding, entrance carved with bears, wolves and other animals, and giant clock tower in the entrance lobby will be a big hit with kids. Even though it’s staged, they really do manage to create the feeling of being in a genuine, old-fashioned lodge. It doesn’t hurt that this is the Poconos.
Great Wolf Lodge is all about the kids. Most of the fun centers around the water parks; so if you or your kids aren’t keen on getting wet, and staying wet for long periods of time, this is not the place for you. But for the rest of us, welcome to waterpalooza! With a 78,000-square-foot indoor water park open all year, and a giant outdoor pool area open in summer, there’s water, water, and more water: 500,000 filtered gallons a day, to be exact, PH-tested every hour by hand. Carpeting throughout the inside of the resort is forgivingly dark, as is the lighting; but even so, this place is well-maintained — not immaculate — but well-maintained. Wisely, both the indoor and outdoor parks are accessible only through the hotel (not from outside), so feet stay pretty clean.
Great Wolf Lodge is an all-suite resort, with 401 rooms. Even the smallest of them is larger than most basic hotel rooms; so if you just want the minimum, go with a Family Suite. All room prices include water park passes for four. Suites can accommodate six, but you will pay an additional fee per night, per person, which does include water park passes.
Family Suites have two queen beds, a living area with a sofa sleeper, big-screen television, two phones, a microwave, coffee maker, hair dryer, and Nintendo. The rooms accommodate up to six and also come equipped with a microwave, fridge and coffee maker. Most have balconies, and some have fireplaces. The suites are comfortable for families but one caveat is that in many Family Suites the bathrooms are quite small, with the sink outside the bathroom. If bathroom space is a priority to you, upgrade.
The Queen Sofa Suite is a smaller suite for families but still sleeps four people. There is a queen bed, full bath, a full-size sleeper sofa, a 32-inch TV and a private balcony or patio. The room is equipped with a microwave, fridge, coffee maker and hair dryer. This room is handicap accessible.
If you want a little more personality, try a themed room, which runs a bit steeper than a Family Suite. There are several different kinds, including The Wolf Den Suites, KidCamp Suites, KidCabin Suites, Royal Bear Suites, Majestic Bear Suites, Grizzly Bear Suites, and the Quest Master Suites.
The Wolf Den Suite sleeps four, with a maximum of six. The room has a cave-themed sleeping area with a bunk bed and TV. The main area has a queen bed, a full-size bath, full-size sleeper sofa, a 27-inch TV and a balcony or patio. The room is equipped with a microwave, fridge, coffee maker and hair dryer. There are versions of this room that are handicap accessible, too.
The KidKamp Suite sleeps four, with a maximum of six. The room has a tent-themed sleeping area with a bunk bed and TV. The main area has a queen bed, a full-size bath, full-size sleeper sofa, a 27-inch TV and a balcony or patio. The room is equipped with a microwave, fridge, coffee maker and hair dryer.
The KidCabin Suites in particular are really cute and fun for kids; in addition to all the amenities of a regular Family Suite, the rooms have a separate cabin area for the kids to sleep, with a bunk bed, a single bed, and a separate flat-screen. The KidCamp Suites are the same idea with a camp theme, and just one bunk bed. A downside: The kids' mattresses are covered in a plastic shell, and a little uncomfortable. The room is equipped with a microwave, fridge, coffee maker and hair dryer and can sleep up to seven people. There are versions of this room that are handicap accessible, too.
The Whirlpool Fireplace Suite sleeps four people, with a king bed, full-bath, whirlpool tub, 27-inch TV, full-size sleeper sofa and private patio. The room is equipped with a microwave, fridge, coffee maker and hair dryer.
Premium Suites are the top of the line, and in addition to all the amenities of a regular Family Suite, have a special features like treasure chests and lamps that open and speak when activated with the wand, as well as hallway lights outside the door when you walk by. Two wands are included with each MagiQuest room, and all have a private balcony. There are also Whirlpool Fireplace Suites (same idea as a family suite but with a fireplace and whirlpool, and Loft Fireplace Suites, which have a separate upstairs area with a queen bed, separate phone, and bathroom.
If you have young kids, you might want to bring a gate for the stairs, or choose a different room. Also, if you have young kids and will be using a stroller, consider staying on the water park level, as waits for the elevators can be long.
The Grizzly Bear Suite sleeps six people, with a maximum of eight. There is a master bedroom with queen bed, 27-inch TV and full bath. The second bedroom has two queen beds and a 27-inch TV. The living area has a full-size sleeper sofa, full bathroom, corner fireplace, 27-inch TV and private balcony or patio. The room is equipped with a microwave, fridge, coffee maker and hair dryer.
The Loft Fireplace Suite sleeps six people, with a maximum of eight. The main floor has two queen beds, full bath, two 27-inch TV's, a living area with full sleeper sofa and gas fireplace. Upstairs is a queen bed, 27-inch TV and a half bath. There is also a balcony or patio. The room is equipped with a microwave, fridge, coffee maker and hair dryer.
The Majestic Bear Suite sleeps six people, with a maximum of eight. The master bedroom has a king bed and 27-inch TV. The main area has two queen beds, full sleeper sofa and 27-inch TV. There is also a private balcony or patio and a breakfast bar. The room is equipped with a microwave, fridge, coffee maker and hair dryer.
The Royal Bear Suite sleeps four people, with a maximum of six. There is a master bedroom with a king bed. The main area of the suite has one queen bed and a sleeper sofa. There is a flat-screen TV and private balcony or patio in the living area. The bathroom comes with a tub with safety bars as this rooms is the only handicap accessible premium suite. The room is equipped with a microwave, fridge, coffee maker and hair dryer, too.
Unless you are ready to sleep with earplugs, be prepared for a noisy stay. Constant noise coming from the above rooms and hallways were a problem... If I were to book another stay at the Great Wolf... my room would have to be on the top floor to at least eliminate noise from rooms above..
Fantastic, as always!
We've been here many times but this was our first December trip and it was absolutely magical! The winter-themed activities were amazing. The staff is always friendly and helpful and our rooms are always clean and comfortable. My children love it here and we can't wait to return with the NJ Homeschool group!
Indoor Park: Bear Track Landing
The indoor water park is a sight to behold. It's enormous, and the highlight of the resort. It has six pools and 11 waterslides, which vary on the thrill scale from tame toddler slides to extreme free falls. There are slides for every age group, and swimming ability, some of which wind in and out of doors. Also indoors are a giant wave pool, a lazy river, an area to shoot water hoops, two whirlpools (one for adults-only) a water roller-coaster, four tube slides and two body slides.
In the center are tables for eating, lounge chairs, showers, swimsuit dryers, and lockers, which can be rented for $10 a day. There is also a snack bar with light food and drinks; you may eat or drink anywhere in the resort, including the lobby. Lifeguards are present in every area of the park, plenty of them, and are nationally certified. They were very attentive and seemed to take their jobs seriously, paying close attention to the youngest kids in the kiddie area. Towels and life jackets are available free of charge; but towels are small and must remain in the water park, so you might want to bring a beach cover-up and a small towel of your own. All children who are not potty trained need to wear swim diapers, which are available, along with just about every other water-related item you can think of, in the gift shop.
Alberta Falls is four stories tall and twists in and out of the building before dropping into a plunge pool. The tube is enclosed so the temperature doesn't change. Children under 42 inches tall must ride with an adult and can only take the double tube.
Big Foot Pass
Kids test their balance, jump on lily pads and try not to fall into the water in Big Foot Pass.
Chinook Cove Activity Pool
Play water basketball or let kids test their balance on the floating activities in the Chinook Cove Activity Pool.
This thrill ride, Coyote Cannon, drops riders 40 feet into a cannon bowl. Children must be at least 42 inches tall in order to ride.
Float in a tube along the current of the winding, endless lazy river.
Cub Paw Pool
Cub Paw pool has a maximum depth of 1.6 feet and is perfect for little ones who may play with spray features and swim.
Double Barrel Drop
This two-rider waterslide drops you into a huge vortex where you slide up and down the sides of the funnel, then take a 450-degree hairpin turn and fly into the second vortex before ending with a splash on the Double Barrel Drop.
Younger kids will get a kick out of the enormous bucket of water slowly filling up at the top of a sprawling treehouse. In fact, we missed two elevators waiting for the thing to fill up and tip itself over, my son's face pressed against giant glass windows. It finally dumped, soaking a dozen delighted children (and a few crazy grownups) below. As we later learned, this gigantic contraption holds almost 1,000 gallons of water, and cools off a happy crowd approximately every five minutes, all day long. Fun! The bucket is atop Fort Mackenzie, which is a giant treehouse, complete with squirters, water guns, steering wheels, soakers, waterfalls, bridges, and waterslides.
This roller coaster waterslide, Hydro Plunge, features a 42-foot vertical drop. Children must be at least 48 inches tall in order to ride.
River Canyon Run
River Canyon Run, one of the park's signature slides, allows families of up to four to ride together in a big raft. Children must be at least 42 inches tall in order to ride.
Slap Tail Pond
Slap Tail Pond is a wave pool with waves up to 3 feet tall. It features zero-depth entry and goes up to 5 feet deep. Float on a tube or ride the waves as if you were in the ocean. Children under 48 inches tall must wear a lifejacket.
Three-stories up, the two, twin slides offer kids and teens a way out of the Fort Mackenzie tree house. Slip, slide and race to the bottom and see who makes it out first!
Children under 48 inches tall can slide on the small Whooping Hollow slides.
Outdoor Area: Raccoon Lagoon
The outdoor park is called Raccoon Lagoon, and is a giant pool with plenty of room for swimming, basketball nets in the deep end, and a kiddie slide and sprayers in the shallow end. It is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and hours vary. There are no water slides in the outside park. Parents will like that fact the area is enclosed and smaller than inside; so you can watch your child in the pool from any seat. The one downside we found to the outdoor area is that while we were there it did not open until 10 a.m.
There are a number of amenities and fun for the kids that do not require swimsuits.
Compass Quest is an unlocked new layer of MagiQuest. A compass leads players on an interactive adventure of magic, mystery and discovery as they unveil the nine new quests. $14.99 includes compass and nine additional quests.
Cub Club on Wheels
Parents will also love the Cub Club, where children can do crafts, as well as decorate their MagicQuest Wands and T-shirts. Parental supervision is required at Cub Club, except during special hours of the day, during which time children who are potty-trained may stay without their parents for $15 an hour, for a maximum of two hours.
Each night at 8 p.m. at Great Wolf there is a short nature show and story time in the lobby. The show takes place beneath the clock tower, and most kids will love the animated characters and songs, which play for about 10 minutes before a story is read in front of the fireplace. Mascot Wiley the Wolf usually makes an appearance at story time.
Howl at the Moon Glow Golf
This mini golf game has black lights and glowing features for a unique mini golf experience.
MagiQuest is a big part of the Great Wolf Lodge experience, and it's worth the money for kids 6 to 12. The game is basically one big interactive fantasy adventure, where you work your way through different floors of the resort with a magic wand, completing quests in order to get to complete levels. The process begins by choosing a magic wand from the MagicQuest store, as well as optional toppers and decorations. All around are interactive "stops" where you can use your wand: Wave it at a treasure chest and it lights up, opens, and begins speaking to you; wave it at the ceiling and lights flash green. You can choose from a variety of quests, from simple to difficult, and as you solve riddles, you gain power and knowledge. Your magic wand records your accomplishments and remembers what level you are on, so you can go at your own pace. A wand costs $14.99 and the game is $9.99.
Northern Lights Arcade
This family-friendly arcade is full of games ranging from games of skill for older ones to games of chance for little ones.
Scooops Kid Spa
Young and tween girls will love Scoops, a mini-spa just for kids which does manicures and pedicures, and features ice-cream themed products. The kid spa is surrounded by glass windows, so parents can keep an eye on children without interfering.
Grab your wand and go! Help save the light with different characters while journeying through new worlds in this interactive video game. Defeat Malaki and receive the Medal of Light!
Story Explorers is an interactive storybook adventure. Kids buddy up with a stuffed animal friend and explore the adventures of each page from "Once upon a time" to "Happily ever after."
Ten Paw Alley
The Ten Paw Alley was made for families with little kids. It has 10 short lanes, 5-pound balls and no rental shoes. Kids have a blast at this bowling alley made for them.
There are several options for dining at Great Wolf, all of which are casual and kid-friendly. While you can't go wrong with any of the choices, don't expect to be wowed by any of them either. Unless you plan to dine somewhere outside of the resort for dinner, leave the skirts and dresses at home, ladies, as well as the ties and jackets, fellas.
Bear Paw Sweets & Eats
For quicker, smaller, and less-expensive meals there are several alternatives. Adjacent to the water park entrance is Bear Paw Sweets & Eats, a great little bakery and confectionery, which is a perfect place to grab coffee, fresh pastries, ice cream, fresh fruit and has fantastic home-made fudge and other treats.
Camp Critter Bar & Grille
Camp Critter Bar and Grille is next door to the buffet, and is essentially the same restaurant with different seating, with access to the buffet and limited menu items like tuna melts, pot roast, and pasta.
Grizzly Rob's Bar
Grisly Rob's, located inside the waterpark, is where you can take a little break and get beer and wine, mixed drinks, sodas, and snacks - very convenient.
Hungry as a Wolf
Hungry as a Wolf is a quick and easy lunch or dinner option. The menu includes homemade pizza, bread sticks, salad and a Wolf-It-Down family meal. Order take-out and pick it up at Loose Moose Bar and Grill, then you can take it back to your suite to eat.
The Loose Moose Cottage
If you have big eaters in your family, try the Loose Moose Cottage, which has a generous gourmet buffet, in a bustling and friendly atmosphere. The food is varied and plentiful - decent, but not great. The breakfast buffet has pancakes and French toast, eggs, pastries cooked-to-order omelets, and cereals. The lunch buffet is open on weekends and holidays, and offers loads of kid-friendly options like made-to-order pastas, several varieties of pizza, homemade soups, a large salad bar, wraps, sandwiches and subs, as well as hot dogs and burgers. The dinner buffet has several entrees, which change nightly, as well as a carving station, a variety of seafood including peel-and-eat shrimp, and a dessert bar with cookies, cakes, puddings and make-your-own sundaes.
Buckets Incredible Craveables
Inside the indoor water park there is a snack shop that sells more quick food like pizzas, cheeseburgers, hot pretzels and nachos. Buckets Incredible Craveables is a convenient choice to feed everyone without having to leave the park.
There is a Pizza Hut Express and Starbucks Coffee also located on property for grab-n-go meals and snacks. Many people opt to bring their own food and go picnic-style in the room, while others choose to leave the resort for meals. There are plenty of nearby options, including a Wendy's. You are not permitted to bring your own food into the water parks; but you may carry it into the resort. Take advantage of the refrigerator in your suite and bring at least snacks and drinks with you. Eating and drinking in general is allowed everywhere in the resort, including in the lobby.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The average length of stay at Great Wolf is 18 hours. Older kids might get bored after a couple of days. Be prepared for the fact that check- in, especially during heavy travel times, can be very busy, and on the slow side, so be prepared to wait. Check in is at 4 p.m., but you are welcome to arrive as early as 1 p.m., check in, and rent a locker until your room becomes available. You will have access to the water park as soon as you check in. In addition, and this is a really great feature, check out is at 11 a.m. but you may use the water park all day the day of your checkout, until it closes in the evening.
The resort has a few shops on site for families to visit when in need of an extra t-shirt, swim suite or tooth brush. Bear Essentials Swim Shop will have everything you need should you forget a necessity. For fun souvenirs, visit the Great Wolf Kids Store, Buckhorn Exchange or the MagiQuest Marketplace.
The area around the lodge also has multiple other attractions if you should get tired of the water. Museums, horseback riding, hiking trails, ski resorts and golf courses are close by for families looking to do more than just slip and slide.
The Art of Smart Timing
Keep in mind that the outdoor water park is open only Memorial Day through Labor Day. Each season has its own benefits; summer allows you access to twice the park, but winter provides a warmth and ambience that just isn't achievable in summer. Bed time stories in the dark, in front of a hearth and fire while the resort is buried in snow have a different effect than in the bustling light of summer. Besides which, there is just something exciting about being in your bathing suit in December in the Poconos. Air conditioning units are unusually loud.
Also check the resort's website for monthly specials and deals, which often include meals, game credits and extra hours at the water park.
The resort is about two hours from New York City and Philadelphia and is easily accessible by car. When coming from any direction, be sure to turn on to Route 611. Coming from the north and heading south, Great Wolf Lodge Poconos will be on your right. When coming from the south and heading north, Great Wolf Lodge Poconos will be on your left.
For Mom and Dad
Let's face it, Great Wolf is for the kids. But amidst the clamor, Elements Spa provides a quiet break for moms and dads. The full-service spa offers massages, manicures and pedicures, as well as facials and wraps. There are eight treatment rooms, all of which seem like a million miles away from the hum of the water park, which is just yards away. Massages start at around $90 for an hour, as do facials. Manicures and pedicures run $35-75.
If you can't escape from the indoor water park, relax in the North & South Hot Springs -- a whirlpool located near the pools and slides, just for adults 21 and older. Rejuvenate in the warm water while waiting for your kids to come down the next slide.
The Iron Horse Fitness Center is for those adults looking to get a workout in at any time -- it's open 24 hours!
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