A mini-break at Great Wolf Lodge

Tracy and her family take a pre-holiday break and go wild at the Niagara Falls water park

By Tracy Chappell
A mini-break at Great Wolf Lodge

The girls chat with the wildlife at Great Wolf Lodge

We’ve just returned from an awesome overnighter at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls. Have you been? There are lots of water parks out there, but something about Great Wolf Lodge is different. It’s the whole package, with a fun atmosphere and so many things to delight kids, instead of just a hotel with a water park attached.
You pay for that, of course. It’s not cheap. But because we’ve been before, we’re on an email list and get alerts for their special mid-week deals every now and then. That’s when we take advantage of the quick trip (it’s an hour for us) to Niagara Falls for a little surprise getaway for the girls.
In our case, the deal was $200 for the night (as I said, it’s not cheap!), for a Wolf Den suite, which has a separate area with bunk beds for the kids. The Wolf Den is a step up from a basic family suite with two queen beds, and less of the fun atmosphere. You can also go up much higher in cost, or join with another family and share a large suite that sleeps eight. My sister and her kids came with us this time, and, in hindsight, I wish we’d gotten one place for all of us, since we spent most of our time together in one of the rooms anyway.
So, it’s a lot, but it’s also two days of fun in a water park that has lots to entertain. Plus, they have different things going on in the hotel — crafts and activities and, most notably, an evening story time the kids can enjoy in their jammies, with an enthusiastic and interactive reader. The lobby itself is full of wonder, with a talking moose and bear, howling wolves, and right now, a gorgeous Christmas display that was just unveiled while we were there (I was told they have some amazing stuff lined up for Christmas celebrations, including Santa arriving by helicopter and snow in the lobby!).
And it’s easy to go cheap while you’re there. We brought all our own food — spaghetti, sandwich stuff, lots of snacks — so we didn’t have to spend money while we were there. Last time we even bypassed the gift shop, but this time, we hit that and the arcade, so we spent a little bit there. And if you do want to spend money, there’s no shortage of options, from delicious looking treats to a spa (for adults and kids!). There’s also a nightly pajama party with no parents allowed, so they’ll take care of your kids for a price, if you want to have some time on your own. To go to the spa, perhaps. I didn’t do this, but maybe next time…
Ahhh… next time. My sister’s kids are eight and almost-seven, and we got a taste this trip of how cool it will be when the kids can take on the water park on their own (though I’ll still want to go on the slides, because they’re so much fun). Avery’s still a couple of years away from solo action, but Anna is pretty much there. And I’m excited at the thought of sitting back on a lounger with a book while they wear themselves out with all the water fun.
I think next time we may save up and splurge on two nights as well. The only negative I ever find at Great Wolf Lodge is the check-in/check-out times. Your room isn’t guaranteed to be ready until four, and check-out time is 11 a.m. We requested a later check-out; they’ll let you stay until noon if you ask. But if you want later than that, you have to pay. You do have access to the park from noon on your check-in day, and for the entire next day, but I find it so awkward and inconvenient to lug stuff into lockers, get wet kids (and myself) dried and dressed in a change room, with winter coats, etc. So if we had two nights, I think we could really enjoy everything the Lodge has to offer without feeling rushed. It’s hard to choose to go to the 9 a.m. craft time, for example, when you have to sacrifice your time in the water park to do it, and have to be out by 11. Another night would also give us time to check out more of the Falls while we were in town.
Something else to look forward to next time: In the new year, they’re launching a new interactive game called MagiQuest. It’s an interactive, role playing game where the kids can embark on quests and adventures around the hotel, using wands to solve the mysteries of the game. How cool, eh? Anna will love it!
 Do you take your family on mini-vacations? What's your favourite place to go?

This article was originally published on Nov 25, 2011

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