Great Wolf Lodge Washington: Tricks and Tips to Save Money
Our family of five just returned from a wonderful weekend at Great Wolf Lodge in Washington. Located on the Chehalis Indian reservation, this lodge is approximately halfway between Portland and Seattle. It's 1 hour and 40 minutes away from Portland, OR and 1 hour and 20 minutes from Seattle and located at: 20500 Old Highway 99, SW. Grand Mound, WA 98531
We had a truly fantastic time, it was even fun for the grown-ups. In case you've never been, I'm hoping to give you some tips and pointers on making the best of your stay. Right of the bat, I will tell you it's expensive... in every imaginable way. But, there are some tricks to keeping the costs down... a few I didn't know before I went that I clearly wish I'd been privy to.
About the Rooms Themselves
They're nice, very clean, comfortable and kid-friendly. We stayed on the 7th floor where the rooms are a bit more "mature". It seems the upper 6th, 7th and 8th floors are a bit more mature. The floors on the lower levels get more action since they are part of what's called MagiQuest. I'll get into that later...
They have what are called themed suites with the following names: Wolf Den Suite, KidKamp Suite and the KidCabin Suite. We went with friends who stayed in the KidKamp Suite which has the feel of a mini log cabin. The themed suites are clearly geared towards the taste of kids.
We opted for a more adult room with the classic family suite with an additional bedroom for privacy. And by privacy I mean a place to escape from our kids at the end of the day! Some have balconies, some do not. Our suite had two queen bed, a pull out couch and a king size bed in the bedroom.
All rooms have a mini refrigerator, microwave and blow dryer.
Great Wolf Lodge Washington: Indoor Water Park
The indoor water park is, of course, the main attraction... and rightly so! It's difficult to give it justice unless you've seen it for yourself, but let me just say it's enormous and just downright awesome. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit I had just as much fun as my kids.
There are a few different areas in the wide open park, some are better for young kids while others are geared towards the older crowd (myself included!). You must be 42" in height to go down what are referred to as the tunnels. Unless you're 48" you need to be accompanied by an adult. There are also maximum weight restrictions on all the various rides, you'll be asked each time if you satisfy these requirements.
These are basically fully-enclosed tubes that run both indoors and outdoors. The most popular of all (I know from its obscenely long lines) is what's called the Howling Tornado. The first time I went was at night, when we first arrived. The majority of the ride was pitch black, part of what definitely adds to the thrill. You climb up numerous stories of stairs, hoist yourself onto one of the rafts that are transported up to the top via conveyor belt and you get a little push from the attendant. You are thrust into a dark tunnel at high speeds with little knowledge of what's ahead. Hold on tight because in about ten seconds you will experience what's basically a free-fall drop... yes, it's a thrill ride. You then catapult into a huge cone-shaped enclosure where you become a regular whirling dervish until you finally find yourself (usually backwards, mind you) thrust into the final stretch of winding, fast paced tunnels on your way out. What a crazy rush!
River Canyon Run is a close second in the thrill ride department. Instead of going up the stairs to the right, you go to the left and make your way up to the top of the park. This ride uses a sturdy raft, and trust me... you'll need and want it. Hold onto the handles as you completely at the mercy of the slippery tunnel, rushing water and gravity. As much as you may want to start the ride going forward, invariably you'll end up exiting the ride going backwards. Again, watch out for long lines.
If your kids aren't quite ready for the thrill rides, you can try some of the more tame tunnels. One of the favorites is Alberta Falls. You'll also find the lines aren't nearly as long for them.
The water park has more than just slides, too. My 9 year-old son spent hours in Chinook Cove, where you can play basketball in the water (a dream come true for him!). My girls enjoyed the challenge of walking across the floating lily pads with a little help from a suspended net for balance purposes. There's also a lot of fun to be had in the Fort Mackenzie tree house. At the very top is a huge bucket that slowly fills with water and occasionally dumps itself on unsuspecting guests. There are regular, body only water slides here... great for the younger crowd since they don't have to be 48".
The wave pool offers hours of entertainment as well. Once you hear a bellowing wolf howl, look out because waves are on the way. There are two different types of waves: crashing and rolling. The crashing waves are much more intense and forceful, so make sure your kids have on a life preserver or are very adept swimmers. There are multiple life guards watching the wave pools, but there are also LOTS of people in the water. My kids are great swimmers, but I found I was more comfortable being in the waves with them... just in case.
If you're with toddlers, you will find the Cub Paw pool to be a great place to hang out. It's shallow and has lots of fun spray and play features.
There is a nice indoor/outdoor hot tub as well. Don't expect to use this as your haven for relaxation, however. It's crowded and filled with kids swimming around. Kids are supposed to be over 8 to get in the hot tub, but let's just say no one abides by that rule.
There are multiple on-site restaurants, but expect to pay elevated prices. From Camp Critter Bar and Grille all the way to a Pizza Hut Express, you won't go hungry. There's even a Starbuck's on site for those who need caffeine fuel. Again, you pay for the convenience.
Activities for Kids
Of course there's no deficit in the number of kid-oriented activities at the Great Wolf Lodge Washington location. Every night at 8pm is pajama story time. Get your kids in their PJ's, head down to the cozy living room area by the fire and let them enjoy an animated story time. It's a great way for them to wind down after a very physically exhausting day. Don't miss the great clock tower shows, either. Trust me, you can't miss the enormous clock.
When you first arrive, no doubt you'll see wand-wielding kids running everywhere opening treasure chests and bringing the Lodge to life. If you've never been before, you won't recognize they're playing a very exciting game called MagiQuest.
All About MagiQuest
This game is similar to a scavenger hunt. Basically you purchase a wand for $16.99 and pay an additional $12.99 to activate the game. You're given a little booklet with clues you need to follow. You must follow all clues in the order they appear.
Your first stop is the magic tree where you receive directions and activate your quests. You must return to the tree to activate all separate quests or it won't work. Yes, we learned this the hard way. The kids end up traipsing all over the hotel with their wands, opening chests, activating crystals, etc... Having a wand makes the entire lodge come to life. They love it and it's even fun for the adults. One suggestion... don't try to do it all in one day. It's a lot of work. Once you activate your wand, you have four days to complete the game. If you don't finish, you can pay to reactivate it the next time you visit. It's not cheap, but it's hours of entertainment, no doubt.
How to Save Money at Great Wolf Lodge
- You can save a lot of money at Great Wolf Lodge by bringing some of your own food. Since they have a mini refrigerator and a microwave, you'd be surprised by the amount of money you can save. We brought sandwich fixings, macaroni and cheese (the add water type), popcorn, cheese and crackers and our own coffee!
- Leave the premises to eat. You can exit out the north doors and walk just down the street to a fantastic burger place called Burger Claim. It was much cheaper than the in-house restaurant options. It has fantastic sweet potato fries, too! There are quite a few restaurant options in and around Grand Mound, some within walking distance, others only minutes away by car.
- When you make your reservation, don't forget to look for any restaurant or gift shop deals or vouchers.
- Sometimes they have discounts on bookings, especially during the non-peak seasons. Right now is a good time to go, from 09/05/2011 - 12/22/2011 family suites are 20% off. Just remember to reserve the room by 9/30/2011!