When the leaves start falling in Autumn, turning the world into a basket of warm and wonderful colors, the Great Wolf Lodge also undergoes a dramatic transformation that shifts with the seasons. Santa arrives at the lodge’s lobby the Saturday after Thanksgiving, accompanied by the lodge wolves, Violet and Willey, driving behind his sled in their cool convertible. In the back of the lobby, the group comes upon a giant Gingerbread House surrounded by puffy snow and enormous snowflakes.
Families can sign up online through Yelp to eat a private meal inside the Gingerbread House for only $10. The Great Wolf Lodge donates all proceeds from the special venue to Ronald McDonald House to support families with sick children.
Santa will stay in Snowland and oversee the various activities available at North Pole University until Jan. 1. In this spirit of the Howl-I-Days, lodge rooms will be available that reflect the wonder of winter. There will even be the option of having a tree included in the Christmas-themed suites.
We stayed in the Wolf Den, which is perfect for a family with two kids. The boys have their own space where they can chill out with their own TV and animals that come to life when you wave the magic wand at them, and the adults have their own little retreat and don’t have to hear those cute little sounds all night.
Although our favorite wolf lodge has transformed to a chilly wonderland, all the fun we enjoyed during summer is still there and the boys couldn’t wait to don the wolf-ears, which also change colors with the seasons, and race off to seek soggy adventures!
Age restrictions for those adventures have more to do with height than age. There is a handy guide, as you walk into the water park, that measures adventurers and sorts them into color categories. Visitors then don colored wrist bands that alert lifeguards and attraction hosts. My 8-year-old son, Kaleb, is over 48 inches tall and fell into the green category, which meant he could do anything there. Knox is pushing yellow but still within that range. He sported a yellow wrist band, which showed he was taller than 42 inches. The wrist band saved on time since the hosts didn’t have to measure him before every ride. The yellow designation meant he could go on every attraction except the Howling Tornado and Wolf Tail.
The water park stays open until 9 p.m. on weekends, but we got hungry before then so we ate at the very family friendly Loose Moose Family Kitchen. I was impressed by the creative and healthy options offered by the restaurant. The boys were impressed by the desserts. We went to bed way past our bedtime and didn’t get a chance to start our next day with the free yoga class the resort offers in the lobby. Besides free yoga, there’s a whole array of free activities for all ages offered daily to guests. It really is an amusement park that you can sleep in.
Right outside the water park is an outdoor area that is perfect for those who need a little escape from the chlorinated air. There is also a place to order lunch called Grizzly Bear’s Bar and Grill that doesn’t involve fried meats or breads topped with cheeses.
After lunch, we all dove back into the water park and got a chance to have some thrilling family fun. Daddy and Kaleb decided to try out their surf skills on the Wolf Rider Wipeout. Knox wasn’t tall enough to ride it on the surfboard, but he could have done the boogie board.
We splashed around in the all-ages lazy river, Crooked Creek, the boys got a chance to practice their America Ninja Warrior skills at Big Foot Pass, which is open to all heights and ages. They chilled for a second on a floating log in Chinook Cove. Then they wanted to get their sports on, and so shot some baskets in a different area of the same “cove”.
After enjoying their adrenaline rushes, the boys wanted to seek fame and fortune by taking on one of the MagiQuests that was included in the Paw Pass we received. MagicQuest activities and screens (aka battle stations) are spread throughout the various levels of the hotel. They loved their quests and it’s an activity that’s good for kids and teens. The younger ones can have their own, shorter, adventure with the Clubhouse Crew, stuffed friends they can build at the Creation Station.
Also included in our pass was a bunch of souvenirs the boys got to take home and show to their friends at school. The leather bracelets, included with the Pass, were cool but the Great Wolf Lodge band that all guests receive is still on Knox’s wrist. He refuses to take it off. It’s going on three weeks now.
Rina Baraz Nehdar is a writer and a frequent contributor to LA Parent Magazine. She wrangles her boys in the suburbs of Los Angeles and could also be found at www.mommyhasastory.com.