To celebrate summer’s last hurrah, we booked a mid-week stay at Southern California’s Great Wolf Lodge. It had seemed like we were one of the last families in Orange County to visit the expansive indoor water park located in Garden Grove, so we were thrilled to finally get our opportunity.
Turns out, Megan and I received a media invite to preview the resort planned for the week before our own stay. The invite included a day visit with access to all the dry attractions, lunch and an afternoon in the water park. So, not only were we able to visit Great Wolf Lodge for a first time, we went twice in two weeks.
Great Wolf Lodge, Southern California
Great Wolf Lodge rolled out the red carpet for us during the media preview as they hosted most every attraction. My nine year old daughter and her friend first hit Northern Lights Arcade where they played games like air hockey, skee-ball, took their chance at the claw games and won so many tickets which were later cashed in for trinkets and candy.
The Northern Lights Arcade is bright and manageable in size. I felt very comfortable allowing the two to run around and play games and didn’t feel like I had to hover over them like I do at some of the larger arcades.
Indoor Activities at Great Wolf Lodge
We worked our way through the attractions, playing Howl at the Moon Glow Golf next. This is an indoor, mini golf course illuminated by black lights, glowing themed creatures and offered a few challenging holes. Don’t expect 18 on this course as it was definitely miniature but it also allowed the kids to slow down in comparison to the frenetic pace of the arcade.
My personal favorite dry attraction was bowling at Ten Paw Alley. Bowling is in my blood and the two girls didn’t stand a chance next to my skills. Granted, the balls were all five pounds and the length of the lanes were half of what you would find in a regular bowling alley, but this was super fun. Kids of all ages and adults can play and no bowling shoes were required. If you were wondering, I did win.
The girls did take part in the MagiQuest adventure, waving their wands at various interactive crystals and angry dragons. However, by this time, they were itching to get into the water park and stashed their wands. Luckily, we brought the wands back on our next visit and continued the adventure. More on that below!
What’s New at Great Wolf Lodge
During our beautiful lunch at the Loose Moose Family Kitchen, we learned of some exciting new things coming to Great Wolf Lodge. The mamas howled with delight at learning about Great Wolf Lodge’s new Wine Down service in which parents can order carefully curated pairings of wine and culinary treats and have it delivered to the room after the kids are nestled in their wolf den.
This isn’t any old room service because don’t expect a knock at the door that might wake exhausted children, you will instead get a text message alerting you that your treats are outside of your hotel door.
Speaking of hotel rooms, Great Wolf Lodge has recently added 18 deluxe Wolf Den King suites to meet the overwhelming request to accommodate larger families and parties in the themed suites. Themed suites feature bunk beds, a second flat screen TV and special interactive animation.
A sleeper sofa is also in the main suite plus a private king-size bed and bathroom in an attached room. If you are celebrating with a large birthday party or traveling with a multigenerational family, these deluxe Wolf Den King suites are your best option.
What is the Water Park like at Great Wolf Lodge?
Southern California gets some of the country’s best weather with beaches and swimming pools abound so why an indoor water park? I realized I was only looking at Great Wolf Lodge as a local attraction and not one for visiting travelers.
Great Wolf Lodge brings a fun option to those visiting nearby amusement parks. Spend the day body surfing, on the lazy river or flying down the six-story Howlin’ Tornado and never once have to put on an ounce of sunscreen.
You don’t have to drag towels and snacks and a sun umbrella with you and you certainly don’t have to worry about bringing sand home.
There are clean bathrooms and changing areas steps away from the water and did I mention margaritas? Yes, margaritas, smoothies, french fries and so much more are available without even leaving the water park. Even a local finds all these things appealing. Now, I get it.
Okay, but are there any downsides to Great Wolf Lodge?
The water park at Great Wolf Lodge is loud. The rushing water, the overhead sound system and the squeals and thrills from those enjoying the water park can be deafening especially if you are spending long stretches of time in there.
Both times we visited, I didn’t get in any of the pools or ride any slides because I have trouble with motion sickness and even the slightest wave would do me in. I had no trouble finding a comfortable lounger and set myself up with my headphones and a magazine.
Are there lifeguards at Great Wolf Lodge?
There is also a heavy amount of chlorine in the air at the water park. Sensitive Sally here needed a dose of eye drops during both of my visits. Luckily I came prepared the second time we were there but noticed the Bear Essentials Swim Shop carried eye drops plus other things including swim suits, water shoes and goggles.
Speaking of goggles, we purchased a pair from Bear Essentials during our visit and unfortunately they leaked. The shop swapped them out for a new pair with no questions asked. I was really pleased with the customer service throughout the resort. From the check-in process to housekeeping, the employees at Great Wolf Lodge are there to give you a great experience.
The humidity in the Great Wolf Lodge water park can take your breath away. Humidity isn’t something local So Cal natives are familiar with. But what can one expect from an 84-degree indoor water park? If it gets to be too much, I suggest heading outside to the smaller outdoor pool. O, try walking indoors and grabbing an iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts.
Mind you, my daughter is old enough that I can let her ride wild at the Great Wolf Lodge water park. I also felt very comfortable with the amount of supervision provided by Great Wolf Lodge lifeguards. It was helpful to observe their methods of watching the water and those in it. I saw how they signaled to each other if there was something that needed extra attention.
Though, this isn’t permission to let your littles swim without eyes on them. Smaller children or new swimmers, definitely require supervision from parents.
What is MagiQuest at Great Wolf Lodge?
MagiQuest is a live-action role playing game that takes families and kids on an adventure throughout the Great Wolf Lodge resort. The objective of the game is to gain power by obtaining magic runes. Players wave their infrared wands to interact with objects and collect runes placed throughout the hotel and lobbies.
Each quest can take up to 30 minutes and players can play as many quests as they want during their stay. The same wands can be used at each subsequent stay at the resort.
During our second stay, my daughter and her friend, really took to the game. However, MagiQuest takes a lot patience. Players need to understand the clues to find the runes and then understand how the runes are used to defeat the evil dragon.
The Great Wolf Lodge MagiQuest employees were great with the kids. They consistently gave hints and tips on how to succeed. It took the girls hours to finish the game during our overnight stay. In fact, they didn’t play in the water park until the completed the game and were knighted in a very special Magi ceremony that took place in the Great Wolf Lodge main lobby.
Who can play Magiquest?
It’s suggested that MagiQuest is recommended for families, children and teens. In my opinion, MagiQuest is suited for older tweens and teens, and children playing along side with a parent. The reason for this is, the game takes players on a quest to find things throughout the resort.
While many of the interactive components are located throughout the main and lower lobbies, they are also located on various floors of the hotel (outside of the elevators and down hallways where sleeping rooms are located).
There is no way I would let my nine year old roam the hotel as a solo player but I did let her explore and play with a friend under the caveat that they must stay together. I am uneasy about the safety of children as they ride up and down the elevator, take stairwells, and walk down hallways where other hotel guests are staying.
Tips for Staying at Great Wolf Lodge Southern California
- Make use of the main lobby. It’s super comfortable with several cozy couches, a grand fireplace and the perfect place to kick back while kids visit characters, attend story time or the evening dance party. My husband and I ordered cocktails from Lodge Wood Fired Grill and put our feet up.
- Charge your phone in the main lobby using the power outlets near the lamps. You must have your own plug and cord, but charge up and relax on the comfy couches. Other outlets can be found downstairs across from the arcade near Howl at the Moon Golf.
- Consider adding a Paw, Pup or Wolf Pass when making your reservation. These passes are packages that can include MagiQuest, arcade points, a round of golf and more and you can save up to 35% when pre-purchasing.
- The tattoos from Glitter Glitz aren’t really waterproof, so save the body art until the end of the day for a cool souvenir.
Sweets and Treats at Great Wolf Lodge
- Grab an ice cream at Bear Paw Sweets & Eats after the water park closes to take back to your room. The line can get long, especially once the water park closes for the night.
- Hungry As A Wolf serves good pizza and even better salads, plus has a Coca-Cola Freestyle soda machine. Perfect lunch spot to get away from the water park for a while.
- Great Wolf Lodge allows outside food in the sleeping rooms and provides a microwave. I would suggest bringing bottled waters, drinks and snacks because Great Wolf Lodge does not offer room service. Note: No outside food is allowed in the water park area.
How does Great Wolf Lodge Handle Allergies?
- Great Wolf Lodge is allergy aware! They are happy to accommodate those with allergies and encourage families to talk to the chef or email them before your stay to discuss your specific needs.
Great Wolf Lodge Southern California isn’t just for summer fun. The resort has special offers for their Howl-O-Ween celebration during the month of October and Snowland from November – January where guests will find snow showers, twinkling lights and gingerbread houses as Great Wolf Lodge transforms into a magical winter wonderland.
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