This was our third visit to Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio. We love it so much, it’s becoming a tradition!
This past weekend, we arrived on Friday night, just in time to catch a bedtime story in the lobby. The kids listened to the story while Mr. Hoagie and I checked in. After the story, we took our bags to the room and got the kids changed into their pajamas. At 9 pm, we returned to the lobby to see the audioanimatronic show. The animated characters sing a medley of songs with a very friendly, woodsy theme.
After the show, we bustled the kids off to bed. The room we had selected was called a Kids’ Cabin Suite. Its main feature was a separate kids’ sleeping area decorated to look like a log cabin. The “cabin” featured bunk beds (a strong selling point for Big Sis) plus another twin bed. The area also contained a desk plus a television that also offered (paid) access to Nintendo and pay-per-view movies.
The parents’ area included a king bed, nightstands, dresser and TV, table & chairs. There was also a microwave, coffeemaker and mini fridge. The rest of the room was like a typical hotel room.
The next morning, the kids were up at 6:30 am (about half an hour early for them). The water park didn’t open until 9 am, so we gave the kids breakfast that we’d packed: cereal, milk and fruit. We slipped into our swimsuits and headed to the water park.
Upon entering, the first feature you see is the little kids/baby area. It starts with a zero-depth area with a few fountains. In the center is a big soft-play-type fixture, which has two baby-sized waterslides. Just past that is a deeper (12”) circular baby pool. In the center of that area is a contraption that dumps cone-shaped buckets of water over swimmers below.
The centerpiece of the waterpark is Fort Mackenzie. It’s a huge multilevel climbing structure. There are steps and cargo nets to climb, waterguns to shoot, and buckets to fill and dump on unsuspecting passers-by. On the top level in the back are the entrances to two waterslides.
But the showpiece of the entire park is at the top of Fort Mackenzie. It’s a gigantic bucket emblazoned with the Great Wolf Lodge logo, which is filled with water from above. As it’s filled to about the halfway mark, excess water spills out of a pipe and falls on a waterwheel, which causes a bell to chime. The chime causes children from all over the park to come running (even though running is strictly prohibited) and stand directly in front of Fort Mackenzie. The bucket continues to fill, and when it can no longer contain itself, it dumps hundreds of gallons of water on the people gathered below.
Over all, the park contains a large swimming pool, the aforementioned baby area, hot tubs (one for families and a second for adults only), six large waterslides (two of which take riders outside the walls of the building (though they are enclosed in a tube), 3 “little kid” waterslides, a lazy river, snack bar and gift shop.
We swam and slid for about 3 hours before getting hungry. A quick stop at the snack bar, a little more swimming, and then we went back to the room for a siesta. We fixed pb&j and broke out a bag of Cheetos. Then with tired bodies, wet hair and full bellies, everyone fell asleep.
That evening, we swam another three hours before coming back to the room to shower and dress for dinner. We left the hotel to eat at a local restaurant (which I won’t mention except to say that it was unremarkable), then came back to the room for bed. (The one regret I have for the weekend was taking two very tired kids out to eat at eight o’clock at night. Dumb.)
On Sunday morning we had breakfast at The Cook’s Shanty, which is a breakfast-only restaurant inside the hotel. When we booked our stay, we’d added on breakfast for four at a promotional price, so we redeemed the voucher we’d been given at the front desk.
Breakfast was great. They offered a buffet of fruit, muffins, pastries and cereal, plus another area featuring oatmeal, toast and bagels. There was also an omelette station. In addition, there were French toast sticks, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, biscuits and sausage gravy, all served family-style. Beverages were also included.
We rolled away from the table and prepared to pull out for PA. We made a stop at the gift shop for small stuffed animals for the girls and a postcard for Big Sis to send to her best friend. She wrote it out and we took it to the front desk for a stamp. To our delight, they took that postcard and mailed it for free.
(Of course, when you think about it, we’d paid hundreds of dollars for our stay, and we’d paid them 25 cents for the postcard (really, just a piece of promotional material) decked out with their logo…really, what’s a postcard stamp after all that?)
Big Sis loved the waterslides that go outside, the bunk beds, and the pool. “It’s fantastic!”
Little Sis liked the decor (“It has statues of wolves and the lobby tells stories!”), the bunk beds, and the lazy river.
Mr. Hoagie enjoyed the big fireplace in the lobby, the bear & cougar cubs that are available for (paid) pictures, and that GWL was less expensive than our nearest water park.
As for me, I love that it’s a manageable size (meaning I don’t spend the weekend sick to my stomach because I can’t find my kids). Also, all of the water park guests are also hotel guests, so that limits access more than parks that sell day passes to the public. In short, Great Wolf Lodge is great for families, especially those with kids under 12.
Note: I have not been compensated in any way for this review, and we paid for the entire trip ourselves. Yeah, I know I’m gushing. But this qualifies as something I love that works for me!