Kids Guide to Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California

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Great Wolf Lodge is an indoor water park resort located in Garden Grove, California, just a few miles away from Disneyland.  This resort is HUGE.  In addition to the water park, there are two levels of dry activities including a 24 hour arcade, mini bowling, glow golf, kids salon, stuffed animal workshop and much more!  An attentive staff leads fun activities in the lobby throughout the day while fun characters like Wylie the Wolf are happy to play with the kids and take as many photos as you’d like!

Dry Activities and Paw Passes

All dry activities are open to the public and you do not need to be staying at the hotel to enjoy these amenities!  You can purchase the activities a la carte or buy a Pass that groups the most popular activities together at a discounted rate.  There are three levels of Passes:  Pup Pass ($44.99, geared for kids 5 and under), Paw Pass ($79.99, best for kids six and up), and the Wolf Pass ($99.99, all inclusive pass).  We received the Paw Pass during our visit and it was so nice being able to say “Yes” to all the fun activities that were included.

  • MagiQuest Game ($20):  there are several interactive spots around the resort that are activated by the magic wand that you get to keep.  This was a little too complicated for the girls so we didn’t get too far in our quest.  I would recommend this for kids who are super into scavenger hunts and who want to dedicate the time to solving the mysteries.

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  • Great Wolf Kids Character at Creation Station ($40):  this was the highlight for the girls!  They LOVE stuffed animals and were so excited to stuff one (think Build-a-Bear).  What makes these characters unique is that they come equipped with a sensor in their hands that activate the Clubhouse Crew Adventure Game.  This is similar to MagiQuest in that it will take you to various stations throughout the resort, but it is much more manageable for younger kids.

20 Paw Points to use in the Arcade or for Attractions ($5):  20 points turned out to be $5, so it went quickly in the arcade!  You can also choose to use it for bowling, glow golf, lazer tag, or the 3D show.  Each of these activities start at around $6 a person, so you might need to add additional points.

1 serving of bulk candy ($10):  the girls LOVED being able to pick out whatever candy they wanted.  The cup that you fill is generous and we’ll have candy to eat for the next few weeks.

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  • One pair of Great Wolf Lodge swim Goggles:  I didn’t see how much these were a la carte but my guess is about $7.  They didn’t do much, but the girls loved getting a “souvenir” from the swim shop.

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  • 1 Glitz Glitter Tattoo ($7):  these were so pretty, but we ended up not getting them because they come off in the water.
  • 1 souvenir Leather Treaty name bracelet ($14):  this is one of those things that the girls secretly want but I would never buy unless it was included in part of a package.  They were thrilled to get such a nice gift.

You know your child better than anyone else, so if they are going to want to do all these things, definitely get one of the passes.  If I were to do it again, I would probably get them either the Pup Pass or buy the Creation Station character a la carte.  We definitely want to try bowling or glow golf in the future!

The Water Park

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The Water Park is exclusive to hotel guests and they do check wristbands when you enter.  They also check your bags to make sure no outside food is brought in (food bought on the Great Wolf Lodge premises is permitted along with 1 water bottle per person).  The first time you enter, they will measure the kids and give them the appropriate wristband to let you know what slides and attractions they can go on.  LittleSage was red (the shortest), and LittleGray was yellow so it greatly limited what we could do as a family.  Additionally, the girls are not what you would call “adventurous” so we spent most of our time doing family water activities for all ages.

  • Cub Paw Pool:  this is the area dedicated to smaller guests with red and yellow wristbands.  It is a sectioned off area so you don’t have to worry about your little ones running away.  The girls loved the beach entry pool.  The water was only about 2 feet deep, but they kept their life jackets on for added safety.  There were numerous water jets and water tables in addition to slides that they could do independently.

Crooked Creek Lazy River:  we spent most of our time here!  They did have tubes available but they were hard to get during peak times.  Even without a tube, the girls had fun floating along in their life jackets.

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  • Slap Tail Pond Wave Pool: every few minutes, you’ll hear a wolf howl and the waves will start!  LittleGray preferred to stay at the edge to let the waves wash over her, but LittleSage was brave enough to be carried in to jump in the waves.  The deepest was 4 feet so I was confident that I could hold her without going under.

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  • Fort Mackenzie:  This is the main waterslide area with a splash pad.  You can walk up and aim the waterguns and the people below, but beware of the clanging bell–this means the huge bucket of water is going to dump (we learned this the hard way).

Chinook Cave:  another open pool area with basketball nets, little lily pads to sit on, and a log that you can try to overthrow.

  • Racoon Lagoon Outdoor area: it can get pretty balmy and humid indoors, so it’s nice that there is an open air pool area.  Even in the middle of the winter, all of the water was heated to about 84 degrees.

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  • Wolf Rider Wipeout:  if you saw our instastory highlights from that day, you saw the video of me completely wiping out on this attraction.  My surfer husband was super excited to try this surf wall and he had such a great time that he somehow convinced me to do it too.  I have to admit, it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be and the girls got a kick out of seeing me do something out of my comfort zone.

Snowland Winter Celebration

To celebrate the Holidays, Great Wolf Lodge is transformed into a winter Snowland from November 24 through January 4!  As soon as you walk in the lobby, you are greeted by the huge Christmas tree.  The chefs worked for 26 days to build the lifesize gingerbread house that is made from real gingerbread and icing–you can even making a dining reservation to have a family meal inside the gingerbread house with all the proceeds going to Ronald McDonald House Charities.  It will occasionally SNOW inside the lobby and Santa stops by to take photos!

When we visited, the girls had the experience of a lifetime to decorate gingerbread houses with the chefs in honor of National Gingerbread day.  I have never met a more kind and patient chef.  The girls were so proud of their creations and we were so grateful for this experience.

Hotel Rooms

You get TWO days of water play with every hotel stay–one on the day you check in and all day on the day you check out.  Most rooms come with 6 or more water park wristband.  There are several types of hotel rooms to choose from including family suites and rooms with bunkbeds.  My personal favorite was the Grizzly Den which had a living room, 2 full bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms.  You can also opt for the $50 “Snowland Suite upgrade” which includes a full Christmas tree in the living room and snowflake sheets on the bed.  Wiley also comes to tuck in the kids at night with a plate of milk and cookies.  Your family also gets to take home a special keepsake book.  My sisters and I were talking about doing this option next year so all the cousins could celebrate together without having the mess at any of our houses.  There’s something so special about being able to spend the night at a water park and to go down to the beautifully decorated lobby in the middle of the night!

Can I Visit without having Hotel Reservations?

YES!  There are so many free activities and paid attractions that are open to the public!  You do not need hotel reservations to do Character Breakfast dining, participate in any of the dry activities, or to purchase one of the passes.  You can meet characters, do the hourly arts and crafts, even yoga and the PJ Dance Party!  Hourly parking is available for $5 an hour (first 30 minutes free) in the structure with a daily maximum of $26.  Anyone is free to take in the Holiday decorations and meet Santa.

Discounts

Check the Great Wolf Lodge website for the latest discounts on hotel stays.  They are currently having a year end sale with up to 25% off rooms.  Also, check out Groupon to see if they have any Great Wolf Lodge deals.  They currently have an open offer that is only good through 12/19!  With Groupon, you can usually pick a day a couple months in advance so it pays to plan ahead!

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My family was given free admission to enjoy Great Wolf Lodge, but all opinions are my own.  We all had a blast and we can’t wait to go back!

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