Howling When It’s Time To Leave – The sign of a good time at Great Wolf Lodge!
This summer was a busy one, and there wasn’t a lot of time off for vacation. With the precious few days we did manage, we still wanted to get away and go somewhere fun. We’d heard raves about Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls. We weren’t sure if Great Wolf Lodge with toddlers would be such a great idea, but we decided to check it out for ourselves.
We timed our drive around our daughter’s nap – hoping she’d get a few winks in before the fun began. Of course she didn’t sleep, but we lucked out with traffic and we were pulling into the parking lot just over 90minutes after having left our house in Toronto. Great Wolf Lodge is roughly a 5-minute drive from the main drag in Niagara Falls, and looks like a giant log cabin from the road.
The log cabin theme is continued in the large lobby – where a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace is adorned with animatronic wolves howling intermittently. My daughter was captivated by “Mr. Moose” and “Mama Bear” – more animatronic creatures set up in the lobby – but we were both a little creeped out by the talking tree. Along with Daddy, Mr. Moose and Mama Bear kept our little cub occupied while I checked in. The line moved quickly and in no time we were wristbanded and away to our room. We were lucky that our room was ready early. You can check in as early as 1pm but rooms aren’t guaranteed until 4pm.
The rooms are spacious and well laid out for a family stay. Ours was the basic family suite that would certainly pass for an upgrade in your typical hotel. Each room is equipped with a small fridge, a microwave, safe (with buttons at perfect toddler level – beware!), TV with inputs for your dvd player or game device, as well as a separate sitting and eating area. We found the beds to be very comfortable and our room was a perfect place to relax and unwind.
In spite of (or perhaps because of) not sleeping in the car – my daughter was raring to go – off we went to the waterpark. My husband is a waterslide kind of guy, and his eyes completely lit up as we walked inside. This place is big and loud and wet and totally fun. In no time my daughter was going down the kiddie slides by herself, and we’d spell each other off catching her at the bottom so the other could go on the “big kid” rides. Tiny towels are provided and they do offer a small selection of life jackets to borrow. If you want to be sure your child is wearing one, bring your own. The wave pool was great fun and the lazy river was a surprise hit. With it being summer, I was hoping to spend some time outside, but the small pool out there was no match for the favoured green slide. However, the vigilant mom in me was relieved not to have to fuss with sunscreen.
Bleary-eyed (the chlorine is strong), we headed back to our room to shower and dress for dinner. There was a bit of a wait for the buffet, which was a little nerve-wracking with a hungry, non-napped toddler, but soon we were seated for supper and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and selection of the food.
After dinner, we snuck past the Mr. Moose & Mama Bear pajama party/storytime in the lobby (we learned on previous trips that staying up to party after dinner means no sleep for anyone) and once back in our room our daughter was asleep in minutes. We sat on our balcony and enjoyed the beer we’d brought that was chilling in our fridge, but truth be told we were lights out soon after. In spite of our pillow barricades, our poor little mouse fell out of bed. A call to the front desk confirmed that Great Wolf Lodge does provide bed rails – good to know for the future!
We started our second day with breakfast from the takeaway inside the waterpark. Then it was all slides, all the time – with a bit of wave pool and lazy river to break up the monotony! We all had a great nap in the afternoon, and after a quick trip to the Cub Club for a bit of arts and crafts, it was back to the waterpark once again. The spa looked lovely, but this mini-break was about spending time together so I figured I’d check it out another time.
We had intended to go into Niagara Falls for a bit of a change for dinner, but a torrential rainstorm thwarted our plans – it was back to the buffet. The choices were the same, but at least there is enough variety so you don’t necessarily have to eat the same thing. Again, after dinner our daughter was asleep in seconds, and even though we had beer left over – we were simply too tired to drink it. We were asleep within minutes of our daughter!!
Although you can stay until 7pm on the day you check out, my husband and I were a little waterpark-ed out and figured we’d hang out in Niagara Falls for the morning. We arrived in the lobby just in time for the morning storytime! As we got organized, our little cub enjoyed a few last moments with her beloved Mr. Moose & Mama Bear. The howls as we were leaving weren’t coming from the animatronic wolves, they were coming from a 2.5-year-old determined not to leave Great Wolf Lodge!
This was our first real venture to a “family” attraction, and we were pleased to find that it was very clean and nicely laid out for a family’s comfort. At 2 ½, our daughter was probably just old enough to really enjoy it, although families with small babies were well looked after as the older ones played. However, there were a few things I wish I had known in advance, so I’m giving you some tips to make your stay at Great Wolf Lodge a great one…
5 Tips for visiting Great Wolf Lodge with Toddlers:
- Surf before you book – the rack rate can be quite steep but there are often deals to be found online. Also, Great Wolf Lodge extends an excellent corporate rate to many companies, so check with your employer.
- Give your wallet (and your waistband) a break by bringing healthy snacks and food from home. Many families brought coolers containing their breakfast and lunch staples, so their only other main expense was dinner.
- Check in early. You can arrive as early as 1pm, so pack a day bag and enjoy the facilities while your room gets ready. We had smooth sailing at 2:30, but by 4pm the lobby was absolutely jammed with people and luggage.
- Bring your skin and hair care products. I figured I could make due with the hotel stuff for 2 nights and didn’t pack my usual arsenal of lotions and potions. The waterpark area is spotless but the chlorine is strong and my skin and hair were really dried out.
- Pack your patience. Not every parent is as diligent as you are, nor is every child as well-behaved as yours… Try to laugh it off and just be grateful that it’s not your son climbing the display to punch Mr. Moose in the face, it wasn’t your daughter pushing toddlers out of the way at the top of the slide, and it was someone else’s husband that almost knocked me down trying to get on the elevator as I was getting off.
To read what other parents thought of their stay at Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls, please visit our Ontario Trip Reports Page…