Extensive Great Wolf Lodge review: Grand Mound Washington

This past week, my family and I spent two nights and two days at The Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA.

We arrived at the resort at approximately 9 pm on a Sunday night. The lobby was still filled with children watching the evening animatronics show by the Grand Hall’s main focal point, the clock tower (more on that later), but there was no wait to check in.

Great Wolf

Get our top Great Wolf Lodge tips here, good for all locations!

As a family of five, we had booked a Kid Cabin Suite, which consists of a room with a queen bed, a pull-out sofa, and a framed off cabin compartment with a kid-sized bunk bed and day bed. Based on photos from the website, my boys had wanted a Wolf Den Suite (similar but with a faux rock wall to simulate a cave), but as it’s designed for a family of four, booking one would have required purchasing an additional water park ‘Paw Pass’ for our youngest to the tune of $40 a day (a detail I only realized after booking¦luckily it was easy to change). For our family, the Kid Cabin Suite was a better deal.

And the kids were very happy with it.

The rest of the room was spacious and clean. We were pleased with the corner fireplace and flat screen TV, and it was also very nice to have a fridge and microwave (enabling us to eat breakfast in our room and store drinks and snacks). Within the kid cabin was a second flat screen TV with a Game Cube (games can be ordered for $6.95 an hour). We opted to skip that feature, and used the TV only for free channels in the mornings. I was slightly worried about noise level at night with so many kids afoot throughout the lodge, but at least in our section of the lodge, the ‘Hibernation’ hours of 10 pm to 7 am were well adhered to. We never heard a peep after putting the kids to bed at 9 pm each night.

great-wolf-lodge-kidcabin

On Monday morning, we ate our own breakfast in our room, and I checked out the fitness center. It was smaller than I had expected, but at 7:30 am, I was easily able to get an elliptical machine. There were also treadmills and weight machines.

Great Wolf Lodge activities:

MagiQuest:

By 9 am, the water park was open and MagiQuest was activated for the day. This bears explaining, because trust me, your kids will want to do it.

Tip: get all our MagiQuest tips here!

MagiQuest is an interactive activity installed throughout the lodge. The official website explains it better than I can: Armed with high-tech wands, your family must solve magical challenges throughout the resort to gain powers (and points) and move to higher levels of the game. Even if this doesn’t sound like your sort of thing, you won’t be able to avoid it. Everywhere you go (on the public areas of the first four floors), kids will be waving wands and bringing various fixtures in the hallways and ceilings to life. I know it sounds annoying, but it’s actually quite good fun. We encountered older children stopping to give hints on the game to younger ones and while kids occasionally bumped into us in their excitement to find their next clue, the general chaos wasn’t unmanageable.

MagiQuest

But onto the nitty gritty: wands start at $14.99 (you can pay substantially more for fancy toppers) and then an additional $9.99 is necessary to activate’ your game. I am not one to spend money on overpriced souvenirs or gimmicks, but let me say: it’s worth it. Every penny. It took my kids their entire stay to complete the quest (playing on and off as time allowed), and then several more games opened up…they continued playing right up until the moment we left, and could have played for another day at least. They took their wands home as keepsakes, and if we come back for a return visit, they can reuse the same wands (paying only the $9.99 activation fee). All in all, it was a great activity, and good exercise too!

ShadowQuest:

shadowquest

ShadowQuest is a brand-new interactive wand game, available at Great Wolf Lodge’s Grand Mound location, as well as at several other Great Wolf Lodge locations. In this live-action adventure game, your family takes on the task of helping to save the light of the sky before it vanishes. Players follow clues in a guidebook and explore the halls and stairways of Great Wolf Lodge to find hidden objects and complete quests.

The game is 12 stages long and can be completed over multiple visits to Great Wolf Lodge. My family played for about 3 hours and had a great time finishing the first four stages. My kids loved that their wands could be used not only for playing the game, but for opening treasure chests and activating statues and animals all over the lodge!

Howl at the Moon Miniature Golf:

Another new attraction at Great Wolf Lodge is the very cool Howl at the Moon miniature golf course. This golf course is a 9-hole course located near the arcade. It is decorated with lots of woodland creatures and has simple obstacles to work around on your way to the holes.  The whole course is lit with blacklights for a fun effect.

Waterpark:

The main attraction of The Great Wolf Lodge, however, is the water park. My first impression was that it actually smelled less chlorinated than most indoor water parks, which was a huge plus for me, since that heated, chemical-based smell really bothers me. I learned later that I wasn’t imaging it: The Great Wolf takes green’ measures to use less chlorine.

But of course my kids didn’t care about any of that. They were off and (not) running (that’s a big rule) from the moment we stepped through the doors. They were initially disappointed in the lack of a lazy river, but were quickly enamored by the wave pool. There was an excellent zero-depth entry splash and slide area for toddlers (the deepest section went up to my four-year-old’s waist) and a huge fort with dumping bucket and more slides. My husband and one of my kids spent most of their time in the pool with basketball hoops and moving floatation pads in the shape of animals, and my favorite feature was the indoor/outdoor hot tub. The thrill rides were fairly mild, but plenty thrilling for my family (oldest child at age 10). Two of the slides have a minimum height requirement of 48 inches, much to my preschooler’s disappointment, but there was plenty else to distract him. During our two day stay, we spend two whole mornings in the water park.

Northern Lights Arcade:

The kids were quite happy with the medium-sized arcade (and I was quite unhappy, because I hate arcades.) That said, this one was clean and the staff was very friendly. The kids were all able to redeem tickets for prizes, and came away with the usual assortment of arcade junk, which they greatly enjoyed.

Dining at Great Wolf Lodge Ground Mound:

On that first day, we ate an adequate lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers at the Spirit Island Snack Shop, which came to a total of approximately $30 for five people (this did not include drinks, as we brought in our own). Outside food is allowed in the water park, which was a great cost saver. I saw some families bringing in whole coolers. I wish I had been that organized!

For an afternoon break, the older boys continued their MagiQuest game, and I took the preschooler to the Cub Club, where he was able to color and play simple computer games for free. For additional fees, kids could decorate their own Great Wolf Lodge t-shirt or choose from a number of other art projects. We found it quite peaceful…and there was no pressure to purchase anything.

We opted to leave the lodge to eat dinner at La Tarasca in nearby Centralia, which I cannot recommend enough. We were back in time for the nightly clock tower show and story time, which was geared for ages perhaps 2-5. I took our four-year-old, and when we arrived right at 8 pm, we had trouble finding a place to sit. The show was a combination of song and animatronics, and ended in an appearance from Wiley the Wolf (GWL’s mascot) and a bedtime story read by a lodge employee (called a Pack Member). The message was very environmental in nature, and I’ve read other reviews criticizing the heavy emphasis placed by GWL on the outdoors when everything they offer is in fact indoors, but I was willing to let it pass. Perhaps that’s because our family spends enough hours out-of-doors backpacking and camping that I wasn’t concerned my children would mistake the woodsy d’cor of the lodge for the real thing.

Throughout our stay, I made mental comparisons between The Great Wolf and Silver Mountain Resort, where we had stayed the previous summer. They both have their pros and cons, and of course both are family friendly and have family suites. For a compatible room rate (based on the best available public rate at each), you get substantially more room for your money at Silver Mountain, with ‘true’ suites with separate rooms and a full kitchen and the ambiance of an established ski and mountain resort, but Great Wolf provides more for families to do on-site with their Cub Club, Gr8 Space (night club for kids 12 and older), and MagiQuest. The water parks are very compatible: Silver Mountain lacks a wave pool, but boasts a lazy river and surf simulator. My kids couldn’t decide which was better. Undoubtedly, Great Wolf is more centrally located for most people in the Pacific Northwest, and they are definitely geared solely toward families with young children.

We found the service staff to be excellent throughout our stay, with Pack Members’ never failing to say hello, smile, or ask if we needed anything. A Magi Master’ was always on-hand to answer quest-related questions, and I didn’t count the number of life guards in the water park, but it was teeming with them.

I’d definitely recommend The Great Wolf Lodge for a kid-centered getaway.

As I will disclose whenever applicable, we did receive significant compensation in the form of reduced rates and gift vouchers for review purposes, as is standard in the travel industry; however, these compensations came with no strings attached. As always, no less than my honest impressions will be present in this review.

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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Comments

  1. Maryah Foster says:

    There is usually at least 17 lifeguards to cover all the required spots or more. Just so you have that information, Glad you liked your stay =)

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