When we were flying home from Nashville on Friday, Rich looked over and said, "Thanks for setting up the Great Wolf Lodge visit. I'm really looking forward to it and the timing is good." I actually had booked it because Ian kept saying he wanted to play at the beach but it was too cold. The fact it was right after a week of drug trial stuff and being away from Ian, was just a happy coincidence, one I was pleased about too. I wanted to give a little run down of how Great Wolf was for us. I had never been before and was booking our stay based only on a few reviews from friends and the fact that they had warm water inside when it is still cold outside.
There is no entry fee for the park itself; you have to be a guest of the lodge to enter. So that makes sense why rooms have a maximum number of occupants. We decided to go on a Sunday/Monday because the price of the room was literally half the price of Saturday/Sunday. But then when we got there and checked in, they upgraded us to the Grizzly Bear Suite.
With Ian being a tall three, we were in a sweet spot for stuff. He ate free for all breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the restaurants but since he's over 42" tall, he could ride on more rides than tiny kids.
I had pre-paid for a Wolf Pass, hoping that it would give us an itinerary and save a little cash. It did save us a tiny bit of money, but it also just made it easy to check off things to do. We were able to do everything on the pass except for mini golf, and that was mostly because it was chilly outside and we were uninspired. A note about the Wolf Pass or Paw Pass. Write your cell phone number on the pass because if you (or your kids) lose it, you're out of luck. Hopefully a good samaritan will call you.
I'm pleased we did the Sunday/Monday stay because while Sunday was not super crowded, Monday was a pleasant ghost town. At one point we literally had the arcade to ourselves. We also found that since our Wolf Pass had one movie pass, the dude actually let all three of us ride on Ian's ticket since he was so little and we were literally the only people he had probably seen in the last hour. We also got to share Ian's "button game" (Oliver's Time Challenge) where we just all pushed buttons as they lit up.
We played in the Ten Paw Alley bowling alley while we ate lunch on Monday and that worked out great. Low drag, easy, $15 for a large pizza for us all. I would have thought the bowling games were expensive except that we recently priced bowling in an alley recently, so $5 a game didn't seem horrible. But again, we all shared Ian's games since he's three and was lucky to get the ball to go all the way down the lane.
You're not supposed to bring any outside food or drink into the water park area, but I saw plenty of people breaking that rule. There was a family next to us that brought in PBJ sandwiches and chips and bottles of water. We had a smaller kid, so we didn't need to eat in the water park, just timing it so we took our breaks around mealtimes. I brought some emergency snacks in but only used them to fix my constantly tanking low blood sugar (walking up three flights of stairs to ride down burns calories apparently). We rented a locker for $10 each day and that was all we needed. A safe place for iPhones and a change of clothes and my illegal snacks. It was also nice to have even after we were done with the water to not have to head for the car after playing.
Our big splurge was the robot ice cream machine. I actually asked Rich later, "What is Robot Fusion and why is it on our credit card bill?" Oh, right. But we totally got our $7 worth out of that. I recorded the whole thing and this evening when Ian was sad about leaving the park, he consoled himself by watching the robot over and over on my phone.
There are lots of cheap food places off site that are under two miles away. You could send someone out to retrieve Chick-fil-a, Quiznos, Burger King, Pierce's BBQ, or whatever. But that was not our idea of fun. There was a mini-fridge and microwave in our room so we could have even reheated stuff and made food for ourselves to eat there, but again, we had not even been home long enough from Tennessee to properly pack for our adventure. Rich forgot t-shirts for the weekend, so packing dinner was not happening. We spent $120 on food for two days (including robot ice cream!), so if we had brought all our own food for the room, we could have saved that much. Meh, I'm not upset about it.
Our Wolf Pass also got us a giant souvenir drink ($8.99 value) that we filled with Coke Zero the first day and refilled with ice water from the same machine the rest of our stay. Best thing ever. That souvenir cup, a piggy bank and wooden car from the Cub Club craft area, and the prizes Ian got with his tickets were all we took home, but that was plenty for us.
The only thing I'd do differently next time is bring sandals versus flip flops for in the water and bring a Lifeproof case for my iPhone. We did find that if Ian ever took off his water shoes, he would slip and fall, no matter if he walked or ran. Rich told him at one point that if he didn't want to leave the park for the hospital he would have to put his water shoes back on.
We got there as soon as we were allowed to start in the park on Sunday (1pm) and were able to check into our room by 3pm (they say check in is at 4, I think). We could have stayed all day today until 8pm, but we have a three-year-old so he fell asleep in my arms at 3pm waiting for his piggy bank to be glazed in the craft room. We didn't maximize our water time but we had a small kid. I saw families with bigger kids arriving at 1pm in their suits and heading straight for the water as soon as their wrist bands were on.
The wrist bands were super neat. They had chips in them that would work as your room key so you always had it on you. You could also link it to your room charge to use it to buy things on site (it's how we paid for our robot ice cream). They really wanted to make sure you weren't swimming with your wallet but still free to spend money all over the lodge. Pretty cool.
Oh! The bathroom/shower/locker room was neat. You could put your wet bathing suit in a drying machine thing that would gyro all of the water out of it. We're living in the future. The robot ice cream, credit card wrist band, leaving with a dry swimsuit future.