Last summer when I asked my (now) 8 year old Chase, what he wanted to do for his birthday, his response caught me off-guard… “Instead of making a birthday party this year can we go to Great Wolf Lodge?”. I actually hadn’t heard of it, but apparently his friends at school already had him sold. Not sure what to expect, but trying to stay open-minded, I looked it up… and then, I got really excited.
Great Wolf Lodge is a family resort in Niagara Falls, Ontario (they also have several locations across the US). The main draw is their indoor (year-round) water park, boasting over 100,000 square feet of wet n’ wild adventures, all contained in the 84º degree facility. After consulting with the husband, we decided to take the plunge (pun intended), and booked 2 nights for Chase’s birthday weekend. Here’s what we loved:
The short drive from Toronto is a breeze (it took us about 90 minutes door to door). Before we could even get to the check-in desk, Chase was in awe. The lobby itself has a very theme-park feel to it, with animatronic forest creatures everywhere moving and interacting (think ‘Rainforest Cafe’). For about $300 a night, we booked a ‘Wolf Den’ suite. It might sound pricey, but remember, it includes unlimited water park entry for the whole family, from 9am – 9pm (including the day you check-out). Our room keys came in the form of wristbands (which is great because you won’t lose them), and they also double as your park passes.
The room itself was impressive. It was generously sized (with high ceilings), and included a queen size bed, a couch (that pulls out if needed), a full size TV, and the wolf den; a decorated cabin sectioned off within the room, complete with a bunk bed and it’s very own smaller flat-screen TV. So when it was time to put the kiddo to bed, mom and dad could still hang out in the main living-room area, and have a bit of privacy, without waking him up. Our room also came with a furnished patio (which was perfect for the summer nights), and a good-sized mini fridge. Next time we go we will definitely pack a small cooler with some fruits and snacks.
The entry to the water park itself is located on the first floor of the hotel. We literally walked down the hall from our room and there we were. As it’s only open to hotel guests, it wasn’t too crowded. We never waited more than 5-10 minutes in any lineup. They have a variety of slides, ranging from kiddie size, to family rafts, winding enclosed tubes, and our fave, the Niagara Rapids Run; a 3 person adrenaline rush propelled by conveyor belts, making it feel a lot more like a roller-coaster (see video below). The park is endowed with all the standard water park staples… a wave pool, a lazy river, water basketball nets, lily pads, and Fort Mackenzie, an awesome splash-pad style playground loaded with cannons, buckets, and sprinklers, soaking you from all angles. If you happen to go in the summer, there is also a small outdoor area, but in my opinion, it’s not a game changer. The beauty of this place is that the weather isn’t a factor… the whole family can have fun rain or shine (or blizzard… brrr).
And the action doesn’t stop there… when the kids (or hubby) are water-logged and you’re ready to call it quits, this place has a fully stocked arcade, a bowling alley, mini putt golf, and even a spa. The main restaurant is a buffet style all-American feast (open for breakfast and dinner, and yes, they serve cocktails too), and for lunch they have a burger joint in the park, as well as a pizza parlor and a cafe in the lobby. However, the beauty of all this, is that the lodge is located literally minutes from the falls (Niagara, that is). Which means, if you aren’t impressed with the theme-park grub, or you just want a change of scenery, you are only a short kilometer away from 100’s of restaurants and all the tourist glory surrounding North America’s largest natural wonder.