Goin’ to the lodge
           *Great Wolf lodge*
Goin to the lodge
          *Great Wolf lodge*
They’ve got lots of water
          They’ve got lots of fun
They’ve got lots of everything
           For everyone


OK, now that the song is stuck in your head (it’s the commercial with the wolf family going on a road trip in their station wagon)… ring a bell?

Knowing that we weren’t going to go on any big vacation this year (ie. Disneyland, Mexico, a Cruise, etc.) we decided we would book an overnighter at the Great Wolf Lodge.  Weekdays are definitely cheaper than weekends, but my job doesn’t really allow me to take weekdays off.  I did take the last 2 days of Spring Break off this year to spend with our kids…..so we decided to book our GWL trip for then.  I hoped that it would be less crowded than a typical weekend.  Plus, Washington’s Spring Break isn’t until the following week!

The drive is relatively short, about 2 hours.  We got there just after noon and the check-in line was only 3 or 4 families long, but it does seem to take a long time to check in each family.  We left all our stuff in the car because we weren’t sure what was going to happen since we were early, room check-in isn’t supposed to be until 4:00, but you can check-in to start using the water park at 1:00.  

And yep, our room wasn’t ready, but we got our wristbands so we could start playing.  She said they would call my cellphone with our room number when the room was ready….our wristbands acted as our room key so there was no need to go back to the front desk.

We walked around the lodge and found the entrance to the water park area….boy it really IS warm in there!  The website says they maintain 84 degrees.  It’s just so muggy- definitely not a place to hang out fully dressed!

We decided we would get some lunch before we put our swimsuits on (we had left the house at 8:00 that morning to run several errands before we headed to GWL- so we were all quite hungry!).  

We were all set to eat at one of the restaurants on site- we grabbed a menu before we walked in and they had some great looking sandwiches and plates for $9.00 (average) and that seemed OK to us.  Then we looked at the kids’ menu.  Um, $9.00 per kids’ meal and that DOES NOT include a drink.  Sorry kids, we’re going to McDonald’s.

So we hopped in the car and drove the 1/2 mile back up the road to McDonalds- ate a wholesome lunch there (yeah right!) for $14.50 and were as happy as clams that it wasn’t the $50.00 it would have been at GWL.  :)

We got back to GWL and we weren’t sure how big the lockers would be, so we decided to leave our clunky shoes and coats in the car, we swapped for flip-flops and just brought in one bag with all our swimsuits and I grabbed a sundress to change into (I hate putting clothes over damp swimsuits).  I forgot to grab the shampoo & conditioner, and a brush!  

Lockers are $10.00 for the whole day, plus a $10.00 deposit up front.  They are quite spacious, which is really nice!  I think they are definitely worth the expense.

Something really neat about this place…..  as you walk in to the water park area, there’s a gal there assigning colored bands to the kids.  There’s three colors: red, yellow and green.  Green bands mean you are over 48″ tall and at that height you can go on any ride you want by yourself.  Yellow bands mean you are between 42-48″ tall and you can go on all the ‘big’ rides as long as you are with an adult.  EXCEPT for the Howling Tornado which requires 48″ height no matter what.  Red bands mean you can’t go on any of the ‘big’ rides.

Trevor and Riley got green bands, Brooke was slapped with a yellow band.  We’d be taking her on all the tube rides with us.

Here’s one of my complaints on the water park: bathrooms and changing areas.

At the entrance end of the water park there’s two very large spacious bathrooms.  One on the upper level and one directly below it on the main water park level.  Rarely used restrooms it seems- each one has probably 12 toilet stalls?

The ‘changing area’ restroom is at the other end of the park, farthest from the entrance, has 4 toilet stalls, 3 showers and an open changing area.  I noticed that most women and kids were too self conscious to change in the open changing area, instead they would carry their bags into the toilet stall to change in privacy, which means they are all tied up and unavailable for those who need to use the stall for toilet purposes!  And just THREE showers for the entire park?  Crazy!

Anyway, Brooke, Trevor and I were the first one’s ready to start playing…turns out Riley left her swim top in the car so she and Jim went back out to get it.  Trevor was off exploring just ahead of Brooke and I.   I quickly lost him.  Knowing how “chicken” Brooke can be sometimes, I decided to start her off right- we headed straight for the Fort (pictured below) where we got dripped on, dumped on, and just plain wet waiting in line to go down one of those water slides (red and yellow slides).  


Geesh!  She was so scared but I made her go down (she had to go alone, they wouldn’t let her ride on my lap).  Poor kid.  Terrified.  But once she got down she said it was so much fun, “Let’s do it again Mom!”  So we did.  A few times.

The water felt cold to me at first, but by the time you get wet enough it’s plenty warm!

Finally we spotted Jim and Riley and we went up to the Canyon River Run to do as a family.   This is not us in the picture below- but it shows how big the ‘raft’ is and how big those tubes are!

And that’s about all the family time we had together that day.  The rest of the time the kids were off doing their own thing… and Jim and Brooke and I were going on rides together.  It was getting really crowded too.

We were tuckered out and pruned up real nice (raisin fingers, you know?) by 4:00 or so.  Our room was ready so we decided we would just rinse off quick in the showers (it was super crowded and long lines for the showers) and I threw my sundress on and the kids just wore their T-shirts over their swimsuits….we decided we would take real showers up in our room.  Shampoo and soap are provided, so we didn’t need to go out to the car first and get our stuff.  

After we were all clean and dressed again, Jim and I went back down to the car to get all our luggage.  They kids wanted to play in their ‘cabin’.

We got the “Kids Kabin” Room which sleeps 6 standard.  Three kids in the Kids Kabin portion, with their own TV even! 

Here’s the girls’ side:

And Trevor’s side:

And Riley took some pictures of the creatures that filled their cabin:

The main room has a queen bed, a dining table, a sofa, a fairly big (and really warm!) gas fireplace, tons of counter space for the vanity area and also the ‘kitchenette’ area (microwave, fridge and coffee maker) and of course it’s all decorated “lodge” style.  (Sorry, no pictures)

We ate from our cooler for dinner: pepperoni pizza, chips and dip, bananas and soda.  Real healthy, I know.   After eating, Jim settled in for a nap, Trevor wanted to stay in the room and watch TV, and the girls were ready to go swimming again.  I volunteered to take them down.  I wasn’t ready to get wet again though!  Such a hassle to get ‘clean’ afterwards!  I did remember to bring the hair conditioner with us this time, and a brush.

Knowing it was really warm in the pool area I wore flip flips and a t-shirt with my jeans.  I didn’t think about packing shorts or tank tops or any ‘summer’ clothing, even though I had read it was a lovely 84 degrees indoors…I just didn’t think about it I guess?

After about 30 minutes in there I was too hot.  Craving a beer.  Oh I was hot.  So humid, so hot!  I had brought my swimsuit (and Trevor’s and Jim’s) just in case- actually my intent was to DRY them in the swimsuit dryers they had outside the restroom, but they appeared to be broken so no luck there.  I just wrapped them all in towels and stuffed them back into the locker for future wearing.

I just followed the girls around and snapped pictures and video.   Empty seats around the pools were hard to come by.  Their favorite place was the Wave Pool and I was happy when I saw some empty tables and chairs above the wave pool where the lifeguards stand walk.

OH, btw, they DO supply life jackets so you don’t need to bring those.  We set a rule with Brooke that if she was going in the wave pool she had to wear a life jacket (or if she was going on any of the tube rides with us).  Otherwise she did not need to wear one since most of the areas are only 6″-18″ deep.  It was a good way for us to keep track of her, too.  If the life jacket was at our table, we knew she was in the kiddie play area or on the fort.  If the life jacket was gone, she was wearing it and in the wave pool!

After a while, I texted Trevor’s phone to see if Jim was awake yet and he responded that yes, Jim was awake, and that the two of them were in the pool area looking for me!  I texted back my location and they came and sat with me.  Only a few minutes into it Jim commented that we should get beers….so he went and got us a couple.  Ooooohh they were so refreshing!!

We let Trevor get a soda under the premise that it’s really mine and I’m sharing it with him.  If it was known that it was his, we’d have to get two more for the girls.   At $2.50 per small soda, there was just no way I was going to buy three of them, especially when we have soda back in our room.

So we sat at a table above the Wave Pool and enjoyed the humor of people bobbing up and down together in the waves, or little kids getting knocked over by the waves as they came ‘ashore’. 

Here’s some video clips- good luck finding the girls, they are in there somewhere!

Anyway, it ended up getting too hot even after the refreshing drinks so we decided to slip into our swimsuits and join the girls for some water park fun.  It was evening- probably 7:00 or so by then.  The crowd was really thinning out, I think people were getting ready for the bedtime story thing.  Once it got dark, the line for the Howling Tornado was short enough that Jim and I decided to go on it for our first time.  We had Trevor go with us.

Oooooeeeeeeee…that was a scary ride!  Trevor didn’t like it at all.  He said he felt like he was going to fly out of his seat when we crossed one of the water bumps in the big funnel area. (He claims he DID fly out of his seat.) 

It starts out a pitch black tube ridde, and suddenly it drops steep and then you enter what looks like a huge half-pipe…you start riding up and down each side making your way to the other end where you go down another tube.  BUT, if you really look at it you are inside a giant funnel tipped on it’s side!

Here’s another view, you can see the big drop that dumps you into this thing:


This isn’t a movie “I” made, but this is what the ride is like.  Actually this is a really good Great Wolf Lodge overview video that someone made and posted to You Tube.  If you don’t want to watch the whole 5 minutes, skip to 4:17 to see the Howling Tornado ride:

We were sure tuckered out come bed time!  We left the water park area about 8:30 and it was a nightmare just getting to our room- the place was soooo crowded!!  There’s a treasure hunt / scavenger hunt type game called Magic Quest and there were kids everywhere with magic wands that activated various things throughout the hotel and gave clues or something.  I’m not sure.  Our kids weren’t interested because it looked like absolute chaos.  Kids were running through the halls, up and down all the stairs, going up and down elevators looking for things….geesh!

When we got back to our room we were greeted with a surprise.  A copy of our room bill with the following itemized charges:

Um yeah.  This is where I become not happy.   Trevor was watching these shows, not realizing they were pay per view.  Now come on….for a kid-based hotel to charge for kids TV shows?  WTH?

We had him show us how he got to those shows.  Turns out, that when you turn the TV on, it defaults to a main menu screen that in TWO places says “KIDS TV” and when a kid clicks on that it takes them to On Demand kids TV shows- like the Disney channel, etc.   It says “Order” but doesn’t say anything about a fee.

It took me a few minutes to figure out how to get to regular free on-air TV.  Their system is definitely set up to promote the paid television programming and not the free stuff.  I called down to the front desk and complained and they said they’d remove all the charges but one.  The one that they showed he actually watched for a solid period of time, the rest were just several minutes at a time.

So lesson learned.  The kid now knows about pay-per-view and how to NOT “order” anything and I’m still peeved that the GWL has their TV set up to default to On Demand instead of free over the air programming. 

The next morning, Friday, we were up shortly after 7am and headed down to the buffet for breakfast.  I had pre-paid for our breakfast when I booked the room, receiving a discounted rate for doing that.  It was a decent breakfast and we all left full and nourished.  The buffet had a custom omelet station, your typical bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy station, a cereal and yogurt station complete with tons of toppings for either, several pastries to choose from, bagels and breads, juices, lots of fresh fruit, etc.  It was all pretty tasty, too!  No complaints there.  We will definitely do the prepaid breakfast again.

The water park didn’t open until 9:00 so we went back up to the room and packed everything and took it out to the car.  Checkout was at 11:oo and we planned to be in the pool at that time and didn’t really want to take our luggage out while we were in bathing suits!  Ha!

We entered the water park right on time- just as it opened.  We decided it would be nice to have a table and chairs, sort of a “home base” where we could all meet up, or Jim and I could hang out when we were done with water fun.  We saved our table with flip-flops, t-shirts and towels.

First up…the Howling Tornado.  Riley hadn’t been on it yet.  

So the first time we went on it, it was night time and the ride was pitch black.  I was riding facing forward that time and even though I couldn’t see anything except when we entered the big funnel part, it wasn’t motion-sickening in any way, it was just a thrill ride.  This time, however, I was going backwards.  I had no idea what was coming and when we hit the big drop that puts you in the funnel, well my stomach was up in my throat.  And then we shot straight up the other side and before I was aware we started plummeting back down and heading up the other side- my body had no idea which end was up or what direction I was going and I thought I was going to lose it for a second there!  WOW.  Gak.

But that feeling is short and it’s an exciting ride so we did it again as soon as we got off.  Mind you there are like 6 flights of stairs to get to each ride- I’m guessing 60 steps?  Ha!  You sure get a leg workout in for each ride that you go on!

We stayed and played until lunch time.  We all showered really well, using shampoo and conditioner this time, we remembered to bring in our brush and we changed clothes and put our swimsuits back in the locker and headed out for lunch at Dairy Queen and a trip up to Lacey to see the Cabela’s Store.

Impressive.  They sure know how to make that place entertaining enough for non-Cabela’s shoppers!  A massive display of taxidermied animals and a huge aquarium of local fish species…the kids were entertained. 

Here’s a few of the pictures we took.  My treasured Canon Powershot SD1100 Elph Camera broke as I tried to take a picture of the 3 kids together in front of the sea lion.  For reals.  It’s a gonner.  Lens won’t retract and I can hear stripped gears inside.  I had to use my Droid phone camera instead…

I think the kids were most impressed by the giant sea lion- he was crazy huge!!  Riley really liked the Polar Bear.  The most impressive piece was an African Safari area with all kinds of animals- and a sign that they were donated by Safari World.  There was a lion, rhinocerous, an elephant, various gazelle-like animals, monkeys, it was amazing!

We asked the kids if they wanted to go back to the Great Wolf Lodge to swim again, or if they were done with that and ready to just go home.  Either way we had to go back to GWL because we needed to get the stuff out of our locker and return the locker key so we could get our deposit back.  “GREAT WOLF LODGE!!” they shouted, so we headed back to the water park.

We were disappointed that our wristbands no longer unlocked any of the side or end entrances.  **Another complaint**  After 11am, we could only get in through the main door.  This really sucks because the majority of the parking is at the ‘hotel’ end – actually past the end of the building, and when we came back we had to park really really far away from the building.  It was pouring down rain and by the time we made it to the main entrance we were completely soaked.  Literally.  My shirt was soaked, my hair was soaked, and we RAN the whole way!  Ugh.  You’d think since you are still a ‘guest’ that they could lock you out of your room but still let you use the side and end entrances! 

Back to the water park for more wet fun.  Jim and I decided we would stay dry this time, but we changed into our swimsuits simply because it’s more comfortable than wearing jeans and a t-shirt!  Alas I DID end up playing in the water.  Brooke wanted to go on the tube rides and she can only go with an adult, so I volunteered to take her.  We went 4 times. 

Trevor took advantage of the shorter lines to ride the tubes by himself several times over:

And Riley finally got the nerve to do one of those pink tubes by herself as well.  It was a hang-up of hers the whole time we were there.

For some reason, it was much less crowded on Friday than it was on Thursday.  I’d say at least half as crowded.  Maybe this is what a normal Friday looks like?  I don’t know.  But we had no trouble getting showered and dressed and we were outta the park by 5:30. 

Fun times!   We WILL go back.  If we do 2 nights, I’ll book another Kids Kabin room, but if we are just going to stay for one night, I might take a less expensive route of 2 queens and a sofa.  We’ll see….

We look forward to going back again some day.