Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spotlight Williamsburg, VA: Great Wolf Lodge {Review}

In today's world we live with a diminishing ozone layer and 100+ SPF sunscreen. When the weather is warm enough, you'll trek to overpriced water parks where you are willing to wait in line for 45 minutes for a water slide and pay $5 for a snow cone. You get back in line for a ride and just as your turn is about to come up, thunder booms through the air. A summer storm is passing through. Sorry, folks, the rides will be shutting down until further notice. Everyone out of the pool. Please make your way into one of our overpriced restaurants or gift shops or towards the exits. We apologize - there will be no refunds or reentry.
The scenario described above is a nightmare for any parent. So to think, that somewhere out there, there is an indoor waterpark designed only for hotel guests. The sun shines in through enormous floor to ceiling windows, but you don't have to worry about being scorched or staying dry long enough for new sunscreen to set in. Sounds like my kind of place.

My husband travels a bit for his job, and when winter's fury gyped my daughter and I out of not one, but two trips to NYC to tag along, I suggested that we still get away for a weekend to Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia. He wasn't very hard to convince (he's still an 8 year old when it comes to theme parks) and the trip was booked by the end of the day.

About Great Wolf Lodge:
From their website:
At Great Wolf Lodge - Williamsburg, VA, we offer many unique suite styles that comfortably sleep from four to eight guests. All of our rustically elegant suites are well-appointed with premium features such as granite counter tops and mini-refrigerators, and they all are non-smoking. At Great Wolf Lodge, you can trust that we have a suite that will be the perfect base camp for your family's adventure!

The star of Great Wolf Lodge is our indoor waterparks, 300,000 gallons of swirling, sloshing sliding water make it one of America’s largest. With 8 huge slides, 5 pools, giant water fort, a lazy river and more, it's a howlin' good time for the whole family. And, as if that weren't enough, we've got a enormous outdoor waterpark (weather permitting).

What we LOVED About Great Wolf Lodge:
  • 
    "Two Days of Play for One Night's Stay" - What a fantastic concept. Even though rooms may not be ready until 4pm on the day of your arrivals, guests are permitted to arrive as early as 1pm to use the waterpark. On the day of checkout, guests are permitted to stay at the waterpark until closing. 
  • High-tech wristbands. Not only does your wristband give you access to the waterpark, it's also your room key! Simply scan your wrist against your hotel room door for access. GENIUS! Oh yea, don't feel like carrying your wallet around with you? You can also use your wristband to charge the restaurants and giftshops to your room.

                                 
  •  
  • Each guest suite has a separate "living area." In some of the larger suites, this might mean an actual full sized living room, but even in our standard family suite there was a six foot high (guessing... it was taller than me) half wall that divided the living area from the sleeping area. This was perfect for putting our daughter's pack 'n play in for bedtime, and allowed us to keep the lights on a little longer to read while she slept.
  • Cub Paw Pool. An entire area dedicated to the little ones in our lives, this pool has plenty for water exploration and a maximum depth of one foot. Our daughter loved the slides and the fountains in this section.
  • 82 degrees in the water park. Need I say more? My winter skin thanked me!
What Could be Better About Great Wolf Lodge:
  • Noise levels. Great Wolf Lodge is home to this interactive scavenger hunt (think Harry Potter) where kids (and I saw plenty of adults participating too) use wands to hunt down clues on each of the floors of the hotel. Though the game itself is not in the guest wings, it sure is pretty freaking close. My family had the misfortune of being the closest room to the main hallway on the forth floor, and until 10pm (which I thought was a little late) we heard gargoyles growling and excited kids running up and down the stairs to their next clue. This is probably something that wouldn't have bothered me at all if we didn't have a 15 month old toddler trying to catch some ZZzzs after a long day of play. If you have small children, I suggest requesting a room away from the MagiQuest action. :)
  • The televisions. Granted... you're not going to Great Wolf Lodge to watch television, but we're talking boxy, bubble domed screened, circa 1999 televisions. It's time for an upgrade folks. I turned the TV on for 5 minutes for our daughter so that I could get dressed while my husband showered, and the quality was just as bad. I'm just sayin', for the price of a room I think you'd expect a little more.
  • Prices at the Loose Moose: Really, Great Wolf Lodge? Did you think I was going to eat $13 worth of scrambled eggs? Or was it the potatoes? I'm not a huge fan of all you can eat buffets as it is, but didn't want to waste time before getting to the water park. I'm already paying for a room! Thank goodness children 3 and under are free. Your best bet for breakfast? Have dad drive around the corner to McDonald's and pick something up.
Holly's Nap Time Review:
In my opinion, the bottom line should actually be at the top so that you know whether or not to read on. Yes, I'd stay at Great Wolf Lodge again and yes I would recommend it to a friend (and all my Holly at Nap Time readers.)

Don't be thrown off by your arrival. The website states that guests may arrive as early as 1pm to gain access to the water park. As much as I wish that this was an insider secret, it's far from it. Everyone and their brother arrived promptly at 1pm. The parking lot is a mess, there are people honking at each other and children running around in flip flops whining if it's time to go play in the water park yet. It's not a very pleasing first impression. 

I told my husband to find a parking space while I went in and checked us in. Upon my entrance into the lobby, I was greeted by a line of at least 50 people ahead of me. Sigh. I was really hoping that this was not a sign of things to come. I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly the line moved though. There must have been at least 10 GWL staff members checking guests in, and taking the time to answer their questions.
As I suspected, our room was not ready at 1pm. I was able to to get our wristbands, and after finding a parking space we were able to enjoy the water park. When our room was ready, the front desk called and told us our room number. They also activated our wristbands so that we could gain access to our room that way.

We really enjoyed the water park! The slides were fun and the water was just the right temperature. More than any of that though, the joy on our daughter's face made the whole trip worth every minute. She loved the water! From what I saw, the restrooms and changing rooms were very clean (though small). The lifeguards were very attentive and changed stations often. My only gripe with the water park at all is not at the fault of Great Wolf Lodge, but of parents in general. It really irritates me when parents let their 5, 6, 7 year old kids run loose in a place doing anything they want, figuring that it is a family place and that an adult is watching them somewhere. It's irresponsible, but you'll find that anywhere you go... (which is a post for another time, I suppose).

We went across the street to Jungle Jim's for two of our meals during our stay, and quite liked it. AJ of course loved the macaroni and cheese, and the kid's meals came with a trip to "Captain Jim's Treasure Chest." Argh, matey. Though the chest itself could use some more enchantment (a brown rubbermaid), AJ was quite pleased with the new Dora bracelet that she picked out herself.

I would go back, but I think that if at all possible I would avoid going on a Saturday again. Though limited to hotel guests, the park gets busy pretty quickly.

Watch for great packages and deals to Great Wolf Lodge! If you live near Richmond, VA make sure you sign up for your 2011 Savvy Saver Card to save 20% on the Best Available Rates and Spa Services (some restrictions apply, and YES you do need to have a card at check-in. You cannot just use the code!)
Bottom Line: 4 out of 5 Stars.

Disclaimer: I was in no way compensated for this post, nor am I in any way associated with Great Wolf Lodge other than a happy customer. The opinions expressed are my own and may vary from yours. The picture is borrowed from the Great Wolf Lodge Website.

3 comments:

  1. I used to go to The Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells all the time. My family always enjoyed it and we normally got a suite so we had enough space. :)

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  2. I live near Wisconsin Dells as well and we try to stay away from the water park hotels on the weekends due to those crowds. It's just not nearly as fun if you have to work to avoid splashing and screaming and wait in long lines for everything.

    That being said, I totally want to go to Great Wolf Lodge now! Just the warmth and the fun sounds so much nicer than our usual weekends of hanging around freezing in this darn never-ending winter!

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  3. Sounds like you had a great time! The water park sounds great and I love the idea of the Cub Paw Pool. How nice for the little ones to have an area of their own. The wrist bands sound so handy, nice not to have to take a key around with you when you're at a water park. So glad the long line was not a sign of what was to come, sounds like they were prepared for the rush! Glad you had such a great vacation!

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