If you have at all been thinking about planning a little getaway at Great Wolf Lodge New England, I really think it’s worth the trip! We have visited Great Wolf Lodge (GWL) 4 times since 2015, and had an awesome time each visit. After seeing my pictures on social media I get lots of friends reaching out for tips about planning their own trips there. So I figured if friends and family wanted to know more about planning a trip, our Out and About Mom readers probably would too! Like my New York City post, I wasn’t originally planning an OAAM post, so I didn’t take photos like I normally would for a post, BUT hopefully you’ll still find the tips helpful.
Now are some of you reading this going “What even is Great Wolf Lodge?” – well we will get into the details more later in the post, but for now, the short answer – it is a really big family resort with two large indoor water parks, an arcade, bowling, mini golf, a ropes course, magic quest, their very own Build-a-Bear, restaurants annnddddd a Dunkin’ Donuts… oh and you’re encouraged to walk around in your Pjs or comfy clothes.
Sound fun? Keep reading!
1.Do Your Research – When it comes to any kind of outing I always suggest doing some research – but seeing as you’re reading this post, you are already working on your research – Good job! 😉 What I really mean by doing research is taking your time to figure out the best deal and best time to visit. As you can imagine, like many other popular family spots, school vacations and weekends will always tend to be busiest. Whenever we have traveled we have gone on weekdays. I am not fond of overly crowded places and waiting in lines, so for me, I like to put in some effort to try and figure out the best time to visit. With that being said we have gone twice on April vacation and it wasn’t terribly busy – in fact this year – our April vacation was the less popular of the two vacation weeks and we ended up being offered a great deal on an upgrade to a large suite because they weren’t all booked. So you’re probably thinking – well how am I supposed to know when they’ll be busy or not? While it’s not a fool proof approach, I like to use the rate calendar on their website and look for the nights with lower room rates – this USUALLY indicates lots of availability – and to me lower room rates and smaller crowds are exactly what I am going for. I now also get emails when they have special offers – so if you’re really looking to be in the know for special rates head to their website to check out their special offers and sign up to receive their emails. Lastly – keep your eye out on Groupon or Living Social – although they don’t come up often, I have booked one of our stays through one of those sites and got a really great deal that included late check out and vouchers for free breakfast.
People have also asked how long we usually stay for, or how long I would recommend going for, and for us, we have found one night to be a good amount of time. We sometimes say we wish we could have stayed a little bit longer, so maybe next time we will stay for 2 nights. If you aren’t sure, for your first trip do one night, and you can always adjust the length of your stay for your next trip.
Once you have decided when you want to travel, you’re going to need to decide what type of room you wanna stay in. All of the rooms are made for families – they all have bathtubs (or handicap accessible showers), at least 2 full size or queen beds, mini fridges, and lots of space in general. So even the most basic rooms are great. If you have a larger family or just want something a little more fun, definitely check out the other suites they have to offer! We have stayed in 3 different room types. Each of them have been just as nice. This most recent trip, we got to stay in the nicest/biggest suite they have, the Grizzly Wolf Den and it was AWESOME! I can’t say we will ever stay in it again (It is also the most expensive suite), but boy was it fun! I honestly don’t think you spend enough time in your room to really justify getting a big room just to get a big room, but I love that they offer these bigger rooms with bunk beds and separate bedrooms for larger families or family and friends traveling together. I feel like it would be my kids dream to get to go and stay with some of their cousins or friends in one of those suites.
2. Pack the Right Stuff – What do you pack for a place like this? I say, pack like you’d pack for any hotel stay and also some of the essentials for a day by the pool (minus the sunscreen). The main things I didn’t think about during our first visit were the things besides the bathing suits. Here is my rundown:
- Bathing suits – pack at least 2 per person – the fun part about GWL is how you can be in and out of the water parks through out the day – the only problem is – the bathing suits don’t dry out as quickly as the kiddos do, and I am pretty sure there is nothing worse than trying to get back into a cold, wet bathing suit. I do have this little mom hack to help the suits dry more quickly, but it definitely won’t help them dry within hours.
- Towels – Pack some beach towels – hooded ones for the kids are great. While GWL does provide towels for use at the pool, you can’t bring them back to your hotel room (Or if you do, you have to make sure to return them so you don’t get charged) so having your own just makes it a lot easier to wrap the kids up before heading back to your hotel room.
- Flip Flops/ Water Shoes – you certainly aren’t required to have any shoes on, but you aren’t going to want to bring sneakers into the pool area – everywhere gets pretty wet. We have always found flip flops, slides and crocs to work really great for the boys walking to, from and around the waterparks.
- Cover-ups – Whatever you are comfortable in and find easy to get on and off over your bathing suit is perfect. Inside the pool areas are REALLY warm (I think they say 84 degrees) – which is great so you don’t feel cold when wet, but the rest of the resort tends to be much cooler and more comfortable for when you aren’t wet, and having something to throw on over your bathing suit for the to and from the water parks is important.
- Beach Bag – I found it really helpful to have a big bag to throw all of the towels, water bottles, snacks, and everything else in when heading to the pool.
- Lifevest – If you have little ones who aren’t strong swimmers you’ll want something for them to have on in the water parks. While I don’t believe they allow inflatable type pool floats, you can have your kids in life vests. GWL does provide lots of life vest but we have always brought our own Puddle Jumpers for our boys. You don’t have to bring your own, but we prefer to so we know there will be one available when we need it and also – like the bathing suits – you can try to dry them a little between uses where the ones provided by the pools are used a lot and tend to be wet and cold.
- Plastic Bags – All that wet stuff I’ve been talking about – it’s most likely going to still be wet at check out time… You’ll be really happy to have a couple of plastic bags to throw it all in for the ride home!
- Snacks and Drinks – It’s allowed! Every single room at GWL has its own mini fridge. We will usually pack milk, juice boxes, water bottles and lots of quick snacks for the kids. While GWL has lot of food options available for purchase, it is so convenient to have things handy in the room (or in your beach bag) for when the kids need a little snack or drink. Not to mention, it is a great way to save some money. Each room also has a microwave and coffee maker in them!
- Stroller – If you have a little one under 2 I would bring a stroller – I have found our umbrella style to be easiest – although last year when we went #3 was only 6 months old so we brought the big stroller that his infant seat could pop into. We have actually brought ours every time we have gone and it is super helpful. Strollers are allowed in the water parks and all throughout the resort. The resort is pretty big so I was happy to have it for walking around and to throw our stuff into (is there anything better than the convenience of a stroller cup holder?) . Also, I am pretty sure the little guy would have gotten lost in the arcade if we didn’t have him in the stroller. But you know your kiddos best – so maybe just have it in your car if you’re on the fence about needing it or not.
- Comfy clothes/Jammies – If you’re not in your bathing suit, you and the kids are likely going to be in PJ’s or comfy clothes. Don’t worry about bringing the fancy stuff – you really aren’t going to need it. I think the dressiest you can expect to be or see most people in is jeans and a t-shirt. So go light on the “real clothes” and go heavier on the lounge wear/comfy stuff!
3. Know What to Expect – When you arrive at GWL, you’ll likely notice the size of the place – it’s BIG! If you pull up near the main entrance, you’ll find lots of short term parking spots. The best advice I have is grabbing a spot there and heading in with just yourselves. At check-in you’ll get your wristbands (these will serve as your room keys and waterpark passes), some wolf ears for the family, and room assignment. The front desk staff will help point you in the right direction for the best place to park. You can move your car to the best parking based on your room location and then grab a luggage cart to help you bring in all your bags. If you arrive early (more on that in a second) and your room isn’t ready yet, you’ll still be able to move your car and head in with your swimming essentials to start enjoying the waterparks and other resort activities.
Check in time is 4:00pm, but plan to arrive as early as 1:00pm to begin enjoying all GWL has to offer. I have always gotten an email the day before our stay prompting us to do online check – in. If you can, definitely do online check in. By doing the online check- in you’ll get a text message when your room is ready – and the past two times we have gone, we got the text that our room was ready super early in the day – around noon actually.
Check out time is 11:00am, but similar to check in – you can extend your time at GWL on check out day as well. They do offer late check out from your room for an additional fee, but either way, once you’ve check out of your room you and your family are welcome to enjoy the waterpark until closing time on the day of check out. GWL offers locker rentals, bathrooms & showers for you to use before or after check in/out.
One last thing that we didn’t really think about was paying attention to the time the waterparks (and other activities) are open. The waterparks are open pretty late, but they do close down around 8 or 9pm depending on the day of the week. We ended up spending a little too much time enjoying some other activities and by the time the boys decided they were ready to swim again the waterparks were just about closing down and they were disappointed. There’s PLENTY of time to do everything, but preplanning what you want to do can be helpful to make sure you don’t miss out on anything.
4. Bring the Whole Family – the water parks are for ALL ages – Each of the two water parks are right across the hall from each other and each of them has fun stuff for all ages. You may find something you really like on one side or the other, but in my opinion both of the water parks are equally fun and have equal amounts of activities for all ages.
Both water parks offer lots of tables, chairs as well as lots of lifeguards who continuously rotate. Of course, we always were watching the boys, but I felt an extra sense of comfort in knowing there were lots of trained eyes on the kids and the pools at all times.
The first side of the water park features a water playground called “Fort Mackenzie” for the little ones. There are places for the kids to climb and spray toys and it also has lots of different slides.
During our most recent trip the boys were 8, 5, and 18 months and I think they all enjoyed this area equally. The water around the playground is very shallow allowing for little ones to sit and splash or walk around easily. Next to the playground area is a lazy river “Crooked Creek”. You can grab a float for one or two people and take a couple laps around the river. If you’re looking for a little more excitement, you will find a larger pool with basketball hoops and some other fun games.
There are also water slides (for one or two people) in this water park. For these water slides you do have to be 42″ tall to ride with an adult and 48” to ride them on their own. Just outside this side of the water park is an outdoor splash pad that is open during the warmer months, although we have never been to GWL in the warmer months to experience it (We have only ever traveled to GWL in March and April.) And if you somehow find yourself with a few kid free moments – be sure to check out the hot springs pool!
The other side of the water park is equally as full of fun. Right when you walk in you will see the awesome “Cub Paw Pool” perfect for the little ones. It has lots of things to play with in the water, including some little jetskis you can squirt water from, and some really fun slides.
The big “Slap Tail Pond” wave pool is also a HUGE hit of this side of the water park. It’s really nice because it’s a gradual entry like at the beach, so again, great for the kids.
Next in this water park you’ll find the BIG water slides… River Cannon Run, Wolf Tail, and Howlin’ Tornado. River Cannon Run, is a family raft type water slide that is super fun.
Wolf Tail is one of those, the floor drops out from under you, solo water slides – I tried it, and it was fun, but I am too old for that kind of fun! haha And Howlin’ Tornado – well this one – you can’t miss it from outside great wolf lodge. It is an enormous raft slide that drops you into a SIX STORY funnel…super fun for the adventurous type – it was more of a white knuckle experience for me. haha
But I share this because, that is the point I am hoping to make – there really is something for everyone – from the tiniest of little ones to the most daring big kids and adults.
5. Plan to spend time enjoying everything else GWL has to offer – While the main attraction for a lot of people is the water parks, I think most people are surprised at all of the other activities the resort has to offer. Even having been 4 times there are certain activities we have never done, but here is a rundown of some activities you should make time to check out:
- Nightly PJ party – Each night, in the main lobby of the lodge there are fun family activities like a group bedtime story, bingo, bubble parties and trivia. The kids are encouraged to come in their PJs – it is really adorable. If you have little ones, try to make time for one of these activities!
- Character Appearances – Did you know GWL has 3 mascot characters? Check your daily schedule for opportunities for a hug and photo with Wiley, Violet or Sammy!
- Northern Lights Arcade – This is where you can find my boys – it’s their favorite spot besides the water park. Lots and lots of fun games. Have fun playing the games and earning tickets for prize.
- Bowling – Ten Paw Alley – Have fun bowling 10 frames together as a family. No bowling shoes required! ($7.00 per bowler per game)
- Mini Golf – Howl at the Moon – Enjoy playing 12 holes of indoor mini golf. ($7.99 per person per game)
- Build-A-Bear Workshop – Enjoy building your favorite GWL character with all the fun of your local Build-A-Bear workshop.
These are just a few of the activities we have done ourselves but there is also a ropes course, little toddler rides, a rock climbing wall, MagiQuest, Lazer Frenzy and lots more to explore.
Ohh – and I can’t forget to mention – GWL is an awesome place to celebrate birthdays! Last year, instead of a party, Ace wanted a night at GWL to celebrate!
6. Don’t Worry About Going Hungry – So earlier I mentioned packing some drinks and snacks for your visit. While I do recommend this, it is definitely not because there is any lack of yummy (and reasonably priced) food at GWL. There are lots of options – from quick pizza and salads at Hungary as a Wolf, to a full sit down or buffet at The Lodge Wood Fired Grill, sweet treats at Bear Paw Sweets & Eats, Buckets Craveables serves food poolside and a personal favorite of mine… Dunkin Donuts right inside GWL. The main restaurant, The Lodge Wood Fired Grill does tend to get VERY busy. Definitely be there right when they open, or you can expect to wait up to or even longer than an hour to get a table. We learned this the hard way the first couple of stays, so we ended up getting on the highway and going an exit down where there are several chain restaurants to eat at. We always enjoyed doing that also, so consider that as an option too! We ate dinner at GWL for the first time on our 3rd visit and were very pleasantly surprised at how good the food was. The kids meals were great too – especially the spaghetti and meatballs… I tried a bite off of one of the boy’s plates and I was secretly hoping they wouldn’t finish so I could have some more haha!
If you are looking for a breakfast option outside of the lodge, on one of our visits we ventured out for breakfast and happened to stumble upon a little spot, the 50/50 Diner which is about a 10 minute drive from GWL. It is exactly what you think of when you think of an old time diner, great food, friendly service, Mickey shaped pancakes and awesome prices. What more could you ask for, right?
For our family, Great Wolf Lodge is a trip we look forward to each year. It’s just enough of a getaway to make us feel like we are away on vacation while still being a short enough car ride to avoid too many complaints and bathroom stops. 🙂 Especially as a family of 5, it also ends up being a pretty affordable way to entertain the entire family! I hope you and your family have as much fun as we have over the years!
150 Great Wolf Drive, Fitchburg, MA 01420
This resort is open year round! Check-in is 4:00 pm but guests will have access to the water park starting at 1:00 pm. Check-out time is 11:00 pm but guests are allowed to use the water park and hotel amenities through the end of the day.
Pricing varies by time of year and room type selection. Be sure to sign up for their emails to be notified of deals!
- Stroller Friendly: YES
- Coffee Mug Friendly: Oh yes – Coffee maker in every room and Dunkin Donuts onsite
- Restroom: YES
- Baby Changing Station: YES
- Parking: YES. Tons of free parking located around the resort.
- Food for Sale: YES.
- Outside Food Allowed: YES
- Cash Required: NO; credit cards are accepted throughout for all activities.
- Age Recommendations: All ages
- Discounts: Sign up for emails and check their website for current offers.
- Birthday Party Venue: YES.
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