As a family travel expert, I’ve experienced many family resorts with my kids, and can sum up Great Wolf Lodge’s water park safety measures in one word: impressive. During our recent stay at the Grand Mound location, we enjoyed the water park under the supervision of literally hundreds of lifeguards during our three days at the resort, and observed only professional, polite, and friendly interactions with guests. Guards manned (and womaned) their stations with diligence, rotated responsibilities on a frequent and regular schedule, and enforced rules with confidence.
What makes Great Wolf’s water park staff such a well-oiled machine? I learned that each Great Wolf property is partnered with Jeff Ellis & Associates (E&A), a private, outside consulting firm specializing in aquatic risk management. I really like that an outside organization polices them, ensuring that standards remain the highest possible. In fact, Great Wolf lifeguards are training all the time: you may even see drills during operating hours (don’t be surprised to see a guard suddenly dive into the pool after a practice dummy). In addition to this, Ellis & Associates performs four unannounced operational audits per year at each resort, testing them in areas of professionalism, diligence in scanning techniques and rescue skills, as well as their ability to manage an aquatic emergency.
I could list stats all day long, but offer a visual instead: count how many times a lifeguard passes in front of my camera as I take a 30 second video of my son.
Rules you should know before you go:
1. All height requirements for the various water slides and features at Great Wolf are carved in stone. They’re clearly posted on-site, but we recommend checking them out before you arrive to prevent disappointment. I saw kids who did not meet the height requirement of a slide try to ride more than once; without exception, they were politely but firmly turned away. Oh, and tippy-toes are not allowed (see photo)!
2. U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets are permitted (and can be borrowed free of charge on-site), but no other floatation device or toy may be used in any part of the water park. Same goes for snorkels and flippers; leave them at home…it’s less to pack!
3. Outside food and drink are not permitted. For what it’s worth, this rule does not seem to be enforced. I wouldn’t make a show of rolling a large cooler into the water park, but extra waters and snacks in a tote bag seem to be ok (and will save you a bundle at the concession stands).
4. Lap-sliding (sliding with a child on your lap) is not permitted (though I wish it was). The slides on Fort MacKenzie are built for the smaller guests but are still quite intimidating, and I know many toddlers and preschoolers would be braver on the lap of a parent.
5. The lifeguards, though great, are not meant to take the place of a parent. Kids are not allowed into the water park without adult supervision. I’m not sure how heavily this rule is enforced, but its just practical; every parent knows to watch their kids around any major body of water.
At the time of our visit, no Great Wolf Lodge water park personnel were aware of our visit, or had any pending knowledge of this review.