20500 Old Highway 99 SW
Grand Mound, WA
This past week, my family and I spent two nights and two days at The Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA.
We arrived at the resort at approximately 9 pm on a Sunday night. The lobby was still filled with children watching the evening animatronics show by the Grand Hall’s main focal point, the clock tower (more on that later), but there was no wait to check in. (The following day, I would notice a long line from about 1 pm to 4 pm.) I was told by the resort’s manager of sales that I was visiting at one of their busiest times on record (school had just let out in Washington state), but throughout our stay, the impact of these crowds was minimal. That said, I’d love to experience The Great Wolf in an off-season time period.
As a family of five, we had booked a Kid Cabin Suite, which consists of a room with a queen bed, a pull-out sofa, and a framed off cabin compartment with a kid-sized bunk bed and day bed. Based on photos from the website, my boys had wanted a Wolf Den Suite (similar but with a faux rock wall to simulate a cave), but as it’s designed for a family of four, booking one would have required purchasing an additional water park pass for our youngest to the tune of $40 a day (a detail I only realized after booking¦luckily it was easy to change). For our family, the Kid Cabin Suite was a better deal.
And the kids were very happy with it.
The rest of the room was spacious and clean. We were pleased with the corner fireplace and flat screen TV, and it was also very nice to have a fridge and microwave (enabling us to eat breakfast in our room and store drinks and snacks). Within the kid cabin was a second flat screen TV with a Game Cube (games can be ordered for $6.95 an hour). We opted to skip that feature, and used the TV only for free channels in the mornings. I was slightly worried about noise level at night with so many kids afoot throughout the lodge, but at least in our section of the lodge, the â€˜Hibernation’ hours of 10 pm to 7 am were well adhered to. We never heard a peep after putting the kids to bed at 9 pm each night.
On Monday morning, we ate our own breakfast in our room, and I checked out the fitness center. It was smaller than I had expected, but at 7:30 am, I was easily able to get an elliptical machine. There were also treadmills and weight machines.
By 9 am, the water park was open and MagiQuest was activated for the day. This bears explaining, because trust me, your kids will want to do it. MagiQuest is an interactive activity installed throughout the lodge. The official website explains it better than I can: Armed with high-tech wands, your family must solve magical challenges throughout the resort to gain powers (and points) and move to higher levels of the game. Even if this doesn’t sound like your sort of thing, you won’t be able to avoid it. Everywhere you go (on the public areas of the first four floors), kids will be waving wands and bringing various fixtures in the hallways and ceilings to life. I know it sounds annoying, but it’s actually quite good fun. And I have to say this: my husband and I were impressed by the general display of courtesy and friendliness of the other children running about. (And we’re not easily impressed!) More than once, we encountered older children stopping to give hints on the game to younger ones and while kids occasionally bumped into us in their excitement to find their next clue, the general chaos wasn’t unmanageable.
But onto the nitty gritty: wands start at $14.99 (you can pay substantially more for fancy toppers) and then an additional $9.99 is necessary to activate’ your game. I am not one to spend money on overpriced souvenirs or gimmicks, but let me say: it’s worth it. Every penny. It took my kids their entire stay to complete the quest (playing on and off as time allowed), and then several more games opened upâ€¦they continued playing right up until the moment we left, and could have played for another day at least. They took their wands home as keepsakes, and if we come back for a return visit, they can reuse the same wands (paying only the $9.99 activation fee). All in all, it was a great activity, and good exercise too!
The main attraction of The Great Wolf Lodge, however, is the water park. My first impression was that it actually smelled less chlorinated than most indoor water parks, which was a huge plus for me, since that heated, chemical-based smell really bothers me. I learned later that I wasn’t imaging it: The Great Wolf takes green’ measures to use less chlorine.
But of course my kids didn’t care about any of that. They were off and (not) running (that’s a big rule) from the moment we stepped through the doors. They were initially disappointed in the lack of a lazy river, but were quickly enamored by the wave pool. There was an excellent zero-depth entry splash and slide area for toddlers (the deepest section went up to my four-year-old’s waist) and a huge fort with dumping bucket and more slides. My husband and one of my kids spent most of their time in the pool with basketball hoops and moving floatation pads in the shape of animals, and my favorite feature was the indoor/outdoor hot tub. The â€˜thrill’ rides were fairly mild, but plenty thrilling for my family (oldest child at age 10). Two of the slides have a minimum height requirement of 48 inches, much to my preschooler’s disappointment, but there was plenty else to distract him. During our two day stay, we spend two whole mornings in the water park.
On that first day, we ate an adequate lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers at the Spirit Island Snack Shop, which came to a total of approximately $30 for five people (this did not include drinks, as we brought in our own). Outside food is allowed in the water park, which was a great cost saver. I saw some families bringing in whole coolers. I wish I had been that organized!
For an afternoon break, the older boys continued their MagiQuest game, and I took the preschooler to the Cub Club, where he was able to color and play simple computer games for free. For additional fees, kids could decorate their own Great Wolf Lodge t-shirt or choose from a number of other art projects. We found it quite peacefulâ€¦and there was no pressure to purchase anything.
We opted to leave the lodge to eat dinner at La Tarasca in nearby Centralia, which I cannot recommend enough. (Look for a separate review of the restaurant shortly.) We were back in time for the nightly clock tower show and story time, which was geared for ages perhaps 2-5. I took our four-year-old, and when we arrived right at 8 pm, we had trouble finding a place to sit. The show was a combination of song and animatronics, and ended in an appearance from Wiley the Wolf (GWL’s mascot) and a bedtime story read by a lodge employee (called a â€˜Pack Memberâ€˜). The message was very environmental in nature, and I’ve read other reviews criticizing the heavy emphasis placed by GWL on the outdoors when everything they offer is in fact indoors, but I was willing to let it pass. Perhaps that’s because our family spends enough hours out-of-doors backpacking and camping that I wasn’t concerned my children would mistake the woodsy d’cor of the lodge for the real thing.
We ate breakfast in our room once again, so I cannot comment on the buffet the lodge offers for breakfast and dinner. We were in the water park by its 9 am opening (the lines for the larger slides were nonexistent at this hour, but quickly grew) and swam until lunch. We ate at Camp Critter, which I would compare in price and food quality to Red Robin or Applebee’s. There was a wide selection on the kid menu, and everyone liked their food.
We then hit the arcade (too small for my husband’s taste, but the kids were quite happy, and I was quite unhappy, because I hate arcades.) That said, this one was clean and the staff was very friendly. The kids were all able to redeem tickets for prizes, and came away with the usual assortment of arcade junk, which they greatly enjoyed. We played MagiQuest for another hour before I finally broke the news that we had to leave (check out time is 11 am, but guests can use all the amenities of the lodge, including the water park, until 9 pm on the day of departure). We stopped at the Bear Claw CafÃ© for ice cream (great sundaes) before starting the six-hour drive home.
Throughout our stay, I made mental comparisons between The Great Wolf and Silver Mountain Resort, where we had stayed the previous summer. They both have their pros and cons. For a compatible room rate (based on the best available public rate at each), you get substantially more room for your money at Silver Mountain, with â€˜true’ suites with separate rooms and a full kitchen and the ambiance of an established ski and mountain resort, but Great Wolf provides more for families to do on-site with their Cub Club, Gr8 Space (night club for kids 12 and older), and MagiQuest. The water parks are very compatible: Silver Mountain lacks a wave pool, but boasts a lazy river and surf simulator. My kids couldn’t decide which was better. Undoubtedly, Great Wolf is more centrally located for most people in the Pacific Northwest, and they are definitely geared solely toward families with young children.
We found the service staff to be excellent throughout our stay, with Pack Members’ never failing to say hello, smile, or ask if we needed anything. A Magi Master’ was always on-hand to answer quest-related questions, and I didn’t count the number of life guards in the water park, but it was teeming with them.
I’d definitely recommend The Great Wolf Lodge for a kid-centered getaway.
Date last visited: June 2009
Distance off the interstate: One minute.
Rooms/Rates: See website for up-to-date prices and specials. At the time of this review, the rate offered to the public for the Kid Cabin Suite with an early summer special applied was approximately $250 per night.
Other amenities: The Great Wolf has a full service spa (and kid spa), but alas, I didn’t get to try it out on this trip.
Food Services: The buffet at the Loose Moose Cottage (which we did not try) was $18.99 per adult and $12.99 per child, three and under free. Other restaurants on-site were a la carte and prices vary.
Website: http://www.greatwolf.com/grandmound/lodge. For reservations, call: 800.640.9653
Directions: From I-5 heading south from Seattle: Take Exit 88 for US-12 toward Aberdeen/Tenino and go .3 mile. Turn right at Old Hwy 99 SW/US-12 (signs for Aberdeen/US-12). Turn left at Old Hwy 99 SW. You can’t miss the resort.
As I will disclose whenever applicable, we did receive significant compensation in the form of reduced rates and gift vouchers for review purposes, as is standard in the travel industry; however, these compensations came with no strings attached. As always, no less than my honest impressions will be present in this review.