Happy Tuesday, friends! It’s actually kind of like my Monday, since we played hooky yesterday in order to head to the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia. While I have been battling a cold for well over a week now and felt pretty crummy, Gavin had an absolute blast! Because I did not feel great, I did not take near as many pictures as I should have. However, Gavin is most definitely a water baby, and is going through a major pool/water park/splash pad phase. We could not have picked a better age to bring him! It was so much fun to watch him splash, swim, and tear down massive slides like a boss. This kid has no fear of adventure, that’s for sure!
Along with some pictures, I will share some tips and pieces of advice for novices like myself.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Great Wolf Lodge, it’s essentially an indoor water park/hotel. There are several locations around the United States, primarily in the Southeast and Midwest. Although the main draw is the water park, the lodge also includes miniature gold, an arcade, spa, restaurant, story time, and face painting, among other things. If I had to pick the best ages, I would go with 2-10. (Although surprisingly, there were actually quite a few tweens and even some teenagers there). Who doesn’t love a good water park, huh?
While this was our first time visiting the resort, and I am far from an expert on all the tips/tricks, I thought I would share a few key pieces of advice for a newbie like myself.
- Check for deals. This place is not cheap. If you want to go on a weekend, you are looking at $400-500 for a room for the evening. This obviously also includes the water park admission for all of your guests. However, I think we would all agree that if we are paying this price for a hotel room, it better be at the Ritz or Four Seasons. I often see Groupon deals for the Great Wolf, as well as coupons in different coupon books. While we did not use a coupon, we saved about 50% simply by going on a Sunday night. If you have job flexibility and can take a day off of work/school, do it. (FYI….there were lots of school age children there, and it was only the second week of school for Virginians. Don’t feel guilty. Money talks). Not only was it cheaper, but far less crowded. Gavin was able to race right up to the slides with no wait, and I was able to peacefully relax in the hot tub. A win for all. I have also seen coupons for their restaurant in coupon books, and they will email you coupons for the spa, arcade, etc. after you book. Do some sleuthing.
- Pack your own snacks, drinks, and adult beverages. Of course, there is food available at the lodge, but it’s far cheaper to pack your own. Just glancing at the snack bar in the water park…..burgers were about $6. Not bad for just my husband and I. But, if you are feeding a pack of ravenous kids, it’s gonna add up. The rooms are equipped with fridges and microwaves, so think about things like yogurt, microwave popcorn, mac and cheese, soup, etc. The Williamsburg location has a Walmart literally a half mile from the lodge, so that came in handy for sure. Also, if you like to enjoy an adult beverage in the evenings, definitely grab some provisions beforehand. While I don’t even know if they “technically” allow this, I literally checked in with a bottle of wine sticking out of my bag, and no one said anything. The one caveat……when you are in the actual water park facility, you may have to purchase their drinks. There was a staff attendant monitoring the door, so it might have been tricky to walk in with a beer. Tricky, but not impossible. The plastic cups were clear, so with a little ingenuity, I am sure it could have been done. My advice? Either do without, or purchase one of the $7 beers or $9 cocktails. It won’t break you, and then you won’t feel guilty about smuggling in your illicit beverages later.
- Bring your own beach/pool towels, but leave floaties at home. They did provide pool towels, but they were paper thin, and tiny to boot. Seriously, my husband needed two just to cover his body. If you have room and it’s not too much of a pain, pack some towels. However, I was impressed with the variety of life jackets they had. They even had Great Wolf Lodge puddle jumpers for the toddler set.
- Only plan on staying for one evening. I know at least a dozen people who have been to the lodge, and with the exception of one person, they all agree one night is enough. Here is the deal. The website says you can arrive at 1:00pm on the day that you check in. (We arrived right at 1:00, but I am betting they would let you in if you arrived a bit earlier). Your room may not be ready (although ours was), so have a bag packed with all your pool essentials. You can change in the restroom. Unless you pay for late check-out (WHY?) you need to vacate your room by 11:00am. Here’s the cool part though. You can stay at the water park for the entire day after checking out. So, if you go for one night, you really have the option of staying for two whole days. Considering I know people who can knock out a good chunk of Disney World in three days, I have no idea how you could spend that long at the GWL. Save your money. One night is plenty.
- Leave the premises to eat. I have heard that the food at their restaurant is pretty ho-hum, so we opted to eat dinner at a local Mexican restaurant instead. Colonial Williamsburg has tons of cute places to check out, and a break from the lodge was nice. There were also tons of breakfast places within a 5-mile radius (including an IHOP right next door). I will say, there was a Dunkin Donuts inside the Williamsburg GWL, which I thought was a brilliant idea for an easy/cheap breakfast.
There you have it! While I don’t think we will be the people who go every few months, I imagine we will head back in a year or so, maybe to the Concord, NC location next time. (We decided on Williamsburg for this visit since we combined it with a Richmond trip to visit my college friends).
Have a wonderful week, friends!