A Family Adventure At The Grand Opening Of Great Wolf Lodge, SoCal

Looking for a relaxing getaway where the kids can partake in kids club activities while you read by the pool or sit down for a quiet dinner?  Great Wolf Lodge isn't that place.  Instead, it's a resort tailor made for kids and trust me, your kids won't want to leave.  

Great Wolf Lodge has 12 properties throughout the US and 1 in Ontario but the one that just opened up in Garden Grove (just 15 min from Disneyland - there is a shuttle between properties) is a first for Southern California.  In fact, it's the first and only indoor waterpark in the state.  

We were invited on a press preview for the official opening weekend so we packed our bags and hopped in the car.  Leaving Friday afternoon at 4pm it took us about 2 hours from Santa Monica.  Our trip home Sunday late morning was around 40 minutes.   


Upon arrival, our first stop was to the room to get settled.  The kids were beyond excited once they saw we had a themed room complete with a wolf den where there were bunk beds, a flat screen TV and animatronic animals that came to life with the flick of a MagiQuest wand (more on that later).  It was a great place for them to play and it kept them happily occupied.  Not once did we hear them complain or say they were bored while waiting for us to get ready.  The downside, as we came to find, was that the one sink and vanity was directly across from where the kids slept (there's no door to the wolf den) so if your kids are the least bit sensitive to light or noise, you better wash up for bed when they do.  Also, the dens come with a queen bed so if you're partial to a king, be sure to request a room type that has one.  


After a quick breakfast, we were off and running to the lower lobby aka Main Street.  This entire floor is dedicated to games from an arcade, glow in the dark mini golf, bowling and an XD theatre.  The arcade is open 24/7. It's basically Vegas for kids.  If we didn't drag them out of there, they could have easily gone a significant amount of time without seeing the light of day.  The lower level also has a creation station where kids can make their own stuffed animals that are electronically connected to screens around the hotel which lead them on a treasure hunt of sorts.  In similar fashion, you can purchase a wand to partake in MagiQuest, a game that takes you on adventures throughout the resort.  This is the same wand you can use to bring the animals around the kids bunkbeds to life.  The games are great and just one more way to keep the kids entertained throughout the day.  


The massive 105,000 square foot indoor water park, exclusive to resort guests, is the centerpiece of Great Wolf Lodge. From a multi level tree house with suspension bridges, slides and spray stations to the wolf tail (a vertical plunge through a trapdoor into an enclosed tunnel) to a surf simulator and wave pool, this space is impressive. It's also kept at a tropical 84 degrees year round.  There are kiddie slides and an enclosed children pool for younger kids as well as a heated outdoor pool surrounded by lounge chairs and next to a bar and grill. 


We ate at the buffet style Loose Moose Family Kitchen both nights we were there.  While the food was fine (carving station, salad bar, sandwiches, chicken fingers, pasta) the sit down a la carte restaurant, Lodge Wood Fired Grill, looked to be more on the quiet upscale side.  One thing we do recommend is making a reservation. Friday night was no problem, but Saturday we were given a pager and it took 45 minutes to be seated.  There are 7 options in total, so just make sure you plan accordingly.   I was impressed to learn, after a presentation by Executive Chef, Chris Hammond, that they do put A LOT of thought into their food.  For example, due to allergies, there are no nuts on the property, the meat comes from the same gourmet distributor used by iconic steakhouse, Smith and Wollensky and healthy steps like stripping the mac and cheese of yellow number 5 have been taken.  


We travel with multiple books for our bedtime routine, but you won't need them here.  Every night in the lobby at 8PM sharp, a stage with animatronic animals comes to life and there's a story read from a huge picture book about the Great Wolf characters.   Throughout the day, you can also catch the characters walking around, get swept up into a dance party, or join in a game of bingo. 


So what's "luxe" at Great Wolf Lodge?  The luxe at this resort is for the kids.  When you sign in to play magiquest, you take on the persona of a princess, lord or lady.  Even the spa, called Scoops, has pint sized chairs, ice cream themed manis and pedis, mini pink terrycloth robes, pageant sashes and tiaras.  Adults may not leave feeling regal and refreshed, but when you see the huge smiles on your kids faces and they ask how soon they can go back again, you feel pretty darn good.  And at least in their eyes, that's deserving of a crown.