When I first heard about Great Wolf Lodge last summer, I knew it was a place that I needed to bring our kids! And because Landri, Rex and I just returned from GWL in Grapevine, TX, I thought I’d do a blog post reviewing it for y’all. Also, since I was able to really test it out during our trip, I’ll make this a combo review post and also share some info about my new waterproof camera in case any of y’all are interested (you’ll see pics below).
I have a bucket list of summer activites. So far we’ve done well considering it’s not even June yet and we’ve already made a staycation at the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa, and last week I also took the kids to one of my favorite Wimberley swimming holes, Jacob’s Well (pics below and here’s a funny video of Landri belly flopping off the smallest cliff ledge). I’ve got a ton more exciting adventures planned, but like I said, Great Wolf Lodge was also on the list, hence the recent trip. When the end of our pre-school program was approaching a few weeks ago, I got online to see what kind of rates I could find and to my dismay, they were pretty high. I just couldn’t stomach the $400+ per night stay (not including taxes and food etc) and signed myself up on their mailing list instead. A few days later, a deal came through for $149.99/night with a $50 resort credit! It was mid-week before regular school got out and the outdoor water park was not open for the season yet, but for me, that still sounded pretty darn good. Not only was it a great deal economically, but (I believe) due to the timing, it was not very crowded at all, and we barely had any wait time in lines and were always able to find chairs/tables etc in the water park. Sadly, Scott couldn’t make it because of work, but I easily managed Landri and Rex as my in-laws offered to take Ty. And while it was super nice not to have to manage him, just for those of you with little kiddos who are wondering, Ty totally could have gone – they have tons of stuff for little people like him.
From where we live, Great Wolf Lodge Grapevine is about a 4.5 hour drive. Somehow on the way up there, it took us just a hair over 4 hours and we had zero traffic. I mean, how often does the phrase “zero traffic” enter our vocabularies these days – especially when passing through Austin, Waco, and Dallas!? Talk about a miracle! Ha! Anyhow, I had hit up the dollar store for a few small goodies that kept the kids entertained in the car and that was really nice. About every hour or so I gave them a new treat. They did a really sweet job of expressing their gratitude which surprised and impressed me (Mom win!). We arrived a little after 12 noon and were pleasantly surprised to find out that our room was ready. So we checked in, got our wolf ears, and headed up to our room to change into our swim suits.
I’m cheap so we didn’t rent a locker on the first day. We just walked down to the water park ready to swim. Because they have towels down there, that worked just fine. The wristbands they give you also have access to your credit card should you like so you can order food and drinks without needing your wallet (they have a snack bar and an actual bar inside the indoor water park). Additionally, your wristband also doubles as your room key. It’s so nice how you literally don’t need to carry anything around if you don’t want!
The hotel is pretty unique looking inside with features such a giant artificial trees when you walk into the lobby. For my kids, anything that isn’t “normal” is super cool, so of course they were smitten by the statues of what they thought were coyotes out front (yes, they are actually wolves, lol) and the trees inside. The water park is on the bottom level (lobby is second floor where you walk in) and the main attraction is indeed inside which made me feel better considering that we missed the seasonal opening of the outdoor portion by two days (probably hence the great price). It’s also visible through a giant wall of glass from the lobby which is a sweet view too. It was awesome to see their faces light up when they first saw it.
In the (indoor) park, you’ll find several areas to keep all members of your family happily entertained. I’d also like to note that the entire park (except the hot tub) is staffed with lifeguards. As a former guard at Splashtown in Spring, TX, and at various pools growing up, I was very impressed with the lifeguards at Great Wolf Lodge. They all seemed extremely engaged, eyes scanning constantly. Anyhow, immediately off to the right, you’ll find an indoor/outdoor hot tub that kids can use (as opposed to an adult-only one somewhere else). Also near there is fairly sizable toddler area that would have been great for Ty. Even though it has shallow waters and smaller sized slides (4 of them), Landri (age 4.5) and Rex (age 3) both had a blast and spent a ton of time here. I was able to sort of hang out on the side the first evening and did enjoy a glass of wine! Immediately as you walk in, you’ll find a huge tower with two great slides that both of my kids could ride (I forget the height requirement but I think it was 36″?). There’s also an enormous bucket that fills up with water and dumps periodically on those brave enough to stand below. I had a great time watching the kids stand under it; Rex would get knocked off his feet and washed away a few yards, it was so strong! I literally laughed out loud everytime! Sadly, by the time I got around to figuring out my waterproof camera, Rex had figured out how to maintain his ground so I wasn’t able to video him falling down! There’s also a lazy river of course, as well as a wave pool, both of which the kids loved. Lastly, there was one other pool with a few obstacle course type activities and some water basketball. Oh, and there were a few slides for people taller than Landri that we didn’t do, and there were also some “bigger kid” slides that Landri was tall enough for, but since Rex wasn’t and I was alone there with them, Landri and I only did once. You can see the awesome video here (turn up the volume to hear her excitement) and check out the quality of my camera! And to be fair, here’s a video of Rex. It cracks me up too – as he holds the camera on his face the entire time he goes down the slide (just hang on through the first few seconds of him getting set up). He’s so serious about it! Such a cutie face! PS. Although it wasn’t open yet and I didn’t really get to check it out, it appears that there is a large pool outdoors and one good sized slide. There may be more, but like I said, I couldn’t really see. There’s also a ropes course outside as well, but I figured we were way too small for that, so I didn’t even bother looking into it.
That night, we ate in one of the three or so restaurants onsite and just kind of ran around wild and exploring. They have a pretty good sized Arcade and luckily my kids are little enough that they thought pushing buttons was still playing (I didn’t input any actual money, haha). It was fun. Great Wolf has a bunch of activities like Story Time and Kids’ Yoga among other things, but we were pretty tired and didn’t partake this visit. Oh a few more notes about the hotel…I cheaped out and got the most economical and basic room, but will mention that the fancier ones look awesome online (think: treehouse cabin painted on the wall with bunk beds, etc). Even though we were in the bottom of the line room, it still had a fridge and microwave, so you can definitely take food from home to save some money.
The second day, we woke up early and I made the kids oatmeal that I brought from home. I let them eat it in the stroller while I went for a jog and having finished by 8am, we took advantage of the early check-out package that they were offering. Because we checked out by 9:30am, we were awarded a free $20 locker rental (which fit my average sized beach bag) as well as a free large one topping pizza (also probably around a $20 value). I figured that we would have loaded up our car before heading to the park anyways so we might as well check out and get our locker paid for (I wanted a secure place for my purse/keys). Also, having lunch covered was a nice bonus too.
While we didn’t spend any time outside of the resort, I do know that downtown Grapevine is a cute little town that could be a fun little trip if you need a break from the hotel. Also, across the street is the incredible and famous Gaylord Texan Resort, which we did visit on our way out of town (and – heads-up – learned about the $17 parking the hard way).
All in all, it was a great trip! My only complaint was that I was cold in the actual water park most of the time (the kids seemed okay and just took dips in the hot tub to warm up). Oh, and the chlorine level seemed to be fairly high… the white part of my brand new swim suit looks a dull yellow now and Landri’s hair was FRIED (it’s fine now after a good washing and conditioning though, luckily). While we were there, apparently there was a “Code Brown” in the wave pool. It wasn’t shut down very long at all, so they must be shocking the heck out of it which in looking at Landri’s hair, makes sense. At the end of the day, I’d definitely go back again. The kids loved it and I enjoyed myself as well. That said, I feel like the regular rates during peak season are fairly overpriced, especially if the place is gonna be overrun with people and full of long lines. Our total bill for 1 night in a great hotel with 2 meals and a snack and 1.5 days at the water park was $219 and I felt that was a great value. In the future I’d only return if I was able to score a similarly priced deal. I would definitely recommend signing up for emails so you can see deals when they come out.
Okay about the little water camera! I really like it! It’s small, lightweight, and pretty easy to use. The quality seems very high considering the price ($52). I’m not very good with cameras and don’t have any professional photography experience, but it has worked really well for me. I’m pretty sure it does a ton of stuff that I don’t even understand and can even attach to a helmet like a GoPro. If you have any specific questions about it, feel free to contact me and just ask! Just a note, you do need to order a memory card (I got this one). Order your underwater camera here!!
JW Marriott Hill Country Resort & Spa
Great Wolf Lodge Grapevine