Great Wolf Grapevine:
A Howl of a Good Time
When a representative from Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas, contacted TulsaKids about participating in a Media Family Weekend, I overcame my usual stay-at-home tendencies, called up "Grandma Dana" to see if she'd be available for moral support (read: driving and babysitting), and agreed to go. It was a whirlwind of a weekend; we left Friday morning and were home by Sunday afternoon, but in the meantime, we made some wonderful memories!
Ready to go!
If you're considering a trip to Great Wolf Lodge, or if you're unfamiliar with it, continue reading:
1. Route (and Re-route).
As neither my mom nor I had ever driven to Dallas from Tulsa, we did what anyone would do in this situation: asked friends and Google Maps. On the way down, we chose to take the most direct route, via US-75 S, at an estimated four hours and seven minutes. This route, we discovered, takes the driver through many small towns and really drove home (pun intended) what people mean when they say, "Once you leave Oklahoma, you realize how bad the roads are." My mom felt that, although estimated to be about 20 minutes faster than the alternative, the drive felt longer due to the road conditions and constant slowing-down through small towns, so on the way home we opted for the I-35-to-Oklahoma City route. My mom's verdict? Definitely superior. Plus, we got to stop at the most wonderful Travel Information Station on the way home, complete with a wooded picnic area, a small hiking trail, azaleas and free popcorn.
2. The Wondrous Water Park
The outside of Great Wolf Lodge is decorated with four massive wolf statues that instantly set expectations for a larger-than-life experience, none of which are dashed when you enter the lobby. To the right is the gift shop with a cabin facade; in front of you are two giant trees, a staircase with tree-fort overlook, a towering fireplace and an display of animatronic woodland creatures. To the left is the check-in desk (where young visitors are granted their complimentary set of wolf ears!)--and a wall of windows overlooking the water park.
It was very difficult to tear Joss away from those windows--and, to be honest, we got sucked in ourselves! The most mesmerizing part of the park is the bucket that dumps 1,000 gallons of water upon those who choose to wait beneath, which is a pretty impressive sight!
The giant bucket sits atop a fort-like structure that guests can climb up and exit via two slides that are fun and fast, but tame in comparison to the slides at the back of the park! Sadly, because Joss is too young, we didn't get to try those other slides, but he did enjoy the water-fort slides, screaming happily all the way down.
In addition to a wave pool and a lazy river, there is a zero-entry portion of the park designed specifically for toddlers and those who lack confidence in the water. This section only goes down to maybe two-and-a-half feet, and is full of fun play elements such as "motorcycles" that spray water, colorful buckets that dump a less intimidating amount of water, a platform area with a small slide, and two other slides that even Joss could probably do by himself, although we did have fun accompanying him.
The lazy river--or as staff referred to it, the "active river."
At breakfast on Saturday, Assistant General Manager Alex Matthews explained how important water safety is to Great Wolf Lodge. Their lifeguards undergo extensive training and are frequently tested by an outside company to make sure everyone is following the safety procedures. Each lifeguard is assigned a small section of the park and is trained to keep his or her eyes on the water, walking back and forth along the shore, constantly scanning for trouble. While a trip to a water park with a non-swimmer is still a little stressful, it was reassuring to see the lifeguards taking their jobs seriously and to have some background knowledge about their training, etc. Additionally, life jackets are readily available if you don't have one (or leave yours at home, as I did!).
Many of the water park's features are wheelchair accessible.
There are also two hot tub areas, one just for adults (which looked calm and relaxing!), and one for families. This second one has an entrance toward the outdoor pool area that kids can swim through when the weather is nice.
On Friday night, we attended a reception in a sheltered area near the outdoor pool. Joss kept running through the gate, and I had the hard task of chasing him down before he hit the water. I was glad to realize, once we intentionally entered the outdoor pool, that it is also a zero-entry pool, meaning that the water level starts at zero inches and very gradually slopes down, becoming no more than two feet deep for quite some distance. So Joss would probably have been just fine if he'd made it to the pool, although I'm glad I didn't have to find out that way!
Great Wolf Grapevine is very close to the Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport, so you get to see huge planes flying overhead!
3. Camping in Comfort
Every one of the guest floors at Great Wolf is decorated in a different theme; additionally, Great Wolf offers themed rooms, such as KidKamp, Wolf Den and KidCabin. These themed rooms and suites have a special enclosed "bedroom" for the kids, complete with bunk beds and their own TV, presenting the perfect opportunity to both kids and adults for a little privacy.
Hanging out in the KidKamp!
Don't feed the bears!
If you choose a standard room, don't worry--they are clean and comfortable, with a nice-sized fridge, microwave and large-screen TV.
Sitting area in our room.
4. Delectable Edibles
Great Wolf Lodge has multiple restaurants and eateries. The Loose Moose Cottage is the site of the popular character breakfasts, where Wiley the Wolf and his friends parade throughout the Cottage and mingle through the guests for photo opportunities. It is also the site of bountiful breakfast and dinner buffets, with options for everyone, including a line for the kids.
Loose Moose Cottage (calm before the storm!)
Getting a hug from our good pal Wiley the Wolf.
Dessert. (I went back for seconds.)
Dessert at Wiley's Kitchen.
For a fine dining option, try the Lodge Wood Fired Grill; and for a casual lunch, Hungry as a Wolf serves pizza and salads. There are also food and beverage options inside the water park areas, Bear Paw Sweets & Eats if you have an extra sweet tooth, and Starbucks.
Colorful selection at Bear Paw Sweets & Eats.
Thank goodness for Starbucks!
If you or your child has allergies, let Great Wolf know ahead of time, and they can send out a chef to your table to discuss menu options and prepare a separate meal in the kitchen using their allergy-free equipment.
5. MagiQuest for Your Inner Nerd
My favorite store in the Lodge was the MagiQuest store, where you purchase the wand you'll need to participate in Great Wolf's MagiQuest, an interactive, fantasy-themed game that encourages exploration on all levels of the hotel.
Joss choosing his wand!
When you purchase a wand, the MagiQuest staff members activate it, giving your child a magical name (for example, Knight Joss), and direct you to the end of a hallway, where a sleeping dragon and a wizard in a tree explain the game and help you choose your quest. We chose one of the simplest quests, which involved searching for and waving your wand at five different-colored crystals located throughout the lodge. Sadly, we never found the red crystal and therefore never completed the quest, but it was still fun--I mean, how could you not love waving a wand at an object and having it respond with a magical jingle?
Other tempting items for sale in the MagiQuest store included a purple stuffed unicorn, stuffed dragons, superhero and knight capes, wizard hats and more.
6. Everything Else (Condensed Version)
I haven't yet covered the Northern Lights Arcade, the spas (Scoops, an adorable ice cream-themed spa for kids and Elements Spa Salon for adult visitors who need to relax), the outdoor ropes course, the Creation Station, where you can choose your very own Great Wolf friend and watch it come to life via the "stuffing machine," the craft area, or some of the many other activities Great Wolf offers. These include yoga, dance parties, trivia and storytime, and the Clock Tower shows. Find descriptions of some of these other activities here.
Joss's favorite arcade 'game.'
Character Creation Station--choose your character, then their outfit!
I encouraged Joss to choose the dragon, of course...
Wiley at storytime.
If you want to take full advantage of these activities, consider purchasing a Paw Pass, which packages several activities together for a significant discount.
One weekend was certainly not enough time to fully experience everything Great Wolf has to offer--which just means that there will be new things to try next time!