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This fall has been so hectic, I’ve been tutoring a ton, working hard on the blog, and with my son playing travel soccer, it feels like we have been on the run since school started. With some random fall days off, Election Day & Veterans Day specifically, I wanted to plan a little getaway where we could have fun, spend time together and maximize the small break from our daily activities!
Since my kids have been begging, I mean BEGGING, to go to an indoor water park, I knew a night at Great Wolf Lodge Poconos PA would be the perfect destination for this fall break!
Great Wolf Lodge supplied my kids with their own Paw Passes for purpose of this review. As always, all opinions are my own.
The Ultimate Review of Great Wolf Lodge Poconos PA
Booking a Room at Great Wolf Lodge PA
This was our first visit to an indoor water resort, and our first trip to Great Wolf Lodge. I booked a KidKamp Suite for one Monday night in November. It was Veteran’s Day weekend, but we chose to miss a day of school (Tuesday) because it was significantly cheaper to visit on Monday night vs. Sunday night.
Another consideration was that little man had a soccer game on Sunday afternoon and we would not arrive until later in the day. When you book a night at Great Wolf, you have access to the water park at 1pm on the day you check in.
I had been looking at Great Wolf rooms and prices for a few weeks, and got lucky to hit a sale. I paid less than $250 (total) for a KidKamp Suite, which is an unheard of price.
A few tips about booking your room at Great Wolf Lodge:
- Remember the resort total includes your room accommodations, and essentially a day and a half at the water park for room guests. You are not guaranteed access to your room until 4pm the day of check in, but you can access the water park as early as 1pm. You must check out of your room by 11am on check out day, but you can stay in the water park until it closes. At Great Wolf Lodge Poconos PA, it was 8pm each evening.
- There are a variety of room configurations – a standard room fits four, we opted for a KidKamp suite which sleeps 6 in a queen bed, a pull-out couch and twin bunk beds. There are larger rooms that sleep 8, perfect for large families. Families traveling together, could utilize a bigger room to split costs.
- Great Wolf Lodge often has Groupon deals for select nights. I know this fall they had one, which I was stalking but missed out on.
- However, I was able to catch a two-day sale they were running back in October. Since I signed up for their email list I was notified and was able to book on that great deal!
- When comparing rates, be sure to click through to the Book Now screen. There is a fairly hefty “resort fee” and tax added to the advertised rate.
- When booking you can choose from the standard check out time, or for about $60 more, have a 2pm checkout. After our stay, we would have definitely paid extra to be able to check out of our room at 5 or 6pm (which is not an option, we asked). A hot shower and a chance to really freshen up after a day at the water park would have been great. However, for us, the difference between checking out at 11am and 2pm was not worth the extra cost. Since you CAN stay at the water park all day, not sure why you would pay more, to spend LESS time in the main attraction? Guess it depends on how far your ride home is! (If you have utilized this option, and found it worth the money PLEASE tell me more in the comments).
Packing List for Great Wolf Lodge
As my loyal readers know, I have a love/hate relationship with packing. A new trip, to a new experience, well that just stresses me out! I scoured the internet reading posts, and talked to many local friends about what to pack. Now that I’ve been, here is what I would for sure bring next time (and keep reading for what I might leave at home).
Great Wolf Packing – For the Waterpark
One bathing suit for each day of the trip (we stayed one night, so we had two suits each) including swim shirts for the boys
Goggles – our kids wore these, as did many kids
Flip Flops or Sandals – For walking around the water park. I wore my reefs, hubby loves his Tevas, baby girl has a million pairs of Old Navy flip flops and my son wears these Under Armour slides. We saw some people in water shoes, but I didn’t think these were necessary at all.
Cover-Up – Something for the girls to wear walking from the water park to the room
Multiple Plastic Bags – I know, plastic bags (Like the kind you get at CVS) are becoming obsolete, and I personally use recyclable bags where I can, but I’m not going to lie, I like a plastic bag for these types of trips where there is so much wet stuff. At the end of the trip we had 4 damp swim suits (from the first day), four very wet swimsuits (from the second day) and 4 pairs of wet sandals. It was helpful to be able to wrap everything up and not worry about the other luggage getting wet. I think a more eco-friendly alternative would be something like this:
A reusable bag for your second-day dry clothes- keep reading for more on checking out, but you will want to have a decent sized bag to hold your dry clothes, dry shoes, jackets and valuables. The stuff you will need after you check out of your room, before you head home. I wish I had brought a bigger bag for this purpose!
Lots of water (and la Croix, I always bring my pamplemousse with me) – It is hot and humid in the water park. A good temperature for when you are getting out of the pools, so you aren’t freezing, but the stuffy air made me super dehydrated. I drank A LOT of water!
Small snacks – There are many signs mentioning that outside food is not allowed in the water park. Being the rule follower that I am, the first day, I left all our snacks in the room, and then had to munch on some cheese-its our friends had brought. So yes, you can bring a few snacks in your bag. I don’t think you can bring in your giant Yeti cooler, but if you had a few things to eat no one seemed to mind.
Waterproof Camera Case (or Waterproof Camera) – I have this waterproof pouch for my phone. If you want to take pictures or videos when you are on the rides, you will definitly want to bring something like this.
Great Wolf Packing: For the Room & Around the Resort
Casual Clothes – Hanging around Great Wolf Lodge is super, duper casual. Like many kids were running around in Pajamas and/or shoeless. Around the lodge I wore my UGG slip-ons (these are amazing BTW) and sweats. No need for anything fancy.
Cute Kid PJ’s – If your kids opt to attend the evening story time, they will want cute pajamas to sport. Again, in the evening, around the resort, pajamas seemed to be perfectly acceptable kid-wear.
Cute Wolf Slippers – I saw a few girls wearing these. They are super cute and add to the theme of the trip. I will definitely buy these for our next visit!
Wine & Wine Opener – In the evening, if you want to enjoy some wine in your room, feel free to bring a bottle. There is a large fridge to keep everything cold. I always bring my own wine opener!
Snacks and Drinks – Again, there is a nice size fridge in the rooms, so bring your own water and drinks. We brought snacks (chips, goldfish, fruit snacks) as well.
Your Own Breakfast – Eating breakfast in the room is a good way to save money when you travel. Since the rooms do have a fridge and a microwave, I was able to bring yogurts and oatmeal, in addition to dry cereal, KIND Bars and Nutella sticks.
Nightlight – I always travel with one of these!
Sound Machine – We sleep with these every night in our house and it is for sure a must-have when we travel. At Great Wolf Lodge, I noticed that the walls were very thin and I was thankful we had the sound machine. Our room was located way at the end of the hallway on the first floor, but there are rooms located right next to MagiQuest. There are “hibernation hours” when young wolves are supposed to be in their rooms, but it is from 11pm-7am. If you have kids who go to bed early, or sleep late, a sound machine should be one of the first things you pack!
Clock – I think honestly, I am going to start always traveling with a small clock. For some reason, it drives me BEYOND BONKERS when there is no clock in the room. Drives my kids crazy too. In fact, at Great Wolf, baby girl woke me up at 5:15 to see what time it was. Luckily, she went back to sleep!
Extra Socks and Underwear – This is the kind of trip where you will be doing a lot of changing. In and out of wet swimsuits, I don’t mind putting on clothes that I’ve already worn, but I like to have fresh socks and underwear for each outfit change!
Leave at Home:
Towels – I read such conflicting advice on whether or not to bring our own towels. We did bring our own and didn’t use them. The towels they provide were sufficient and plentiful. You can’t take them back to your room, but we didn’t find that to be a hassle.
Floatation Devices – These were provided and again, plentiful. Although we did see many kids in their own vests, puddle jumpers and floaties.
Arriving at Great Wolf Lodge PA
From where we live on the South Shore of Long Island, Great Wolf Lodge is 123 miles away. It took us about 2 hours, 15 minutes each way to get there.
The way the resort works is you can access the Great Wolf Lodge Water Park as early as 1pm on the day you check in, even though your room is not guaranteed to be ready until 4:00 It is worth arriving around 1:00 to maximize your water park time! Just be prepared – we packed our swimsuits and sandals in a separate bag so we could change upon arriving.
We arrived at about 1:30pm on a holiday Monday. We left our luggage in the car, and went to the lobby to check in. We waited about 10 minutes to be helped at the front desk. Upon check in, we were each given a bracelet. This bracelet serves as your admission pass to the water park, as well as your room key and there is a tap-and-go payment option where you can use your bracelet to pay for things in the resort. We opted to have our kids just wear plastic bracelets, not having key access or buying options.
At check-in, the kids were given wolf ears, and the paw passes that were reserved for us. We got lucky because our room was available so we were able to go back to the car, retrieve our stuff, and get settled in the room before hitting the water park.
If our room was not ready, we would have changed into swim suits, left the rest of our belongings in the car (there is no bell-hop or luggage storage services) and then would have received a text message when our room was available. Since we already had our bracelets aka keys, we would not have had to wait back in line at the front desk!
Great Wolf Water Park
There is definitely a lot to do at Great Wolf Lodge but the main attraction is of course, the water park!
Having never been to an indoor water park, I was concerned about the water and the park being warm enough. I can say it felt tropical (both temperature and humidity) and the water attractions were perfect.
My kids loved the big thrill rides. Two rides had a height requirement of 48”, so sadly 46”-tall baby girl will have to wait to ride those, but she could ride everything else, which was a big bonus! There are seven big water rides – one where you sit in a big round 4-person float, and others where you can ride a double or single tube. Some of the water tunnels actually snake outside the building, which is pretty neat! Since I don’t love fast, or twirly rides, I stuck to the two orange waterslides which were good for me!
More my speed is the lazy river, which was so relaxing, and the two hot springs. The South Hot Springs is a family hot tub – like a giant hot pool and the North Hot Springs is a hot tub for adults 21 and up. Needless to say, this momma enjoyed plenty of time in North Hot Springs!
Lastly, there were several pools, one being a wave pool, which little man really loved, one having a lily pad obstacle course, one having several basketball nets (this seemed to be the popular spot for the dads) and a zero-entry pool/splash pad for the littlest guests.
The first day we arrived, some friends from home were on the last day of their trip. They were traveling with a large group and had rented a cabana for the day. It was so nice of them to let us crash their party, dump our stuff in their area and let us hang out with them.
The cabana is definitely a nice upgrade to consider! The cabanas are stocked with 16 non-alcoholic beverages (water and soft drinks of your choice), towels, fruit and some other snacks. With the cabana rental, you receive a complimentary locker rental, as well as a nice place to lounge for the day. The cabanas are equipped with a couch, coffee table, several chairs and a table. There are also servers from whom you can order drinks and food. In the back, behind the bar, I saw two cabanas that had TVs and the one in the way far back to the right of the wave pool, was faced away from the crowd making it very private!
If a cabana isn’t in your budget, the Great Wolf Lodge water park is equipped with many rows of chairs and some table/chair combos where you can stash your stuff, and lounge around for the day. There are lockers for rent to stash your valuables and dry clothes. We used a locker on the day of check out.
Within the Great Wolf Lodge waterpark, I was disappointed there weren’t actual lounge chairs, I really would have liked a little snooze the second day! However, we did snag a high-top table to serve as a home base for our family and a place to stash our towels and stuff.
We were also able to eat lunch at these tables. Inside the waterpark, you will find a snack bar, serving burgers, fries and salads (honestly the food here was pretty good) and a full bar complete with drinks, snacks and TV’s.
Great Wolf Lodge Paw Passes
Next to visiting the waterpark, one of the highlights of our trip was the Paw Passes. You can order your Paw Passes online and upon check in you will receive an actual pass on a lanyard. The back of the pass lists all the activities that are part of the program. As you go through each one (you don’t have to go in order) the attendant will check off that you completed that activity.
The Paw Pass sells for $79.99 and it includes: One game of MagiQuest, a MagiQuest wand and topper (certain styles), choice of a GWL Plushy from the Gift shop (which also came with a string bag and a $10 arcade card), 20 points to use in the arcade, 12 oz. of bulk candy from the candy store, a glitter tattoo, a pair of googles from the Swim Shop, and a personalized name bracelet from the Buckhorn Exchange Gift Shop.
This pass is such a good deal, and does not expire. If you don’t have time to complete everything in one trip, you can save it for next time! I also think that having the pass cut down on the kids begging for stuff (which I can assure you can be a situation at a place like Great Wolf Lodge). They knew they were going to do the activities on the pass, no more, no less! Having the pass will not only save you money, but will help set limits for the trip!
Other Activities at Great Wolf PA
You go to Great Wolf Lodge for the awesome, indoor water park. The water park is open each night until 8pm, and you all know how my kids are – they can play in water for days on end. No, but seriously, even the most water-loving family will want to explore some of the dry activities as well. One of the best things about Great Wolf Lodge is that there is so much to do outside of the waterpark, the kids definitely won’t be bored. Dry attractions and experiences include:
Organized Lobby Activities – Throughout the day there are several FREE activities for the kids to partake in. Morning Yoga, a Wolf Walk, Evening Story Time, Character Meet and Greets and a late night (9:15pm) Dance Party!
A really nice arcade – Honestly, this might have been the nicest arcade I’ve ever been to. It was big, with lots of games –which were all working! The games also gave a generous amount of tickets on each play. We even found the “Play Until You Win” Claw Machine, where each kid “won” a souvenir great Wolf Lodge Ball! I personally hate arcades, but I was able to tolerate this one!
Kid Spa – If kiddie manis, pedis and facials are your thing, there is the Scoops Spa for Kids! Baby girl wanted to try it, but we didn’t have time!
Bowling Alley – Yes, there is a 6-lane bowling alley at Great Wolf Lodge! Again, this was something that sadly, we didn’t quite have time for!
Glow Mini Golf – My kids love mini golf, but we will have to try this next time!
MagiQuest – This is where my kids spent all of their non-waterpark time. And I mean ALL of it. Like sleeping with their wands, waiting at 8am for it to re-open.
What is MagiQuest you might ask?
Essentially, it’s an electronic scavenger hunt that takes place on the third and fourth floor of Great Wolf PA. You have to buy a wand, and pay for a game. If you don’t have a paw pass, you can buy a wand + one game for $29.99. You can save the wand and reuse it on your next visit.
With the wand, you also receive a clue-booklet and then you run around the 3rd and 4th floor, using your wand to find different objects and complete different quests. If you are a fierce Magi, you can work to slay the dragon at the end!
For experienced Magi’s there are two harder versions offered, CompassQuest and ShadowQuest. Honestly, my kids had a hard time deciding what they liked more – the waterpark, or doing MagiQuest!
Dining at Great Wolf Lodge PA
I have to say, my one complaint about Great Wolf Lodge, was the lack of a place to have a decent dinner that wasn’t a buffet. At the suggestion of friends, we left the property for dinner and headed 10 minutes away to the Barley Creek Brewing Company.
Our dinner at Barley Creek was really good, but it would have been nice to NOT have to leave the property for a pub-type meal. But here are the dining options at Great Wolf Lodge Poconos PA:
Dunkin’ Donuts – This was so nice to have in the morning for coffee. We had brought our own food for breakfast, but a DD run makes a nice, cheap first meal!
Hungry as a Wolf Pizza – This is a food-court style take-out pizza place. The pizza looked okay and they had salads and pastas on the menu. You can take out pizza and eat it in the waterpark, or there are a few tables in the little “courtyard” area between the food court and water park entrance. Attached to Hungry as Wolf was an ice cream and sweets shop.
Walking Taco – Tucked away on the first floor, near the mini-golf and bowling alley was a walking taco stand. You get a giant bag of Fritos, and add your taco toppings to make a to-go taco. I thought this looked interesting, but I didn’t see ONE PERSON the whole trip walking around with a taco.
Loose Moose Family Kitchen – This is the buffet which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is located on the lobby level of the resort.
Buckets – This is the snack bar inside the water park. We ate lunch here one day – nachos, fries, salad, and burgers. The food was actually decent.
Checking out of Great Wolf Lodge Poconos
Since you will probably want to stay at the waterpark, or resort past your 11am check out, I definitely recommend having a plan for your check-out day.
On our check-out day, the kids spent the early morning playing MagiQuest. We did that from about 8-10:30am. We then went back to the room, changed into our swim clothes and packed up our bags.
We had our big LL Bean tote to keep with us in the water park (with our towels- which we didn’t need, a few drinks and snacks, goggles, our phones, a credit card and some reading material for me).
We then had a small bag for the clothes we wanted to wear home, our sweatshirts and shoes. We opted to rent a locker, $15 for the small – and it was VERY SMALL. I barely fit all our stuff in it. There were medium ($20) and large ($25) lockers available I would definitely recommend at least scoping them out before you order one at the kiosk!
Also, in learning from our mistake, I would bring a larger bag for your dry clothes. Ours did not really fit our shoes or jackets, so I had to leave our jackets in the car. Not the biggest deal, but it was cold walking out of the resort to our car!
The rest of our gear: duffle bag, car snacks and cooler, we had to put in the car while we enjoyed the water park the last day. There is no luggage storage at the resort.
On the day of your check-out, you can stay at the waterpark the entire day. Once you are out of your room, you can text Brinley your virtual butler to check you out. It was nice to not have to worry about going to the lobby to check out.
Another important check-out tip: when you check –out of your room, your bracelet can no longer be used to charge around the property. I went to order us lunch at Buckets, waited in line, did my order, and then went to pay with my bracelet. And yeah, I had to cancel out, go back to the table and find a credit card to use! Good thing we didn’t stash our wallets away in the car!
Great Wolf Lodge Poconos Review
Overall, we had such an AMAZING time at Great Wolf Lodge. My kids have been talking about it non-stop and cannot wait to go back! I was concerned about GWL being clean, and up to date, and it definitely met expectations in this department. I was pleasantly surprised at how much there was to do outside the water park!
My last Great Wolf Lodge tips would be:
- Book the lowest category of room that you need. The only time we spent in the room was to sleep.
- Great Wolf Lodge was a ton of fun, but it was truly exhausting. One night, and two days was plenty.
- Sign up for their email promotions – and know that after your visit they will send you promotions to come back. I just got an offer for 50% off a room – which I am very tempted to book!
- HAVE A GREAT TIME!
Have you been to Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos? Or one of their other locations? What are your best tips for visiting Great Wolf Lodge?
Interested in visiting Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California, then check out my friend Nancy’s review!