Nearly everyone in the DC area has heard of Great Wolf Lodge. It’s just a couple of hours from DC and is the perfect location for a weekend or mid-week getaway. Great Wolf Lodge is so chock-full of attractions there is no reason at all to ever leave. I visited with my kids ranging in age from three to twelve and everyone had a great time. Read on to find out more.
The Water Park
The waterpark is the centerpiece of Great Wolf Lodge and the reason many families go. The indoor waterpark is enormous and kept at summer-like temps all year round. This is no mere splash-park and attractions rival those offered by large amusement parks. My whole family loved the lazy river ride, the pool with basketball hoops, and the floating tree stumps that take you across the pool with the help of a large suspended net. For older kids there is also a ride that allow kids to try their hand at surfing. For younger kids there is a large splash area with mini-slides. Throughout the park there are various sized larger water slides and a huge tornado families can ride together. In summer, there is also a huge outdoor pool.
When I first heard about MagiQuest I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I knew it involved magic wands that kids carried throughout the lodge to play a game but I had no idea how intricate it was. The magic wand really is magic. In nearly every hallway there are treasure chests that open with the flick of a wand and crystals that light up and begin to glow as if by magic. But, at the heart of the game is the quests. Choose your mission and wander the lodge trying to defeat the dragon and rescue the princess. On our first day at the lodge we met a family who came just to play MagiQuest because their children enjoyed it even more than the waterpark. Completing all of the missions can easily take more than a day but plenty of kids (including my own) play shorter versions. We also learned that Great Wolf Lodge saves your progress so you can pick up where you left off on your next visit. Wands can also be used to activate animals throughout the lobby and restaurant.
Everyday Great Wolf Lodge offers about 20 activities to keep kids entertained at times they aren’t swimming or playing wizard. Some of my kids’ favorites included morning yoga (good for kids and adults), story time with Wiley the Wolf, a dance party, and decorating wolf ears in the Cub Club. These are all offered free of charge to guests. There is also a full-service spa where parents and kids can retreat for some pampering. One side of the spa is called Scoops, and offers a range of ice-creamed themed spa treatments just for kids. Tierras are even included with some of them!
Great Wolf Lodge offers a ton of games. My kids loved bowling in the bowling alley that has pint-sized pins and balls. There is also an awesome 6-D ride (with 3-D glasses, seats that move, and air that blows) and a 3-D game that goes along with it. There is also a full arcade with all kinds of games from classics to grabber games.
My family stayed in a standard family suite, which was fine for my family of six and would probably seem large for a family of four. I did get to see some of the upgraded and themed rooms, some of which are big enough for two families to share. Kids also love the themed rooms with bunkbeds and a log cabin feel.
Winter at Great Wolf Lodge is magical. Great Wolf Lodge takes the theme of Snowland seriously and “real” snow falls from the ceiling in the lobby nightly. There is also a life-sized hand decorated gingerbread house that can be reserved for dining for a real North Pole experience. And, of course, Santa comes to the lodge nightly. The lobby is decorated with a huge Christmas tree, sparkling lights, and there is even a mailbox available for any kids who want to mail letters to Santa. Some rooms even come decorated with Christmas trees and snow-themed blankets.
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Busch Gardens is just 15 minutes from Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg. It’s a great add-on to your trip. During the winter, Busch Gardens turns into Christmas Town with millions of lights hung throughout the park, holiday shows, and seasonal meet-and-greets including Rudolph, Elves, and Santa that take place within immersive environments replicating the North Pole and Santa’s Workshops. It’s a truly magical experience! The train at Busch Gardens is always fun, but during Christmas town it turns into a wondrous experience once the sun goes down and it’s a great way to take in the lights in the park and the only way to see the thousands of lights in the train tunnels. Christmas Carols play throughout the ride. It’s helpful to plan out which shows (if any) you would like to see during your visit when you first arrive to make sure you don’t miss any that look good to your family since, unlike rides, shows do not run continuously.
If you go, be aware that the park has limited hours that vary so check the calendar carefully before you go to ensure the park is open the day you would like to visit and to confirm the hours. Be aware that not all rides are open during Christmas Town. Check the list online first if you think your kids may be disappointed if they can’t go on their favorite roller coaster. Also, Busch Gardens uses dynamic pricing for tickets (similar to airline tickets) so it pays to get tickets early before the price rises. Tickets start at $30.00 Parking is $20.00.
Good to know:
- Upgraded rooms, on average, cost about $25-$50 dollars more than standard rooms when available. If you have your heart set on a themed room book early.
- It takes about two days to fully take advantage of Great Wolf Lodge. While my family spent two nights, it is possible to do a lot with a one-night stay if you arrive early and spend most of the next day at the Lodge.
- Don’t worry about the prescribed check-in and check-out times. If you stay the night you are able to have full use of Great Wolf Lodge the day before and the day after you stay overnight. If you can’t leave your luggage in your room, you can use the Lodge’s changing rooms and showers and leave your luggage at the front desk.
- Great Wolf Lodge creates a very family-friendly, informal environment. We saw families walking around at all times of the day and night in swimsuits and pajamas. Just about anything goes!
- There are a few meal options at the Lodge. There is a buffet restaurant on-site, as well as a place to get pizza and salads and a Dunkin Donuts. There is also a candy shop! We had all of our meals at Great Wolf Lodge but noted plenty of family-friendly restaurants very close. We also noted that some families ordered in pizza and brought their own food.
- Great Wolf Lodge is allergy-friendly. If you have any concerns, just give a call in advance and they will make sure everything is safe for your child to eat.
- Definitely check out the packages offered by Great Wolf Lodge for dining and extra activities. It was really nice for my family to have all meals on-site and not worry about leaving the Lodge all weekend. We also got Paw Passes for the kids which offered a significant savings over paying for activities separately.
- If you are celebrating a birthday be sure to let Great Wolf Lodge know! My son had celebrated his birthday the day before we arrived and they provided a poster for our door, balloons, and special wolf ears.
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