For over 25 years, Great Wolf Lodge has been providing fun, family friendly get-aways in resorts designed to provide lodging, food, and entertainment all in one indoor place so you can visit and enjoy year round. Since hearing of their opening in the new Manteca location, our family has been wanting to visit and experience the fun indoor waterpark and activities all under one roof. We spent two nights and about two days at Great Wolf Lodge and found it an excellent way to get away, and let your kids have an amazing time, while you as a parent get to relax a little and not have to worry about being the entertainer. All you could want to do is under one roof, and it’s so much fun for kids of all ages. Check out our stay in the Great Wolf Lodge and learn all about the fantastic time we had.
Why We Went
When my kids were still younger and my cousins’ children were teens, I saw them post photos on Facebook of a cool hotel called Great Wolf Lodge that was a resort/indoor waterpark all in in one. This was on the East Coast and in the dead of winter, so I could see the appeal of staying indoors but having usually warm weather fun without the flight. The teens had a fantastic time, and I knew right off the bat that when my kids were big enough, I wanted to do something like that. Fast forward to February 2020, we just get back from a fantastic trip in Hawaii, and I get the news that Great Wolf Lodge is opening in Manteca, just an hour (without traffic) from my house. Yes! Finally! My kids are 10 and 7, they are the prefect age for this. I get a huge discount and book for December of 2020, thinking this is a great way to spend my son’s 11th birthday. As we all know, that did not happen. While Great Wolf Lodge eventually did open, since it was a water park and you could not be masked, I did not feel comfortable going until recently. It’s only in the past 3-6 months that I’ve started to truly feel comfortable being maskless in large indoor spaces. But as we feel more comfortable, I thought it was time to finally take the plunge. I decided to invite my best friend and her family along, and we found a date in November that worked for both families and booked it. It’s finally happening, we are going to Great Wolf Lodge!
While you can always buy day passes to Great Wolf Lodge, going and staying allows you to get the full experience. All the rooms are themed with Wolf pups. We were a party of 5 adults and 4 kids and chose to do 2 Wolf Den Suite rooms and 1 Family Suite rooms. All these rooms can house 6, but really 4 is where it’s most comfortable. The Family Suite comes with 2 queen-sized beds and a pull-out sofa. The Wolf Den Suite rooms come with a queen bed, a pull-out sofa, and a little alcove with a bunk bed. A word of warning for tall or big kids, the bunk bed (I realized after I booked the room) say they are for a max size of 5’5’’. My son is 5’7”. He slept in the top bunk the first night, but when it was his turn to switch the bottom bunk, he admitted he was sleeping a little curled up, so we opened the pull out for him and he was fine.
The room comes with a bathroom with a sink outside which is a nice touch and the usual hotel amenities. The hotel was comfortable. It had the linen quality of amenities of a typical 3-star hotel. The big draw for the kids was the private space with the bunk bed alcove. Coming with younger kids, I think it’s worth the upgrade. As my “kids” are now more teens and tweens, while they love the idea of a bunk bed, I think I would go with the family suite next time to let them each get their own bigger sleeping area.
But let’s be honest, we didn’t come for the luxury hotel, we came for the waterpark! My kids are total water bugs and love anything that involves swimming, slides, or swimming with slides! Great Wolf Lodge manages to pack quite a lot in a small space. Inside the park they have 8 waterslides, a wave pool, a splash pond for the little ones, and so much more!
Waterslides: There are waterslides for all at Great Wolf Lodge. Over in the Whooping Hollow area, they have little baby slides for toddlers to safely slide down. In Fort Mackenzie, there are more medium sized slides. These are for all ages, and they are fun and easy to go down. My daughter went down over and over again (she tends to get scared of the bigger slides). Then there are 4 slides that are for those who are more thrill seekers. My kids loved Sequoia Splash where they could go down as a group with their friends. My son got the courage to go down the Wolf Tail 3 times! It’s a slide where you stand on a platform, they count down, then drop the floor from under you and you go into a near vertical 20-foot drop. I was super proud of him! He convinced his sister to do it, who cried for a good ten minutes after she went on it, then proceeded to go on it again.
Water Play Areas: There are a few waters play areas. The Whooping Hollow area is a cute little area for toddlers and little ones to safely play in the water. There is also the Fort Mackenzie area for the bigger kids (and kids at heart). This is a fun area with a huge bucket that comes pouring down, wobbly bridges to cross, and areas where you can do sneak attaches, shooting water guns, and dumping smaller buckets of water on unsuspecting people below.
Wave Pool: The Slap Tail Pond wave pool is walk in and goes up to five feet deep. The lifeguard warns of waves coming and everyone in the pool howls like wolves! Then the waves come and it’s fun bobbing and diving under the waves
Lazy River: Yes, I’m a nerd but my favorite attraction as an adult is the Lazy River. I love laying in a tube and floating around and relaxing, enjoying the water without the thrills. The Crooked Creek at Great Wolf Lodge has double and single tubes available to float. But I warn you, this river is not totally relaxing. As you float around, you can get shot at by a water cannon or dunked with water from the Fort Mackenzie area. But it’s all part of the fun
Seating and Amenities: I saw online that Great Wolf Lodge had the option for the rental of cabanas and premium seating, so I was concerned about the availability of seating. Turns out that was not something I needed to be concerned about. There were plenty of low chairs around, as well as tables and chairs by the food areas. We were a big group so we’d usually have one person go and grab a bunch of chairs for the adults and put down our stuff there. Such a big group, we usually had someone around to watch the stuff. If you have a more active group who won’t be by the chairs much, there are lockers for rent. Towels are available for all those staying at the hotel. You swipe your room key and tell them how many towels you are taking. Be sure to return the towels and have them check it back in so you don’t get charged a $15 per towel charge.
Safety: When coming into the water park, all children under 48 inches are measured and tagged with special wrist bands to indicate the height group. Those under 48 inches and weak swimmers are recommended to wear a life vest, which are available for free.
We went to Great Wolf Lodge for the waterpark, but we may have enjoyed all the activities that are available. Great Wolf Lodge had done a great job of creating several indoor activities that can keep the kids entertained for as long as the water park can.
- MagiQuest: If you have a fantasy loving kid, then this is a must do. MagiQuest is a live action game that takes place throughout the lodge. Once you purchase a wand, you can use the computers to other places throughout the lodge to go on quests, solve puzzles, and work to get learn runes and fight battles. My kids are into Dungeons & Dragons and my son is a fantasy nut so they loved this. The three older kids had a great time questing all around the resort. The younger one just loved to wave the want and see what moved.
- Ropes Course: Another favorite of the group was the elaborate Howlers Peak Ropes course. There are two levels. Kids are strapped into harnesses and go through a series of obstacles going across the ropes, on swinging balance beams, and more. Of the 3 older kids, my daughter speed through level 1 with the balance and core strength of a 10-year-old dancer. My son had more trouble but went with a slow and steady approach. My goddaughter followed behind him moving a little faster and more surefooted. I didn’t expect her or my son to actually do level 2, but when they saw my daughter go up to level 2, they felt they had too as well. They went up to the higher, more difficult course, and they all were able to get through without any help! I was so impressed! The best part is the ropes course is for all ages. My godson was too young to do it alone, so he did level one with his mom. But he decided he was too scared to do level 2. However, his parents, loving the ropes course, did both levels!
- Bowling: There is a little bowling alley, Ten Paw Alley. It’s a shorter lane with smaller bowling balls, but perfect for those younger ones.
- Moonstone Mine: One of the cooler features was the Mirror Maze in the Moonstone Mine. The kids loved it, calling it fun and disorienting as you try and figure out where you are when you can turn in a series of mirrors.
- Mini Golf: There is a small mini golf course, Howl in One, under the ropes course. It’s a few holes and entertaining for a short time for little ones.
- Arcade: There is a small arcade, Northern Lights Arcade, with some fun games. The kids really enjoyed the virtual reality ride, Rabbids VR, and the usual motorcycle, Jurassic Park, etc. type games. My daughter went for the ones that give tickets, hoping to get a big prize at some point.
All of these activities are an additional charge but purchasing one of the activities passes that Great Wolf Lodge offers helps bring down the cost. They offer 3 different passes:
We decided to purchase the Wolf Passes for each kid because it was the only pass that included the Ropes course and MagiQuest, something they all wanted to do. Here is a breakdown of what we did:
|Wolf Pass + Extras||Individual Cost|
|Topper (Only a wand, topper or belt was included. And plain wands are no fun…)||$17.99||$17.99|
|Arcade Card Value ($5)||$5.00|
|Extra Arcade Value (Extra 1 time deal when bought with Pass)||$15.00||$30.00|
|12 oz Candy Cup||$15.00|
|Wood’s End Ice Cream||$5.40|
|Moonstone Mine Experience||$10.99|
|Howler’s Peak Ropes Course||$14.99|
|Bowling (1 Game)||$7.00|
|Howl at the Moon Golf||$7.99|
I would say that we likely would not have done all the activities and purchased all the items that were included as part of the Wolf Pass. But since it was included, we did try them all. If there are some items that you would not be interested in, then I’d suggest making a cost comparison to see if it’s worth the price of the pass, or if another pass is best for you.
Food on Site
The food on site is…convenient. We chose to do the breakfast plan and had all you could eat breakfast at the Campfire Kitchen. There was plenty of waffles, pancakes, tater tots/potatoes, eggs, frittata, etc. There was also smoked salmon and a variety of pastries. It was about what you expect from a Hampton Inn or something else for breakfast, with more choice. We ate pizza from Hungry as a Wolf and it was ok for California pizza. We chose to eat off property for dinner. I would say the kids loved the ice cream parlor and coffee from Dunkin was always on point.
Other Activities and Amenities
You would think that the water park and activities would be enough, but the resort offers even more to entertain your kids. Make sure to check out the agenda in the front, it shows all the events that take place throughout the day to keep all the little pups entertained.
- Storytime: Throughout the day they have different story hours, where staff come up and tell a story, involve the crowd, and have the kids interact on the adventures. Even my big one enjoyed the story hour, though in the beginning he pretended he was too cool for it.
- Dance Parties: In the evening they had a dance party, which was really fun! They had songs and we were there during SnowLand time, so they had holiday songs and even snow at the end.
- Yoga: In the mornings, there was yoga complete with yoga mats. It’s not your adult yoga routine in the morning, it’s close to Cosmic Kids where they tell a story and ask you got get into poses along the way. But it’s a nice way to stretch for your kids in the morning.
Great Wolf Lodge was a win for everyone in our family! It’s no surprise that my kids absolutely loved it! They could have spent all day in the waterpark if I had let them. And my son would have completed the MagiQuest mission if we left him to do it all day long. They are already talking about how they would prioritize what they would do next time we go back. What surprised me was how much my husband liked it. He is not a water person, so I thought he would not enjoy it. But it turns out he was happy to sit in the chairs, watch the stuff, read, and just be involved. Normally he skips the water parks because he hates being outside in the sun, and doesn’t swim. But here, it’s all included, and he can stay inside in the temperature-controlled area, and relax without feeling the pressure to go in. Plus, I think he may have enjoyed the Magi Quest mission more than my son. I just loved seeing my kids enjoying and having such a good time. And since my children are older, and the resort is fairly contained, I could let them have the independence to go around without worrying about them. I would say that at times I found it loud and overwhelming but going up to my room for a little rest helped me get over that, and I was quickly able to go back down and enjoy myself again. The kids were exhausted at the end of each day, and there is nothing more you want out of a trip like this. If you have kids who love water, make sure to book this quick get-away, and see what all the fuss is about.