The 13th Summer - Week 1
There’s a saying floating around out there about how you only have 18 summers with your children - and you should make them count. By that token, we have 6 summers left before our oldest becomes an adult, and we’re not naive enough to think he’ll be interested in spending much of that time doing anything related to “family fun”. Truth be told, with the age gap between kids, it’s hard to find activities that they all will enjoy, and the past few summers have been a struggle to keep us from going in separate directions.
Finding our Family Fun...
The Great Wolf Lodge has been a favorite overnight destination for us since they opened, and we typically go several times a year - most often to the Poconos, PA location which is only a 45 min drive, but we’ve even opted to stay at alternate locations when we’ve been traveling. This past year, with busy schedules, we never found time to fit it in. In May, my middle son and daughter let us know that they wanted to combine their birthday gifts into a family trip to the lodge - they are 8 and 10, and it was endearing to see the twinkle in their eyes as they waited to hear if we could make it happen. Well, make it happen we did - there was this one, unbelievably blank space in our calendar this past weekend, so we packed our overnight bags and headed off to make our first memories of the summer.
Summer Camp-In Adventure
When booking the trip, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that all of The Great Wolf Lodge US locations were rolling out a new experience - The Summer Camp-In. They have special themed rooms complete with a tent and campfire lamp, round-the-clock activities reminiscent of childhood days at sleep-away camp as well as delightful new additions to their culinary offerings - the most exciting being their S’morelier program, with both traditional and exotic combinations that you can take to the fire pit and roast to your heart’s content!
When we arrived, we were greeted by friendly staff, given our wolf ears (special ones for the birthday kiddos) and our wolf passes (highly recommended that you add on this option) and the kids were off to explore what was new at the resort, which had undergone a renovation since our last visit. A new option that we had not been aware of, is the Mobile Check-In service. We arrived early and check-in lines were short, but later in the day I could see how it would have been beneficial to have used this option, and I recommend you look into it when you book your trip.
More to LOVE
If you’ve been to the lodge before, one of the first changes you’ll notice (or rather your kids will CERTAINLY notice) is that the Starbucks previously located in the lobby area, has been replaced by a bulk candy store. Every kid’s dream and every parent’s nightmare! They ARE going to beg you to fill a cup with candy, and eventually you ARE going to break down, because you can’t help but walk by it several times a day - so prepare for it, consider the Pup, Paw or Wolf Pass because it’s included, and then b-line your way to the lobby bar for a specialty cocktail while they exercise off the sugar buzz during the nightly lobby dance party!
So maybe the addition of the candy store isn’t something you’ll love, but you won’t be able to deny that their newest attraction - Oliver’s Moonstone Mine - is pretty amazing! Also included on the Wolf Pass, a trip to the mine is actually part mirror maze, part kid-friendly escape room in which you have to complete 4 different checkpoints within the maze to uncover the Moonstone. Certainly kid-friendly, and not at all scary, but even Mom hit a few bumps trying to make it through, boy do they clean those mirrors good - it was definitely the source of more than a few laughs!
All-in-all, the renovations are lovely, they’ve freshened up the rooms and added a few more interactive features for those with wands who are participating in the MagiQuest, ShadowQuest or CompassQuest experiences (yes, also included in the Paw and Wolf Passes).
To Pass, or not to Pass
I imagine about now you are asking yourself whether these passes I keep mentioning are required, or worth getting. You might be expecting that there isn’t enough to do at the lodge if you don’t opt for the pass, so let me shed some light on that!
Included in your stay are waterpark passes, and if you are a first-time visitor, especially if you are staying just one night, your kids will have plenty of entertainment in the waterpark alone.
Right now, because of the Summer Camp-In promotion, there are also PLENTY of activities all day long that are FREE and FUN and will entertain your kids at every turn. They even offer a Trailblazer Challenge - you can grab a free pass at the front desk, complete various activities to receive a sticker, and end your stay as a Path Finder, an Explorer or hopefully, a Trailblazer!
The things not included, like the quest experiences, the ropes course, mini-golf or bowling for instance, can all be purchased a la carte at any time during your stay. Purchasing a pass merely bundles these activities together and gives you a discount.
Because we have been so many times, and because of the varied ages of our kids, the passes were a good option and let everyone just do what they wanted without bothering me for money every hour - it was a win-win for all!
Speaking of PASSES, The Great Wolf Lodge has FINALLY rolled out a day-pass option for those not able to book an overnight! Starting at just $50 a day per-person, you can have full day access to the waterpark!
A Trip Worth Repeating
While The Great Wolf Lodge was the first indoor waterpark resort to come to our area, there are a few others that have popped up over the years, and we’ve often been asked why we continue to go to GWL when there are newer, larger facilities elsewhere.
For starters, we like that it is small, and more importantly, familiar. We feel safe letting the kids wander a bit, the kids are comfortable with the surroundings and we don’t lose the first few hours exploring. When you are in the lodge lobby, the upper floors are all open air, so the kids can go running around doing the quests, or simply playing hide-and-seek, and we can periodically spot them, and vice versa. You might have picked up on the lobby bar I mentioned earlier?
This was one of those “more to love” additions that was certainly a hit with us, and we enjoyed a bit of alone time while the kids played! The Great Wolf Lodge also has that “Disney” feel with characters, catchy songs and interactive experiences such as the Forest Friends Show. At 12, my oldest is certainly aging out of this venue a bit, but he endures the smaller waterpark and what he views as “cheesy” entertainment because he recognizes how much the others love it. You’ll recall this is that 13th summer, and I can honestly say that he enjoyed our experience as much as anyone else - score one for Mom!
Finally, if I’m being fully transparent, we like feeling like Great Wolf “royalty” - it may seem silly, but we like the gold wristbands we receive as check-in, denoting that we are frequent GWL travelers (they mean absolutely nothing but look cool) and the fudge they deliver to our room to thank us for being repeat guests. It’s often the little things that set you apart, and these have always had meaning for us and keep us returning year after year.
After this trip, we’ve found a new reason to love The Great Wolf Lodge - their commitment to evolving and adding activities allowed us to have a brand new experience at an old favorite, and ensured that the twinkling eyes will continue to hope for that next trip to see Wiley and Violet! Until next time GWL, stomp stomp clap clap H_O_W_L!
Because of our frequent visits to The Great Wolf Lodge and our affiliation with Macaroni Kid West Morris, we did get to experience the Summer Camp-In this weekend as guests of the lodge, but as always, the views expressed are purely my own. During our visit, Elisa and I spoke and decided we absolutely MUST bring the joy of this “staycation” to our Macaroni Kid readers, and as such, we are SUPER EXCITED to announce a Macaroni Kid West Morris trip to GWL this upcoming October!
Save-the-date of October 8th (Most schools are OFF October 9th!), and you can book a room at the lodge for just $99 (exclusive of taxes and resort fees) and join us for one of our most exciting events ever! We’re not revealing everything just yet - because at that rate it’s worth booking regardless - but we have plans to include fun extras that you won’t want to miss out on!
There are a limited number of rooms available at this discounted rate - once they are sold out you can still join us, but you’ll pay the standard room rate, so our advice is to book early!
To ensure that Macaroni Kid West Morris Subscribers will have first dibs on the discounted rate, please fill out the form below, which will verify your email address after which you’ll be sent the booking code.
For more information about The Great Wolf Lodge, Poconos PA, visit them online HERE