REVIEW: Family Fun at Great Wolf Lodge Southern California

Great Wolf Lodge Southern California has a mission. To create family traditions one family at a time. This mission holds true from the moment you step into the completed Great Wolf Lodge for the first time and experience the unique atmosphere.

On March 4th, Great Wolf Resorts, Inc. celebrated the grand opening of Great Wolf Lodge SoCal, the first California location for North America’s largest family of indoor water park resorts. Located in the city of Garden Grove, Great Wolf Lodge Southern California is the brand’s largest resort and brings an entirely new destination option to traveling families. Over 600 rooms and 105,000+ square feet of indoor water park is ready to soak up some fun. Read on for a complete review.

Exterior Resort 2

Exterior Howlin Tornado

“We are excited to officially open our doors and provide the Great Wolf Lodge experience to families in Southern California,” said Rubén A. Rodríguez, Chief Executive Officer, Great Wolf Resorts, Inc. “Southern California is one of the top destinations for family fun in the country and we are thrilled to bring our unique experience to the area.”

The centerpiece of the resort is the extensive 84-degree indoor water park. Complete with water slides and attractions perfect for young children that enjoy splashing in interactive pools and high-thrill rides. With attractions including the six-story Howlin’ Tornado and the dual body surfing experience, Wolf Rider Wipeout, the water park offers something for everyone. Together, families can experience the massive wave pool and bob along with the gentle current of the lazy river. Admission to the indoor water park is free and exclusive to resort guests, providing great value to families seeking the perfect place to visit together.

What’s Awesome

  • The Atmosphere – What this company has created is a solid brand that is full of fun, adventure and personality. At Disneyland, everyone wears Mickey Ears. Here at Great Wolf Lodge, everyone wears Wolf Ears. The comparisons to Disney Magic do not end there. Several times throughout the day, Wiley The Wolf appears to take pictures, dance with the kids and generally provide oodles of entertainment.

Great Wolf Lodge

He is so friendly and cute, you can’t help but want an adorable picture. Kids were absolutely drawn to Wiley. Like Disneyland’s characters, there are several Great Wolf Kids characters with distinct personalities, and that brings me to my next point.

Great Wolf Lodge Wiley Wolf

  • Clubhouse Crew – I’m a huge Build-A-Bear fan. I may be 35, but I have a solid collection of stuffed animals that I absolutely still keep by my bed (my husband says he doesn’t mind). This resort has its own Build-A-Bear-type store where you pick your character, outfit and stuff it. Each character you build comes with an interactive chip inside, that leads you on a scavenger hunt through the resort starring the Great Wolf Kids characters at each station.

Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge

This interactive game is supposed to be for younger kids, but I found myself really enjoying the simplicity. Once complete, you go back to the Clubhouse Crew store and get a bracelet. Oh yes, I completed the game – no kids required! And then you get to keep your characters. Mine are already firmly entrenched on the back of the couch.

Great Wolf Lodge

  • Free WiFi – NO extra charges here, just free. And pretty good service throughout the resort, even in the water park! I was able to Periscope very well, and you need good bandwidth to do that.
  • Wristbands are your Room Key – Have I finished making comparisons to the Walt Disney Company? Nope! Ever heard of Magic Bands at Walt Disney World? If you have, then you already know how Great Wolf Lodge Wristbands work. They are plastic wristbands that contain a chip which allows you access to your room, parking garage, credit card for room charges and access to the Water Park. It’s SUPER convenient when you’ve just woken up and want to pop down to Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and a donut but don’t want to go dragging your purse everywhere. Just take yourself, charge it to your room and open your room door with a wave of your hand. No fumbling for change or keys required.
  • Grizzly Jack’s Bar & Grill – This bar is tucked away near the small outdoor pool area. Because it is on the other side of the Water Park from the rest of the resort, most people don’t even know it’s there. That means it’s quiet, with very few kids. For such an isolated place, it has the best food in the whole Resort. Farm fresh, locally grown fruit and veggies accompany sophisticated dishes such as Tomato & Avocado Gazpacho, Watermelon & Feta Cheese Salad (absolutely delicious) and Rotisserie Chicken Salad BLT. Californians trying to eat healthy will really dig this place.

2016-03-06 15.54.41

  • The Waterpark! – Bear Track Landing Waterpark is FUN. It’s completely enclosed, which means no worries about sun or weather. There’s plenty to do and will occupy hours of your time. But you MUST be a Resort guest to use the Waterpark.  A plus for guests because it cuts down on overcrowding and lines for the slides. TIP: Even after you checkout, you can use the Waterpark that day until closing. We took advantage of this handy-dandy rule.

Lazy River

Wolf Rider Wipeout

What Works

  • Yoga for Kids! Every day and almost every hour, there are Great Wolf Kids Activities in the Grand Lobby. From Yoga and a “Wolf Walk” to Arts & Crafts and a Jammin’ Jammie Jamboree, all are complimentary and keep the kids thoroughly entertained. The crowning jewel is every evening at 8:00 PM. A whole interactive wall comes alive with characters (much like Disneyland’s newly upgraded Main Street Windows) which talk and sing. This leads to StoryTime and Wiley the Wolf and Violet The Wolf generally appear to wish the kids a good night’s sleep.

Great Wolf Lodge

  • MagiQuest – Clubhouse Crew is for younger kids. MagiQuest is for older kids. Once you purchase a magic wand and game, you can run around the resort activating several items along the walls. Interactive screens tell you where you are in the game and what items you need to collect to battle dragons, befriend a pixie and complete a quest. Games can be six hours of playing time. So spread throughout the length of your stay, this is a great activity. You also end up getting a lot of exercise as items are spread throughout 6 levels of the Resort. Like Clubhouse Crew. Your wands are yours to keep as a souvenir, or bring them back with you the next time you visit a Great Wolf Lodge.  Click here for a full review of MagiQuest from a teen perspective.

shadowquest-play-wand-1-img1022-800x533

  • Reusable and Filtered Water – The 565,000 gallons of water is reused and filtered constantly.  An important point for water-limited Southern California. This neat infographic tells you how:

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 11.02.01 PM

  • A Family Getaway – While the resort has many activities geared toward kids, the adults can thoroughly enjoy the Waterpark and games as well. You can create memories together with your family. I saw a BUNCH of parents taking pictures of their kids enjoying various activities. I think the parents were having more fun watching their kids have fun!
  • Local partnership with Disneyland – Right now on Great Wolf Lodge’s website, you can book a stay that includes a 2-Day ticket to Disneyland! Great Wolf Lodge SoCal is 10 minute South of Disneyland on Harbor Rd, and they offer a shuttle to the Theme Park at $5/day for adult, $2/day for child. Not a bad deal as Disneyland is charging $18 for parking now.

What’s Not So Great

  • A Family Getaway – What’s awesome for families is not so great for a couple looking for some quiet time or a honeymoon. On Friday and Saturday evening, the Grand Lobby, every floor and Arcade area are absolutely crawling with kids. However, if you are a fun-loving couple who celebrates the kid in you, the water park and arcade games are just as fun for adults as children! Decide what’s right for your family.

Accommodations

The all-suite resort features spacious accommodations for families of all sizes. Designed with the resort’s youngest guests in mind, themed Wolf Den and KidCabin suites offer bunk beds in a private sleeping area that will leave kids howling for bedtime while giving parents sleeping space just for them. Larger suites offer second bedrooms and bathrooms for multigenerational families all traveling together. With 603 suites, Great Wolf Lodge offers the largest hotel rooms in Garden Grove.

The rooms are certainly large, but I wouldn’t call ALL of them suites. I was in a Queen Suite, which was your basic bath and one large room that had 2 queen beds, a desk, couch, mini fridge, microwave and chair. It was spacious in square footage, but not a lot of drawer space. This is a mere drawback though, as the things that matter, like comfy beds and homey atmosphere, were firmly in place. I slept very well due to several hours in the Waterpark, walking up and down stairs completing MagiQuest games and great sound-dampening walls. We didn’t hear a peep from our neighbors. I give the room, and the Resort, a thumbs-up!

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 11.22.34 PM

To celebrate the opening of Great Wolf Lodge Southern California, guests can save 20% off two or more nights when they book by April 9. Additional information and reservation bookings can be found and made online at www.greatwolf.com/southern-california or by calling 888.960.9653. Great Wolf Lodge is located at 12681 Harbor Blvd. in Garden Grove, CA.

Disclosure: Sarah Woloski was hosted by Great Wolf Lodge and received complimentary accommodations, Paw Pass and meals at the resort for purposes of this review.  However, all opinions expressed are those of the author.  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on Twitter and “like” our Facebook page, too.

About Richard & Sarah Woloski

Richard and Sarah Woloski are the co-hosts and creators of the Disney / Star Wars Podcast Skywalking Through Neverland. The husband and wife team strives to create a polished, positive and fun weekly show celebrating fandom. They also love writing for Adventures By Daddy. Find them @SkywalkingPod